Archive for the ‘School’ category

Arcadia Predictions

May 13th, 2013

We were having a Skype conversation about the direction Arcadia seems to be going in. The cheating scandal or something in Woodin, the death threat to Bishop, this removal of AP and honors classes controversy. I was saying that with all the conflicting forces – the students, the parents, the teachers, the administration – in such a competitive pressure cooker environment, it’s getting crazy. I made a few random predictions that I feel have a remote chance of coming true in Arcadia at some point in the future:


A more organized, larger cheating ring/scandal

More death threats against teachers

Actual violence against a teacher

Violence by a student against another student relating to academics/activities

A student suicide

A drug business primarily involving Adderall

The forced resignation of a high level administrator due to parental pressure


And other happenings in a similar vein. I just don’t see how the ridiculous environment is sustainable, especially as competition is constantly growing more fierce.


November 30th, 2011

I’ve been reading a lot of self-improvement blogs. This is mainly because I have a huge problem: waking up in the morning.

It’s been a month since my last major post, and I think it’s high time for an update. Nothing really happened during Thanksgiving break.

We had turkey. For once. Well, last year we had some half-baked thing from Pavilions or 99 Ranch Market. I’m not a fan of turkey, and my suggestion was to just make dumplings. But this year, we had to please my little siblings, who had been learning about Thanksgiving and pilgrims in school. They tottered around the dinner table, back and forth between the kitchen and dining room, setting up plates and tableware and pouring drinks for everybody.

The kids didn’t like the turkey. Despite my anti-turkey sentiments, I think I ate the most turkey.

That was the only significant event during the break. My work accomplishments were less eventful. I had this elaborate schedule planned out for every day of my break, and followed none of it. It’s my typical way of spending a break. Well, I suppose I don’t follow schedules even when it’s not a break. The wait until 12/15 is peaceful.

As the date approaches, it becomes even more important to try and forget about it. This is where I’d like to say I’ve been spending my time crafting culinary creations, or learning how to figure-skate. Unfortunately, I don’t have those stories to tell yet; I’ve been spending my free time more on studying math. USAMO is the goal I was never quite able to reach in high school. Even though the case could be made that I really don’t need it, it holds a bit of sentimental value. And– math is beautiful.

There are two kinds of people: those who can follow their calendars, and those who can’t. The main reason: a bad start. My wake time is more volatile than a bowl of alcohol left out in the California sun. And it’s not because I don’t want to wake early. It’s because when I’m groggy, I don’t want to wake early. When I think rationally, I want to follow my schedule; wake on time; eat a good breakfast and get started on my work. Unfortunately, I don’t think rationally very often. And definitely not when I am within five feet of my pillow.

Men are like dogs. Some of us are well-trained to respond to a whistle, or an alarm clock. It’s nothing conscious or rational. I don’t have presence of mind when I’m half-asleep. Thus, if I can solidify within myself a habitual response to my alarm sound, getting up and going to brush my teeth automatically whenever I hear an alarm, morning mood improvements could become possible.

I tried that. I set my alarm for 5 minutes, turned off the lights, and got in bed. After I fell half-asleep, I got up the moment I heard the alarm and walked to the bathroom, washing my face. Rinse and repeat for a few hours, prolonging the alarm time until I really fell asleep.

Here’s my report: it didn’t work. In the morning, I still convinced myself that it wouldn’t hurt to jump back in bed just a little bit longer.

This is what they call self-discipline, isn’t it? What’s that?

It’s curious that…

November 7th, 2011

… only a few weeks from staring at these essays every day, hating their guts, and ripping out the essence of my soul to imbue in these dainty words, I like them.

I hated them after I was done. I could never finish spending enough time on them, tuning each inaudible overtone, deciding to switch the verb tense of a sentence, and then minutes later deciding to switch it back. They were abominations, thinly-veiled stitch-togethers of twenty previous deceased essay drafts. Ideas and themes rose from the dead to haunt me. The entire direction of my essay was a flop, and QC should never have let it leave the factory. It was Chinese manufacturing, and there were needle tips in the plush; hormones in the 60% sawdust milk powder, ready to poison my chances of admission. Re-reading the essay only brought back the perceived taste of sawdust.

