Welcome fellow life-livers, to another episode of “My trans-continental adventures” with me, your host, Miss. Catherine “Why do flight attendants think it’s okay to pick up and cradle every baby they see” Götze.
Time for some updates.
ONE. As you may have guessed, I’m currently flying (in a plane) back home to the good ol’ Farm. Some of you were wondering why in my semi-recent Instagram post I said I needed a break from Stanford. The truth is, the past quarter was the unfortunate continuation of a decently rough year for me. Fall quarter I struggled with not having the same awesome sense of community I felt in Larkin my freshman year. Winter quarter, I rode the struggle bus right into major town, where I spent ten straight weeks trying to convince myself that I was a good fit for my ex-prospective major, Symbolic Systems.
The truth is, the past quarter was the unfortunate continuation of a decently rough year for me.
I took 3 classes in the SymSys core last quarter, one of which was CS 103. I ended up withdrawing from that course Thursday of Week 8 (a day before the deadline), causing me to feel an odd mix of “Oh God, I’m a failure,” “Oh God, I’m letting everyone down,” and “GUUUUUUHHHHHHH” <–(That’s the sound of me coming up for air after being pummeled by a healthy series of some gnarly ass six foot waves.)
Despite what others may say, I know that that “W” on my transcript stands for wisdom. SymSys would not have been a good fit for me. Period. I don’t wanna HEAR IT from the people who think there’s enough prestige in buckling down and taking it up the ass from a sexy major to just let her do it to you up the butt—the people who say “Ohhh but you can still do SymSys and only take two CS classes! If you don’t vibe with CS just do this specific track… yada yada yada blah blah blah!” Eat my shorts. I don’t like that major, and I sure as hell don’t need it to make something of myself one day. So as far as you’re concerned (which is apparently a lot sum,) that W stands for “walk away.”
TWO. Spending spring break at home was blissfully rejuvenating. Not because I spent hours at the spa—though I did take the time to get my brows fleek’d and my nails did (because was it really spring break if you didn’t???)—no, #sb2k16 was simply the perfect amount of time I needed to get the R&R I needed after a trying winter quarter. (See ONE.)
On my first day back, I went to visit an old Spanish teacher/mentor/adopted tía at my old high school. I kinda sorta took almost every language that was offered at my high school at one point or another during my pre-collegiate academic career, so I ended up seeing a lot of teachers I either had at one point or had gotten to know throughout my time at BHS.
It felt good—wholly and unconditionally good—to find myself sitting around the lunch table in the Foreign Language Department break room surrounded by so many people who had helped nurture my passion for language as a teenager, a passion that undoubtedly elevated me in the eyes of college Admissions Officers at one point in my life. As we reminisced about how I dropped AP science my senior year to take first-year Chinese, I was reminded that these phenomenal educators spent years helping me develop my passion and ENCOURAGING me to break free from the status quo. They instilled in me the intellectual vitality that still fuels my desire to learn all there is to know about this beautifully complicated world not but two short years ago. And yet somehow, I lost sight of that at Stanford.
I lost the intellectual vitality that got me into Stanford because of Stanford. Ironic, isn’t it?
This year, when the pressure to choose a major came on thick like the way Gus puts nutella on toast (like would you like some bread with your chocolate?), I totally and completely lost sight of why I even go to school. I know that the deep down truth is that I’m here for the love of learning. And I’m here because I want to expand my mind into the realms that intrigue me, not the ones that I swore I’d never revisit so long as I shall live. (I’m looking at you, calculus.) I’m here because I love media and communication and public speaking and culture and language! So why in the world was I looking at a major like SymSys for so long?
The truth is, Dear Reader—and they don’t tell you this in the brochures— the academic culture at Stanford University is hostile to the humanities.
The academic culture at Stanford University is hostile to the humanities.
THERE. I SAID IT. STANNY ISN’T PERFECT.
There are quantitative imbalances between the STEM- and humanities-driven cultures at this school—just look at the number of undergraduates majoring in computer science compared to the largest humanities major, or a list of the top 5 most popular majors at Stanford. But as a student living and breathing in the imbalanced environment every single day, it often feels like the qualitative differences are the more detrimental.
When I walk through the Starbucks in Tresidder Student Union, I see that every person sitting at the bar is writing code. When I bike past students walking on their way to class, I hear them bonding over their mutual anxiety for whatever “impossible” STEM class is all the rave this particular quarter. You never hear two people bonding over their English class, because if two people were in the same English class their first reaction would probably be “YOU TAKE ENGLISH TOO?!” I mean seriously, we use words like “techy” and “fuzzy” to compare math-driven, technical studies to studies based in the humanities and social sciences. Must we delve into the problematic nature of calling somebody’s area of study f*cking fuzzy or can we just agree that it’s a disgustingly patronizing and supercilious term? Yes? Thanks.
My passions for the humanities and social sciences are invalidated with every breath I take on this campus. I’m living in a place where my own peers can’t help but look down on me and see me as inferior.
So I was looking at SymSys because I felt—er, feel, like my passions for the humanities and social sciences are invalidated with every breath I take on this campus. Every time I go to get a coffee or bike to class, let alone tell somebody my major, I’m reminded that I’m living in a place where my own peers can’t help but look down on me and see me as inferior. That is a really sucky feeling. It is going to take a lot of self-confidence to overcome this reality, Dear Reader, and I’m a confident person, but maybe not that confident—yet. I’m working on it, and heading back to BHS to walk the halls of my old stomping ground was the first step in the right direction.
After I met with my old teachers, I walked up and down the quiet, empty Saturday hallways. For the first time in two whole years, I breathed in the air of a place that encourages the pursuit of all intellectual passions, no matter what they may be. A place where Broadway stars in the making are looked upon just as highly as nationally-ranking mathematicians. A place where students are able to be curious and try new things and reject the status quo if that’s what their heart and mind desire. (And I took all this for granted for the four years of my life I got to spend there.)
I peered into the classrooms where I had all my favorite classes—AP Rhetorical Analysis, where Mr. Sanders taught me how sculpting the perfect argument to convey precisely what I want to say will help me later break down others’ arguments and see what they really mean; AP Religious Quest, where Ms. Kramer taught me that every character in every acclaimed novel has desires, strengths, and weaknesses just like you and me (how else would I have ever gotten through Moby Dick?); Honors Global Studies, where Mr. Wire taught me that the key to learning is making an emotional connection to the material… These courses were all founded in the humanities, and they all accelerated my growth as an intellectual thinker and as a person more than any other class I had ever taken in high school. No coding necessary.
THREE. So here we are at the beginning of Spring Quarter of my Sophomore year, and I have a choice to make, DR. I can choose to continue taking STEM-y courses like CS 103 because it’s ~*prestigious*~ and at least then people won’t call me the f-word, or I can look inside myself and think about how excited I feel when the prof says our final assignment is a 15-page rhetorical analysis on the cross-cultural topic of our choice. (LIKE ZOMG BUTTERFLIES.) You may find it rather full-circular that my current courseload reflects my decision to go with the latter. 🙂 I hope this feeling lasts…
Welp, this didn’t end up being a very updatey post at all. But that’s okay. I wanted to write about this at some point but didn’t really know how to start, so this ended up working out quite well.
I hope you got something out of this, DR. If you did, feel free to spread the CiC love/tell me your thoughts. As always, I’m all ears. (Twitter, email, anonymous). If you didn’t, I hope you’ve at least enjoyed seeing the world from my point of view while perhaps assessing my strengths and weaknesses as you see them. (Though despite what Ms. Kramer might say, I can assure you I’m much realer than Ishmael. 😉 )
OH– And Happy Easter 🐰