NextGen Views & Voices

By Jonathan Luong

Editor’s note: The Voice periodically features guest columns by local residents who are just beginning their college careers. They’ll be sharing what their paths in higher education look and feel like, and what they’re learning, planning for and dreaming about during this very important time. If you’re an SHA resident and want to contribute to The Voice, contact Editor Nancy Gardner.

Jonathan Luong, a former intern for The Voice, is working toward a bachelor's degree in public health at the University of Washington.

Jonathan Luong, a former intern for The Voice, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in public health at the University of Washington.

As a high school senior applying to college, there was one thing that I was certain of—I had to go to college somewhere other than here.

For 18 years, I had been absolutely blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest. But as I looked ahead to the next chapter of my life, I was determined to seek out some new scenery from which new opportunities would hopefully come.

Unfortunately, as acceptance letters came in and financial aid award letters did not, I found myself facing the reality that I had been trying to avoid.

Throughout my senior year, I had been dreaming of attending school in sunny Los Angeles and becoming a student in the University of Southern California’s prestigious physical therapy program. Instead, I was going to the University of Washington (UW). The safe choice; the boring choice.

But after my first two quarters spent at the UW, I realized why this mindset was flawed. To think of the UW as a ‘boring choice’ was to fail to understand why so many people have chosen it. There are so many different opportunities to advance ourselves professionally and become engaged in the community!

In fall quarter alone, I became involved with the Husky Running Club, the Vietnamese Student Association, and the Center for Obesity Research. Through each of these activities, I have been able to meet students and faculty that share personal interests with me, creating small communities for me to be a part of−something that is especially crucial at a large school like the UW.

Even with my first two quarters of college finished, I am sometimes overcome with the sense that there is still so much novelty surrounding my life. Living on my own, making new friends, and the extraordinary amount of independence that I now have is something that I am still grappling with.
The goals that I created for myself this quarter are very much reflective of how I felt that college was going to be like in the beginning of the year, fast paced, no second-guessing, and very little time to dwell on problems, because there would always be others on the horizon.

During my time in college so far, I have certainly experienced these feelings to a certain extent. However, I now understand the importance of not feeling so pressured to constantly be looking towards the next thing. Taking time to self-reflect and relax is so essential for one’s mental and physical health, especially considering the stresses that college can bring.

When I was a high school senior, I thought college would keep me forever chained down. But my first two quarters at the university have revealed that this simply wasn’t true.

To begin with, I believe our true learning experiences in life are not purely limited to college, although college does provide one with some unique opportunities. As college students, we shouldn’t attempt to merely graduate, but rather let our interests guide us to the next place in our studies and possibly, our careers.

Secondly, I finally realized how truly lucky I am to live in Seattle! Befriending students from outside the area has made me realize what I had been taking for granted my whole life−the rich culture and communities that I have yet to explore right in the Puget Sound.

I am fortunate to have so many connections here that I can still be part of, from being a leader for my Vietnamese Boy Scout Group to helping write articles like this one, for The Voice. These responsibilities have taught me leadership, initiative and resourcefulness, all of which have come in handy in college. I’ve learned that our experiences help build upon one another and shape who we become. We should savor and value every one of them, each chance we get.

Looking toward the future, I plan to continue my studies as a public health major as I work towards my dream of becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

And I have one more goal: I hope to be a reporter for the UW Daily come spring quarter−a step up for this former intern for The Voice.

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