When a person is growing up, milestones are achieved and learned in the early years including cultural ideas, traditions and foods. For Middlebury swimming and diving senior Bryan Cheuk, he had to learn and adjust to a whole new way of living when he started his collegiate life in the fall of 2012.
A native of Hong Kong and a graduate of the Diocesan Boys’ School, Cheuk traveled nearly halfway around the world and had adjusted to a new culture and its ways while continuing his academic studies and swimming career at Middlebury.
Growing up as a child in Hong Kong, Cheuk was a three-time age group record holder. He was ranked seventh and 11th in 50-meter butterfly and freestyle events, respectively, during his senior year.
Away from the pool, he played the violin and was awarded an Associate Recital Diploma from Trinity College London in his junior year of high school. The diploma received at the completion of the course is equivalent to the performance component of the first year in a full-time undergraduate course at a conservatoire or other higher education establishment.
A first-generation college student, Cheuk decided to fly out of his comfort zone and attend college in the United States after hearing about Middlebury from a former student who was originally from Hong Kong. While in Vermont, Cheuk has had to learn how to adjust to different Western ideas and cultures.
Cheuk has excelled during his career for the Panthers, starting his senior season with solid performances. A freestyle specialist, he posted an individual victory in the 50 free with a time of 22.10 during the season-opening meet with Tufts and Connecticut College. In the final event, he swam the opening leg of the winning 200 free relay. During the meet a few weeks later at Amherst, Cheuk anchored the winning 400 free relay. Last Saturday in a home meet against Springfield, he won the 50 fly and was a part of the victorious 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. In addition, Cheuk currently ranks fifth and seventh in 50 fly and free in the NESCAC, respectively.
In this edition of Panther Profile, Bryan talks about why he chose Middlebury, how he adjusted to a whole new culture, some of the traditions he carries on today and what his future plans next summer entail.
What are some of the factors that sparked your interest in Middlebury? At what age did you hear about the school and how did you hear about it coming from Hong Kong?
I first heard about Middlebury from 2013 NCAA tennis champion Leung Lok Sze ’15, a Middlebury alum also from Hong Kong. Through our conversation, I learned the student-athlete culture and college environment. I was also aware of the strong behavioral economics program here. Though I didn’t visit the campus before I applied, I believed that Middlebury was the right fit for me.
Why did you decide to attend Middlebury?
I attended Middlebury for many reasons. Having lived in Hong Kong my entire life, I believed it was time to get out of my comfort zone and expose myself to different environments, cultures and perspectives. In addition, my conversations with past admissions officer Scott Atherton and Coach Rueppel firmed my interest in becoming part of Middlebury.
What other activities do you participate in on or off campus outside of class and swimming?
In the past, I was a member of both the water polo team and a member of the Student Investment Committee. I was also a grader and Teaching Assistant for two core economic courses. This semester, I am working with Professor James Davis and Middlebury Town Business Development Director Jamie Gaucher on a research project which analyzes the impact of first-generation college students on the Middlebury community and their experiences at the College. In that, I am looking into the different college initiatives that support first-generation college students.
How have you balanced your academic class load with your athletic schedule?
Striking a balance between athletics and academics is undoubtedly difficult and it requires very good time management. Although it gets stressful at times, the fact that I am used to late nights and early mornings has helped me significantly. Prioritization also helps me cope with my work load as well as my practice schedule.
At what age did you find a love for swimming, enough to continue to pursue it at such a high level here at Middlebury?
I started swimming competitively when I was seven. Since breaking my first national age group record at 10, I’ve never stopped pursuing faster times or setting goals for myself. Swimming at Middlebury was a last-minute decision, as I was recovering from a major injury when I arrived at campus. I have since overcome my injury and I’m glad I decided to swim because it has enriched my college experience.
What do you have planned for next year’s J term and after graduation (internship, job, etc)?
I spent the past two summers working at the Finance and Product Structuring Desks of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. During my internships, I was fortunate enough to take part in some major financial initiatives, and my current plan is to secure a rotational management trainee position at the firm.
You had mentioned you are the only international student-athlete on the team. How has the transition from Hong Kong to the United States been interesting?
The transition from Hong Kong to the United States is definitely challenging. I spent considerable time adjusting to swimming short-course yards during my freshman year because I’m used to long and short-course meters in Hong Kong. I am privileged to have Coach Rueppel supporting me and facilitating this transition.
What sorts of traditions, that you did either as a child or even now, have you and your friends continued here in the United States?
I celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival with my teammates in the early fall. It is celebrated at that time of the year when the moon is at its roundest and brightest. The shape of the moon symbolizes peace, prosperity, and reunion. It is the second most important festival to Chinese people after Chinese New Years. My teammates and I shared mooncakes and embraced the start of a new academic year.
However, the tradition that I miss the most is Chinese New Year. It usually falls during February break, during which I have to stay on campus to train for the NESCAC Championships.