Young Alumni Perspective: Hai Zhou (Williams ‘11)

I applied to Williams College 5 years ago without having been to this country or knowing much about Williams. I embarked on an 18-hour trip from my hometown of Shanghai and started my adventure in the “Purple Valley”. Like many international students, I encountered both language and culture barriers. Professors, my dorm-mates, staff in the dining halls, and passers-by I met on the street were all really nice and helpful, and soon I no longer had problems communicating with people. I made a lot of friends very quickly.

Four years went by fast. I made more friends, met more people in the community, interned at a company founded by an alumnus, participated in the summer science research program, helped building online projects for the college diversity initiative and the Gaudino Memorial Fund in Educational Resources. I hiked, biked, swam, skied, and met my girlfriend. We both felt grateful to Williams and we volunteered to be class agents for the alumni relations office.

The Williams Senior Class Gift Campaign

The alumni agent team of our class spent great effort during our last semester at Williams, and yes, we broke a record of 77% participation rate in the senior gifts campaign. Having focused on running the campaign together with the whole alumni fund team, I was happy about my contribution in this achievement, but I was not so clear about what it would mean to have a bond with my classmates and my alma mater beyond graduation.

I found my first job at Bon’App after graduation through one alumnus, Maria Tucker. Later at the same office building, I met Douglas Jebb and told him how I got here. He said, “Aha, looks like we’ve got the Williams pipeline going on!” This comment touched the bottom of my heart, and for a second I seemed to have got a hint for my quest early on. Maybe it is about networking to “climb high, climb far”, but it also seems to mean a little more than that.

It did not take long when I ran into another Williams alum. I was wearing a Williams hoodie, crossing the Charles River on a beautiful afternoon, and suddenly I heard someone shouting “Wil-liams!” The girl from Williams was taking a break with her friends. She could have let the chance go by, but she would just stop me to chat a few words and to introduce herself and her friends, even without any purpose. I then realized that it’s not just about professional connections, but a mere joy of reuniting with people sharing a memory.

I ran into two more alumni when in both cases I was wearing a Williams t-shirt with the seal on the back. Life went on after Williams, but part of it is still tied to the Purple Bubble.

Turning My Passion Into A Career

Now I’m wearing a purple “class agent” t-shirt I received from the alumni office, and working with a group of people passionate about alumni engagement here at EverTrue. I am so glad that there are other people having the same feeling as I do and willing to invest their energy into the endeavor of bringing people together. I now also have a better answer for my quest: whether going after a career path or the seal on a t-shirt, it is an ever-true symbol that reminds people of a shared pride. I’m looking forward to delivering this message to more people and carrying my quest to the next level at EverTrue.

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