Well, it’s curious and very unexpected, but I like them. No, they aren’t brilliant. But I like them.

Nightmare before Christmas (on December 15th)

October 27th, 2011

Naively, I thought that after I finished applying early to a certain East Coast academic institution, the rest of my senior year would be a thrilling downhill ride that I would breathtakingly enjoy every scenic moment of. Well, breathtaking, yes, but not quite scenic, and definitely not enjoyable.

First of all, yes, I do need to also apply to a certain West Coast academic institution that I fell in love with this summer. I’m evidently quite tired of college apps, so I’ll put that off at least for a week or two. I still have competitions — Intel STS is going to be fun, especially — and I plan to put a lot of time into studying physics and seriously aiming for IPhO ’12 as US Team. Also, yes, I plan to miraculously jump from AIME to Red MOSP (pronounced “mop”), and that is going to take some serious mathematical work. Studying for competitions is actually quite fun (especially in comparison with college essays). Math competitions have been a frustrating area for me since freshman year, but that’s why I want to put in a final spurt. Unfortunately USAMTS conflicted with my early app this year, so I’m not participating and aiming for a gold (after all these consecutive years of silver and coming so close to gold… sigh). But yes, nationally speaking, I am quite dumb at math.

For the near future I guess I’ll review the Lagrangian and attempt to teach it to physics team — the Lagrangian is fun and I expect it to be fun to teach. Oh, but I guess not all of them know calculus.

My overbooking is especially apparent looking at my calendar (which I’d love to post a screenshot of, but no), it’s almost like one of those strange works of modern art that go in every direction with all these abstract arrangements of color and shape. Well, I appreciate my calendar, and I’ve become a bit better at following it (just a bit). I’ve gotten into the habit of entering my sleep times in there too. Later on in senior year I’ll have fun reminiscing on how little I slept.

Just to put it out there, yes, I am writing this blog post in lieu of working on my Chaucer essay. Also, I love my APENG teacher. I’d like the class if it wasn’t first period, but hopefully caffeine supplements will be able to remedy that.

My seat partner in English, Kenny, has been very good to me (despite my frequent sick leave — bad immune system, it’s true). In the last few days we’ve been discussing Asian music, and I’ve found I really don’t know much about Asian music, even J-Pop. It’s because I’m too contrarian, of course, but I definitely felt I needed to get out there and explore mainstream J-Pop and Mandarin music. I’m Chinese, after all.

I haven’t been following anime at all during the month of my college application internment. Coincidentally, Fall 2011 has many series that I thought I would be very eager to see, but now that I have had time available to watch anime, I find that I’ve only been keeping up with the series I’ve been watching previously (Beelzebub, Fairy Tail pretty much). Looking back at Shana, I don’t really want to watch Shana III (and that movie has been sitting on my hard disk somewhere, too). Mirai Nikki is great (beyond great, loved every page of the manga) but I feel absolutely no compulsion to watch it. In fact, I feel no compulsion to watch any new series, and I only forced myself to watch Fate/zero because… well, it’s Fate/zero and by all accounts THE anime of the season. Oh, it was epic all right, but I don’t feel eager to watch the next episode. For some reason, I don’t feel eager to watch anime. I guess it’s what a month without anime does to you.

So yes, I’ve only watched one episode of one series of Fall ’11 strangely, considering how many non-dumb stories this season has. By request, I’ll check out Guilty Crown soon.

Not watching anime has definitely freed up a lot of time, but somehow I still feel much busier. Most of the work is AP Mandarin, which I think I somehow still have an A- in despite my utter failure in every realm. I think I’m really learning a lot in this class, though, and I hope I can read 95% of a newspaper by the time I get out of high school. Still, I don’t feel AP Mandarin is really worth the effort, and I’m afraid college adcoms will frown on me for being Chinese and “taking the easy route” by taking Chinese in school. In this regard, I truly should have gone for French or Spanish (both languages I am very interested in anyways). Japanese would also be easy and fun.

