Bella Yiwen Fan


Psychology Major with French minor, 2011

Currently in New York City, New York
From China

“I still remember the first time I met Yelena. It was an ordinary afternoon, and I was in my French class in high school. A women with thick black hair rushed in and gave a short introduction of her French film class. The thing that made me remember her was the passion in her voice. ‘It must be nice to live like her,’ I thought to myself. Yelena soon became my French teacher. In her advanced class, we listened to detective stories, read wonderful works of Maupassant, and wrote our own short stories in French. I have liked writing since a very young age. When Yelena casually told us how Maupassant used an almost ironically cheesy way to write the beginning of ‘The Blind Man,’ I knew I could write what I really wanted to write in this class and Yelena would understand me. She did.

As a psychology major, I often wondered why I put myself through the misery of memorizing French vocabularies and grammar when I was studying it as a minor. I got my answer when I first set my foot in Paris. It was grey but vibrant, elegant but naked. What Yelena’s class brought me was like a little map to this huge hidden world. Besides the practical language skills I learned in her class, what helped me the most was having a personal relationship with a teacher who has so many ways of expressing herself and appreciating life. One day, traveling by train in Europe, as I looked out of the window, a small part in ‘The Blind Man’ came to my mind: ‘The whole sky is blue, the fields are green, the houses all white, and our enchanted eyes drink in those bright colors which bring delight to our souls.’ Such a tranquil tone for a painfully realistic story! Just like in Yelena’s class, she not only brought us the beauty of the world, she showed us the power of the realness. And this realness is a lifelong gift from her to me. Now I’m a graduate student in Columbia University, New York. Sometimes I overheard people talking in French while strolling in the beautiful Columbia campus. Thank you, my very special French teacher- Yelena.”

Bella also participated in a study abroad exchange to Saint Etienne, France.