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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Robin Zheng '09

Hometown: Duluth, GA

Majors: Philosophy, Physics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Pan-Asian Association for Cultural Exchange
  • Student Association for International Learning
  • University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra
  • Writing Center Tutor


Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Washington and Lee Wind Ensemble Tour 2006 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Spring Term 2006 - Dakar, Senegal
  • 2006 Robert E. Lee Summer Scholar - Physics Dept, Washington and Lee
  • Winter Term 2007 - Salaya, Thailand
  • DAAD Research Internships in Science and Engineering - Freiburg, Germany
  • Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy - Boulder, CO


Post-Graduation Plans: I am applying to graduate school for philosophy.

Favorite W&L Event: 2008 Mock Convention

Favorite Campus Landmark: View of the Colonnade, walking up from Lee Chapel



When I chose to attend Washington and Lee--a small school in an equally small town--I could not have guessed that this decision would become my ticket to seeing the world. In my three years, I have studied and worked in Senegal, Thailand, and Germany. I cannot describe how much my life has been enriched by the wealth of new sensations and information that I encountered during these travels. But it was not until I returned to the familiar sights of Lexington that I was able to frame and process my experiences in a meaningful way, and to understand how they shaped my growth-as a student, and as a person.

My first trip to Senegal was a perfect embodiment of the freshman experience: exploring possibilities. I took a wide range of courses that year, ranging from French conversation to multi-variable calculus, and I enjoyed them all so much that I found myself freely (but honestly!) promising every one of my professors that I would consider majoring in their subject. Spending Spring Term abroad was a continuation of that exploration, and I began to understand just how boundless those possibilities were, as we followed our intrepid Washington and Lee professors into the steamy marketplaces of Dakar, the thatched huts of the village of Mbam, and the sunbaked coastline of Toubab Diallo.

In my sophomore year, going to Thailand represented to me the importance of following my dreams. Here at Washington and Lee, the faculty and staff were unbelievably encouraging and cooperative. Even though the school had never sent anyone to Thailand before, I was able to do research, figure out courses, and obtain all the approval I needed to embark on the journey I envisioned. Two months later, I was enrolled in philosophy, physics, and Thai language classes at Mahidol University International College-only a bus ride away from the glittering capital of Bangkok, and a short plane flight from exquisite tropical beaches that looked more like posters than real life. Now, as I try to achieve my goal of attending graduate school in philosophy, my professors are just as dedicated to doing everything they can to help me.

My internship with the physics department at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg was very different. Rather than living and studying with a group of students like myself, I was given a project under the guidance of a Ph.D student, and I shared an apartment with just one German roommate. I was more on my own than I had ever been, but I eventually felt stronger and more independent as I made friends and traveled with them to cities in Germany, England, and Switzerland. This process of growing up into my person paralleled the one that I am faced with now, as I prepare my honors philosophy thesis and make my future career plans. I believe that Washington and Lee is truly extraordinary for its ability to provide a close-knit, highly personal support network that draws you in, but still prepares to send you out in the world, anywhere you want to go.