My high school graduation was during a hot summer morning in 2014. On the stage, I shook my principal’s sweaty hand, peeked at the large audience in front of me, and went on my merry way. 30 minutes later, I tossed my cap high up in the air, thereby marking the end of high school.
After being lost and depressed for my last two years of high school, I knew I needed to dramatically change my life in college. I wanted to swim; I wanted a healthy relationship; I wanted to play music; I wanted to be unique. Deep inside me, I was certain that my passions defined me, something far from a typical college experience: sitting inside a classroom for hours, struggling to stay awake, and crying during final exams.
Today, with just a few weeks left of my senior year, I stood on a balcony on Del Playa Drive overlooking groups of underclassmen anticipating the excitement of Deltopia, and looked back at the many decisions that I made over the past four years. There were countless troubles that have kept me awake for nights as I searched for solutions to the pressing issues that have driven my curiosity and ultimately turned into my lifelong goals.
In the past four years, I have competed for two swim seasons, traveled to 27 countries, remained single, and played the piano at Amsterdam Centraal Station (spelled with two a’s) for 30 minutes on a freezing cold Dutch morning, all helping me to realize that the university is only one of many places where we can pursue our passions.
Nonetheless, while my experiences at previous academic institutions and at UCSB have not always been smooth sailing, I have been given many opportunities, together with my classmates, to share incredible life experiences. An interactive learning environment in the classroom, paired with internships, jobs, and other practical experience illustrate why college isn’t about only theoretical or practical learning; it is about understanding personal growth, finding what matters as we walk away from the classroom, and being able to turn our curiosity into a drive that pushes for change in our society.
Before college, it was the outcome that mattered. In college, it is the bits and pieces that lead to a certain outcome that is the most important.
College is a process of learning that is unique for everybody. A higher education has taught me to reflect upon my travels and experiences as a student athlete, and to apply what I have learned on the road into the classrooms that I once cluelessly sat in.
In the past two quarters, as I walked away from my final exams, I have come to realize that my college experience was not so much about calculating the correct probability, or determining the correct hypothesis, or coming up with a code that runs reasonably well with a data set. It was the ways in which I have learned to ask for help; it was the interpersonal skills gained and the sense of humor that create a relaxing atmosphere in a tough learning environment that really made a lifelong difference in myself and a higher education truly worth the time and monetary investment.
Traveling, playing music, and competing in swimming competitions were important aspects in the sense that they allowed me to plant the seeds in developing the skills that I will need to survive in a professional work environment, but it is my college education that has watered the seeds, which then began to prosper and grow into trees and flowers that made me who I am today.
Today, I might be just an ordinary college student. In a few months, I want to continue to travel the world, listening to the stories of the refugees and witnessing the true beauty in each culture from every country. Being a statistical science student alone may not have led me to believe that I have the power to accomplish my goals, but together with the other aspects of my university education, from meeting people with different backgrounds to conquering my fears of directionlessness, I am certain that my university education will lead to happiness and my ultimate goal of being unique.
After all, a university education should be one that lets students learn by failing and trying. The crucial component of a successful higher education system lies in advising, lending a helping hand, and giving room for students to want to explore more and dive deeper into a certain issue. UCSB provided me the space to learn and thrive.