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Adventures in East and West: Living Like a Butterfly
Jul 13, 2020

Anna Lee, Class of 2017


When I first heard about the Tsinghua-MIT dual-degree program, I was not interested in applying because I was intimidated by the thought of setting off on a new journey in a new environment yet again. I remembered the many tearful days several years prior when I left my family to attend school in the U.S. I remembered the difficulties when I first came to work in China without knowing any Chinese. Although those decisions were my own, it was still daunting and challenging to expose myself, alone, to new environments. Finally, after three years, I had started to feel comfortable about living in China with great friends and a new community at Tsinghua, so I didn’t want to voluntarily push myself to be stretched too far. 

However, the mission of MIT Sloan School of Management, "to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice," reminded me of my own life motto, “Live like a butterfly.” Since a pupa goes through a great deal of pain, breaking out of the chrysalis to become a butterfly, a scientist made a little chink on some chrysalises to help the butterflies to come out. Those butterflies who emerged easily, though, couldn’t fly high because their wings didn’t have enough power to swing, and eventually they became prey to predators, but the butterflies without the help that went through pain also flew higher and farther, possibly causing – theoretically – a distant hurricane by the flapping of their wings, called the “butterfly effect.” These two butterfly analogies have inspired me to endure – and sometimes proactively embrace – difficulties and implanted a desire to live a more influential life.

As I write, I’m only about 6 months into my stay at MIT, but the experience here has already been abundant. While I was able to learn more about China-focused business, economy, culture, and China’s global positioning during my first year on Tsinghua’s campus, I have also gotten to capture bigger pictures of the world at MIT. Diverse classmates from different countries and different continents have broadened my perspectives. Courses I have taken have made me pay more attention to global issues and taught me how to view and interpret them more objectively. Active student club events have led me to think and understand better the sustainability and social impact of businesses. Recently, as part of one class, I had an opportunity to work with a startup company in Israel for a month. While I was in Israel and visiting neighboring countries, I not only learned the startup culture in one of the well-known startup hubs in the world but also came to a better appreciation for key issues around Israeli culture, religious tension and coexistence, inequality, and international relations and conflicts.

My previous expectation of the Tsinghua-MIT dual-degree program was to kill two birds with one stone, but I can say the experience in both top schools in East and West was much more than two birds. Economically, socially, and culturally, it broadened my eyes and ears, made me think much more deeply about what kind of person I want to be and what career path I want to follow, and inspired me again to become a powerful butterfly as a Korean, an Asian, and a global citizen.  


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