Daniel XuLi: Big Goals, Bigger Drive

Daniel XuLiBay Area native Daniel XuLi '14 discusses his experiences working corporate jobs as a full-time undergraduate student, his translation of a Chinese book on historical architecture in the Nanjing region, and his plans for law school.

What made you decide to come to Saint Mary’s and major in politics?

I really loved what Saint Mary’s had to offer with regards to the academic quality of the professors and the relationships that the professors and the students have.  I wanted to major in politics for a few reasons.  It’s the major to go with in undergrad if you want to pursue law school, and it has one of the widest impact nets on communities and individuals.

What made you decide to pursue a degree in law?

I believe a law degree will allow me to make a meaningful and impactful difference on the lives of others. But I also want to posses an understanding of the law as it allows for me to be better prepared for pursuing politics later on in life, which is an option I’d like to keep open.

You translated a book from Chinese to English in 2010 about historical Chinese architecture in the region of Nanjing that is now in the Library of Congress’ Permanent Collection under East Asian Studies. Describe that experience.

Working on the book was amazing. A good translation requires a lot of research and prep work because you have to truly understand the material, and that’s what made this project unique and challenging. It felt great to be part of a large publishing team with foreign colleagues who worked entirely in Chinese. One of the hard parts was coordinating and meeting deadlines given the time zone issue. I would stay up late at night to meet their time zones, but then have to get up for classes in the morning and go to my regular job during the day. The feeling of having something that you’ve worked on for so long published is just beautiful. It’s actually recently been recognized in China as a text of reference for what good translation looks like.

In addition to your classes, you also spend many hours working corporate jobs. What has this experience been like?

During my four years of undergrad, I’ve usually had between two to three jobs at any given time that total to 40 hours of work a week. It’s really difficult and you need to be disciplined and focused. You’ll have to make some sacrifices. However, I will say that balancing a rigorous work schedule with school has been an invaluable experience that I would do again if I were to relive my undergraduate career. My work has allowed me to gain valuable insight, knowledge, and skills that will contribute to my future of being a corporate lawyer.

You seem like a very driven person, where does your work ethic come from?

My work ethic comes from my mom. She was never one to allow for slacking or settling and she led by example. I intend to live up to her expectation and then exceed it. I think I’ve always been goal-oriented because I’ve always known what I want and what I have to do to attain it. My mentality is that I get one shot at this life and I fully intend to make the most of it.

Who have been your biggest mentors?

I don’t have any specific mentors per se, because I believe that there is something to learn from everyone you come across. However, I do want to say that my mom is my primary mentor for my life in general. But I also have to say that I view a lot of my professors here at Saint Mary’s as my mentors, as many of them have been instrumental to my academic development and the development of my thought process. 

Now that you are in your last term at Saint Mary’s, what is the most important thing that you will take away from your college experience?

You have to know who you are and what you stand for.  Anything can be done if you pursue it and never give up; obstacles will always be there and the only way past them is to address each one. It’s easy to see others accomplish something and assume that it came easy for them, but you never know what they had to do and sacrifice to get to where they are today. I would say these together are probably some of the most important things that I will take away from my college experience.