Returning to GoCrimson.com for a second season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrative. For a full list of blog entries, click here.
For more student blogs from Harvard Admissions, click here.
October 13, 2015
Junior year has begun! Only after half of my college experience has already zoomed pass, I feel like I have finally just begun to better understand what it means to live the college experience. Though the ideal college experience is different for everyone, I personally believe that it is a time for discovery and self-improvement. It is a time to view the world with different eyes. I have learned from my past two years here and now my sights are set on new goals for the upcoming semester. I was not aware of this at the time, but as a freshman and even as a sophomore, I had held on to the wrong mindset and had barely gotten by. I desired to play well for the golf team, achieve high marks, and join a bunch of clubs on campus. These goals are quite standard—quite typical and nothing too extravagant. In regards to my life as an active student-athlete, I was complacent. But as for the way in which I felt like I lived my first two years, I was not satisfied. A lull had developed where there should have been an interest, my outside activities morphed into a checklist of “things-to-do”, and a touch of emptiness made its way into my chest. Though I was comfortable with the routine of my life, I was not satisfied with the way I carried myself.
For my up and coming third year here, I still do many of the same activities that I have always done as a freshman and as a sophomore. However, now, I think about the things I do differently. Before I decide to join a club or become involved in an activity, I always ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I remind myself that there is much more to a person than what can be expressed in words or written in a resume. During sophomore year I had begun volunteering at a local hospital. My initial reason behind this choice: “Volunteering at a hospital is something that medical school would expect me to have had experience in,” so I treated this as another item to cross of my weekly checklist. I’d go in to the hospital, quickly push a couple patients around, and leave. This style of action, however efficient, was of course problematic. With the way I approached my role as a volunteer, it became an unfulfilling duty. But, just before I made plans to stop volunteering at the hospital, I started to chat significantly more with the patients I had interactions with.
I suddenly took notice of things that I had previously so carelessly brushed over. I listened to the patients talk about their life’s dreams and about their personal burdens. Yet at the same time, I could sense the pain within their smiles, and I could comprehend the gratitude as well as the hardy resilience embedded between their silences. As a volunteer in a hospital, I was often viewed in a position as a person of cordial trust. For this reason I encountered patients who were openly eager to share their ailments, their struggles, and their joys with me. I found a different story behind every individual. And I was extremely humbled by what they shared.
I realized my ignorance for people’s different lifestyles, and I felt my own struggles pale in comparison to what many have endured through. My difficulties in the classroom appeared silly, and my challenges on the golf course seemed like a blessing. I rediscovered a newly found appreciation for life, for family, and for everything we have. The hospital patients have unknowingly taught me so much about the ups-and-downs of life, but chatting with them also helped me further understand another point that until then I have not thought deeply about: the importance of human relationships.
It is as important for us to give as it is to receive. Throughout my first two years, I regretfully pushed friends and people into a secondary role of importance below my busy pursuit of completing “the checklist” of things I had to do. The things I did were coated with a thin layer of meaning. However, inside the hospital walls, I had the chance to reevaluate my own relationship with friends and with other people. Countless times I have witnessed a patient beam with happiness upon the visit of a friend, the touch of a loved one, or sometimes even a light-hearted conversation with a hospital volunteer. I have seen and personally felt the physical, emotional, and mental dependence intertwined amongst all people.
My priorities after my two years here at Harvard have shifted slightly. The activities that I had simply treated as a checklist have transformed into an opportunity to find greater meaning and understanding in life. The experiences I’ve had in the hospital as a volunteer accurately reflect many of my other experiences here at Harvard. By being more open to people, more understanding, more caring, and more aware, I am able to gain a wider perspective about the world and form more meaningful connections with people. An open mind and an open heart really do go a long way.