Featured image of post Lessons Learned in a Semester Gone By

Lessons Learned in a Semester Gone By

How to confront the man in the mirror

A semester gone as quickly as it came. Allow me to take you along its momentous journey.

Six Lessons Learned

1. Take a moment to reflect

It has been a while since I seriously sat down and seriously thought about what has happened in my life recently. Over the last few months, there have been times of fireworks and times of gloom, and everything has rushed by so fast that I haven’t found the right moment to really think about it.

I have been aware for a while that I tend to ignore difficult and abstract things in my life by filling my free time with distractions. Whether it be mindlessly playing Tetris, fidgeting with a Rubik’s cube, or watching videos on YouTube, I constantly find a new way to drown out things I don’t want to think about, whether it be homework or problems with my relationships or daily life. Around two months ago, I attempted to remedy this bad habit by writing in a journal every night with the hope that it would force me to think about my day and what motivated me to do certain things. It was great at first, but I found myself writing more face-value recollections of events that passed instead of writing about my thoughts and emotions; when I tried to write more about the latter, I would end up writing too much, which made me unmotivated to continue journaling. After a few weeks, I started lagging behind schedule and eventually dropped it because I was “too busy.”

I feel like some of you might be the same. When was the last time you analyzed your current state: your current strengths and weaknesses, personal flaws, or future goals? How about just sitting down for 15 minutes at the end of the day to figure out what you did that day? While we’re preoccupied with what we think are pressing matters, we tend to distract ourselves from bigger underlying questions or issues that we might have, maybe ones that are more important or severe.

Modern technology has only made things worse. In the brief periods of free time I caught over the semester, I always spent it browsing mindlessly through Instagram, Reddit, or Twitter. It was a brainless activity I could distract myself with, so I wouldn’t have to think about the mountain of problems lying ahead. I would desperately scroll to find something even minutely interesting, hoping to distract myself from my problems. I could have devoted some time, any amount of time, to just sit and think. I could have put the phone down and just thought about something, anything. That’s all I had to do. But in those moments, I couldn’t. Not even for five minutes. I’m not saying that we don’t deserve breaks sometimes. After an intense study session or work period, I think it is perfectly fine to just turn your brain off as your body recuperates. But even setting a little amount of time to reflect is vital to your self and environmental awareness.

It’s definitely not easy. I am filled with emotions that I do not understand and cannot convey, and trying to think through them is sometimes as difficult as preparing for an upcoming exam. I have tried to initiate a habit of personal reflections multiple times in the last few months but I couldn’t due to the stress that was piling up. After a while, I told myself I would wait until the school year was over so I could gather my thoughts and try again (which has led to what you are reading now). The less I reflect, the more my days become uniform and monotonous, turning into a sequence of rapid events that I can’t even remember.

Well, how do you begin the process of self-reflection? You can start small. Begin by recounting the important moments that passed today. If nothing happened today, then think about yesterday or the past week. Think about your behaviors, important events, or crucial conversations. Consider how you would like to improve, things that are holding you back, and what you hope to achieve. The answers to these questions might not be obvious, and it can take a long time before you’ve even figured yourself out. The sooner you start, the better. You don’t want a whole year to pass for you to realize that you aren’t at a place you want to be.

I often find writing your thoughts on paper or a computer really helps this process. By making your ideas physical, you can refer back to them in the future, to see what progress you have made. It also provides a sense of accountability, as you subconsciously know that this “something” knows who you are and what you want. Another good way is to take a long walk on a brisk evening. Listen to the voice of nature or calming music. For some reason, I don’t think listening to Eminem’s Rap God stimulates the brain too well. It will likely allow you to destress, which makes thinking through difficult things much easier.

2. Have an honest conversation with your friend

Until this semester, I haven’t been seriously confronted by a friend for a mistake I made. Likewise, I have never seriously confronted a friend about a mistake they made. I have always expected others to initiate while I remained in the background, away from any direct controversy. Even though keeping silent might spare you a few uncomfortable situations here and there, it’s only going to manifest in resentment and frustration later down the line.

Your friends are people that you should be honest with. If you have a problem with them, you should be vocal about it. Even though we all cherish our friends, they aren’t perfect, and neither are we. Everyone has the capacity to improve. If you don’t speak out against bad behavior, you’re only going to prolong a problem, and nobody ends up satisfied. If you don’t tell me that I’m a piece of sh*t, then why would I try to change?

