And just like that, freshman year is… over.
Finishing the semester I was struck by a very odd sense of … I don’t even know what it is; it’s like freshman year has this special quality of newness and beginning, that comes with it certain permissions to have fun, do stupid things and get away with — the permission to experiment and make mistakes, because you are new. But this doesn’t even come close to describing the full immensity of what I was feeling, so anyway…
Today I took out my goals for freshman year again, and they were:
This was tacked onto my wall, so I could see it every single day, and all in all, it had honestly been an amazing semester, and I couldn’t be more thankful for all the opportunities I had been given.
One of my biggest goals for college (number one on the list) was to continue the journey of exploration I began shortly after finishing high school; that is, I wanted to really try out any and everything I might be interested in, so I can find an area of passion that I can then dive deeply into.
To that end, I’m still in the process because I’m nowhere close to the absolute clarity that I’m aspiring towards, but I’ve been very privileged to have been given opportunities to really delve into the different interest areas I’ve wanted to explore: Mobile Developers of Berkeley (MDB), for mobile development, and Net Impact, for social impact consulting.
As a brief aside, I honestly feel like a significant component of my learning and growth in college has come from outside the classroom, and if anyone reading this is considering whether or not they want to do clubs, I’d say — do it, without question, because the experiences you gain and the friends you make are so worth it.
When I came into college wanting to do CS, I did so more fascinated by what CS would enable me to do than by the subject matter of the domain itself.
I had wanted to major in CS because I wanted that capacity to create that I believed CS conferred, in our world moving increasingly toward the digitization of products and services and at the time, I had (candidly) actually given very little thought as to what CS itself actually entails.
Now that I’ve spent two semesters on two lower division CS classes (61A — Programming; 61B — Data Structures & Algorithms), I’m very fortunate to say that I’m honestly loving what I’m learning in my CS classes so far — and in many ways this is a happy happenstance, because I can easily imagine an alternate reality where I come in with all these aspirations and idealistic notions but end up hating the subject. And so, for that, I’m thankful.
For self-discovery, a big part of that has also got to do with the liberal arts, and if you like, you can read more about that here.
I’m skipping bullets III and IV for now because these are relatively straight-forward (I’ll address them last), but in terms of what I set out to do socially, I definitely ventured outside of the community I’m most comfortable with more this semester than the last.
I think in a new environment, especially as an international student also in a foreign environment, it’s very effortless and sometimes very tempting to stick only with the people from the same places that I’m from, because these are the people from the same cultural contexts as me, with the same conversational short-hands and stories intimately tied to that familiar cultural context.
This is something I tried to be very conscious about not because it matters but precisely because it shouldn’t matter: I don’t think it should matter if a person is from where I’m from or not because if I vibe with him/her, I vibe with him/her; It shouldn’t be a consideration factor — it should be a non-factor.
Obviously this isn’t always the case in reality because of the cultural contexts I talked about above, but all in all, Cal is full of really dope people and I’m glad I got the opportunity to meet them through the things I’m involved in.
Just to close this:
IV. The internship search worked out — it wasn’t the easiest process, but it worked out, and so for that I’m thankful.
III. Trying to forge lasting relationships with my professors failed miserably, in part because I was so busy with so many other things this year, in part because I might have been overly-idealistic in my imagination of the professor-student relationship, especially in the large classes that I was taking this semester — regardless, a failure is a failure, and that’s something I’m going to think about at some point later in the future.
All in all, I didn’t have a very conventional freshman year, between moving out and all the professional things I did — on one hand there were all these things that I’ve had the privilege to be involved with, from Net Impact to MDB that really taught me so much and allowed me to meet so many amazing people; on the other hand there’s the whole range of defining freshman experiences — like dorm life, for example — that I didn’t and would never have the chance to experience again.
I still can’t be more grateful for this experience though, and sometimes it still feels surreal that just a few months ago I was in Singapore doing whatever I was doing and now here I am, living the dream.
Freshman year’s been amazing, and I’m looking forward to the years to come with even greater expectation and excitement :-)
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