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Kelvin Green

Year of Graduation: 
Kelvin on a bench in the library.

"Studying [Chinese] is a way for me to remember my experience... It’s that language that holds my memories and epiphanies of my time abroad.”

Kelvin Green ’17, a Texan by birth and Exonian at heart, is possessed of gracious Southern manners and a friendly smile that make him a go-to mentor for younger students. A big proponent of cross-cultural exchange, Kelvin regularly advises lowers to consider studying abroad. He himself has participated in Exeter-sponsored trips to China and Costa Rica, and he spent his upper year in Beijing through School Year Abroad’s China program. Due in part to his encouragement, six Exonians have applied, been accepted, and will be attending SYA programs in either China, France, Italy or Spain during the 2017-2018 school year. Kelvin, who will be heading to MIT in the fall, shares some thoughts below about building understanding through global engagement and the challenges and rewards of cultural immersion.

On those daunting first few weeks and his enduring SYA connections:

“The first thing that goes through your mind is ‘What was I thinking?’ The truth is, you’re not going to love every single moment. If you do it right, you’re going to experience a language barrier or, with your family, a cultural barrier. But once you anticipate that happening, and if you make the most of it, you’ll be happy. I still chat with my Chinese teacher and host family regularly. ...  We’re all still interconnected. Those relationships have had a lasting impact.”

On navigating the language learning curve:

“It took me at least four to five months for genuine fluency and comprehension to kick in, a different concept than proficiency, which is what the Chinese consider the American standard of Mandarin fluency. One day my host mom said something to me, and I just got up and did what she asked. I didn’t even have to think about it. Once I started thinking and formulating my thoughts in Chinese, it removed that middle step of translation, and my fluency improved.”

On getting away from the “Exeter bubble”:

“I think it was good for me. Coming here as a prep and being a four-year Exonian, this would have been the only thing I’d known. That can be awesome, but you can fall into the idea that this place is better than everywhere else. Being surrounded by kids in SYA, where those attending New England private schools were only a few, made me more cognizant of my privilege at having gone here. ... Traveling helps gets rid of that subconscious elitism, which can kind of creep into your psyche, the idea that only Exeter has bright kids.”

Kesi Wilson '17 and Kelvin Green '17, who spent their upper year in Beijing through School Year Abroad, greet China's Great Wall with enthusiasm.

On keeping up with his language skills:

“I feel like it’s part of me now, and if I stop speaking it, listening to it and cultivating it, I’ll lose it. I definitely want to study abroad again, but studying the language is a way for me to remember my experience. I spent most of my time speaking and even thinking in Chinese. It’s that language that holds my memories and epiphanies of my time abroad.”

On real-world Harkness and bringing home life-lessons:

“A lot of our Chinese homework focused on interviewing native Chinese people about things that were controversial, so I had to speak with total strangers. I learned how to be compassionate and understanding of other people, even those who have a different view or experience. I learned to talk about our disagreements in ways that wouldn’t make them disengage. I have a more global perspective than I did before. When I look at the news now, I see it with a grain of salt. I look for truth, which is not always apparent in news stories. ...   

“I’ve had the experience of being in a foreign place, and I had to find my way around and be polite. All of that feeds itself into understanding different cultures. ... My whole existence now is centered on opening up perspectives, hearing other people’s stories. I learned so much about being respectful and understanding.”

Kelvin is co-president of the Afro-Latino Exonian Society; a Phillips Church steward; a proctor in Main Street Hall and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs; member of the MLK Committee; head of Gospel Choir; co-head of Outkast, Exeter’s all-male stepping and hip-hop dance group; club head affiliate of Democratic Club; contributing writer for The Exonian; and a men’s volleyball starting middle-blocker.