Be Yourself and Change the World

international student voice Charlie Sun
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Growing up in China, Charlie Sun was taught money and power to be the most important things in life. Making the decision to study in in the U.S. allowed him to pursue his true passion in the arts.

I grew up in China, and lived 21 years in a snobbish world where I was told that money and power are the only things worth pursuing. Art was treated only as a hobby or perhaps something that parents forced their kids to engage in. After winning piano, speech, animation-making, English storytelling, and all other kinds of competition as I grew up, I still signed up for Business as my major in college. This pleased my parents primarily because it was what everyone else was doing and seemed to guarantee future employment. I am a conscientious student and I did very well in my studies. But deep inside, I needed to find a deeper purpose in life; I needed to find what I exist for. I did not want to be what others wanted me to be; I wanted to be myself and make a difference.

I left school after two years in Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade and started over at Rhodes College in America, which I believed is then, and still believe, a better place than my homeland to pursue my dreams. Here in the U.S. I have been exposed to many new and unfamiliar experiences –some life enhancing, some not –but the experiences that touch me profoundly are those involving the truly beautiful qualities of humanity –love, passion, generosity, and trust. The theater and the arts have allowed me to begin a life that is genuine to me, a life I want to live. I majored in theatre, took harp classes, and performed in plays and a musical –I chose a path that I would never think of stepping on before I came to America.

Watch Charlie’s short film about the story of Orpheus.

Empathy: Orpheus and Eurydice from charlie sun on Vimeo.


The Muses did not disappoint me. They kissed me and proved that art is my life-call. In my Junior year, I read the story of Orpheus. So powerful was the empathy I had for the story that I composed my first piano piece based on it. Wanting to support the music with images, I then created, with no prior training experience in filmmaking, a short film. The composition, writing, design, lighting, shooting, recording, editing, directing and acting were all done by me. When I was not behind the camera I was in front of it; I served as both director/cinematographer and actor. I was working 10 hours every day: on a toilet, on the airplane (in a visit home to China), from the moment I closed my eyes at night to the moment I opened them the next morning. I have never committed like this to anything before. I did not do this to enter a film competition or to complete an assignment. I did it only because I saw it in my head and I had the urge to present it. After it was done, I suddenly realized what I wanted to do for life. I want to be a storyteller who digs, finds and shares a pure beauty, a “something” that all human beings, regardless of imagined cultural barriers, can connect with, just as I, a person from the East, sympathized with the ever-lasting beauty of an ancient Western story. True beauty has no national or cultural boundary. Powerful and eternal themes are what I seek and want to share.

I have studied theatre and I have just gotten my feet wet in filmmaking. I love the sensitivity of a camera and I want to share my stories with more people for a longer time. So I want to study filmmaking in graduate school before I decide how exactly I wound serve art in the future. I have not achieved a lot yet but I am confident at my potential and at what I will achieve if given a chance, a platform, a place, an atmosphere and an environment. Like I was nominated in Ostrander for leading actor—something I would never imagine doing as an English-as-second language international student. But I was lucky enough to study and perform theatre in US.

Slide through some of Charlie’s creations!

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3 thoughts on “Be Yourself and Change the World

  1. Thanks for sharing Charlie. I wish you will find your search to your true self and your relation to this world. I can imagine how hard it is going through all of these experiences.

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