Hello, my name is Bianca Sjoenell, and I am honored to be a member of the Baldwin Scholars Program!

So, what’s my story? I am Swedish-Persian, born and partly raised in Sweden before immigrating to the United States as a child. Belonging to a community of expats, I have always felt like a cultural chameleon. I have my Swedish quiet, simple and egalitarian self that shares a mind with my American bold self, ingrained with drive and ambition. During my gap year, I was able to nurture my passion for immersing myself in foreign lifestyles by traveling and working abroad in Europe and Costa Rica. I love feeling like a citizen of the world.

A huge part of my identity is also being a twin! If I were to describe my experience as a fraternal twin, I attribute it to being born with equality programmed in my DNA. My biggest supporter, since the womb, has been a boy—my twin brother. He is my number one and growing up with him, I have had the privilege of, by default, being included as “one of the guys.''

However, similarly to how the majority of female roles in cinema have been written as supporting a protagonist male, I have often felt defined in relation to my brother. At this point in my life at Duke, I am for the first time exploring what it means to be truly independent and my identity as a woman. I aspired to join the Baldwin Scholars Program because I wanted my identity as a female to play the leading role in my life. I am excited to engage and learn from the experiences of generations of Baldwin women, celebrating the uniqueness of being a female on campus and in the world.

In my free time, dance has offered me a mind-body balance since the age of five. I love modern and contemporary dance because these styles allow me to celebrate my individuality through movement. If I need to take a break from the Blue Devil grind, my favorite thing to do is to take a Zumba class with my girlfriends. My absolute comfort zone is the beach because it’s a place where I can be lazy and active all at once. My alter ego would undoubtedly be a mermaid.

At Duke, I am pursuing a Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies major and on a pre-health track. I am fascinated by the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, and medicine. What interests me specifically is how surgical medicine will evolve alongside the rapidly growing gender and sexuality spectrum. This interest stems from me having volunteered all throughout high school at a teen-to-teen crisis hotline. During my time there, I witnessed firsthand the fundamental insecurities and mental health struggles that stem from our relationships to our physical appearances. I feel so fortunate to be at Duke and have access to opportunities that will hopefully make my experience come full circle.