If Only I Knew

As we start a new year here, I look back to last year at IMSA, my sophomore year.  It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year; my life has changed so much.  And I realize how beneficial that year was for me.  As others have come and gone this year, IMSA has stayed the same remarkable institution.  I think that I speak for the rest of my class when I say that we all have grown so much in a relatively short time-frame.  IMSA has changed the way I think, eat, dress, and, of course, sleep.

As I thought back to my own sophomore year, I wondered what others thought of theirs, particularly the recent graduates.  Feeling curious, I asked three students from the class of 2013 to give some advice to students and new sophomores.  I asked them what they wished they had known when they started their sophomore year at IMSA.

Kevin Zhang:

I wish I knew how long and short IMSA would be. Long in the present, drudging through each test, problem set, project, or meeting, but oh-so- terribly short when you put it all into perspective. Don’t sweat the small stuff, forgive yourself, and keep pressing on. In the end, nobody is comfortable crossing the finish line.

Jen Ren:

Don’t fall victim to the Superman complex. As much as there is to do and to get involved with around campus, there’s simply not enough time to do everything. Go to a couple GAs, but ultimately find the few things you’re passionate about and commit yourself to them. It’ll keep you from burning out too much and you’ll feel more invested in the things you do.

A lot of people have always told me that the journey is worth more than the destination, and in hindsight, it’s definitely true. IMSA is supposedly one of the the “nation’s leading learning laboratories,” but in some aspects, I feel like I’ve grown much more as a person in terms of balancing professional and social lives, growing independent, and all the cliche things you always hear about. It’s more about learning how to create connections than rote memorization; in classes like MCB, we’re asked to reconstruct knowledge “the real way” by analyzing scientific papers, not through the paraphrasing of condensed textbooks. Socially, I’ve met some of my best friends here, and laughed, cried, and lived with them. The journey with them will mean much more to me than simply achieving the ends.

Summer Wu:

Finding her inner troll, Summer told me “I wish I had known that it’s possible to dress a salad evenly by using a bowl to cover the salad and then shaking. I suffered through a good semester and a half of bland lettuce with the occasional overly strong mouthful.”

However, she then told me, “On a more serious note, I wish I knew that I had and have limits. I came in believing myself invincible, capable of taking on anything and everything; I was delighted by the plethora of opportunities available at IMSA and only realized too late that the potpourri was a double edged sword. Although I was truly passionate about every organization I was involved in, I drove myself to the brink of insanity in trying to keep up with my own expectations for myself. In fact, it got to the point that my schoolwork began to suffer.”

The beginning of the school year is just around the corner.  As outgoing seniors, these three knew what it takes to be successful at IMSA, and their advice is something that all IMSA students can benefit from.  When we leave IMSA for the last time, we don’t want to look back disappointed.  After all, in ten years, we’re not going to remember the good grades we had at IMSA; we’re going to remember the good times and the good people.  Live your life to the fullest, and use IMSA’s every opportunity to the best of your ability.  High school happens once; there are no re-dos, no repeats, no restarts, and though they may seem like the shortest four years of your life, they are some of the most important.  IMSA will change your life, no matter what; it’s up to you to make sure that that change is for the better.


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