One of my favorite outreach activities at Stanford is being a Project Motivation panelist for ethnic/socioeconomic minority high school students. As a panelist, I talk about what it was like for me to go to a low performing high school, what they can do to get into a good college, and what doubts I had about going to a competitive university. Participating in these types of panels requires a different form of empathy and understanding that isn’t as necessary in regular college admissions panels.
There is a particular moment that keeps ringing in my mind when I think about college admissions and the way we talk to minority students.
I was answering the usual questions students tend to want to hear about: my high school preparation, financial aid, and leaving my hometown. One student asked about how to set himself apart from other students in his personal statement.
Another panelist gave the spiel everyone has heard at least once in their lives: just follow your passions, find something you’re truly dedicated to, start a charity, build something cool, etc. He glowed as he talked about making movies with his friends, then going on to do film studies at Stanford.
I could feel the tension building behind each student’s eyes.
In my natural state, I am a sloth. Setting aside basic human needs, I would nearly always choose curling up in a warm bed over having to deal with the outside world. The outside world is loud and unpredictable and kind of smells weird. My bed is soft and warm and comfortable.
On my way home from work, I was thinking about why I bother to do anything. Sure, I enjoy things like learning and eating tasty food, but school is stressful and buying food requires interacting with people. Why do I get so worked up over my grades and other little things when none of it will really matter, anyway? I could be okay with living a life of minimal effort. I could avoid anything that requires exertion.
I reached the stairwell of my apartment building. It was pretty dark out, but I could still see the steps. I only had to walk up two flights of stairs. I mindlessly wondered whether I should turn the light on for such a short distance.
Why do I ever choose anything but bed?
What’s the point of turning on the light when it’ll take less than a minute to get inside? It might disturb my neighbors. It stays on for a set amount of time, so it’ll stay on after I get inside. I don’t like the dark, but I can get upstairs just the same either way. It’s a waste of electricity. It seems like a bother for such a short distance. The end result won’t change and it’s really the most insignificant thing in the world. It doesn’t matter.
Why do I do anything?
I turned on the light.
How a guy blindly following bad advice unwittingly led to harassment, manipulation, and me questioning my safety.
It began innocently enough: A classmate read my first Medium post and messaged me on Facebook to discuss it. It soon devolved into a debate about the women’s rights movement as a whole, rather than just the aspects I had discussed in my post. This debate spanned several days. I felt as though we were having the same argument over and over, and he eventually said he believed the women’s rights movement was “overblown” and that the glass ceiling was not really an issue.
Date a girl who isn’t a romanticized idea that you’ve built up in your head. Date a girl who pursues what she loves, whether it’s clothes or books or traveling. She might not like the things you like, but at least she’s her own person and not just someone who lives her life around you.
On the last night of finals week this past spring quarter, I was exhausted from finishing exams and still grading my students’ programming assignments. I couldn’t fall asleep because my mind didn’t want to forget what I was feeling by the next morning, so I had to write it all out in a journal (on paper! whoa!) before I could finally stop thinking about it. I neglected transcribing this until now, half out of embarrassment and half because it’s something I still change my mind about. Here it is, (mostly) unedited.
I didn’t want to study computer science when I came to college. The idea seemed downright frightening before I took an introductory class on a whim midway through freshman year. I don’t think my experience is unique — so many people avoid computer science out of fear only to realize that they almost missed out on something wonderful. There are so many ways misconceptions and myths about computer science unnecessarily discourage people from trying out this field. By explaining some of my own doubts and misconceptions, I hope this will provide a window into the minds of those of us who are or were afraid of computer science. Continue reading
In high school, I did a lot of community service through Key Club, an international service organization. I felt vaguely uncomfortable seeing how much money we spent on frivolous things like t-shirts, thunder sticks, and spirit events like going to Six Flags. We raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities, but I always wondered about how much more money we could give if we just stopped buying spirit gear.
I’m going to describe something that I have felt over and over since I started college. I think we’ve all experienced it at one point or another: that feeling of inadequacy and intimidation upon seeing a peer’s work and feeling stunned because it seems so far beyond our capacities. It’s especially present in computer science because everyone is at a different level of experience and because we, as a group, keep obsessing over the “child prodigy” archetype. I look at a friend’s project and feel overwhelmed because it looks so beautiful and advanced and I have no idea how I would have done it. I look at another friend’s resume and see that it lists twenty different programming languages — meanwhile I only feel vaguely comfortable with three (Java, C++, C, amirite). Everyone around me knows so much about topics that I don’t know about and I feel like I won’t ever catch up.