I had a tough relationship with Stanford at first. I hated the first two years of college because I was trying to fit into a box. I let others define me, and only when they were happy with that definition of me did I feel like I was allowed to be happy too. Because for some awful reason, as a 19-year-old who only understood success as “being like everyone else,” people-pleasing was the only thing I knew to do.
So I fell into the rut that most students do at a university that seems to widen rather than bridge the chasm between the arts and sciences; I told myself CS or bust, despite fully knowing that creative writing was what fulfilled me intellectually and emotionally, not coding. And that’s the pitfall of institutionalized education. See, in the midst of a toxic elitist employment culture perpetuated by duck syndrome, that I hoped was merely a myth, it had been somehow ingrained in me that a college education was merely meant to get me employed and continue to fuel the American capitalist system rather than question it. How could universities boast of forming “the next generation of thinkers” when they reinforce unethical — or rather worse, indifferent — behavior? While the WAYS system has its merits (I took classes in civil and environmental engineering, for example, that I value to this day), I don’t think it’s enough to tell freshmen to merely pick a THINK course and write an essay before calling them well-rounded.
The class of 2020 is walking into a world that is facing rapid and necessary change, and universities need to do better at educating their students to pursue ethical work in response to this change. Especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’m seeing those unable to give giving the most. In my first two years of crossing off CS classes, not once did I ever take a class surrounding the ethics of data and cyber policy. As a floundering freshman and even more confused sophomore, I didn’t know these were classes I needed to seek out for myself, and I honestly didn’t even have the mind for it when I was trying to finish as many courses as I could before the summer internship recruitment cycles.
But something clicked my junior year when I realized how stupid I was for forcing myself into a box I could never really fit into. Junior year, I dismantled that box and my Stanford experience took a turn when I realized I wanted — needed — to learn for me; I had two years left to utilize the education I had before me. And I learned one of the greatest truths that fiction informs nonfiction. My education these past four years has taught me about people and emotions and conversations and discourse that equip me to engage in dialogue with people around me, alike and unlike. I started taking classes I was genuinely interested in, and I joined theater and film groups on campus that I’d previously never felt comfortable delving into. I quite literally stepped out of my comfort zone and became all the better because of it.
And, on the brink of senior year, my best friend and I decided it would be a fun idea to commit ourselves to the goings on of campus as a last hurrah. So, we set out to join some groups on campus we were always curious about. And let me say that joining The Daily has been one of the best decisions I’ve made at Stanford — though unfortunately and regrettably a late one. Writing for the Film Beat in the Arts & Life section has been such a joy and welcome reprieve this past year. I didn’t even realize how frequently I found myself thinking of pitches for articles because I joined a section that covered material I genuinely loved. Setting out to write an article never felt like a chore; I got an adrenaline rush from picking apart “Sex Education” and re-reading “Normal People” just to prepare to watch it on Hulu. Though I can’t list nostalgic memories from four years as a writer for The Daily, I cannot leave Stanford without acknowledging all it has provided me in nine months. It has reignited my passion for writing and for film and it has reminded me that despite it all, I will always find a way back to the things I am passionate about. Thank you to everyone at The Daily for the opportunity to think and write and talk and discuss, and thank you for taking me in when I needed it most. So I remind you — it’s never too late to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.
Some people can fake it till they make it. Really well, at that. But I can’t fake it. I can’t force myself into doing something I don’t care about. When I’m passionate about something, that’s just the direction my life is going to go, no matter what hiccups temporarily deter me along the way. And I say this to all of you — when you are genuinely, deeply passionate about something, YOU WILL NOT FAIL. Because you have believed in yourself enough to hold onto this dream, however faintly still and because you are strong and dedicated to yourself, you will not let yourself settle. So when you feel that kick in your gut, that love for something, let it empower you. And let it drive you.
Contact Angelina Hue at ahue ‘at’ stanford.edu.
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