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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Student Introduction

Dear fellow dragons,

My name is Steven Gu, 19 years old, and I am from; actually, that’s a very difficult question to answer. I was born in fast-changing urban China. I grew up in the city of Nanjing, the ancient capital of the Republic of China and many other dynasties. At the age of 13, I left China to study aboard in the United States. Since then, I have called Santa Rosa, California and Sonoma Academy, my high school, my home. And it still is my home and where I really grow up. When I was a kid, my family moved and fought a lot. In the end, my parents filed for divorce. My childhood was filled with moving; I spent the week with mom, the weekend with dad, and some days with grams. I moved from this house to that apartment, never quite sure where I belonged or what it meant to have a home.

That all changed when I started studying aboard. At the age of 13, I traveled to this beautiful city called Santa Rosa, just an hour north of San Francisco, to study at Sonoma Academy. That’s where I met Sacha and John, my host parents. Since then, I have always seen them as my family along with Amanda and Andrew my other host family. They are my family and the first people I call when good or bad things happen.

Travel has changed what home means to me. Till this day, I draw inspirations from my first ever summer abroad trip where I lived in a remote village called Selela beneath mountain Mbulumbulu at Tanzania for three weeks. Ever since then, travel has redefined my world over and over. I traveled to Kenya with a local NGO my Sophomore year summer and Madagascar with Dragons last summer. I also served as a Dragon Ambassador last fall. Last January, I embarked on a vision quest through Sonoma Academy. A Vision Quest is the Native American rites of passage ceremony involving three days and three nights of fast and solo in the Death Valley National Park. Last fall. I was in East Africa working at Rhino sanctuaries, schools, NGOs, and road tripping across Kenya and Tanzania with an organization called ARCC (sadly not dragon).

Travel has changed how I see the world and guided me onto a very different path than I can ever imagine. Through travel, I have cried in happy tears, praised the earth for all of her glories, met inspiring people, witnessed the beauty of humanity and found home in some of the strangest places. Travel has taught me that home can be wherever you put your heart into. I am excited for the chance to meet amazing people, like you, our host families, and strangers, and to hear their stories. I have a passion for development study, learning how urbanization is shaping our world. This topic is very personal to me since I have seen it changing Chinese society, influencing people like me. I am also seeing the very same trend starting to pick up in East Africa. I wonder what’s it like in the country of 1700 islands?

Little more about my other hobbies other than traveling and meeting strangers,

At Sonoma Academy, I take rigorous and interesting courses such as Multivariable Calculus, AP Literature, African Study, Puppetry, Studio Art, and Engineering. Outside the classroom, I am a varsity tennis athlete, table crew, and line judge for the athletic department, I serve as Technology Coordinator, Club Leader, Health & Wellness TA. I am also the very first long term and full-time student Intern at Sonoma Academy’s Marketing department and later help founded the inaugural open marketing internship at SA. I am also a passionate student photographer. During my four years at SA, I was the official student photographer with a special focus on sports photography. For the past two years, I was in charge of team and individual photos for all SA sports team. I also produced the original major commercial quality film, the first major documentary about SA’s Davis Scholarship, and the introduction film for the Passport Program. I am also the first ever international student to receive the Global Citizenship Certification, an award given to students for their outstanding work on cross-cultural learning and understanding.

After our time in Indo, I plan to attend the University of Richmond to study IR and marketing.

I am so sad that I won’t be able to meet you guys at LAX which is actually the very first image of the United States I had when I first arrived. My family and I are celebrating the lunar new year, a very big traditional Chinese holiday, in Taiwan.

I am so excited to meet all of you- my new family and all of our adventures together.

Best Wishes,

Steven Gu.