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Letter to the Editor
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A view from the outside: Scott Thao

When I first got my acceptance email from Stanford University in 2009 on the 31st of March, I was overwhelmed with joy. It was so heart-warming, to hear their praises of my abilities and their enthusiastic belief in what I was able to contribute to the Stanford community.

But soon after that (being the pessimistic person I am), I began to think about my own numbers to that of the student community. I came into Stanford with a humble mindset. I believed most students were more intellectually keen than I was, as seen through their test scores, and so, I felt my own acceptance to the university was truly through the grace of God.

Upon learning that there was a Hmong community at Stanford (under the organization called Hmong Student Union, (HSU), I was overjoyed. As you may already know, the only Hmong students at FC are my family members and I had only one Hmong peer back in elementary school. I quickly assumed that the Hmong community at Stanford was thriving and that I would be dropped right into it, which is what I wanted.

What I love about Stanford students was that they are so open and friendly. Even from a short weekend visit, I was able to see they were all incredibly passionate about what interested them, as well as being intelligent and dedicated. The campus was beautiful, after all, and I soon fell in love with the community. And though I was already planning on attending Stanford, I was sold by the time the weekend was over.

And so, I came into Stanford with a very optimistic mindset. SPOT ultimately ended up being fun, though those friends were temporary and whatever bond we did have together quickly dissipated when school arrived (we met up just once winter quarter). By the third day of school, I already memorized the names of the 60ish people in my dorm. That quarter, I took 20 units and struggled immensely with one of my four classes. But even then, I tried to be as involved as possible with my dorm: attending house meetings, playing the intramural sports I loved, going to whatever field trips I could make, etc. But it all didn?t seem enough. I still felt like I kept mainly to myself and I didn?t have any firm friend groups.

Winter quarter was far worse. The weather made me gloomy and I remember being homesick (wondering how my family was currently faring without me, yearning to be back). The 17 units took up little time for me, though I mostly stayed in my room and played the RTS game Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne on Battlenet. I did have some friends, though we weren?t near as close as I had wanted us to be. It was around this time that my dreams of the HSU family shattered. I realized HSU wasn?t as close as I had thought they were. Most Hmong undergrads did their own thing and put little energy into either building or sustaining the community.

The friends I had made during Admit Weekend became immersed in their own dorm communities as well. And I hadn?t dared to contact the farmer?s market staff member that had been so kind to volunteer her home to me (I didn?t know her well enough and couldn?t bare to put the burden on her). And I kept going to XA, though I always left straight after the service, knowing few members in the congregation. Winter quarter mostly felt like a dark hole.

By the time spring quarter arrived, I had realized my Freshman year wasn?t turning out as great as I had thought it would. But it was around that term that I began to see what was all around me. For one, my loose friends began to form a little clique of their own. I also noted the usefulness of my RA and began to use him more than I ever did the first two quarters. By the time freshmen year ended, regret had engulfed my mind. Why didn?t I start like this fall quarter?

The projection of this to the beginning would have been fantastic! I would have been much happier. People always say that Freshmen year is one?s most enjoyable year as an undergrad. But this is with the idea that they are open-minded, open to experiences. Freshmen always have the reputation of being naive and energetic and forgivable. It was only time I began to think and act as they do.

For more articles from the outside, visit Intimate connections with inanimate objects.

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