Zhanming Wang graduated from EF Academy New York in 2018. We caught up recently to talk about his gap year, his current projects, and his time at high school.
What have you been doing since you graduated?
I took a gap year. It was a strategic decision for me because my situation was complicated and special. I was trying to start a company in high school called Knit’d. It’s a trading/social media app I was developing with my roommate Renato. We were investing a lot of time into it so I couldn’t really study for my SATs at that time and apply to college. I made the decision to take a gap year to try to learn machine learning for myself. I want to further this app with a strong backend that can analyze user data. That was part of the reason; I wanted to get the app ready as soon as possible.
Were you entrepreneurial before you came to EF Academy?
I think it really started in EF Academy. I was given the opportunity to start and organize my own events and I really enjoyed that process. My interest in managing all the little details carried over to my interest to start a company by myself or just a personal project. I don’t think I had that interest or the ability to do that before EF Academy.
What were your favorite memories of EF Academy?
I wanted to organize so many events and the staff always helped me with it. Emily Aquina was amazing for that. I wanted to organize a blood drive and I went to her and said what I wanted to do and she just said “How many people, how many buses and when?”. I organized three blood drives in the end. We got so many students signed up and we took them all to White Plains hospital. The hospital loved us and the students felt very satisfied about the whole process and what they could provide for the community.
I also organized a cancer walk for breast cancer. I found an event online and got in contact with them and brought a group to join a walkathon. Some others joined in volunteering for the event, handing out water and things like that. I was personally volunteering in White Plains Hospital as well because I wanted to be a doctor. After that volunteering I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a doctor but it was still great to do.
What’s next for you?
I’m majoring in Math and Computer Science at UCSD. It fits perfectly into my plan to study machine learning because at its base it’s all math and algorithms. Self-studying machine learning in my gap year helped me a lot, as it equipped me with good basic skills for analyzing data. I’ll be actively seeking research and internship opportunities as soon as possible. My experience will put me one step ahead those students who have come straight from high school and will put me at an advantage. By getting into those labs and internships early, I will have one more year head start to develop relationships and start publishing work.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Get involved as much as possible. Try to join activities, either school-led or peer-led. If you have an idea, talk to the activities coordinator, they’ll make it happen. It’s a cool process and you can learn a lot from it. That’s a unique opportunity that EF Academy has: you can start your own activities. That’s it really, you shouldn’t just focus on academics because extra-curricular activities are one of the core elements of the US studying experience.
What was your proudest achievement at EF Academy?
I would say it’s the amount of friends I had, but also the amount of quality friends I had. I got to know a lot of friends at EF Academy. I was able to keep in contact with them after high school even though they are all over the world. One time I went to Korea and met up with a friend. I went to Vietnam, and had a friend. It’s a pretty strong connection. It’s not a huge amount of people but they’re really strong friendships and that’s something I appreciate and I am very proud of.