For the last 68 years, Cheshire High School has allowed valedictorians to address their classmates at graduation. However, no student honoree has had an experience quite like the one that Andrew Lou faced in 2020.
Due to the coronavirus coming to Connecticut two years ago, CHS planned multiple graduation scenarios before choosing to do a drive-through ceremony for students to pick up their diplomas. Ceremony speakers were asked to give their addresses virtually.
Instead of facing his friends as valedictorian, Lou recorded his speech in his own dining room.
“I was kind of sad that I couldn’t see my classmates one last time, but I appreciated the chance to provide my thoughts on graduation,” recalled Lou. “It was good to give that expression.”
In reflecting upon the start of the pandemic, Lou remembered how his classmates expected the health situation to improve in a few weeks, but the grads ended up finishing their final semester learning virtually from home.
“It came as a shock,” said Lou. “We couldn’t do senior prom, graduation, and the senior picnic. There were some regrets of not being able to be around my classmates.”
For Lou, the year 2020 seems so long ago, as he has gone on to learn more about himself and the world around him in the Ivy League. After initially attending Cornell University (New York), he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania in 2021 and is now studying in the college’s Wharton School.
“At Cheshire (High School), you are meeting people from similar backgrounds, but in college, you are being introduced to people from all over,” stated Lou. “I like that.”
As a freshman at Cornell, Lou started out studying economics and computer science. Because of the pandemic, all of his classes and club activities were held virtually.
While he found it harder to build connections with new people, Lou became accustomed to using tools like Zoom.
“You had to adjust to the situation. It is a reality that we have to face,” said Lou. “When using Zoom, you miss that face-to-face interaction.”
Lou found a passion for finance in college and chose to transfer to UPenn. Last year, he was happy to start moving away from virtual learning.
“It was great getting back in the classroom,” recalled Lou.
The Wharton School at UPenn offers a strong background in economics, but Lou believes that college professors have also supported his interest in finance and statistics.
“On the finance side of things, I became interested in capital markets. You get to see economics on a large scale,” explained Lou.
He believes that statistics also apply to the financial sector.
“We are approaching the age of big data. It is important to see how we differentiate the numbers from the noise,” explained Lou.
Like he did at Cornell, Lou is also studying computer science at UPenn. He has additionally learned about subjects like American law.
“I had never thought that I would be interested in the legal aspect of things,” reflected Lou. “It was interesting to see where we got started in constitutional law and laws from the Supreme Court.”
This summer, Lou went to New York City for an internship with an investment bank.
“In the work force, things come along as-is and it comes down to your adaptability. It was good to get a ton of exposure and see what an investment bank is like,” explained Lou. “Living in New York City for two months was a fun experience, too.”
Following his internship, Lou has returned to Cheshire before starting his junior year of college. This fall, he is excited to take on a position of welcoming new students and transfers to The Wharton School.
Lou describes the school’s transfer students as a diverse and close-knit group of people.
“I’m looking to help people who are also working towards two degrees,” added Lou.
In the future, Lou looks forward to having a full graduation experience, but first he wants to continue exploring in college.
Along with classwork at Cornell and UPenn, he has worked as a research financial assistant and computer science teaching assistant.
“I can talk to my classmates and professors to expand my horizons,” said Lou. “I’m not rushing to get there (graduation). I’m looking forward to enjoying these last two years of college.”