Interview with Metropolitan Preparatory Academy Alum, Haikun Liu
- Grades (year)
Gr. 7 - Gr. 12 (2014 - 2019)
- University (major)
University of California Berkeley (Economics/Business Administration)
Haikun immigrated to Canada from Beijing in 2014 and graduated from Metropolitan Preparatory Academy in 2019 after six formative and memorable years of study. During his time there, he enjoyed many international travel experiences, volunteer opportunities, and various extracurricular activities offered at the school. Haikun credits the knowledgeable and personable teachers for helping him discover the academic and personal interests he values the most. He is thankful for the tight-knit community of peers and mentors from Metropolitan Preparatory Academy, with whom he remains in contact. Haikun is currently studying economics and business at UC Berkeley and hopes to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
Highlights from the interview
Metropolitan Preparatory Academy is an environment where you have the resources. Teachers are there; the faculty is there, the staff is there, your friends are there.
Metropolitan Preparatory Academy is like middle school and high school combined. I entered the school in 7th grade, so I was there for six years. Metro Prep influenced a lot of what I intend to study, different passions of mine, and definitely the university I chose. Metro Prep helped me realize what I value the most and what areas of studies I enjoy the most. The teachers there really shaped my areas of interest. I became interested in social sciences, such as political science, law, economics, etc. I also know quite a few people who became very interested and passionate about STEM fields, and then they're pursuing that as well in university.
I was involved in theatre at Metropolitan Preparatory Academy for five years. The vice-principal also serves as the theatre director and every year we would put on a different play. We did Lord of the Flies, The Flick, and Of Mice and Men. I acted in two of them, and I did sound editing and film and photography for the other ones. I also played varsity soccer for all six years I was there. It was pretty nice because it was just a bunch of my best friends who just all played soccer together all the time.
I started a club at Metropolitan Preparatory Academy called the Metro Business Club. It was a club a few friends and I started after taking a business class. The business teacher was very encouraging and told us to start a club if we're interested in stuff.
Metropolitan Preparatory Academy went on different service trips throughout the years, and I participated in that. When I was in Grade 9, we went to Tanzania, and that was for one summer, and then the summer before entering my senior year, we went to Ecuador.
Metropolitan Preparatory Academy just started a thing called the SMITH Program. So that's an acronym for the School of Music, Integrated arts, Theatre and Humanities. It’s essentially an arts program. I feel like before, Metro Prep was very STEM focused and STEM heavy, but right now, they're investing in a lot of arts, humanities, and social sciences. We put on different concerts in the program, and we help with the play, attend different events, and stuff like that.
I brought my camera to Ecuador, and I shot a lot of pictures and videos, and the goal was to put together a documentary. Essentially, we made that happen, but it was quite a journey. The coolest part was that I got to do that, and I was supported by Metropolitan Preparatory Academy. The school even gave me a week off to put everything together because we were stressed about the deadline. In the end, we got to put together a Christmas film premiere/film screening kind of thing. We packed a school theatre, and there was a ticket price, and then that all went back to the charity we worked for during the service trip to Ecuador. That would be one of my proudest moments because I was able to get it done, and many people enjoyed the movie and asked me to buy the movie afterward. I think that was very cool.
There's a collaboration between Metropolitan Preparatory Academy and organizations like Free the Children, or Me to We. There are service trips, but we also help fundraise both for that trip and the charities throughout the school year. We would have a toy drive during Christmas, and we'd also hold charity concerts that the SMITH Program puts together. We would get many students to practice different instruments and put together a show during the year, and all the proceeds for the charity concert also go there. I think a cool thing about the Metro Prep band is that it's very unconventional. I feel like you'd either imagine the band as a typical orchestra, or very rock and roll, but I feel like the band at Metropolitan Preparatory Academy is very different. We have the traditional rock and roll songs, but I think the coolest part is the fact that different people play unique instruments from various cultures.
What attracted me to Metropolitan Preparatory Academy was the people, both the students and the teachers. It wasn’t like a traditional private school. I know many private schools in Canada, they require uniforms, there's a very tightly packed schedule, and there's a division between students and teachers. The division was something I didn't feel at Metro Prep. For instance, we all refer to our teachers by their first names. I think that's a very unconventional thing, but it's very good on an educational basis because it allows students to feel like they're not learning underneath someone but learning with someone. That was one of the key things that made me choose Metro Prep.
