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My Swat Story: Terrence Xiao ’20

Terrence Xiao '20

Majors: Engineering, Environmental Studies
Hometown: Beijing, China

Beijing Shaped His Passion for Sustainability

“I think my broader interest in sustainability is rooted in my background and my childhood growing up. I grew up in Beijing, which is a very polluted city. And so, I had a lot of firsthand experience with environmental degradation and pollution, and I got to experience firsthand how they can impact one’s life. Ever since a very young age, I knew that I wanted to obtain the agency to address that problem or to make positive change in terms of environmentalism and sustainability.”

He Is Fascinated by Fish and Their Environments

“I really like fishkeeping, and I’m a huge aquarium hobbyist. I think something that really appeals to me about that is being able to interact and shape environmental systems and understand how those systems work. I was able to do independent research in high school—a funded project about aquaponics, a really cool system that combines aquaculture with hydroponics, or a method of growing plants. Aquaponics can be a really effective way of growing food sustainably, and that research project acted as a gateway for me to pursue engineering and environmental studies.”

He Sees Swarthmore as an Ecosystem

“One of the things that stands out to me most is that everything at Swarthmore feels connected. Partly due to its small-form factor, partly due to the closeness of the community, but all of my classes feel connected to my interests. In turn, my interests feel connected to broader issues that are explored in those classes. And a large part of learning takes place outside of the classroom, too—through projects that I’m pursuing, through programs like the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship, and through small things like conversations with friends.”