I’ve picked up trying to read Japanese light novels again. After giving up reading untranslated manga. It’s just too difficult trying to look up words you don’t know. In light novels on the computer, all I need is a mouse-over or middle-click, and my definition is right there (courtesy of Yomichan or Rikaichan or any other member of this inordinate family of tools with -chan inexplicably tacked on). One more click, and a flash card of the word is added to my flashcard deck on my computer (I worshipped Anki).

Speaking of which, I haven’t had a chance to add AP Mandarin words to my Anki deck that I haven’t reviewed in half a year. Anki was even convenient for learning physics — it was quite useful memorizing facts and formulae for my physics competitions back in the day. I have a server set up to host the LaTeX notation rasterized into PNG files, and I can review my flashcards from anywhere on the globe with a web browser, or the awesome Anki Android app on my phone. So yes, I am plugging Anki for all your memorization needs. I have a cool Needs Statements flashcard deck with Precalc/Calc A and Calculus BC versions, if anyone wants. With really cool LaTeXed math notation, and word-for-word from the Needs Statement sheets. Ahhh, calculus feels so nostalgic. I also have my Mandarin 4 deck, but they changed the textbooks after my year.

With all this language-learning, physics, math, college applications, research, and much miscellaneous matter, I haven’t had a time to code, work on projects, and fix up my Linux servers. I need to put Altair to good use as my backup mail server. This summer I put lighttpd on Altair (Reverie has Apache2), and — by god — the performance is astounding! I have a fully-functional web server on maybe 30MB of RAM with Debian 6. I put nginx for Windows on Mizu (pretty much just used to host my flashcard media), and it’s been a snap to use as well. Apache is definitely going out of business. Well, I guess it’s open source, so that’s technically not possible.

Yes, I did set up FCGI on Apache (and suexec since I plan on doing shared hosting). Messing with Apache is not fun. PHP loads a lot slower than mod_php, but I can squeeze a lot more httpd processes out of my precious RAM. I wish people wouldn’t spam, so I wouldn’t have to run spamd. It eats like >70MB whether there is mail or not. It’s been great at blocking spam though, and I have it configured to automatically delete mail with a spam score over 15. It pained me incredibly, but recently I added the Spamcop and XBL blacklists to my Postfix configuration. I don’t like blacklists, but the spam volume annoys me. I purposely held off on the PBL list, because I am in support of people running private mail servers on their home ISP networks. I remember when I was running my copy of hmailserver on my Windows box through a crappy AT&T (those are synonyms, I checked the thesaurus) DSL line. Haha, good times. Fellow computer enthusiasts for the win!

My east coast college’s interview is coming up as well. I’ve been increasingly noticing the unpleasant, slightly nasal quality of my voice. Besides generally improving my speaking skills, I really need to train myself to not make that noise. From what I’ve read online, the key to getting rid of the nasal quality is to act like you’re about to yawn when you talk. The reason for the nasally noise is because the soft palate is not completely blocking the path to the nose, so some the sound from your vocal cords also passes into and reverberates through the nasal cavity. And when you yawn (and you can feel it yourself), your soft palate completely closes the passage to the nose so this problem is solved. I know close to nothing about anatomy, but this makes a lot of sense to me. Unfortunately, making sense does not make it any easier to put this into practice…

I’m thinking of getting this book or this from Amazon. The reviews are very laudatory, of course. Speech tutors/therapists must be expensive.

Rather than doing nothing but waiting for the nightmarish announcement coming on December 15th (and groundlessly hoping/praying for a fat envelope), I’m up to my nose.

I’ve spent too long ranting. Time to get back to work on that essay.

Edit: Amusingly, this blog post is longer than my essay.


