Fulbright Scholar Kelicia Hollis ’08 Recounts Her Experience of Rejection and Resilience

Known as Hao Enhui by friends and colleagues in China, Kelicia Hollis ’08 spent 13 months in Harbin and Tianjin, China, as a 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholar, researching Chinese college students’ experiences in English-speaking countries. Hollis described her journey from being an Andover student to a Fulbright Scholar during her presentation in the office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) last Wednesday.

During her presentation, Hollis described how her early challenges at Andover continued to motivate her in the future to prevent her failures, her ‘no’ moments, from interfering with reaching her goals.

“I [wanted to] talk about my experiences here at [Andover] and… the experiences that I had in undergrad, graduate school and how many [moments] of ‘no’ from different places for different reasons did not stop me from moving towards my [moment] now,” said Hollis during an interview with The Phillipian.

Hollis also discussed how overcoming her academic challenges at Andover helped her remain hopeful and optimistic in the face of failure. Although she did poorly in the first term of her Spanish class, she didn’t give up and eventually appeared on a local television program with John Maier, Instructor in Spanish, during a trip to Spain her Senior year, she said.

“It really is about your drive, how much do you want it, how far are you going to push, and for me that lesson in language, the academic setting, was a precursor to my determination in other areas of my life,” said Hollis.

After graduating cum laude from Andover, Hollis continued her studies at Columbia University and received a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. She also decided to challenge herself, taking on Mandarin as a new language.

“I decided ironically that I like learning languages – Spanish was a little rough… but I was going to try something new and, by something new, that meant Mandarin Chinese… It [was] well worth the experience,” said Hollis.

Hollis soon found herself applying to numerous study-abroad programs in China. However, despite trying year after year, she did not get into any of the programs.

“I graduated and enjoyed the experience, but I still had that big ‘no.’ It just did not happen for me that time,” said Hollis.

Instead of giving up, Hollis continued to look for opportunities in China while attending graduate school at the University of Michigan of Education to receive a Master’s Degree in higher education.

In 2014, Hollis was accepted into the Fulbright Program, a grant given to individuals hoping to pursue a designed study or research project in a foreign country.

Hollis’s research focused on Chinese college students’ preparation, expectations and transition experiences in English-speaking countries. She interviewed numerous Chinese students heading to countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Towards the end of her scholarship, Hollis was able to give a motivational speech at the Beijing American Center to Chinese students who were planning to study abroad in countries such as the United States.

Hollis hopes her experience will inspire Andover students not to be discouraged by rejection.

Hollis’s presentation in CAMD encouraged Alejandro Diaz de Argandona ’16 to stay positive even when confronted with difficulties.
“If we keep [the] mindset of Hollis, we can really transform our rejected opportunities into new opportunities… After all, I know it’s pretty hard [at Andover]. I will try after this meeting to tell myself maybe there is another open door,” said Argandona.

The presentation also inspired Sarah Langr ’18 to embrace the idea of a positive mindset.

“At Andover, it has been a struggle—sometimes classes are difficult, you don’t get accepted into every program that you like getting into, but it’s not the end of the road. There are still ways you can go. And there’s still always a chance for you to be able to do what you like,” said Langr.