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International Students and Scholars

Bio for Chris Merchant

Chris Merchant, Class of 2011

Davis United World College Scholar
Mahindra UWC of India

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Born: Morristown, New Jersey, USA
Lived in: USA, India, Portugal, and Singapore
Major: Psychology

Chris was born into a bicultural family since his father, now a free-lance business consultant for technology companies is Indian and his mom is American. Chris was bitten by “the travel bug” when he was young. His dad’s jobs with AT&T and Intel required the family to move a lot. Chris has spent time both in the US and in India, but he has also followed his parents and two younger sisters to Portugal, Singapore, and, for a time in middle school, to Portland, Oregon!

Chris explains his identity this way, “I am American because I carry a US passport, but my ‘Indian side’ is pretty prevalent. I carry an Indian origin card, for instance. I have a lot of Indian culture in me and I feel that India is one of my more permanent homes. Many of my relatives are there. I have lived there longer than anywhere else. I am at home there. I am at ease there. And, I am attached there, but I am defintely a TCK.”

Chris started his high school career in Portland, Oregon, but moved after one year to Portugal. There he attended the American School of Lisbon. While in Portugal, Chris and his parents heard from friends about the United World College system. We did some research on UWC and were amazed by the philosophy and the ideals of the school. We just happened to be going to Bombay for Christmas so we decided to visit Mahindra UWC of India while there. We drove to the campus, talked with several students and the headmaster. I took an application with me and applied as a direct candidate. Months later I got the news that I was accepted.

“The UWC experience was one of the best experiences of my life,” Chris relates. Everything that happened at UWC—both good and bad—has made me a stronger, more responsible, more mature, and more knowledgeable person. I met kids from all over the world and learned about them and their countries, but I also learned a lot about myself. I found my core values. I found friends for life. The whole experience was amazing.

Chris reveals that his journey to Lewis & Clark began when he was in junior high school in Portland. “I took a photography class when I was at Waluga Junior High in Portland and we used the photo lab at Lewis & Clark to develop our pictures. My sister was on the swim team in junior high and the team used the pool at Lewis & Clark so I was often on campus and was familiar with the school.”

When Chris started his college search, he looked at a lot of schools and noted that Lewis & Clark was almost always on an accompanying list of schools with similar characteristics. In other words, Lewis & Clark had the characteristics he was looking for in a college. I applied and was accepted.

Since arriving at Lewis & Clark, Chris says, “I have been in contact with some of the other UWC students and international students. I attended the new student orientation for international students and TCKs. That was very helpful. I think the school does a good job in pairing roommates. I actually met my roommate in New Hampshire during the summer before coming to L&C. He is a really nice guy and we get along great.”

As for academics, Chris says, “Classes are definitely a lot of work, but I am enjoying them. It is somewhat different from the IB curriculum. Here you have to do more reading and more self-teaching. The IB was taught to you and your read, but in the liberals arts system, you are expected to read and make more of the critical decisions for yourself.”

Chris goes on to talk about his classes. “I am taking Exploration and Discovery, Developmental Psych, Beginning Spanish, Music Pre-Theory and weight training. It is a decent workload. I get to do music three times a week. I get to study psychology twice a week. I lift weights three times a week. It’s nice to get credits for doing things you like to do. I am trying to get all of my general education requirements out of the way because I would like to go on one of Lewis & Clark’s overseas programs—may Latin America or Kenya/Tanzania. When asked why he wants to go to Latin America or Africa instead of on L&C’s India program, Chris says, “I have never been to Africa and I would like to go somewhere I have never been. I have been to India and I will always have many chances to go back to India. That may not be true of Africa.”

Chris admits that he is having some difficulties adjusting to life in the US and at L&C following the post-UWC experience. “I have never lived in the US for long periods of time. Also, I have been away from home at UWC for two years. I have already gone through the transition of ‘being free.’ I think I am a little more grounded and focused than some of the American students who are away from their parents for the first time. I am working on it, though. My personal philosophy is to give things a chance, then give them a second chance, and then make a decision. I am spending more time with international students and UWC students. I’m trying to get involved more in social activities while still focusing on my studies. I have a chance to work on campus. I am trying to meet more people.”

Chris is already giving some thought to graduate school. If he decides to major in psychology, he thinks he will definitely go on to graduate school in that field. He is not yet sure if he will go to graduate school right after Lewis & Clark or after working for a few years. “Right now I think I would like to get a job in a mental health institution or as a therapist. I would also like to explore the possibility of combining my love of music with patient therapy.”

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