Chances are, you might learn something new about your friend. You might not have understood them correctly, or maybe you failed to see their perspective. Don’t be so quick to assume that your diagnosis was valid. Being able to engage in productive criticism can only strengthen your relationships, as long as both parties are willing to listen. Dream of a friendship where both of you can initiate difficult conversations without fear. You will learn to give and take criticism, and you will become untouchable.

I still need to work on this. I am nowhere near where I would like to ideally be, but I must practice what I preach. I know I am faint of heart, constantly overthinking about how others perceive me and fearing I will disappoint my friends. I vouch to be honest, and I will reap the consequences of my behavior.

If you have a problem with a friend, and you’ve been trying to tell them for a long time now, rip the band-aid off.

3. Take a step back, look at the bigger picture

I wanted to start my year with a bang. Too long during quarantine spent lounging around, wasting time, and waking up at two in the afternoon. This year was going to be different. After a mild start during the first semester, I wanted to work hard and achieve a lot during the second. I dedicated myself to demanding clubs and filled most of my free time with “work.” I began to stress myself out, and I was not suited to handle the massive workload.

Completed formula car for Terps Racing

There were moments when I considered whether I wanted to continue with the clubs. I was sacrificing time to do other things that I wanted to do: study machine learning, write blogs, read books, etc. I considered their career benefits and often convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. But subconsciously, I felt like I was giving up other important things.

Regardless, I don’t have any regrets. I was also able to meet friends and learn a lot about things completely unrelated to my major. I was able to figure out what I like and don’t like, which I believe to be a crucial part of the college experience. I wouldn’t go back and change anything, because chances are, they shaped me into the person I am today. But there is definitely a moral of the story.

Before you do anything, you should always ask yourself, “what do I want and what will I achieve by doing this?” You should be honest with yourself. Do things that you find meaningful and do it because you want to. Don’t volunteer for a children’s hospital because think it will make you virtuous to your friends. Volunteer there if you actually like working with children and want to make a difference.

You also should commit yourself to what you find valuable, not what others would find valuable. If you want to dedicate your evenings to journaling or drawing, more power to you. Part of me hoped people would admire me for taking a bunch of clubs on at the same time, but I think I missed the bigger point by assuming that mindset. Don’t let others’ perceptions of what is important affect the way you conduct yourself. You know yourself the best, after all.

Leaving it on a personal note

For my clubs, I always felt a pang of guilt whenever I considered dropping them next semester, to the point where I would lie to myself that I actually wanted to be there (metaphorically speaking; I loved hanging out with my club buddies). Although they are fun and challenging, I don’t think I got exactly what I truly wanted. I didn’t want to let my teammates down, so I made commitments of returning to the club next year purely from guilt. That is not a position anyone should ever want to be in. You’ll keep yourself held back, blocked by a barrier you set up yourself. Decide what you want to do and commit to it. Your time is valuable. Don’t waste it for somebody else’s sake.

This doesn’t mean I’ll drop the clubs I am in now. I think it takes a lot more careful consideration. They are very valuable experiences, and I have gained more than I could have expected. I’m just saying that I will have to carefully decide what I hope to achieve in the coming years, and I will have to decide whether these clubs align with my ideal.

4. Face your fears head-on

Courtesy of mymodernmet.com

Many nights, I think about the upcoming deadlines and I feel an impending sense of doom. Maybe I have two meetings lined up, a project that’s due, an email that I need to respond to, or a presentation I need to give. Sometimes in the midst of a mild anxiety attack, I would think about all the items that I needed to complete, thinking Oh! That’s not that much. I would regain some confidence before quickly returning to panic mode. I started to question why I had brief moments of composure interspersed in my moments of panic. It’s because I was usually right about there not being much to do. At least, it was much more manageable than my panicking brain was suggesting. But all that fear racing in my head prevented me from thinking straight, as my mind continuously cycled through everything that could go wrong. Often, it would lead me to believe that was more trouble ahead than there actually was.

If you are in a stressful frenzy, take some time to define what is worrying you. Express the fears on paper. Maybe it’s a project that’s due, your massive student loans, a friend who’s being an ass. If you let your fear control you, your brain will constantly cycle through your problems to the extent where you feel like you have more problems than you actually do. By writing them down, you know what lies ahead, and you can focus on tackling them instead of being in a continual state of worry.

Having a physical representation of your fears also prevents you from constantly rationalizing doomsday scenarios. We try to distract ourselves from our difficult tasks, which only temporarily relieves us of stress. The second you think about them again, you have to recount everything on your agenda, which will wear you down. By putting your fears on paper, you can skip that step, which will give you a ton of mental headroom.

You can take this further. You can write down the worst-case scenarios out as well. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you go ask your boss for a raise? Maybe she’ll laugh at you and tell you that you are the laziest employee in the building. Well, that’s not so bad, right? With that out of the way, you can now contemplate how to avoid the worst-case scenario. Or even if you do meet the worst-case scenario, have a plan to cope and deal with it. Having this sort of mental plan will keep you at ease, as you will at minimum have something planned in all cases, even if it isn’t particularly good.

This may seem obvious. If you tell me that it sounds like I’m advocating for you to manage your tasks, you’d be right. But it’s also more than that. Your fears don’t always have to be something tangible, like a project. Your fears might be related to problems with your family, confronting a friend about their behavior, or a big presentation you have next week. Having a disaster plan for those is just as important as your everyday tasks and routines. By simply physically establishing what is bothering you, you can overcome your toughest challenges.

A lot of this advice is adapted from Tim Ferriss, an established self-help author, podcaster, and entrepreneur. I recommend checking some of his works out, such as The 4-Hour Workweek.

5. Love the process and the results will come

A goal-oriented life might not be a bad thing, but it misses the point. You don’t want to spend your days chasing the next goal. You delegate feelings of achievement to temporary moments of success. What happens after you meet a goal? You have to chase the next one until your life becomes an endless pursuit of empty goals. A goal is only a temporary milestone.

If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, what do you do after you lose the 10 pounds? Many people think they’re done and end back right where they started. So, what do you do instead? Well, let’s analyze why you wanted to lose 10 pounds in the first place? It was probably a desire to be healthier, fitter, and more attractive. The 10-pound loss was just a façade for the desire to be healthy. By focusing on the ends, we often ignore the means. If you start to run to lose weight, don’t stop once you reach your weight loss goal. Let yourself become a runner. Let your identity morph into the ideal. Not only will you learn to love running, but you also won’t stop simply because you lost an arbitrary amount of weight. Running will become part of your lifestyle. This is how I learned to love going to the gym. I never had a goal in sight. I just wanted to be more fit. The more I told people I went to the gym, the more it became a part of me. It was no longer something I had to consciously think of doing. Since I embed it into my identity, I no longer had to struggle to convince myself to go every night.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have goals. I still have goals, but I focus on the process instead of the goal itself. You should too. If you want to win a business competition, focus on being a better businessman. Pride yourself on being able to make connections and initiate conversations. Naturally, regardless of whether you win, you will become a better businessman.

If you want to start reading books, don’t just set a goal of reading one book. Convince yourself that you are a reader and that you read for enjoyment. If you learn to love reading itself, one book is no longer enough. If you focus only on just finishing that one book, you’ll miss the whole point of the book, and you think you’ll be satisfied. But it won’t convert you into a reader.

Still have goals, but make them secondary to the process. Or orient your goal such that you can never truly meet it. Even if you don’t meet your goals, you’ll have changed yourself for the better. I think this quote is a good note to end on:

“If successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers.” - James Clear, Atomic Habits

6. Remove jealousy and resentment from your life

Courtesy of biblestudytools.com
Courtesy of biblestudytools.com

Jealousy is an innate and natural thing. It’s easy to feel jealous or resent the friend that has all A’s, a prestigious internship, and a full-ride tuition. You’ve been there, I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. These “perfect” friends embody what we want for ourselves. Jealousy might be a positive motivator for you to chase your own goals. But let it out of control, and you will become bitter and dissatisfied. Even today, I still feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear about my friends’ new achievements. But rather than breeding resentment, it allows me to push myself to achieve more. Here are some tips to change your mindset:

  1. Success isn’t a zero-sum game

    Generally, your friend’s success doesn’t take away anything from you. Just because your friend Abel got a new promotion doesn’t mean you can’t get one. Scarcity doesn’t apply when it comes to achievements. You have your whole life ahead to accomplish things that Abel cannot, and vice versa. If Abel finds success, then go find your own success.

    I guess this doesn’t apply if he starts dating your crush

  2. You’re not even playing the same game

    Why are you comparing yourself to Abel? You’re living your own life, not his. He might want to become a research scientist while you want to become a rocket engineer. You’re walking on two separate tracks. The benchmarks for his success are not the same as yours. You aren’t on the same timeline, and opportunities will manifest in your life at different rates. You must have patience and persevere at your own pace, not at Abel’s. You do the best you can do, as your life is your own. As Jordan Peterson said, “compare yourself to the person you were yesterday, not to who someone is today.”

  3. Abel might be better than you

    Well, sorry to say, but it might be true. Maybe at that one thing, Abel is just better than you. Maybe he put in more work, more time, and more energy to achieve that one thing. There are plenty of things that you are probably better than Abel at. It also isn’t too late to catch up, either. Even if you think you outclass him in every way, but somehow he is doing better than you, don’t let that affect how you perceive yourself. Life isn’t fair. Accept it and move on. If you think that life is fair, then you will only find despair. Focus on the things you can actually control, and luck will find you.

  4. Do you even know Abel?

    At this moment in time, would you trade your life with Abel’s? At a surface glance, maybe you determine that everything in his life is better than yours, so would you make the switch? Probably not, and you probably don’t want to either. Everybody deals with different struggles in their life. If you swapped with Abel, you would probably be in a whole new world of hurt, a world you probably didn’t know existed. You deal with things that others don’t, and only you could understand how to cope with the pain. Don’t be so quick to assume that someone else’s life is more glamorous than yours. In a particular moment, maybe Abel exudes success. But that moment is temporary. Look at the bigger picture.

  5. You want the best for Abel

    At the end of the day, he is your friend. Would you be happier had he never received the promotion? Of course not. He wants the best for you, and you want the best for him. It’s always okay to feel jealousy. To some extent, you cannot control what your brain is programmed to feel. But you can channel the feelings in a new way. Use Abel’s good fortune as a springboard for yours. Be proud of him, and use that energy to motivate yourself even more. If both of you can sustain this positive feedback loop, then who in the world can stop you?

A conclusion

Life is a long run. Don’t let your jealousy control your life. A feeling of worth should stem from within, not from how you compare to others around you. When you grow old, you hope to stand on a mountain that you climbed yourself. You want to feel that the journey made you into a better person than the person you were before, not a person better than some random Abel somewhere else.

What Motivates Me?

Courtesy of osnatfineart.com

Why do I do the things that I do? What do I truly want?

I often find myself thinking of pursuing the most lucrative jobs in order to make the highest income. But on the inside, I shouldn’t care. Many people benchmark status with salary, which seems to influence me to pick certain occupations over others. But who cares if I’m making 100K more than the guy next door or my best friend? My salary isn’t going to be written on my tombstone. My quality of life won’t be dictated by marginal increases in income.

I know myself. I’m a learner in heart and spirit. I crave understanding the world and nothing brings more satisfaction to me than learning something mind-boggling. If you ask my closest friends, they can attest to me spouting nonsensical facts on the daily, often to the point of annoyance. I tell people that if money wasn’t an issue, I would be majoring in astronomy and physics. But why? It seems that those two subjects have blown my mind the most amount of times, and I connect with them. But obviously, money must come into consideration. With my love of technology and working within teams, computer engineering was the most logical choice.

What should the takeaway be? My primary motivation seems to come from a deep desire to learn and understand. A career- and specialization-oriented society seems to conflict with this goal, but perhaps not. I will always be a student first. Regardless of what career I end up pursuing, that will not stop me from learning. But, in order to love what I do, I must find a career that makes me want to continue learning. Its principles must align with the drive that turns my inner gears.

I think this essay I submitted for my QUEST application best encapsulates how I want to approach life, ignoring the portions that are tailored to QUEST itself (and the cringe).

Every day last year, I found myself staring at a notebook filled with all the things I wanted to learn: Japanese history, cryptocurrency, astrophysics, and photography. After sorting out my priorities, these desires were often left on the backburner until further notice. Even when I was applying to college, I was faced with the difficult task of dedicating the next four years to one area of expertise. Even if I try to dedicate time to learning new things, there is simply not enough time to absorb everything out there. However, this does not mean I cannot diversify the intellect in my life. As I move through my career, I aim to drag my sleigh of understanding through different industries, collecting the experiences and expertise of people from all walks of life. Through these endeavors, I hope to truly be connected to the heart of society. QUEST would provide an entry into the collaborative world between engineers and businesspeople, igniting my journey to perceive the world. Through collaboration and deliberation, I hope to build lasting relationships and connections with a passionate group of students. If knowledge is truly power, then I want to be powerful.

How have I changed?

Personal Improvement

What strides have I made this semester? In terms of personal growth, I think I have bettered myself more in the last 6 months than I have over the entirety of high school. I dug in my heels this semester and pushed myself toward my goals. I would like to discuss them as personal milestones. That means this isn’t just an excuse for me to brag.

Accepted into QUEST

I was accepted into QUEST, an honors program for collaborative business and engineering consulting and quality assurance. I’ve always wanted some business-oriented classes incorporated into my educational experience, and I think I’ll find that here. There seem to be many intelligent and motivated individuals here, and I hope to learn a lot from them.

I think I wrote a few decent essays for the application, and I was very happy with my responses during the interview portion. I recommend any freshman students to apply, as the program is a great way to develop your career.

Link: https://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/quest

Found clubs I could dedicate my time to

I won’t touch too much on them here, as I’ve probably rambled about them ad-nauseam at this point. But I’m happy to say I was very involved with the school this year.

Became sub-team leader of the Liquid Rocket Team

The liquid rocket team is the newest addition to the engineering club family this year. I was very afraid of applying to be a team lead, as I had very little experience or understanding of the daunting tasks that lay ahead. I saw that the team was impressed with some of my work in the first semester, so I gathered the courage to apply. I ended up being the only person to apply for the Data Acquisition Lead, so I got the position. Good thing too, as it plays a critical role in the overall team. I’m proud that I applied to a leadership role as a freshman, even though it wasn’t a particularly difficult feat.

Won the Northrop Grumman Environmental Sustainability Challenge

Shoveling a streambed for our prototype

Okay, kind of a flex. We won $2,500. A class member in Terps Racing made a post on the club Slack channel, announcing that she had a good idea for some environmental challenge and was looking for team members. The thought of joining circulated through my mind for an entire week. I was already swamped with my other clubs, but I was sure that an opportunity like this might never arise again. Sophie already had an established idea, the hardest part of any challenge. I remember talking to my roommate, Jason, at night about joining. He told me I would be an idiot for adding another club to my relatively busy schedule, and I agreed. But like the idiot that I am (or a stroke of genius), I decided to talk to Sophie and join her team.

And it turned out great. We traveled to D.C. every Saturday to build a prototype IoT stormwater management system on a friend’s residential property. We poured in hours of work, putting huge amounts of effort into the prototype as well as the final presentation materials. We knew we had something special, and we went all in. When we finally presented to the panel of judges, we were confident that our idea and presentation quality trumped all of the other teams. And we won. What an incredible feeling.

Went to the gym

I made a hard commitment to go to the gym to become more fit. I wanted to build muscle and exercise every day. I never imagined that I would keep up with this resolution, but I did (look to lesson 5 above). Even though I’ve taken a few week-long breaks from sickness and injury, I’ve maintained a healthy gym schedule, and I’m proud of myself for that.

Committed to being a better man

I cannot overstate how important this was to me. I changed my mindset completely. I knew I was capable of a lot more, and I tried harder to achieve what I wanted than I ever have before. I dedicated myself to working on my flaws, working on my strengths, and pursuing opportunities I would have brushed off in the past. This mentality helped me adapt to the increase in workload and struggle through periods of adversity. Even today, I am trying to do even more than I did yesterday. Even with moments of laziness and outbursts of insecurity, I truly believe I am headed down a good path.

I don’t think I could have ever made a statement this bold or overconfident in the past. Let’s just say I’m being woefully optimistic.


There is much room for improvement. Let me highlight a couple of bad habits and behaviors that continue to plague my life.

Focusing on the unimportant

I often fill my time with “work” just so I can feel productive. I see productivity as a means to feeling productive. Instead of having the focus on getting important work done, I merely work on mundane and meaningless work just to feel like I’m doing something.

For example, I’ll spend 3 hours organizing my schedule instead of doing the MATLAB project that’s due tomorrow. I’ll browse the internet looking for new books to read instead of reading the books I have on my table. Even though you might consider these things “productive,” they are not important. There’s no need for me to put up a façade of productivity if I’m only going to waste my time. I need to prioritize as well. I also deserve breaks and leisure time. I shouldn’t lie to myself.

I don’t need validation

Why do I need people to tell me that I’m good at something to know that I am good at that something? That feeling of value should come from within. I constantly seek validation to feel like I’m worthy. This needs to stop.

I’ve been struggling with inner confidence for a long time. I constantly doubt my ability to do things well, and I always fear that people see me as less incapable than I truly am. It’s like a paradox. I don’t think I am good at something, but I also want other people to acknowledge that I am good at it. I’m not saying praise isn’t good. I like it, and so does everybody else. But I should’ve derived my own value solely from it.

This works both ways. Validation can also lead to overconfidence. Often, people will tell me I did a great job, even if what I did was relatively mundane. I shouldn’t overvalue what others have to say. My perception of the quality of my work should determine how I should feel about it. Constant praise and admiration will demotivate me from pushing myself forward. If I can survive socially on mediocrity, then what desire do I have to become better?

If someone tells Bob that he is good at something, I also shouldn’t be so insecure that I need to ask if they think I am also good at that something. I will only come off as an unconfident beta-male. That’s not who I want to be. I don’t need my grandma to tell me I’m handsome to know that I’m the sexiest person on the planet. I already know that I am.

The struggle with failure

I am not good at accepting failure. It often makes me incredibly angry at myself, even if I knew I tried my best. It makes me insecure and leads me to think bad thoughts about others. It’s a bad mentality and certainly a manifestation of the wrong mindset. I am not too sure how I plan to deal with this, but I cannot let the anger control me.

Not everyone cares about me

Sounds a bit harsh, but true. I fascinate myself with unusual facts about the universe, politics, and interesting tidbits about psychological abstraction. I tell my friends these things with passion, and I am often met with puzzled faces and annoyance. Why? Because I ignore the fact that they could not give any less of a sh*t about how Hawaii was formed.

I need to give people space and put myself second sometimes. I don’t want to risk my friends becoming uncomfortable or annoyed to satisfy my own selfish desires.

I am not holier than thou

As much as I think I’m an angel from heaven, I am not. I am not morally better than anybody else on the planet. I might think I am smarter than you, but I am probably wrong. I convince myself that I never think in this way, but I am lying to myself. I don’t understand the circumstances that govern your life. I am just an individual on the planet with my strengths and weaknesses. And you are another.

Forgetful fool

I forget things so easily. Just got back into my dorm. Where are my keys? Where’s my wallet? I forgot my meeting an hour ago?! Oh no! This was a constant headache for me, and I can’t even imagine how many times I peeved at Jason or my other friends.

I was quite certain I had ADHD at some point, so I attributed my forgetfulness to it. I was evaluated by a psychiatrist, who said it was likely as well. But after taking a concentration test, it seems that I don’t. But the psychiatrist seems unsure, too. I will either get a second opinion because she’s telling me that I might have anxiety problems, too. I don’t know.

Either way, I can remedy this by meditating more and being more organized with my stuff.

Ending note

This is by no means an exhaustive list. These were the things that stood out to me the most. You can be sure to let me know of any others, and I will be as perceptive to your criticisms as possible. Thank you, my lovely fans.

Did I reach my goals?

I set a few goals in my UMD post in the fall. Let’s see how I measured up.

Get Straight A’s

Close, but no cigar. It seems like I overestimated my ability to focus on school and extracurriculars concurrently. Nothing below an A-, however.

Find a club I am passionate about

This one is a bit more tricky. In many regards, I found what I was looking for in SEDS, Terps Racing, and an environment sustainability challenge I did.

They didn’t have everything I want. Mostly, I don’t know if I could find a profession in the things I did in these clubs. However, they were amazing learning experiences and provided me with great friends.

Make new friends

Engineering Group Team Hangout

Accomplished! To name a few: Max, Ryan, and Sam from Terps Racing. Mohammad, Dev, Bobby from SEDS. Eyobed, Richard, and Sophie from the environmental challenge. Brian Ding. Everyone in my ENES100 group.

I hope to find even more in the future. I have more culturally diverse friends now than I ever had before. Woo-hoo!

There are still different kinds of friends that I am still looking for:

  • Motivates me to push myself to extremes
  • Loves learning, reading, and talking about all things science
  • Dances
  • Willing to openly discuss politics and challenge my beliefs

Get an Internship

Success! I landed one at Mailchimp, a marketing and email company! If you check your subscription emails, there is a chance that it was sent via Mailchimp. I am doing Machine Learning Infrastructure (MLOps), which essentially means I am creating the tools for the data scientists to use so they can better understand CPMs and market effectiveness.

It starts next Monday (6/13), and I am very excited! Mailchimp has been extremely organized, communitive, and welcoming. I am studying up on the Google Cloud Platform, and I am liking it more and more every day.

I’ll discuss some perks that came with the job. Mailchimp was acquired by Intuit, a public software company, in 2021 for $12 billion in stock and cash. I received a hefty living stipend of $5000, which I would attribute to the increase in the budget due to the acquisition. The pay is also not bad, either. I went through 3 rounds of interviews: an introductory interview with the talent scout, a personality/technical interview with the manager and MLOps lead, and a technical team interview with 3 members of the MLOps team. I think I did a pretty good job of being likable, which is how I got the position.

I was negotiating with Astranis (a geosatellite “startup”) during my acceptance period with Mailchimp. They moved my interview to an earlier date upon my request. I had a personality and scenario-based technical interview with the ground software lead and a coding interview with another member of the software team. I did excellently in the first interview, but my relative inexperience with Pythonic data structures showed in the second interview. I was able to get the “right answer” but only after a series of hints. Honestly, it’s probably a blessing that I ended up committing to Mailchimp, since I did not know about the stipend yet. However, being in-person in San Francisco at a booming aerospace company would have had its perks as well…

Other offers:

  • Terminix, a pest control company: AWS architecture, great interview process, cool team, unfortunately low pay, no clout in the tech industry
  • KBP, an engineering contractor: AWS architecture, scary interviewer, sped talk during the interview, got the position only after I accepted Mailchimp, low pay for a solutions architect

The biggest differentiator I think I had compared to other candidates is my AWS certification, as all my offers were cloud engineering positions. I highly recommend getting it.

Get a Girlfriend

Haha, nope.

Read a textbook on all the basic sciences

I knew this goal would be a stretch, and I was very right. I wish I had the time to read all the textbooks, and it hurts my heart that I probably will never, at least not for a long time. In order to maintain a balanced life, this goal will probably be sent to the backburner.

I still will strive to read through them throughout my lifetime. It probably just won’t happen during college. To make a plan, I’ll start with Caroll and Ostlie’s Astrophysics first.

Start new projects

This goal wasn’t particularly detailed or good. It wasn’t super actionable, and is an example of “easier said than done.”

Either way, I am pleased to say that I adhered to it pretty well in the second semester regardless. Two projects come to mind:

  • ENES100, Engineering Design Project
  • Northrop Grumman Sustainability Challenge

Continue playing violin

I did play some violin this semester, but not in a productive way. I would blaze through pieces one by one until exhaustion without improving my technique. It’s nice to have fun, but I also want to be good. Starting next year, I will try to incorporate disciplined practice into my playing schedule.

Goals for the Summer

These might not adhere to the principles I explained in lesson 5 above. But I haven’t completely established the framework I want to use to “achieve” these goals yet, either. That will take some careful consideration if I want to make these things habits.

Become a dancer

I just wanna be cool.

Continue going to the gym

A gym rat, I shall become.

Become a morning person

I hate sleeping late. I hate the feeling of being tired the entire day. I hate wasting my time. I will change.

Build a personal portfolio website

I want to show off some of the things I have accomplished. It’s more of an excuse to write about them as a part of self-reflection.

Reader reader reader

I have begun reading books. I made a commitment to 2 books a month, but I am dropping that now. I will just read in my free time. Read whenever I can. I love it, so why set arbitrary deadlines for myself? I want to build a habit.

Continue along my writing journey

This blog post is very different than the ones I have written previously. I have definitely crawled out of my shell, and I now have the confidence to share very deep insights into my life. I want to keep writing about the things that I love and expand to even more topics.

I think that’s good enough for now. I will definitely write about my progress in future posts.


This semester was an emotional ride. Many times did I succumb to the harsh environment I put myself in, and many times did I rise to the top. On a personal level, I learned a lot about myself and the person I want to be. I made many friends and created lasting memories. And I have no regrets. I’m glad I did the things I did this semester, and I look forward to the next.

A Dedication to Spice

As many of you might have heard, my family had to put down our cat, Spice, on March 30, 2022. He fought longer than any vet expected and lived a happy life. He was the best pet I could have ever asked for, along with his sister, Sugar, who is doing well. I miss you, buddy.

Read the notion version!