Meet Commonwealth Students: Chloe ’27, A Home at the (Other) End of the World

For ninth-grader Chloe, family has always been a priority—no matter where they happen to be in the world. Born in Canberra, Australia, she grew up in Shanghai, China, which is where she conducted her high-school search. Finding a school in the U.S. while living on the other side of the globe meant midnight interviews, endless Internet research, and managing high expectations for grades and test scores. But from the moment she finally walked through Commonwealth’s old, oaken door, she says, the building felt like a home. Keep reading to get to know this unexpected actress, her journey to the U.S., and her tips for conducting the high-school search process from afar.

Getting to Know You

What is bringing you joy right now? 

Just being here with my family. I know a lot of people in boarding schools or with a parent back in China, and they don't get to live with their family every day. My family was willing to come to the U.S. and start a new life. For me, being with family has always been really important. 

What is your favorite comfort food? 

Snow fungus and pear soup.

What is your favorite book, TV show, or movie (or one you’ve revisited)? 

Modern Family.

What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)? 

My favorite class here is Acting. It’s really small, and there are only three freshmen, including me. I feel really safe there. Usually, you won't see me jumping at the opportunity to stand on stage and give a speech, but in Acting class, I turn into a different person. 

When do you feel the most enjoyably challenged?

When I'm learning something new, for example, in French class, when I'm learning new grammar and vocabulary. I think French is really interesting, honestly, because of its connection to English. But I also just like challenging myself. I mean, you can never get enough knowledge. 

What never fails to make you laugh?

My dog, Caramel. He does things I know I should be mad at him for, but I can’t help but laugh.

What are people most surprised to learn about you?

That I like acting, because they think it's counter to my character. I'm an introvert, so why am I on stage? And I always tell them, It's because when you're acting, you're a different person, and the person you're acting as is not an introvert. It just feels natural to me. 

Pen or pencil? 

Pen. It’s more solid and just contrasts better on the white paper, and it doesn’t smudge as easily.

Coffee or tea?

Any kind of fruit tea.

Fall, winter, spring, or summer?

I prefer fall, because it's not that cold, it's not that warm, and the falling leaves are beautiful. 

Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)

What was it like finding a high school and applying from China?

I was very busy. I applied to a lot of schools. I didn't get to visit them; I just based everything purely on what I saw on their websites and my [admission] interviews. Interviewing was really busy, because I had to schedule times that worked with American work hours, and the time difference with China is twelve to thirteen hours. I had a couple interviews at midnight! It was pretty stressful. But after that period of time, it was okay. 

What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience? 

Walking in, I just thought it was a beautiful school. You go through the front doors, you see the red carpet and the stairs and the wood, and I felt like it looked a lot more like a home than a school. The colors and the wooden tones just make me feel warm on the inside. 

What's your advice for other students who are applying to U.S. high schools from China or elsewhere in the world?

I would say take a holiday and fly over and visit as many schools as you can, if possible. I wish I could have done that. Most school websites talk about the same things: their courses and diversity and student life—a lot of statistics. And you don't have time to read every article that's been written about a school. So visiting is really important, even if you're scared to do it.

You came from a middle school with about 100 students per grade—and your Commonwealth class is one-third that size! What was the transition to a smaller high school like?

I was kind of shocked at how everyone talks with each other at Commonwealth. In my old school, people just stuck with their own friend groups. I thought it would be like that here—but it turned out to be exactly the opposite. I didn't expect to be able to communicate with seniors and juniors and sophomores at all. I feel really good in small communities. You feel seen. 

Using metrics besides grades, how do you define “success” in your classes?

Just trying your best—focusing, taking notes, doing your homework to the best of your ability—because everyone's ability is different. Some people might be able to put in only a little effort and get the grades another person gets from putting in immense effort. But grades aren't the most important thing in the world; it’s the amount of effort that matters. 

When do you feel most connected to other students (or teachers/staff members) in our community?

During class discussions. You usually don't need to raise your hand; you just talk. That's a better way for me to communicate with people. When I raise my hand, I start overthinking, but when I can just speak, it takes the pressure off. 

How do you spend your time outside of Commonwealth?

I do homework, and I also practice the cello and crochet. I'm currently working on a patchwork cardigan with other freshmen who crochet. I never found somebody who crocheted who was my age before, so being accepted into a crochet community here is really fun. 

How has your Commonwealth experience colored the way you look at the world? How you plan for your future? 

Well, I'm thinking of the world as a kinder place. Maybe I'm just naive, but if we can find so many nice people in one environment and so many nice people who have come before us, then the world's probably filled with nice people. Right? 

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