What I most appreciated about Metropolitan Preparatory Academy was the number of opportunities I was given. I'm not a super athletic person, but I could still play on the basketball team, soccer, and Frisbee team. I think that it's pretty unique to be given many opportunities to experiment and try different things, and very healthy. With the number of opportunities I was given and resources on hand, I didn't feel like anything was inaccessible. I felt like everything was very accessible, and if I wanted to pursue photography, I could have. Metro Prep is where my passion and interest in photography started.
What is unique about Metropolitan Preparatory Academy, and I haven't seen at any other school, is how you can just call your teacher by their first name. It's not even that; I feel like that's just an example of what it is. During lunchtime, kids hang out with teachers. I know it sounds very nerdy, almost like a fantasy, but I feel like I remember in 7th and 8th grade, during lunchtime, we'd want to go to our history teacher's room to talk with her about movies. You feel like you're friends with your teachers. I think that's so important.
One of the advantages of Metropolitan Preparatory Academy’s strong focus on teacher-student bonds is that students are able to learn a lot of things outside the classroom. The biggest lessons and most memorable things I learned were outside the classroom, whether on the service trips or feeling comfortable enough to approach my teachers with personal issues. Students feel the teachers genuinely care about them as human beings and about their personal growth.
A very defining quality of Metropolitan Preparatory Academy is its ability to remain authentic to its starting qualities, to its roots. I feel like it's very admirable. The school didn't change because they were trying to bring in more money or anything. Authentic is a word that I would say describes Metro Prep. It's a fun place to be.
I would not have chosen anywhere else but Metropolitan Preparatory Academy. It was a great place to grow up. It gave me a lot of memories that made my teenage and childhood years very joyful and enjoyable. It's a place where I learned a lot and grew into the person I am today.
In university, I was able to keep in touch with the teachers that I was closest to at Metropolitan Preparatory Academy. It feels like a safety net for me because I have a support system, even after graduating from Metro Prep. The same thing goes with all of my friends. Just this morning, I was FaceTiming for two hours with my best friend, just catching up and talking. Every time we have a break, everyone gets back together, and we all hang out. You really do feel like you build that support network at Metro Prep. I find this quality evident in everyone who's graduated from Metro Prep, the ability to handle difficulties and obstacles that come your way because of the independence you've learned at school.
A common trait among all my friends from Metropolitan Preparatory Academy is that they can excel in their environment at university and college.
Ever since I entered Metropolitan Preparatory Academy, everyone was friendly, and everyone just felt so approachable, which surprised me. At many schools, you feel a distinct feeling or vibe between the different grades. At Metro Prep you don't feel that. When I was in Grade 7, one of my best friends was graduating And it was a genuine friendship. I still keep in touch with people who graduated four, five, six years before me. I found that pretty surprising, but also pretty funny. As a senior, I felt like it was part of my responsibility to show the new Metro Prep students around. It was out of genuine care for them to excel and for them to like and adapt to the school environment.
I appreciate my experience at Metropolitan Preparatory Academy a lot. Now that I'm out of Metro Prep and out of that intimate environment, I'm feeling a lot more appreciative of what I had. I miss that personal relationship with teachers, especially now that I’m at college where there are 30,000 kids, it's difficult to establish that personal relationship with your teacher. I began to appreciate how insightful the teachers were.
I can't emphasize enough just how important I feel that personal relationship with faculty and staff is at Metropolitan Preparatory Academy. I emphasize the word ‘staff,’ because I felt like it wasn't just that we had personal relationships with the teachers; we also had personal relationships with the principal, the guidance counselor, and so many different people. I felt very close to the janitor as well. That's not an exaggeration because everyone was friends with the faculty and staff. When I was purchasing grad gifts for the teachers and everyone, I specifically had a present in mind for the janitor because he was there. He saw me grow up, he came to graduation and was very sad because he saw us leaving in the fall. I can't think of another place where you can really kind of establish that kind of relationship.
I had friends who would struggle to come to school on certain weeks for personal reasons, and the teachers at Metropolitan Preparatory Academy were very understanding of that. They don't view you as just a number or a particular grade.