October 18th, 2011

… :(

Edit 9/19:


Please Excuse This Interruption

September 19th, 2011

The Leafwood Project will be taking a short break as its authors pause to ponder college applications.

Not that our recent posting has been very prolific anyway.

Protected: AP Mandarin Biography

August 31st, 2011

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3 Weeks Outside the Bubble

August 26th, 2011

So, as you’ve seen in my last ranty, somewhat pessimistic post, I was in San Diego for 3 weeks at a summer camp thing. This post will (hopefully) be about the good parts of it, instead of the pain of returning, as my last post was.

The official purpose of the camp was to take a class for 3 weeks. Mine was the Principles of Macroeconomics. My first choice was psychology, which is really interesting, but it was full, so my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to learn some basics of econ, as it is useful in the real world. The actual class wasn’t the main focus, though. We learned some things in the class, nothing too advanced, though it wasn’t stupidly easy either, since you have to be of decent intelligence to get into the camp. The teacher was okay, though not totally into it because she was getting married in a week.

We also had a few field trips for the class that really had nothing to do with econ, it was just an excuse to go out. One was to the (nude) beach which was a 20 minute walk from campus, one was to Balboa Park, where we pretty much sat on a lawn for a day, and one was to the Federal Reserve in downtown LA, which meant 4 hours of driving for a 30 minute tour. We got a bag of shredded money as a souvenir, at least.

But yeah, the main point, at least to me, was meeting all the people there. I don’t want to rant about the lack of diversity in Arcadia, since I’ve done plenty of that, so I’ll just mainly talk about the awesomeness of  the people at UCSD. The camp consisted of about 400 people, and we took up the whole Tioga Hall dorm building, which is 10 floors. On each floor, there were 2 suites, one on each side, with about 20 people. There was one residential adviser for each suite, who was responsible for uniting us, and our RA did a good job of that.

There was a lot of diversity (gasp) in our suite, with about equal amounts of Asians, Caucasians, and Hispanics. And the great thing was that all of these people were all incredibly cool. Both in personality, and in interestingness. No offense to Arcadians, but this type of interestingness is extremely rare in Arcadia, where academic pressure controls society. I was truly glad to have met all of the people in my suite, both for the view of the outside world, and just having fun.

I give up on trying to write this post as a coherent essay thing, so I’ll just go by categories of random events and stuff I remember.


First Serious Suite Meeting

So, we had a few meetings just to get to know each other and stuff, and then we had our first serious meeting, which was supposed to be about “hopes and fears.” Our RA started off by setting the tone with his life story, about how his abusive childhood led him to not be able to really trust people, how he fears he will stay this way, and how he hopes he will be able to change. This was followed by a few people, including me, with more tame topics, such as being afraid of not know what to do in life, etc.

Then, a few of the guys from bad neighborhoods shared their experiences. We always complain about affirmative action and how people from bad cities get advantages in college apps, but after listening to them, I think many of them absolutely deserve the advantage, and the opportunity to go to college. Those guys in my suite went through a lot, and have a lot more moral fiber and actual desire in life than pretty much anyone in Arcadia.

This story will have nothing close to the impact that it had then, with the person actually telling it, but the most memorable story was told by one of these guys, from a bad neighborhood, a bad household. He told us about how he knows that he is capable of doing well in school (and he is, all of us knew he was smart), but just wasn’t able to due to the circumstances. Everyday when he came home from school, he had no time to do his homework, as he had to prevent his dad from beating him and his mom.  The peak of this was a fight where his dad swung at him with a baseball bat, forcing him to stab his dad with a kitchen knife until he stopped.

He also apologized for lying to one of our other suite members. Apparently, he had said he didn’t want to swim because he was afraid of water, dating back to when he had almost drowned in a river as a child. The truth was that he had not drowned in a river, but had been thrown into a bathtub by his dad, nearly dying. Since then, even taking a shower triggers his fear of water.

