Luis A. Lei '12

Tell us about your international journey. What is your country of origin? Where were you schooled?
I was born in Argentina to Chinese parents. When I was 2, my family moved back to China. However, we returned to Argentina three years later, so I received all of my formal schooling in South America. Within the U.S., I have traveled quite a bit, but mainly because of work and school, so I haven’t had the chance to explore the places I have visited. Of the four years I spent living here, I know Queens, NY the best. I have also briefly visited Oakland, CA, Dallas, TX, and Orlando, FL.

What made you want to attend college in the U.S.? What, if any, concerns/challenges/opportunities did this present?
I did not really think about attending college when I moved here. When I left Argentina, I essentially embarked on an open-ended/epic soul-searching journey. I landed in New York, enrolled in an English Language School, and went on from there!

How did you learn about Sarah Lawrence College?
When I was studying at LaGuardia Community College, I had a friend who graduated and transferred to SLC. She told me wonders about her new home, so I started dreaming about attending as well.

What made you choose to attend SLC?
The radical pedagogical philosophy—which has roots in Dewey—and the interdisciplinary approach to learning. My passion is towards social change. Therefore, my mission at SLC has been to understand our society. Why? Well, understanding is the first step towards any kind of purposeful action in life. The problem is that there is really no major for this if you think of it. In most colleges, you are forced to fit your interests into a narrow discipline. But society is a set of complex phenomena, with historical roots, and economic, cultural and political dimensions. Only at Sarah Lawrence one can nurture true intellect by taking classes in any discipline. Nor is the interdisciplinary aspect the only perk. But I’ll let you discover those by yourself!

What are your areas of concentration?
Political Economy, Human Geography, Philosophy.

What was your first-year transition to life at SLC like?
I was a transfer student, but I shared a challenge that first-years encounter: The workload. It was intense, mostly because I stuffed myself with highly challenging academic courses. I am not very good at balancing my course selection, but if you are, you can have plenty of free time. In short, my first year was great. The food is amazing, and I was housed at Hill House. It was a really spacious dorm, so I was really satisfied.

How would you describe your experience at SLC so far?
Life changing. Where can you find musicians who can talk about the labor theory of value, or painters who can tell you about the hidden side of Adam Smith? Here! There is something to be said about becoming a well-rounded human being. If you think about it, most great figures in history were not merely specialists in one discipline. Many of the U.S.’s founding father were great poets, philosophers, inventors, scientists, etc.

What is the community like at SLC?
There is something for everyone.

How about the local community—have you spent a lot of time in the surrounding area? How about New York City?
Well, after four years, NYC has become my second home. It is a city of contrasts. The majestic and the run-down. The rich and the poor. The penthouses and the foreclosed homes. The MET and underfunded public schools. It is a place of beauty and a place of horror. But if you are looking for fun, great international food, etc., it is an absolutely amazing place.

SLC values international students because they bring to campus the richness and excitement of a global perspective. Can you give us some examples of how your perspective has made a difference in classroom discussions, etc.?
Well, some of you may be aware that Argentina has gone through a painful history of economic crises, the last one being the one of 2001, when the banking system collapsed as a result of a decade of the Washington consensus and structural adjustment. People lost their savings en masse, and looting, chaos, protest, and rebellion ensued. It was hell on earth and I lived through it with my family. When I studied structural adjustments both as economic theory and political tool, I had a much deeper, real, personal knowledge of the issue. I could tap into a well of personal experiences to link theory to the real world, and understand abstract concepts at a whole different level. Most importantly, the seminar system and its emphasis on discussion allowed me to share those insights with my peers.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Finishing my graduate degree!

What advice do you have for international students considering SLC?
I can’t guarantee you will not regret coming here. But no matter what college you choose, it is going to require a leap of faith. I recommend that you take your leap at SLC, because this place has the most potential to help you discover yourself, as an intellectual, artist, person, thinker, friend, etc.

Luis Lei