Zixuan Xiao

ZixuanBy Clara Gray ‘15 

Alex Xiao is currently a senior from Beijing China, pursuing a highly concentrated Politics major, and triple complementary minors in history, economics, and legal studies. His passion for political sciences and academia has lead Alex to becoming intensively involved in two prestigious journals at Brandeis. He is the Asia Pacific Regional Editor for the Brandeis International Journal, and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Brandeis Law Journal. The Law Journal includes submissions from faculty and students. The International Journal includes submissions from undergraduates representing all global regions, and each issue centers around a global theme such as climate change.

Alex first heard about Brandeis through his cousin, who came to Brandeis for the Masters of Finance program. When he was 16, Alex came to the USA all by himself to visit his cousin and tour the school. “I spoke limited English at the time,” he recalls, “so it was quite a trip!” He was impressed by Brandeis and his cousin’s experience at the school, so when the time came to apply to college, Brandeis was high on his list.  

Recalling his experience with the Gateway Scholars Program, Alex said “I loved the Gateway Program. I knew what I wanted to pursue in college, but I also knew my English writing and oral communication skills needed to be brought up to the level required for political science classes. It was an intensive program, and after Gateway my English was far better than it had been.” Alex’s first impressions of Gateway were that it was well organized and impressive. “I remember all the binders we were given – all the guest speakers we saw – speeches by the President and Dean of Arts and Sciences. It was a great way to get acquainted with the high standards of the university.”

As an ambitious scholar, Alex appreciates the academic training Gateway offered him. “I’m a ‘social scientist in training,’” Alex said. “We read works by great people: Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Sandel, George Orwell. Gateway gave me a preview of how it feels to study the social sciences. It was really rewarding.” Alex also recalls that Gateway gave him the advantage of time: “We had access to Brandeis’s academic resources a full two months before school began! As a community, we learned how to access and consult with the Roosevelt Fellows and Academic UDRs, and how to use the library resources and electronic article databases. It was a completely new system and a different academic environment than we are used to, and Gateway gave us time and the resources to acclimate.”

With his interest in American politics, Alex deliberately tried to put himself in the shoes of an American student. He mentally prepared himself to read and reason like an American political scholar, and the Gateway Scholars Program gave him the practical language skills to support his academic goal. As a politics student, Alex noticed that the peers in his classes are mostly American: “I am often the only Chinese student in a class such as, say - Politics of Islamic Resurgence.” As a Chinese student in an American system, Alex has a unique point of view, as he understands angles and ideas from both Eastern and Western political systems. Alex’s classmates appreciate his point of view and like to get his input on class material. “People want to learn about my experience in my country. It is a wonderful opportunity to help clarify facts and correct stereotypes.”

Alex has taken full advantage of Gateway resources. Gateway Scholars are allowed to have an academic writing tutor, and while many students opt out of having an academic tutor after their freshman or sophomore year, Alex has had a tutor every single semester. “Academic writing tutors are one of the best resources that the Gateway Scholars Program provides. The program is really good at matching you with the right person. I’ve had a series of excellent tutors. We meet every week to discuss my writing assignments.” Alex has also turned his experience as a Gateway Scholar into a networking advantage. Through the Gateway Scholars Buddy Program, which is a social program that teams up American students with Gateway Scholars to improve their social communication skills, Alex was paired with Daniel de Sola Marks, at that time an upperclassman who was a politics major, a philosophy minor, and the Undergraduate Department Representative (UDR) for Politics. Daniel had amazing connections within the department, and he enthusiastically shared them with Alex. “He taught me how to talk to people to build connections, and to be smart about it. “My Gateway buddy will probably be my lifelong mentor,” said Alex. “Everything starts from Gateway, I would say.”

For his plans after Brandeis, Alex is making the tough choice between pursuing a PhD in political science or going to law school. After consulting with one of his favorite professors – who will also be his thesis advisor next year – Alex has decided on law school. “My professor has encouraged me to apply to law school. She said a PhD would be right if I wanted to pursue teaching, but she said ‘I see in you an intelligent academic activist, and a law degree will help you make a real impact.’” In the long-term, Alex wants to return to China to be involved in the judicial system and legal system reforms.