Despite all this though, he still persisted in his attempt to go to college, the first in his family to do so. He wanted to go not just for himself but to make his mom proud and be able to help her out (a thought echoed by more than one person). Circumstances had gotten a little bit better recently, leading to much better grades, and election as student council president. He hopes to continue this success in college and beyond, which I have no doubt he will do.

Again, my telling of this does no justice to hearing it live that night, where it really hit everyone deeply, and in my opinion, brought our suite really close together right from the beginning.



So yeah, cafeteria food supposedly really sucks, but the food at UCSD wasn’t that bad. We had meal cards which worked 3 times a day, though I usually skipped breakfast. Everyday, there was pizza, pasta, salad, sandwiches, and some special dish of the day. I pretty much had pizza and pasta for two meals a day, everyday, and occasionally the dish of the day, if it was good. The highlight was one day where they served prime rib, which was surprisingly good. The lemonade constantly altered in color, from yellow to clear to milky white, but for lack of a better option, I had that pretty much everyday.


First Dance

So yeah, we had 3 dances at the camp, one every Friday. And yeah, these dances are nothing like the traditional ones, I had a very hard time explaining to my parents how people dance nowadays. I actually expected something more traditional too, where there’s a dance floor, you ask a girl to dance,  you take her hand then kind of move around, like everyone around you. My parents were expecting line dancing or disco.

Turns out dancing is nothing like that. The music is loud, blaring, techno-y music, (Sample: and people don’t move with any organization at all, pretty much just jumping around to the beat, or if they are good, jumping around to the beat while doing cool, fancy, dance steps. Our first two dances were inside the dorms, so people were just packed into the lounge, sweaty, and jumping on top of each other. Also, for the people who stopped jumping around to ask a girl to dance, the male/female dances are nothing like any of the dances you’ll see in movies. “Dancing with a girl” was interpreted as grinding. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. My dad did.

I pretty much spent the duration of the first dance observing, while attempting to not get sqaushed. Not very eventful, but we’ll have more on dancing later.



There were lots of activities scheduled, so naturally, I went to many of the sports. I played a lot of basketball, and some football, and with the intensity of the games, it was a lot more exercise than I had gotten in a long time. It was fun, and I was happy to see that I was at least decent in these sports games. Arcadia P.E. doesn’t really provide an accurate gauge of one’s athletic skill.


Harry Potter Movie

This was an optional field trip, but pretty much the entire camp signed up. We took a 20 minute walk, and took up a whole theater. The crowd was quite into the movie, which was interesting at first, but annoying after a while.

(Dragon kills goblins)


(Spell hits someone)


(Character says somewhat witty line)


(Ron and Hermione kiss)

*Standing ovation*


Baseball Game

I find baseball to a relatively boring sport, but usually I still enjoy the occasional Dodger game my family goes to, because the weather at night is nice, and there’s an occasional interesting moment. This was not the case at the game we went to however, as it was in the afternoon, giving me a serious sunburn, and the teams both sucked at hitting, meaning nothing of interest happened.


Politics/other discussions

I think I’ve said before that I was happy that people outside of Arcadia seemed much more willing/able to discuss political/moral issues. Because of how comfortable our suite was with each other, we were able to have some really interesting conversations. 2 atheists, 2 Christians, and a Muslim being able to have a logical, reasonable conversation with each other about controversial issues is not something that happens very often, in Arcadia, or anywhere for that matter (Turn on any 24 hour news network for radicals from both sides yelling at each other). We were able to understand each others’ views on issues and reach some common ground even on issues like the purpose of religion and abortion (We knew abortion is possibly one of the most touchy subjects possible, so we didn’t stay on it for long, but even then, it was a good discussion).

I’ve heard this kind of thing happens a lot in college, I really hope so.



As I’ve said many times, the people in my suite were awesome. The people in the other suite on our floor were cool too, and we would play cards or whatever with them a lot. In our suite, we had a lot of avid chess players, so that was fun. I hadn’t played since chess club in 6th grade at FA, but I did okay.


