The University of Puget Sound (UPS) is an independent, undergraduate liberal arts college located in Tacoma, Washington in the United States. The school has 2,600 students and small class sizes to encourage strong student-teacher discussion and interaction.


SchoolApply interviewed Zhu Zhu, an international student from China, to find out about her experiences at the University of Puget Sound.


Location: Tacoma, Washington (USA)

Student Name: Zhu Zhu

Age: 22

From: Qingdao, China

Graduation: May 2019


Favorite school event: LogJam. It always takes place in the first week of the fall semester. There is live music, movies, snacks, food, games and more. Students celebrate the beginning of a new school year with their friends. All the student clubs and other organizations on campus host information tables so that students can sign up for whatever clubs that interest them.

Favorite class: Sensation, Perception, and Action (a psychology lab course). The professor’s lecture is so interesting. It’s a 1.5-hour long class, but I never felt bored – I always enjoyed attending. The professor used multiple examples to explain concepts which made everything easier to understand. He is also very critical about writing and when I took a thesis class with him, he would write a page, or even more, of comments. It might sound crazy, but his class actually helped students improve their writing along with teaching them psychology concepts.

Five words to describe the University of Puget Sound: Cozy, Challenging, Multi-discipline, Critical, Freedom

Tell us a little about yourself…

My name is Zhu Zhu (yes, my first and last names are the same!) but I found that a lot of people had a hard time pronouncing my name, so I also go by Pearl. People always ask me why I picked the name Pearl – it’s very simple actually because the meaning of my Chinese name is Pearl! I come from Qingdao, China and I went to high school in New York. I have lived and studied in the US for eight years already. I have lived in Queens, New York for four years and in Tacoma, Washington for another four years. I’m a senior at the University of Puget Sound, 22 years old  and will be graduating in May 2019.

What were your school experiences like before university?

I went to a Catholic high school, St. Francis Preparatory School, in New York. We had a large population of international students and the school is really diverse. My high school had a large choice of classes, especially Advanced Placement and extracurricular activities. I was in chamber orchestra and also on the golf team.

How did you hear about UPS and what made you decide to study in the US?

Since I completed high school in the US, I only applied to colleges in the US. I found out about UPS by accident. When I was applying to colleges, most schools that I applied to were on the east coast of the United States and I didn’t expect to move far from the east. However, one day, when I was reading through the letters and brochures that I received from multiple colleges, I was attracted to the brochure from UPS. I still remember what it looked like: the front of the brochure was a picture of a student riding his bicycle on campus and the picture looked gorgeous, especially with all the tall trees and other plants in the background. I immediately researched the school and found out it’s a small liberal arts college in a small city. Having lived in a big city for so long, I wanted to experience something different. After visiting the school, I knew I wanted to attend UPS.

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What were your first few days at UPS like?

My first few days on campus, I remember thinking how the campus was so pretty! The community was small and quiet, just as I expected. My residence hall was very clean and luckily, I had a single room which felt really big. My first class was music theory and I enjoyed it a lot!

What degree are you pursuing and why?

I’m pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Psychology and Music and a German minor.

What has your academic and social experience been like as an international student at UPS?

We don’t have a large population of international students – there are probably around 10 to 15 of us in total on campus. I did have a hard time in my seminar classes because these classes focused on discussion, presentation and writing. Different than in high school, I was always the only foreign student in all my classes. I tried really hard to improve my discussion and presentation skills. If I had a presentation due, I would spend at least two days to prepare for it. I would go over the presentation multiple times and memorize what I was going to say. Giving presentations was my biggest fear during my freshmen year, but after doing it multiple times, I become more confident.

UPS has a writing center where students can make appointments with student writing advisors to revise their papers and I found it very helpful. I always make appointments before I submit papers.

Our school is in a great location in Tacoma, its near the waterfront. I always walk to the waterfront when I feel stressed. On the way back to campus, I usually get my favorite drink from Starbucks and I might drop by the seafood shop to get some fresh fish (I love cooking!). If I feel lazy and don’t want to cook, 6th Ave has a lot of restaurants – my favorite restaurant is a pho place and “Bento Box” where I can get bibimbap!

Have you had a job while studying?

I had two on-campus jobs; I worked at SUB (our cafeteria) for 3.5 years and I worked at the Office of International Programs for 1.5 years. Working at the office of International Programs, I assisted with planning international student orientation, group activities for international students and other duties. Our school has plenty of on-campus job opportunities for students. In the past 3.5 years, I didn’t ask my parents for extra financial support beside my tuition. Getting a job on campus was my first step to becoming independent.

Do you take part in any extracurricular activities?

I was on the golf team for four years and met a lot of wonderful people! During the past four years, I improved my golf skills because we have wonderful coaches. I enjoy playing on the course with my friends, even when it is raining. I was also in concert band during sophomore and junior year and in choir during senior year.

What would you say to international students who are considering studying at the University of Puget Sound?

You’ll never regret being a student at UPS. I have grown a lot in the past four years, both academically and socially. Coming to UPS, you’ll learn how to step out from your comfort zone. You’ll meet nice students and intelligent professors and most importantly, you’ll love Tacoma!

At UPS, students are not only able to take classes related to their major, but they have the opportunity to expand their personal interests: for instance, if students love music, they can join the choir or other music ensembles. UPS also offers classes such as yoga, swimming, golf and fitness.

How has the University of Puget Sound prepared you for life after college?

The education that I received at UPS has helped me to be a critical thinker. By having jobs on campus, it definitely helped me to be more independent. I’m also taking a psychology practicum class and have obtained real-life working experience.

Interested in finding out more? Click on the University of Puget Sound’s SchoolApply profile page for more information.