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BREATHING IN: CANDID CAMARADERIE

Lea Tsao, newly minted Haverford freshman and denizen of Gummere, has filled her first semester at Haverford with an eclectic batch of courses — calculus with Curtis Greene, philosophy with Jeremy Fantl, and introductory Chinese with TZ'u Chiang; they seem to combine with her freshman writing seminar, Critical Issues in Education with Alice Lesnick, to illustrate someone wracked with indecision — but Lea is actually pretty certain that she wants to major in anthropology or sociology. These are fields, she says, that will allow her to explore her interest in people, relationships, and society. Lea finds people fascinating, she says, with a wry grin, “[which] does not always mean I get along with them.”

Lea laughingly describes herself as being blunt, which is not terribly kind. It would be more fair to say that Lea is honest and practical, two traits that might not serve her so well in initial contact with others, but which are absolutely essential in forming solid, long-term bonds with people — something that will prove invaluable not only in her research, but also in her life as a student at Haverford and beyond. It’s no surprise, therefore, that what Lea likes the most about Haverford is the personal atmosphere, and the opportunities for close interaction not only with her fellow students, but also with the faculty and staff. Lea is also excited to already be involved with Haverford’s public service organization, Eighth Dimension, which will help her interact with the larger community.

But Haverford, to Lea, is the whole package, and the physical campus also appeals to her. “I love it because it’s not in the middle of nowhere, but not in the city, either,” she explains, and considering that Lea is a native of Brooklyn, having lived there for the first six years of her life, but is actually joining Haverford’s student body from half a world away in Singapore, it is no wonder that she was ready for a change. Lea and her family originally went to Singapore to follow her father, John, in his job at Chase Manhattan Bank, and while her mother had to give up her job as a children’s fashion designer in New York, she quickly developed an interest and a business in antique Chinese furniture and jewelry. She still pursues the work, with no small amount of success — some of her pieces are on sale at museums in New York.

An interest in art runs in the genes, it would seem, as Lea herself is an avid and successful amateur photographer. “Photography is my passion!” she enthuses, and attributes her survival and sanity in the “slums of [her] senior year of high school” to the hobby. “After I was admitted to Haverford, school just seemed pointless,” she sighs. “I wanted to either go to college right away, or do something more worthwhile.” Lea’s photography helped sate that longing, and she looks forward to enjoying her art even more at Haverford, now that she need not cling to it like a life raft.

Lea did not leave all of her family in Singapore — she has an older brother, Brian, majoring in government at Cornell. She is quick to point out, however, that his proximity — nice as it is — could not have made matriculating at Haverford more attractive. She applied early decision after visiting Haverford, and notes that even the visit was unnecessary: “Before I came to Haverford,” she says, “I was already obsessed with the school. I built up the school so much in my head, I was afraid of it not meeting my expectations.”

Considering the way Lea already walks the campus like she is home, black hair glimmering in the sun and a smile shining on her face, it is pretty obvious that she has not been disappointed. “Haverford has won my heart,” she laughs.

 

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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