Drunk College Girls

This was an interesting incident…At 11:30 one night (Lights out are supposed to be at 11, but as long as you’re in your room, you can do whatever) we were screwing around, showing each other youtube videos, etc. when we heard a loud knocking on our suite door. Me and my roomates happened to be the first ones out there, and we say that there were multiple girls yelling and knocking on our door. One of my roomates decided that it would be a good idea to open it.

At first, I thought maybe these girls had arranged a date with some of the guys in our suite. I was proven wrong quite quickly though, as it was clear these girls were not our age, and were on some type of drug. They ran around, screaming and laughing, yelling about how they used to be in this dorm, gladly shrieking about who had sex in which room, and how the wall had been “ejaculated all over.” They then ran up to one of the guys in my suite, bit his nipple, and ran out back to the elevator, still severely under the influence of the aforementioned unknown drug.

Our RA was mysteriously missing until 30 minutes later (Our conspiracy theories ranged from him partying with the other RA’s, to him being the one who sent those girls up, because he was mad at us), and needless to say, all of us had trouble going  back to sleep after this.


Missing Home

Or lack of, rather. I guess I just enjoyed it so much that I didn’t really feel at any time that I really wanted to be at home. An interesting thing was that, when my family called in the middle of the 3 weeks, my attempt to speak Cantonese to my grandma was filled with fail. My Cantonese skills are not that great, and I guess after a short time of disuse, my tongue became really unfamiliar with speaking it.



UCSD campus was pretty nice, though we weren’t really staying in the good part. A lot of our area was filled with concrete, though the nice surroundings were still somewhat visible. We went to the Price Center a few times, which is a plaza thing with the bookstore, and a bunch of restaurants. On our walk to the beach, we saw some of the nicer parts of the campus.


Last Dance

As I said before, the first two dances were in our dorms, which wasn’t a great idea, as everyone was crammed together. I left the second dance quite early due to the high body temperature humidity and not wanting to be crushed. Our final dance however, on the last full day of school, was in the campus pub. The bar was closed off to us, but there was a dance floor, complete with flashing lights and a DJ. Since after the next day, there was a good chance we wouldn’t see each other again, many people, me included, wanted to take this opportunity and make something happen at the dance. On of my suite mates, who previously had gotten super hyper and crazy from one Mountain Dew, drank two of them as well as a 5 Hour Energy right before the dance, to get himself in the mood.

At the beginning, a lot of us weren’t that involved, trying fruitlessly to tell each other to go into the dance floor. As the dance progressed a bit though, more people came, and more people began to get involved. The dance was originally supposed to be from 7:30 to 9:30, but the ending was moved back to 11, drawing cheers from the crowd.

I began to get involved with the dancing, and it was actually quite fun. A lot of it was just being in a circle with guys that you knew, along with some girls who decided to join, and just jumping around and having fun. It helped that my roomate was a good dancer, so we could imitate him if totally confused. I spent much of the night having fun like this, dancing to the different songs and stuff. However, as the night neared its end, I still had not asked a girl to dance, something which I had set my mind out to do that night.

It would be incredibly awkward and uncomfortable to post the details of what happened next publicly, but  eventually, near the end of the dance, with some help,  I did dance with a girl. Yeah.



 That night, after the dance, we went back to our suite. Lights out weren’t enforced that night, so we stayed up until 2:30 in our suite, just talking about whatever. After saying difficult goodbyes, I crammed everything into my luggage and bags in preparation for going back to reality.




August 23rd, 2011

I don’t feel that I owe anyone an explanation, but I really dislike misconceptions. There’s a chance that over the course of this post, I might have my own misconceptions about other peoples’ misconceptions, but this is the best I can draw from what I’ve observed.

I’m kind of guessing here, but there seems to be a misconception that deep down, I really, really want to go to Stanford, that it’s this innocent, pure childhood dream that is being suppressed by shadowy, corrupting forces, or something like that. Let me assure you that that is not the case. The idea that I am being influenced by Arcadian powers, Asian parents, tutoring schools, peers, or other pressures in that vein to abandon my own true, personal desire of attending Stanford is wrong. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth.

