Brooklyn College junior John Tan had the opportunity to employ his innate filmmaking skills during his recent expedition in Japan as a part of the study abroad program offered through the Office of International Education and Global Engagement. Despite this talent, he is not studying film at Brooklyn College.
"I'm actually an exercise science major," he says.
Born and raised in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, Tan is the child of Chinese immigrants, and he and his younger sister are the first in their family to attend college. A bright student who is fluent in three languages (Cantonese, Mandarin and English), Tan chose Brooklyn College because of its affordability and selection of programs. He became interested in kinesiology while a student at Brooklyn Technical High School.
"I was a boxer there. It was something I signed up for in order to challenge myself. I became interested in physical education after I received physical therapy for a shoulder injury I suffered in the ring."
It was other Brooklyn College students who informed him about the study abroad program and piqued his interest. While there, Tan was required to keep a journal and was instructed by the professor overseeing the trip, Morgan Schulz of Queens College, to immerse himself in the culture. He was also required to watch a series of classic Japanese films, critically analyze them, and come up with a business plan for how to promote them in the American marketplace.
"Tokyo is like another New York City in terms of iconography and its economy."
To finance his trip, Tan applied for and received financial assistance from three sources: Roy L. Furman '60 Fellows Program, Student Affairs Study Abroad (SASA) Scholarship, and Study/Travel Opportunities for CUNY Students (STOCS). If not for the generosity of each of these, he would not have been able to make the journey that he says has forever changed him.
"I don't think I would have really appreciated how big the world was, or how intricately connected we all are, had I not made this trip," says Tan, who wrote, directed and produced a documentary film short of his stay in the country and submitted it as a part of his thesis to the fellowship and scholarship committees.
After returning, Tan was able to secure two paid, summer internships (one at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and the other at New York Methodist Hospital) as well as a fellowship with a mentorship organization called New York Needs You — opportunities he obtained with assistance from Natalia Guarin-Klein and Suzanne Grossman of Brooklyn College's Magner Career Center. Tan got the opportunity to meet the founder of the center, Marge Magner '69, earlier this year. He believes it was his study abroad experience that set him apart from other candidates and gave him an edge in the interviews.
"My time in Japan always came up during the interview process and the interviewers were always thoroughly impressed. These projects turn what might ordinarily be a modest résumé into something more intriguing and well-rounded. So there's definitely a professional development aspect to studying abroad."
After he graduates, Tan plans to apply for graduate schools, focusing, possibly, on military physical therapy.
"That's a really competitive track, but I see it as a way to give back to my country."