Hampshire College is a bit different from the schools Tian Ni grew up attending in Shanghai.
The ability to design a course of study built around her personal interests is what led her here.
While it has taken time for her to adapt to portions of the academic framework, Ni has found hard work is as important at Hampshire as it is in Shanghai.
And she is proving up to the challenge.
Explore Your Passions
In fall of 2010, her first semester at Hampshire, Ni took the Feminist Performance in Film class with film and video professor Baba Hillman. Hillman encouraged Ni to enter Things She Liked, a film she made in the class, in the Five College Film Festival held on February 25 at Hampshire.
It was Ni's first film, and she won both the Best of Festival and the Best Narrative prizes.
"She introduced a lot of technical and film information in the class. It inspired me," says Ni of Hillman.
Her classmates have also had a big influence on Ni's first-year studies.
"I've learned new things from the student films in my class," she says. "A lot of Hampshire students are really talented. I've learned a lot through conversations."
Ni plans to focus on studying film, but she is also taking classes in several other fields including history, art history, and anthropology.
By exploring her diverse range of interests for the next couple of semesters, Ni believes she can develop just the right focus of studies for her Div II and Div III work.
"Hampshire has a lot of freedom. I can learn what I want. There are not many restrictions on what I can do," she says.
"A lot of Hampshire students are really talented. I've learned a lot through conversations."