It is probably these Arcadian pressures that influenced me to want to go to Stanford in the first place. As a child, you are more pure, so it may seem that thoughts from this time should reflect the truth. But this childhood purity also means ignorance, ignorance of the world around and of one’s own feelings. When delving into concepts that are somewhat beyond a child’s scope, such as college choice, the child largely relies on what he/she knows, from their surroundings.

As a child, my view of the college world could only be drawn from the atmosphere around me, and as such, it was limited to the typical Arcadian view. The stereotypical Asian parent’s knowledge of colleges (Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Caltech, MIT, UC’s, Cal States, PCC) became my only knowledge of the subject. With this restricted scope, it seemed to me, as a child, that Stanford or Caltech was the best choice; both were schools with very good academics, and were in California. Caltech had the advantage of being especially close, while Stanford had athletics in addition to academics.

As I’ve gotten older, and actually gained my own knowledge of both colleges and of my own desires, I’ve come to realize that my childhood ideas were quite foolish. There are obviously, many other fine institutions across the country other than the ones that I had heard of in the 2nd grade. Now, proximity to home isn’t that important to me, if anything, I want to be farther away, to experience something different. Caltech is far too close to even consider. Stanford is a bit farther, but as it is still in California, it’s location, which was such a big advantage when I was a child, is now to me a neutral factor at best.

As for the outside influences, I fail to see how if I chose to go along with all the aforementioned pressures, I would not want to apply to Stanford. In Arcadia, Stanford is pretty much the top of the top, the collective dream school of the city. It’s one of the top schools in the nation, not only in academic quality, but in name-brand recognition. It’s location also is a huge plus for the many students and parents who wish for a California school. 122 students have applied to Stanford over the last 3 years. I think that that’s more than any other private school with the exception of USC, which Arcadia High is a huge feeder school to.

Stanford is one of the hardest schools to be accepted to in the nation. Still, it far outclasses the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Cornell, Duke, even Harvard in the number of AHS applicants. Students, and by extension, their parents, see Stanford as the ideal top goal of college applications. An application sent to Stanford is a normal part of the Arcadian application process. Even for those with the longest of long shots of getting in, Stanford is a target, because they feel that they might as well give a wild shot to the undisputed collective dream school. If the pressures and expectations of my surroundings were what I was basing my choice of colleges to apply to on, you guys would not have had to do any convincing at all for me to mail an app to Palo Alto.

Stanford is no doubt a great school, in terms of academic prestige, and from what I gather, the intellectual environment.  But it is not my dream school. For me, I don’t really have a dream school, in the way that adults looking to make conversation would like to imagine I do. There is no one academic institution that I would like to go to above all the rest, which I have all my desires pinned on, that I imagine myself at daily. There are a few schools that I think are very good places of learning, where I can see myself enjoying 4 years. I am applying to them and would be very happy to get into any of them. Stanford prides itself on its students being accomplished not just in the classroom, but outside of it, and it’s campus packed with overachievers, national medalists from all fields is not an ideal fit for me that puts it above the other schools. If I had to pick a first choice, a mandated dream school for me, Stanford is not it.

Okay, so Stanford is not an idealistic dream for me, nor is it even one of my first few choices. But still, why isn’t it on my list of schools that I think are academically superior, that I would be happy to get into? Now we get into the issue of getting in. Before I start, let me pre-emptively counter those arguments that I have a strong feeling of coming, about me being negative and needing to believe in myself. This isn’t about doubting myself, my own intellectual ability. How intelligent of capable I think I am is not the issue in question here. This is about what the college admissions officers think of my college app.

As I said earlier, over the last 3 years, 122 AHS students have applied to Stanford. 9 have been accepted. On average, about 3/40 every year. I know that averages don’t always work out, and that sometimes things can happen, but assuming that most of the top students apply to Stanford (along with Harvard, Princeton, etc.), even looking at it as inclusively as possible, you would have to be in about the top 10 of all AHS applicants in your year to even have a shot.

