Interview with a photographer and film maker


Wei Qian, who is usually known as Eris, is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she was the first Chinese student to study a Media Studies Major. She now works at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC as a Contract Video Producer for the National Museum of Natural History.


Eris Qian: Photographer and film-maker

How did you come to the decision to study at the University of Virginia?

Before I transferred to UVa, I was enrolled in a Chinese university that I had been unsatisfied with. The Chinese higher education system is kind of rigid – the student gets into a major based on the score of the national entrance exam, which happens only once a year, and has to focus on the major curriculum instead of exploring different subjects. Having spent too much time on studying the vocabulary and grammar (I was an English major), I felt that the hunger for broader knowledge and deeper critical thinking whined inside of me. So I decided to transfer to the US and since then my life has completely changed.

Was it a difficult transition to move from China to the US?

Oh yes.  My situation was particularly hard because I transferred in the Spring with very limited knowledge and resource of the American college system.  I lost around 90 credits due to the transfer, and I had to get into the prestigious Media Studies programme that only admitted 40 students per year at that time.  I was stressed out for both physical and academic survival. But fortunately, I made it through the hardest time and now I’m a stronger and better person.

What advice would you give someone considering the same move?

Transfer students, especially international transfers, are usually at big disadvantages to fit in the new environment, catch up and stand out. I think those who are considering the same move need to firstly prepare themselves well with the right information and attitude. The university provides various resources to help its students, yet you still have to seek them out and make yourself be heard. It’s the same for the social aspect that you need to reach out to make new friends. Most importantly, always have faith in yourself and trust the choices you make.

How I got the job & what it's like working at the National Museum of Natural History