As someone who is thoroughly invested in creative writing and computer science, I thought I would easily find a balance between my two passions upon coming to Stanford. I chalked up a schedule that seemed like a reasonable timeline of progression, signed up for my classes, and repeated that over the span of two quarters, feeling sure that what I did was the rational choice that I thought many students or advisors would agree with: Take two STEM-heavy quarters, and then save English-oriented coursework for spring.
I spent two entire quarters crunching numbers or writing lines of code, and while I found both activities enjoyable (and still do), I had left the side of myself I had thought I knew best to the wayside. I didn’t read, I hardly wrote, and I felt guilty just looking at any of the blank pages of my journals. My mentality flipped from seeing the two halves of my intellectual experience as equal to viewing one as more essential than the other. I threw all of my energy into the STEM discipline and thought I’d make up that time lost from English later.
Fall turned to winter turned to spring, and now, with a schedule that consists almost entirely of humanities-related coursework completely of my choosing, the difference between my three quarters at Stanford feels profound. I see connections with what I learned in one class bleeding into the next. My CS coursework feels more enjoyable to me now that I don’t have a cloud of guilt hanging over my shoulder, and I find myself thinking a bit more critically about bugs and actually spending more time trying to debug or improve the program.
But perhaps most importantly, I feel as though my identity has become whole again, that I finally have time built into my day for both parts of my life, and that I can accept both parts of my education as being equally valuable. I would never say that I felt those first two quarters were wasted, as I gained so much knowledge that I am truly excited about, but I would say they weren’t used as effectively as possible.
At Stanford, it can become quite easy to lose who you once were as you become shrouded a wave of newness or seek to fulfill the expectations others place upon you and the ones you place on yourself. Rather than having an image of exactly where you want to be by the end of the year, I think it is better to play it by ear, focusing on the next step before thinking of the final destination.
For me, I ended up taking around the same number of humanities classes that I would have had I spaced them out throughout the year, but instead of paying attention to the degree of interdisciplinary enjoyment of each quarter, I focused on whether the end goal had been achieved. Sure, that academic destination ought to be in sight, but there is no specific rush to get there in the fewest number of moves.
It shouldn’t be seen as an accomplishment to get through college the most efficiently. And I think spring quarter, especially with Admit Weekend right around the corner, best lends itself to a moment of self-reflection.
Contact Juliet Okwara at jokwara ‘at’ stanford.edu.