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Meet the Alumni: Carnie Lewis

September, 2017
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50297136_00201_0011_xlargeIn one more year, Carnie Lewis will graduate with her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California (USC). Her plan is to either to complete an Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) or to gain some more work experience at LA. 

How time flies! Carnie Lewis was a proud member of Class of 2013 at Shanghai Community International School, Hongqiao Campus after she spent seven years at the school from 2006 to graduation in 2013. All of those days still feel just like yesterday.

“Unfortunately, I have not been able to return to Shanghai since I moved in 2013. My parents moved to Kuwait and Singapore right after I graduated, so I’ve never had an opportunity to fly back. I would love to visit and attend an SCIS alumni event though!”  

At SCIS, Carnie Lewis was a Dragon Renaissance winner for two years in a row; while at USC, she has also won the prestigious Renaissance Scholar Award. Congratulations to Carnie Lewis!!

LittleStar is very happy to talk to this SCIS alumni about her new progress at university and her unique experience at SCIS.

LittleStar: Congrats on being nominated for the Renaissance Scholar Award, how does it feel?

Lewis: It’s an incredible feeling! The Renaissance Scholar Award is given to 10 graduating USC seniors who have majors and minors in diverse fields and who attain a high level of academic achievement. I knew that I wanted to win this award before even arriving at USC. I worked so hard for four years so it’s great to feel like all that work finally paid off! It’s funny because I was actually a Dragon Renaissance winner for two years in a row (2012 and 2013) at SCIS due to my achievement in academics, sports, and community service, so I feel that this award was just a progression of what I already achieved in Shanghai.

img_4265-version-2LittleStar: What does it take to be nominated?

Lewis: It takes a lot of hard work. I had to work to achieve really high grades and I had to be ambitious to take on larger than normal course loads and reach out to professors for letters of recommendation. A little advice to students about to enter university: Get to know your professors. Utilize office hours, ask questions that reflect your interests, look for volunteer or research opportunities that connect with your passions, and work to maintain those relationships. University professors want to help you and they will be invaluable when you are applying for awards, scholarships or jobs. Also, learn what you love and do what you love. You’ll find it so much easier to achieve those high grades when you love the classes that you take. 

LittleStar: Tell us more about your university - USC; is it your dream school? How did you decide to apply for USC when graduating from High School?

Lewis: To be very frank, USC was not my original dream school, but it was near the top of my list. I decided to apply to USC because it had the best occupational therapy program in the US, but I had applied to other schools that I loved as well. However, when I received all my acceptances I realized that not only did I want to attend the best program, but also I wanted to be in a big multinational city like LA, and I wanted the quintessential US college experience. USC provided me with that quintessential experience from renowned academics, famous alumni and networking opportunities, American football, a large international student population, and so much more. In addition, I got placed into a progressive degree that allowed me to attain both my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in occupational therapy in only five years, which I couldn’t pass up! USC was one of the best decisions I ever made and I couldn’t imagine a better place to have spent the last four years. 

img_7875-version-2LittleStar: Is university life even harder that the IB years in HS? How do you think the IB programs prepare students for studying at university?

Lewis: Actually, I found university life fairly easy after the IB. Don’t get me wrong, the content in college is still difficult. However, I had developed amazing study skills that allowed me to flourish at college and productively learn all the material that I needed to learn. The IB is rigorous and it teaches students to balance various subjects at once, as well as write college length essays, which was so helpful when I started at USC.

LittleStar: You studied at SCIS for seven years. What is the most memorable thing about your time at SCIS and in China?

Lewis: My most memorable moment at SCIS was actually at one of our China trips. We were walking along a rice patty in the middle of Guizhou, and I remember thinking how amazing it was that I could travel to this part of China with all my friends and truly experience the culture of that community. Sometimes we get stuck in our ‘international bubble’ and it’s good to be thrown into somewhere more isolated so that we can grow, understand others better, and appreciate what we have. 

My favorite experience in China in general was definitely Chinese New Year. My first Chinese New Year in Shanghai, in 2007, was absolutely incredible. This was before the government increased the regulation on fire works, and so every single night was like a theatrical performance of light. I would sit on the balcony of my town house all night and have a 180-degree view of fireworks against the Shanghai skyline. It was absolutely amazing and an experience I’ll never forget.

LittleStar: Are you still in close contact with your SCIS friends? How important is that friendship to you?

Lewis: I am still in touch with most of my school friends and a few teachers. I think it’s very important to stay in touch because those connections helped make me who I am today and I know that wherever I go the world, I will know someone that I can catch up with.   

_mg_0433LittleStar: I remember you were a great photographer at SCIS. Are you still that passionate about photography? What activities do you now enjoy while free at university?

Lewis: Wow! I’m so flattered that you remember my photography! I still take photos, but more as a hobby when I have some free time. I am involved in various clubs and leadership experiences at university. I am a part of the USC Expat Society and attend their social events (ironically, I’m always meeting other expats from Shanghai that I crossed paths with at some point), as well as a volunteer at a student run clinic at a homeless shelter in LA. I also work as a research assistant in the USC Occupational Therapy department, and explore LA whenever I can!

LittleStar: What is your advice for current HS students regarding university choices? 

Lewis: My advice is to think about not just the academics of the university you are applying to, but the lifestyle of the universities as well. For example, universities in big cities and university in small towns provide very different life styles, and the country you are in also will determine the experience you have throughout your four years. The number of international vs local students, the ability to change your major with ease, the club and hobby opportunities, the safety of the campus, the ability to travel around the city using private or public transportation, and the ability to leave the city quickly for a holiday, and so many other factors, all impact your university experience. Your university will be your home for at least three to four years, so make sure there will be opportunities to help you enjoy it and everything that will be around you!

LittleStar: People all say the students attending international schools are the lucky ones - what do you think are the biggest benefit of attending an international school like SCIS?

photopass_visiting_disneyland_park_401517862392Lewis: Attending an international school allowed me to be exposed to so many cultures from such an early age, which allowed me to have an open mind to every single person that I meet. Having an open mind is critical when attending university because your values, beliefs and knowledge will be continually challenged-for the better- and you will need to grow from those experiences. Growing up in international schools also allowed me to adapt quite easily to so many different situations, which was a necessary skill when moving on my own to a different city. 

LittleStar: Last question: Nowadays when people ask you "Where are you from?" What is your answer?

Lewis: That’s a really great question. I usually still answer “Australia,” even though I haven’t had an Australian accent for over 15 years now, because it is the easiest answer. When people note that I don’t have an accent, I usually state “oh it’s because I’ve grown up all over the world so I lost it from a very young age.” I rarely go into details about it with someone I meet randomly, because it can take too long to explain and it’s a very unusual concept for those who have never grown up abroad, let alone for those who have never left the state or country. However, I will go into details if it is someone who I know I will have regular contact with, because it is a part of who I am. When I’m in Australia, I will say that I live in LA when my American accent is inevitably brought up in conversation. It’s a question that still causes me to squirm because “home” has always been a fluid concept to me and that’s a feeling that I think is unique to third cultured kids (TCKs). I don’t think I’ll ever be able to comfortably say I’m from a singular place. I get very excited when I meet others who grew up in international schools because I know they can empathize with the feeling of multiple homes, origins, and cultures. 




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