Zazu Evolution 3.1

  • On Kauai; Zachary 2 is just over halfway dead

    On Kauai; Zachary 2 is just over halfway dead
    It’s my first week “off” in forever—and I haven’t really even been “off.” I need to work on my Extended Essay and Common App, both of which my mom continues to remind me I’m sooooo far behind on, but also I get to explore the island—helicopter tour and shaved ice are great! And, all week long, I make sure to keep my awesome friends from NSLIY (China program) updated—especially Rafa (my surprise summer fling), who at this point has more ownership of my heart than anyone has in a LONG time.
  • Thinking about the coming year—my dilemma

    As I am way too willing to say out loud, my biggest concern for this coming year (aside from the fact that our STUPID college counsellor at RBC is limiting my common app to 11 schools) is that "the only people left who want to be friends with me are lowkey awful." I console myself by saying maybe I can win my old friends back. If not, I only have to survive my senior year and then I'll be at a fancy east coast college, I can find an even cooler friend group, and Rafa and I can date!
  • Calling Luca (part 1)

    I won't admit it to anyone, but at this point, I believe that starting at RBC last year was a mistake. I'm not dropping out because that would be too embarrassing, but if I could do it over, I'd stay in Claremont, where I felt appreciated by my people and I knew what I needed to do to succeed. My people at RBC? At this point, basically nonexistent. I haven't spoken to anyone from school since June. However, I’m finally out of excuses to deny Luca the call he’s been wanting to set up forever.
  • Calling Luca (part 2)

    Calling Luca (part 2)
    I explain my pre-semester-start plans to Luca (pictured)—arrive in Frankfurt, late afternoon train to Freiburg, spend the night at the youth hostel near campus so I can get the best bed in my room first thing on move-in day—and Luca can hardly contain his excitement to learn that this matches up with his plan EXACTLY (I've thought for a long time that he might have a thing for me). “Oh wow, really” -me, vague inner feeling of dread. So now I'm meeting Luca at the airport in Frankfurt. Oof.
  • SoCal Stopover

    SoCal Stopover
    Less than 24 hours in Claremont between Hawaii and move-in day—so I stay up all night packing the things I need for my second year and trying to spend as much time as I can with the five pets (especially my little Lucy, who I always worry about, and our dog Bernie, who is old). Overall, I've spent a total of three nights at home this summer.
  • The night before

    The night before
    At the youth hostel in Freiburg, I stay up late talking with Luca, Julia, and Anni. The list of students in each student house has been updated on the school webpage; Luca is in a house with Paul (good luck). Ellen (the one other American in my year—whose toxic boyfriend has apparently transferred out) is also in their house, and their faculty House Tutor is Alex Bird, the ridiculous Welshman somehow at the top of the IB who is my Personal Tutor (advisor). Alex pictured.
  • My house

    I figure out I will be living in House 3; the second-years in my house who I know well are Zuhal (sweet girl in my German class, but also close with Wendy so probably hates me), Justin (Kento’s friend, who I got close with during disasterous-but fun outdoor weekend in May), and Chelsea (who was in my house last year). I am thankful that none of Gwen’s closest people / my old best friends at school are listed. On move-in day, I will learn that my second-year roommate is Justin! Lovely!
  • Look What You Made Me Do (part 1)

    It was a halfhearted plan I couldn’t resist putting together when I saw a bag of white rabbit candies (Gwen’s favorite—she had told me multiple times) in China: get the candies, bring them with me literally all the way around the world, then deliver them to Gwen with an apology / olive branch letter on move-in day. A sweet gesture to ask if maybe we could be friends again. On move-in day, I see my chance: Gwen talking with some of her (our!) old friends.
  • Look What You Made Me Do (part 2)

    I go up to her to say hi and possibly give her the candies + note right there, but when I approach her, she turns her head in the opposite direction from me, and nobody says a word when I yell out “hello” or try to frantically ask questions about people's summers. It’s a low point for me. After that, I retreat to my new room, lock myself inside to “unpack,” and quickly see that Taylor Swift (Rafa introduced me to her) has released a new song: Look What You Made Me Do.
  • Look What You Made Me Do (part 3)

    In my room, I tear up the letter I wrote to Gwen, eat the whole big bag of White Rabbit candy in I bought in Xiamen, and listen to Look What You Made Me Do on repeat. Then, I take a long nap. It’s a far cry from how I started last year—hyper-caffeinated and out all day in the August heat, sprinting around campus to make all the best possible first impressions.
  • Look What You Made Me Do (part 4—just had to give you some of these lyrics that seemed so veer apt)

