Posted 5 years ago
Dear Freshman Vivian
It’s me, Vivian.
By Vivian Ho
Dear Freshman Vivian,
It’s me, Vivian. Of course now I’m a junior, which somehow means that I am entering the second half of my college career. If I saw you around campus, the two-year younger version of me, I would sit down with a Coupa tiger spice latte and tell you the things I wish I knew then that I know now.
I would tell you that Stanford is a place of opportunities. People in the world are searching, digging, and scrounging for any small opportunity, and here we are at Stanford stunned by the overwhelming number of opportunities we are given on a silver platter. Truthfully, it means that you have to be selective — with your time, with your friends, with your classes. It means that the world is coming at you at the speed of 60 minutes per hour. There is no possible way you could participate in every activity thrown at you, from all of the freshman dorm events to numerous clubs to multiple “side projects” all of the CS majors seems to have. I remember thinking to myself that everyone around me appears to be doing 10,000 other things along with school. My next-door neighbor had already founded a nonprofit. Other friend was TAing a class as an incoming freshman. I felt as though I was not doing enough, and I struggled because I compared myself to other people. However, in due time I learned a lesson that proved invaluable. I learned that instead I can only compare myself to myself because I know my strengths and my limits. I can push myself, and as long as I am learning along the way, that is enough. I once was a person fond of perfectly packed boxes with an accompanying tag saying “Step-wise Instructions To Do Life.” I loved clarity in having my life sorted into neat envelopes. In fact, I remember being in your shoes with at the start with a four-year plan mapped out of my undergraduate career. Turns out, I threw that plan out the window the first day of classes. Stanford students like to have their life planned out, Google calendars of ten different colors sketching out every minute of every day. While clarity is comfortable and easy, sometimes uncertainty is more beautiful. However, getting lost is part of the adventure. I do not regret the many late night talks until 3am with people down the hall nor do I regret diving in head first into unknown subjects and undiscovered territories. Take the dance class that sounds interesting. Talk to the professor whose research looks cool though you vaguely know what it is. Ask tons of questions. Simply put, life’s improv.
When I started Stanford, I made the decision to come here mainly based on facts: how it has great professors, how it is a top-ranked education, etc. Years from now, I may not remember the material in the Chem 131 midterm, but what I will remember most is the people. On one hand, the classes teach you how to learn, which is a necessary skill in itself. That is not to say that only your education comes from classes. Rather, much of your education is outside of the classroom in interacting with your classmates, the other movers and shakers of the world. Part of the Stanford experience is the mélange of incredible people.
In my notes folder filled with class lecture notes and miscellaneous ideas, I have a “get-to-do list” filled not with the things I have to do for the day but the things I “get-to-do”. Next to an unchecked box, the words “Listen. Empathize. Act Unselfishly.” declare itself loudly. I doubt I will be able to say I have completed this item to check it off anytime soon because I am still learning.
Each person around you has a story to share; likely, their story is different than yours — possibly in background, religious beliefs, or experiences. Nonetheless, the story also has threads of similarity, also known as threads of being human, and each story demands to be heard. I get energy from those who have the courage to love others.
The world that you once knew is suddenly going to become expansive but there is no need to worry. Because what I know now comes from time. It comes from experiences to-be-had and stories to-be-heard. Besides, even if I did know these lessons two years ago, I would not trade in those experiences for anything else.