Again, this isn’t about what I think of myself. Am I in the top 10 most intelligent/competent people in our graduating class? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a question that is nearly impossible for anyone to answer. But is my college application one of the top 10 in our graduating class? No.

If you still can’t accept that I have virtually no chance of getting accepted into Stanford for undergraduate studies, then I guess you can just go with the idea that I think I’ll be happier elsewhere.

Withdrawal Symptoms

July 29th, 2011

As you guys probably know, I’ve been at UCSD the last 3 weeks for a summer program thing. I have enjoyed almost all of it, as I’ve mentioned on Skype and stuff, particularly because I got to meet many different type of people. There is a diversity here that definitely does not exist in Arcadia. The last few days, I have already not been particularly excited about going back home, but  today it seems to have hit me even harder. While not the cause of my semi-emotional-breakdown, the thing that probably triggered the existing thoughts in my head was a conversation between a few of the people in my class during the incredibly boring graduation rehearsal.

They were talking about their experiences at parties and stuff, including doing stupid things while drunk and just other things they do, a conversation which I clearly, could have no participation in. It’s not that I have a desire to get super drunk and not remember the events of a whole night or anything, but just listening to them made me realize the stark contrast between their lives and mine.

Tim was saying yesterday that he thinks the only really different thing about Arcadia is it being upper middle class. I almost completely disagree. Being able to drive down the street, and see almost all restaurant and store signs written in Chinese is not something that can happen in just any city in America. While I know that there are drugs/alcohol/parties and stuff in Arcadia, it is clearly not a cultural norm as it is elsewhere. It’s definitely not just about the drugs and stuff either; that’s just the most obvious example. Another pretty clear example is how much more aware people seem to be of national/political issues, topics which from my experience are rarely heard of in Arcadia.

The whole culture and atmosphere of Arcadia is just not the same as the rest of America. Think about it. How many Asian Arcadians do you know whose parents were born here? Almost everyone I know was either born in Asia, or had parents born in Asia. Off the top of my head, I can think of only one acquaintance of mine who has parents born here, fluent in English, and totally familiar with American culture. Yeah, there are nonasian people in Arcadia too, but as they are a minority, they visibly do not have that much influence over the overall atmosphere of Arcadia, a clearly Asian-dominated town.

I know that you’re supposed to be “prideful” or whatever in your background and where you came from, but honestly, I am not. Like I said on skype, most of the time I have no problem fitting in, but when I think deeper, there are inherent differences because of how different of a place I grew up in. Some people are fine with remaining in the whole Asian/American-born Asian way of life, but that is not me. What happens in China/Hong Kong/Taiwan is no more relevant to me than what happens in France or Saudi Arabia. It’s not just that, I think that my whole mindset/philosophy/interest is more American than Asian.

I guess that I kind of wish I was born and raised in a “typical” American family. But I know that I wasn’t, and that I can’t change that. My dad has warned me plenty of times that it may be difficult to fit into mainstream American society because I will probably be looked at as closer to the FOB’s than to Americans. And even if people don’t consciously discriminate this way, I still have grown up my whole life in an environment not like  most people I will meet.

The other option is to just “embrace” my Asianess and just do what the path of a model Arcadian is. Go to a good school, study all day, get a fairly high paying job, marry an Asian girl, maybe have a kid, send the kid to an Arcadia-y school and continue the cycle. All while remaining contained in Asian interests, activities, and interactions. It’s a valid path, I guess, and it’s much easier, and may be more comfortable for some. But not for me. That’s not what I want to do.

That leaves me in stuck, in between two cultures, one that I would like to be a part of, but can never totally be in, and one that I wish to leave behind, but may never be escapable. And I don’t think that the Middle Way is the best path to take in this case. To forever be torn apart, in what might be described as isolation. That may be one of my biggest fears.