“It’s great to be able to chat with my mates in the literature department on one side of the dinner table, and on the other side hang out with my chemistry dudes…it’s just a great way to live your life.”
When George Han makes this comment part way through our interview, he underlines his perception of the benefits of New Zealand’s holistic approach to schooling, a structure that provides for a breadth of opportunity that helps foster well-rounded development.
George is nearing the end of his third year of a full scholarship at Harvard University, where he is studying for an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a Masters’ degree in Computer Science. He attended a series of primary and intermediate schools in Auckland, moving to Takapuna Normal Intermediate in 2010, before going on to attend Westlake from 2011 to 2015. Among many achievements at Westlake, he was made Dux in his final year. George comments on a range of topics over the course of this interview including; a glimpse into his life at Harvard and some of his brilliant and slightly eccentric professors, insights into cutting edge mathematical and programming concepts like deep Bayesian models, his opinion on the importance of statistical intuition as a core skill that could be taught more explicitly in the technology era and enlightening us to an increasing trend where technology giants like Google rope away elite academic talent from the Tertiary world.
I taught George for four of his five years at Westlake and listening to him talk reminded me that what sets him apart is not simply his intelligence but also his humour, humility and maturity. The interview captures George’s passion and excitement for where he’s been, where he is now and the wide-open possibilities for his future.
My favourite part of the Harvard education is the people I get to hang out with. You know the people; there’s just something special and raw about how they see the world…like, wow, people here are so driven and motivated and passionate about their areas of interest and it really hits you, and it really pushes you further too. It makes you realise, this is what it means to really, really care about something and want to make progress with it.
Links to topics discussed in this episode: