Reflection on Summer 2018

It has been a restorative, engaging, and productive summer. I pursued existing hobbies and started new ones. I hung out with friends, old and new. And most importantly, I learned about my interests through continual self-questioning and analysis of my own behavior.

Here is what I did, in somewhat chronological order:

  • Photographed waterfalls near Mount Shasta
  • Internship at Google/Nest, which was eye-opening in many ways
    • 1. Met and worked with great people
    • 2. Made me question if I wanted to do software engineering (as a career) after college, which was slightly shocking to me because I have always thought I would go that route. The main reason is that I felt like some of the parts of myself that are valuable—like creativity, vision, leadership, etc.—wouldn’t be fully utilized as a software engineer.
    • 3. Despite being unsure if a software engineering career was the right fit, listening to the CTO of the company inspired me to continue in tech—although, perhaps approaching it differently
  • Learned to paint acrylic from the same art teacher who taught me when I was four
  • UAS competition in Maryland, where we got disqualified—but it was a ton of fun and a great learning experience
  • Went to multiple company events with NCWIT & Harvard Summer Camp
  • Met with an AeroAstro assistant professor, who gave me valuable insight and career advice
  • Hung out with high school, college, and work friends
    • Had amazing conversations with several people I met very briefly—like a person sitting next to me on the plane who worked on an internet satellite project and is now working in biotech—we talked about everything from history to education. Another person, who spent a semester abroad working on the politics surrounding Arctic sea ice—we talked for hours on geoengineering, space exploration, climate change policy, and Icelandic horses. I will always treasure these conversations that give me a deeper understanding of other people’s worldviews.
  • Ran the SF half-marathon
    • This was one of my favorite things I did this summer. I was so incredibly inspired. The weather was perfect and the view was gorgeous. Sadly, didn’t get to run across the Golden Gate Bridge, but I’ll do that next summer (if I’m back in the Bay Area) when I run a full marathon.
  • Got my driver’s license (at last!). This is probably one of my proudest accomplishments this summer because I overcame my fear of driving.
  • Created and launched a model rocket with two friends
  • A two-week vacation in Europe (London, Paris, Venice, and Rome) with parents and sister. Highlights:
    • London:
      • London Eye, financial district, the Buckingham Palace and learning about the royal family (and the classism that comes with it). A sudden downpour in the middle of a tour. Watching two productions (Othello and Emilia) in the Globe Theater.
      • My favorite was the British Museum, where I saw the Rosetta Stone and many other incredible pieces from history. Humanity truly amazes me.
    • Paris
      • The beauty of it all, especially at night. The architecture. The food (especially escargot and warm baked goods). The Louvre, Palace of Versailles, Montmartre (the artist district).
    • Venice
      • Gondola, laid-back locals and the totally relaxed atmosphere. The water and reflections. Mama’s pasta (yum) and pizza!
    • Rome
      • The Leonardo Da Vinci museum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, shopping. Standing in the remains of the Colosseum and listening to its history made me feel so small—in a good way.
      • Not a highlight (more of a lowlight) — but seeing the aftermaths of a couple’s personal belongings getting stolen was pretty scary and sad.
    • Generally, it was incredible to see the rich history and beautiful architecture
    • Most importantly, spending time with family was wonderful

Although I accomplished a lot this summer, there are many goals that I have pushed aside, left to sit in the back of my head. They are:

  • Writing science fiction: I want to be a published sci-fi author, and I haven’t really gone closer to that goal
  • Reading: I read halfway through a few books, but I had issues finishing books. I blame it on my sister’s Netflix account—I watched way too much Grey’s Anatomy (on season 3). It was so addicting!
  • Photography: I didn’t take as many photos as I wanted
  • Joining clubs at Google: I feel like I didn’t take as much advantage of the social aspects of the company culture, as I was very comfortable at home
  • Cooking: I love food so much and I want to learn how to cook. I thought I’d have more time to do that this summer, but that didn’t happen.

The main resolution I got from this summer was that I want to solve large, systemic issues through a combination of technology, entrepreneurship, and business. One of the defining moments of this summer was on the plane back home, when I watched a documentary called “The Gamechangers: Inventing the World” from Discovery Channel. The documentary was about two entrepreneurs: one that created a device that would track illegal deforestation, and another that created a clean water in Africa. While watching the documentary, I realized that this was really what I wanted to do. I don’t want to work on products that help the rich get richer—instead, I want to work on technology that will really improve humanity.

What drives me every day is to become the kind of person I am inspired by—to become someone I would look up to if I were five. So, here’s my revised career goals:

  • Learn more about business and finance with the eventual goal of starting my own company or joining a startup
  • Continue on the path to becoming an expert in robotics (since I think it’s most applicable and transferable to the areas I’m interested in—including space exploration, urban planning, and geoengineering)

Most importantly, I realized that at this stage in my life, I don’t want to be comfortable. For many, comfort is a luxury; I know I am coming from privilege by even having the choice between comfort and working on something greater. But I also know that given the resources I’ve been given, I need to do something great—and I don’t want to sacrifice meaning for comfort.

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