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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Ivy Xu

Photo contributed by Ivy Xu.

From Nanjing to Grinnell to Estonia to Copenhagen, Ivy Xu ’20’s college experiences have spanned more than just the four years it’s taken to reach graduation.

Xu said she was drawn to Grinnell College for its safe, quaint Iowa location and dedication to the liberal arts. Having only previously been to the United States to visit the East Coast, she was eager to get to know an environment different from her hometown of Nanjing, China.

“It was my first time in the Midwest and my family came with me together, so we enjoyed the view of the cornfields,” said Xu. “It was pretty much how I expected, except more in the middle of nowhere.”

Upon arriving in Grinnell, Xu got to know the town and campus through her participation in the International Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP). During those days before NSO, she settled into her dorm and learned about the process of getting a social security number and opening a bank account alongside her new classmates.

“The College really cares a lot about international students. … The staff in the Office of International Student Affairs really care about everybody,” said Xu. “So that [IPOP] was a really good time. We got to know each other, and we also got to know Grinnell.”

Xu anticipated she would choose to major in psychology or art history and took classes in both her first semester. After realizing neither fit her interests quite right, she fell in love with music and computer science during her second semester, and went on to declare a double major.

“I really like how Grinnell allows you to start something brand new here,” said Xu. “Most other music majors have played an instrument since they were very small. … I hadn’t ever learned music theory.”

Apart from academics, Xu has sung as a part of the Grinnell Singers under the direction of Professor John Rommereim, music, each semester. Initially, she didn’t earn a spot in the ensemble, but Rommereim offered her a spot in the alto section when one opened later in her first semester.

Xu later went on to write a choral piece, “Going Up A Tower,” as part of a summer composing MAP with Rommereim in the summer between her second and third years. The Grinnell Singers performed the piece at several concerts throughout the year, including on their annual tour during spring break.

“You really don’t know what you’re going to become. You see all these inspiring people and you really want to learn from each of them, but you know you can’t become just one of them.” said Xu. “At some point, I don’t remember exactly when, I started to realize this place really is a fit for me.”

Xu ventured away from the familiarity of Grinnell the fall of her fourth year to study abroad in Denmark through the DIS Copenhagen program. On hour-long commutes from her host family’s house to the university, Xu came to miss Grinnell’s condensed campus. She studied computer science with a concentration on games, sparking an interest that led her to apply to a Master’s program in game development at the University of Southern California that she will start in the fall.

Xu also spent time throughout her four years singing with the a capella group Noteworthy, performing in percussion ensemble and serving a term as a leader of the Chinese Student Association.

She cited stargazing as another beloved pastime, often stopping in the middle of the sidewalk on late walks home from Burling and allowing herself to be enveloped in the celestial beauty of the midnight Iowa sky.

“I always felt so safe walking around campus in the middle of the night at any time,” said Xu. “I don’t think that’s going to happen somewhere else.”

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