Springing Forward

The first day of Spring was yesterday which clearly means I was thinking panicking about summer. I’m still waiting on a handful of decisions from summer opportunities – whether that’s interning in Cambridge, San Diego or abroad. Without peace of mind, I can’t help but stretch myself a little thin and continue applying to more jobs, but this task gets difficult every time I’m reminded that I’m also a student taking classes. I guess the majority of my anxiety stems from what happened last summer.

Here’s a reflection blog I wrote a few months ago that I never posted – think of it as vintage!

                Paid internship, international travel, and pinnacle life revelations – those are the three elements every Harvard student needs to incorporate into their summer plans. It can’t be that difficult to execute if you budget one per month, right?

                This is what it can start to feel like in the high-achieving Harvard environment. Yet, I’m not so sure if I achieved any of the above during my first summer as a Harvard student. Then why do I feel so accomplished, fulfilled, and refreshed? Probably because I spent the summer my way and since I’m a Harvard student, then it’s also the Harvard way. As infallible as my deductive reasoning skills can be, this connection originated after much internal struggle and I’m honestly still in the progress of genuinely accepting that my nontraditional summer was indeed a meaningful one, filled with memories and experiences I’m excited to catalyze my future with.

                I ended my freshman year the same way I began it – scrubbing stainless steel showers in the entryways of (the freshman dorm) Wigglesworth as the university’s Dorm Crew employee (take my continued involvement as a STRONG encouragement to look into pre-orientation programs!). After a long week of dust bunnies and a six hour flight to sunny San Diego, my body was reunited with my memory foam mattress just like how your favorite pair of jeans flatteringly curves along your muscular legs. But just like how your favorite jeans grow raggedy, my body grew tired of lying in bed all day.

                I booked a one way flight home without any jobs, internships or projects lined up. I dropped all my plans of researching in Cambridge and servicing rural communities in Bolivia when my grandmother’s leukemia dramatically worsened. All I had wanted at the beginning of summer was to spend time with her and although that was exactly what I was doing, I started to feel inadequate and embarrassed when my Facebook newsfeed flooded with updates regarding consulting job offers and international adventures. It came down to either: A) assisting my grandmother while sending out invitations for my self-pity party; or B) pursuing my interests in science and ultimately creating a productive summer which would direct me down a less hazy career path. As my jaw hung low and I mentally projected the most negative portrayal of what my future could be, I remembered I could have both. If I could ever impose any sense of wisdom on the world, it would be to take advantage of every opportunity when you don’t have to divide and conquer, simply because you can just conquer it all!

                I began to pioneer a more active role in my grandmother’s health. I researched everything from the molecular background of leukemia to folkloric rituals that reported mysterious health benefits. I attended her bi-daily doctor appointments which not only catapulted my Vietnamese fluency, but also my medical vocabulary – so much so that I felt comfortable enough to email oncologists at local hospitals and universities. These contacts led to shadowing opportunities as well as prominent roles in their clinical research work. I wasn’t receiving monetary compensation, but my exposure and experiences serve as invaluable resources in my arsenal of knowledge. I can’t imagine my previous summer plans igniting my passions of pursuing the medical career path as much as my unplanned summer did. I also never imagined enjoying Vietnamese soap operas or the craft of crochet as much as my grandma does, but that’s what an unplanned summer can do for you if you’re willing to embrace the unknown.

Going back and rereading my thoughts definitely comforted me! (Diaries are not only for elementary girls!) At the moment, my short term goals are stay focus & positive and enjoy the Spring! Cambridge is bringing in gorgeous weather – take that SoCal rain.

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  1. black licorice’s avatar

    I saw a earlier blog where you talked about licorice extract and its uses, you also mentioned the tan where its a sign of higher class. Did you know that they used licorice soap in Vietnam to lighten the skin back in the days?
    Jenny From Hanoi

    1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

      I had no idea – wish I knew when I was in Vietnam over winter break (J-term)! Thanks for sharing Jenny 🙂

      –Jeanie Nguyen

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