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Dandan Zhong ’23: Ready to Explore
After graduating from high school, Dandan Zhong decided to take a gap year. While volunteering with the World of Art Brut Culture in Shanghai, China, she met some young children with autism who would forever change her ideas about what art can accomplish.
“What I didn’t realize at first was what a gift for art many of those children had,” Dandan recalls. “I came up with this idea: Why don’t we print their art on T-shirts and start selling the shirts?”
Inspired, she and her co-workers chose six pieces of the children’s art, printed 50 shirts per design, and launched them for sale on the website autartistic.com. The first batch was sold out within weeks, and proceeds went to support autism charities in China. A second batch featuring new artwork by children is planned soon, but her co-workers will be forging ahead without Dandan, who arrives at Smith as a first-year student on August 25. She is coming from Austin, Texas, where she has been living for about 4 years with several siblings while her parents remain in China.
Dandan is among 640 students who will be entering Smith this fall. Members of the class of 2023 come from across the United States, from Massachusetts to California, and from some 35 countries.
As she prepared to arrive on campus, Dandan shared a few thoughts about Smith and what she wants to explore in college:
What attracted you to Smith?
When I was researching colleges, I thought I wanted to go to a bigger school, because it would be diverse. But it’s also easier to get lost if you’re not outgoing. Growing up, I was shy. My sister graduated from the University of Texas, Austin; she recommended I take a look at Smith. So, I did. Smith has an open curriculum and I want to explore a lot of classes. I think I want to study French, and I want to do something with art, and I also want to consider a minor in dance because I love dancing.
What are you looking forward to working on at Smith?
When I was researching Smith, I came across a Smith video of a guided tour of the campus for high schoolers and their parents. The guide, who was a Smith student, talked about how she used to struggle with public speaking, but her professors had been so supportive and encouraging. She used to be an introvert, like me. By the way she talked, I could tell she had grown more confident, and she seemed so competent. I thought: There is a close supportive community at Smith that I want to be a part of—so welcoming and encouraging—and soon I will be spending my days within that community.
What is an abiding passion?
I am passionate about dance. When I moved to Austin, I had my first ballet class ever in high school. I love ballet, but I feel as if it is kind of too late to do it as a career. It requires a lot of flexibility and strength. If I had a chance to start over, I would definitely pursue dance. But I don’t know if I can do that now. I think that once I’m at Smith, I want to talk to some Smith dance teachers and ask for their advice.