Maxine Zhang Schaefer '01

What did you do after graduating AIS?

I experienced culture-shock at Brown. Truly, the first year was an adjustment, AIS provided a lot of structure and Brown seemed like a free-for-all in comparison. But I eventually settled in and had a fantastic experience in Providence.

What are you doing now?

I am a wine importer. My company imports wine primarily from Europe, but we work with producers from all over the world. I am often amazed that this is my job. I think in my AIS yearbook page, I said I wanted to be a philosophy professor, so clearly my career has taken some unexpected turns! As I was contemplating leaving my last corporate job to start this wine venture, a colleague remarked I was taking a big bet on myself. I don't think of myself as a big risk-taker, but I am willing to take a risk on my ideas and visions. That faith in myself is something I can trace directly back to my time at AIS, to teachers and mentors who had confidence in me, classmates who challenged me, and friends who cheered my early small successes.


Have you kept in touch with classmates and/or teachers?

I have! Living in Los Angeles, I don't see friends on the East Coast as much as I would like, but a few years ago, I started serving on the NAAC at AIS, and now I get to see classmates and teachers at least once a year.

Is there anything from your AIS experience that has helped you personally or professionally?

More than I can put in writing! In retrospect, AIS was a crucible of personal and professional development, even more so than Brown. Upper school was an intensely challenging four years academically, so I entered college well-prepared. Mr. Frank used to say "chance favors the prepared mind," and this was true for me in the sense that my AIS education ensured that the academic part of college would be easy for me, which freed up time and energy to pursue research positions with professors and internships with companies, which gave me a step-up professionally when I graduated from Brown.

What is your favorite memory of AIS?

My SSP trip to France, and something happened on this trip that directly influenced what I do now. I have a vivid memory of my host family opening a special bottle of Saint-Émilion my last evening with them. I knew nothing about Bordeaux then, but understood the symbolism of opening a special bottle of wine to commemorate our time together. When I got back to the US, I researched the Saint-Émilion region, and learned about Bordeaux, and my appreciation for wine has grown from there.

Who was your most memorable teacher?

I can't just name one! Mr. Frank, of course - I spent countless hours in his classroom, in Middle East History and AP American History, but also outside of class time for general life advice and stress decompression time. Dr. Sacks left me an indelible appreciation for Latin and for classical history. Taking Latin through senior year truly defined me because it wasn't something that came easily to me like math, but it was something I just liked so much I felt compelled each year to continue, even if it crowded my academic schedule. Ms. McEvoy provided guidance and reassurance far above and beyond college applications. Now that I live in California, it is funny to think back on a conversation we had when she said she thought I would like California. It is true, I love California!

If you could tell students one thing about life at AIS or after what would it be?

AIS is a great testing-ground for your ideas: work hard, take chances, don't be afraid to fail, because AIS is a safe-environment. When you succeed, your classmates and teachers will cheer you, and if you fail, they will help you to try again. And when you graduate from AIS, you are going to be better prepared for college than you can even imagine.

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