30% Academics, 70% Life

When applying to college, Tianlong “Ethan” Wang’23 sought an institution where creativity is valued. Beloit College not only fit the bill, but has allowed him to pursue multiple interests in and out of the classroom.

Tianlong “Ethan” Wang’23 was an outlier in the Japanese language track in his high school in Shenyang, China. Unlike the majority of students in the track, Ethan chose the U.S. over Japan for college. His priority was an institution with flexible faculty, a curriculum allowing choice, and the potential for an active life beyond the classroom.

Tianlong Ethan Wang'23 playing the guitar He as not been disappointed at Beloit College. “My first year was very good and full of energy despite the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he tells us. “I played saxophone in the jazz ensemble and guitar in an informal, post-rock band, and made lots of friends at C-Haus, the campus pub where students play and listen to music.

Academics also spoke to him. Ethan was already making films when he arrived at Beloit. His short film The Beholder, inspired by an autistic boy he had seen learning basketball from his mother, was shown in an international film festival.

Ethan was delighted, therefore, when he was able to experiment with video techniques in his first-year seminar. Joe Bookman, media studies, was the instructor. Ethan has taken a media studies course every semester since, helped Joe set up the media studies lab, and now teaches students how to use the equipment. He hopes to complete a media studies major in addition to one in computer science and a minor in mathematics. Ethan Wang'23 editing a video Ethan Wang'23 editing a video

“The faculty at Beloit encourage you to be creative and to connect your interests. For example, Robin Zebrowski allowed me to create a stop action video for my final project in the cognitive science course I took with her, rather than write a paper.”

Just as Joe and Robin have encouraged Ethan to pursue his passions, so has computer scientist Eyad Haj Said, who invited Ethan to help with research on internet connection anomaly detection. They hope to detect and correctly classify internet attacks.

Eyad asked students with more experience to help catch Ethan up, track his progress, and point out new directions for the research. “Although I started programming at a young age,” Ethan shares, “this area was completely new to me. With everyone’s help, I can now proudly say that I’ve realized my dream of working with machine learning.”

Perhaps the biggest faculty influence on Ethan, however, has been mathematician Ben Stucky. Indeed, Ethan hopes to follow in Ben’s footsteps to become a college professor himself. “Ben makes learning math incredibly enjoyable. He takes time to talk with me not only about math problems, but my future,” Ethan says. Thanks to a tip from Ben, Ethan will serve as a teaching assistant in a Johns Hopkins computer science camp in summer 2022.

Reflecting on the three years he has spent at Beloit, Ethan is grateful for the encouragement he has received, how he’s been challenged to pursue his interests, and the opportunities he’s had to develop deep friendships with students from around the world.

“College is 30% academics, and 70% life outside the classroom,” he has found. “Beloit gives you the freedom to choose how to spend your time with both. That’s great preparation for life after college.”

Learning how to use his time helped Ethan weather the pandemic. “I could have gotten angry over being stuck in my room. But instead, I found plenty to do, from playing music everyday to cooking, exercising, making videos, and pursuing my studies.”

At the same time, he advises students not to rush through college. “What you get out of college depends on what you put into it. Take time to enjoy it, learn, and connect. Ideally, you’ll leave college knowing the direction you want to take and with the skills and knowledge you need to pursue that direction.”

By: Elizabeth Brewer
May 24, 2022

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