Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - June 10, 2011

Henry Liu

A global view

With grandparents still living in rural China, Henry Liu says he feels "really lucky" to be graduating from Gunn High School.

"It's a huge deal. My family is really proud," said Liu, whose older brother and sister also went through Gunn and are now in college.

Born in China, Liu moved to California with his mother and siblings when he was 2. All the while, his father stayed in Guangzhou and built up a real-estate development business.

"To have the first generation of our family go to college in America is quite a change," Liu said.

Beyond academics at Gunn, Liu has pursued his particular passions of photography and badminton.

He plans to study architecture at the University of Southern California and sees himself possibly joining his father in business, perhaps as a designer.

"I really don't want to leave the art field, but I'm also really interested in housing," Liu said, adding that when he goes to China at least once a year "we just go around looking at houses."

Liu says he will most miss the people at Gunn.

"People here know what they're doing — it's really comfortable being on campus, being around everyone. And the teachers always know how to talk to you."

He will least miss the early-morning classes.

Liu advises new students to take advantage of extracurricular activities at Gunn.

"One thing about Gunn is it's very stressful when it comes to competition and applying to colleges," he said. "Especially because I'm Asian, I have to compete with a lot of other Asians who have these straight As.

"I'd say, a B is OK. A C-plus is OK. I got into several colleges with not straight As, and it worked out. People are pushing themselves too hard here, and it deprives them of going outside and exploring extracurriculars."

His love for photography and badminton gave him something to write about on his college applications, he said.

For stress management, Liu suggests attacking assignments with a sense of humor.

"Just compete with yourself and exceed your own expectations rather than trying to be better than all your classmates," he said.

Particularly as he gets older, Liu said he's grown to admire the work ethic of his mother and father.

"Not until recently did I start thinking of how much my parents gave up to give us this education here in Palo Alto," he said.

—Chris Kenrick

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