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Aaron Zou came to the International School of Indiana (ISI) as a grade 9 student in 2013. After four years of being immersed in the International Baccalaureate curriculum, Aaron felt prepared to continue his academic career at Macalester College. 

While Aaron studies sociology and public health, he is currently taking a leave of absence from college before completing his senior year. Aaron is residing in Beijing, where he's participating in an internship with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. 

Aaron credits ISI with preparing him for college but, in addition to that, his time at ISI ignited his passion for both language learning and music. 

With benefits like language immersion or the IB Diploma Programme, what drew you most to ISI?
Looking back, I am most grateful for the wonderful teachers and friends I had at ISI. Whether it was troubles in my personal and academic life, they were always there to help me. In addition, the IB program challenged me a lot and helped me prepare for my college career.

Talk a little bit about what you're doing now and what your future goals are. How is what you learned at ISI helping you in your current endeavors?
I am currently doing an internship at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. My primary project for the moment is to study the correlation between chemical exposures and the risk of multiple diseases among miners in Southern China. I also assist with experiments such as HPV vaccine clinical trials.

I study sociology and public health in college, and I’d love to get involved in international public health in the future. As for what that will look like specifically, I’m open to opportunities.

Besides the practical knowledge I learned at ISI such as statistics and French, my friends and teachers at ISI was absolutely amazing. They helped me go through the hardest times, and because of them, I have the motivation and the confidence to pursue my future goals.

ISI has a curriculum that focuses on the arts and shaping their students’ outlook on international relations. In your experience as an ISI student, how do you think this unique approach to learning sets ISI apart from other schools?
The French classes I took at ISI ignited my passion for language learning. Building on the foundational classes I took at ISI, I continued my French courses in college, and just finished a study abroad semester in Belgium this spring.

From student clubs and groups to a wide range of athletics, what extra-curricular activities, or community-building events, were your favorite to get involved with at ISI, and how did they help shape the person you are today?
I started learning bass guitar because of a project in my music class, which I continued on as my hobby. Later, I had the opportunity to start a band with my friends and played music at several events on and off campus together. It helped me discover my love for music, in addition to building my ability to work in teams.

Considering the impactful opportunities ISI presents to its students, like the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project, and the overall international experience, what were you able to gain from your ISI experience that has stuck with you throughout your life?
For one service project, I volunteered to tutor students from Indianapolis public schools. I am from an upper-middle-class background, and it was the first time that I got to work with people from a working-class background. I volunteered there for two years.

What I remembered most clearly was that one afternoon, I was trying to help a kid with his math homework. He refused, looked at me, and said, “you came here just to feel good about yourself. You don’t know us, and you don’t care about us.” His rebellion was soon stopped by the site supervisor.

The memory was buried in the back of my mind until I started college, decided to major in sociology, and took several courses on social classes and disparities. Looking back, he was right, that I was in my bubble, that I was so ignorant about their lives, pain, and happiness. 

Fast forward to now:  I would like to focus my future career on targeting social determinants of health, and especially working with working-class people, for a more equal tomorrow where each and everyone is healthy.

What advice would you give to parents considering ISI for their children?
High school is an important phase for children to discover and develop themselves. Give them the space they need to explore, but there will be moments when they need you. Listen to them and show them that you care. 

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