    I don't like your kingdom keys
    They once belonged to me
    You asked me for a place to sleep
    Locked me out and threw a feast (what?) I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time
    I got a list of names, and yours is in red, underlined
    I check it once, then I check it twice, oh! The world moves on, another day another drama, drama
    But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma
    And then the world moves on, but one thing's for sure
    Maybe I got mine, but you'll all get yours. Hahahahahahaha
  • Kentooooo

    Kento was the hardest goodbye in June, when I was crushing on him. Surprisingly, though, distance over the summer does NOT make my heart grow fonder, and now that I'm really only thinking of Rafa, I don't really understand what I saw in Kento (who is straight). But it’s cute how excited he is to see me. I guess I do need friends and he’s a sweetheart. I’m still skeptical, though...I’ve never successfully gotten over someone before, so I worry things could get messy if I fall hard for him again.
  • Second-year camping retreat (part 1)

    It’s a pretty lonely and uncomfortable week: every time I try to join a conversation or catch up with someone, it feels like the temperature drops 20° as people try to distance themselves from me. So, I spend most of the week helping Alex, who is leading this year's retreat: he’s incompetent + has too much confidence in me, so he asks a LOT. One night, we literally build a ring of fire for each of the second-years to walk through to commemorate the new school year. Totally not a cult.
  • Second-year retreat (part 2)

    Second-year retreat (part 2)
    On the last night of the retreat, around a campfire, Luca and Anni ask me and Kento over to sit with them. We're all having a lovely, wistful conversation about the silly things we cared about as children, and then Paul (pictured) shows up. He goes off about his sixth grade student council election that he makes sound like the most high-stakes election in the history of the world! At one point, in this LONG story, Oprah gets involved. It's so obviously all made up, and I can't stop laughing.
  • Anni

    Anni is one of Luca's closest friends, and the two of them worked together as camp counsellors this past summer. She's incredibly shy and unassuming, she has an adorably out-of-place Australian accent, and she is also queer, but I've been wary of her because I know she is a communist, which generally also equates to hating me at RBC. However, we did manage to bond one day in the spring when we were the only two people in our yoga class who missed the announcement that class was cancelled.
  • Roomies!

    (Picture from graduation) Justin (center-left) is the other second year in my room; the firsties in my room are: Mathias—incredibly awkward Canadian boi, wants to be an engineer. At first, I'm wary because he gives me spectrum vibes, which always makes me feel bad about myself. But he's actually so wholesome. Arham—also wants to be an engineer at the beginning. From Pakistan, very reserved at first but then TOTALLY starts to open up, full drama queen mode. They're non-binary now (in 2021).
  • Yuyang

    Yuyang introduces herself to me during our first week on campus—she heard that I'm from California, and she lived in California for a year! Stanford program for Chinese students! Our energy matches up right away (and I enjoy knowing that I'm taking Wendy's first-year away from her), so we start hanging out a lot. Yuyang, like me, is much more cynical and buys in much more to capitalism than most people at RBC, and she's also crazy competitive about US college apps. Refreshing stuff for me.
  • Teachers (part 2)

    Teachers (part 2)
    Same as last year: Kerstin (the communist drug-dealing German teacher), and Sylla (sassy erratic gay quebecois history teacher, pictured). Lydia, who my friends love, has replaced Ksenia (who I ultimately appreciated a lot) as my English Lang/Lit SL teacher. Even though it's Lang/Lit SL, which is meant for non-native speakers, English class is still hella tough for me. For physics SL, I now have Richard (Sara's boyfriend); I'm scared bc Nenad didn't really teach physics, so I might get killed.
  • Teachers (part 1)

    Teachers (part 1)
    Nenad (pictured)—my who taught my miserable three person physics class last year—has replaced Sara as my math teacher, which is VERY unfortunate, because Sara was organized and amazing, whereas Nenad hates calculators and doesn't like me very much. Kris is writing me a letter of rec, but he's left to move back to Washington, so I have Kristin for biology instead. I've heard she is not good at it feels like I've lost my two best teachers (Kris and Sara) + kept the rest :/
  • Teachers (part 3)

    Because someone told me Sylla writes good letters of rec, and because he is also our MUN advisor, I decide to ask him to write my second teacher letter. However, my plan to get on his good side by promoting his class at the academic fair backfires when I'm too honest with the firsties and nobody signs up for his class. So, I decide I'll ask Ksenia (the mysterious, well-spoken English teacher I had last year, who I feel like didn't think I was even very smart). Kinda scared, but safer than Sylla.
  • Carol and Nicky

    Carol and Nicky
    Carol (left) was my house tutor last year, and (because she's qualified to teach six friggin different IB subjects), she was also assigned to be my biology EE supervisor—and is doing an amazingggg job keeping me on track—even though she's a chemistry teacher. Nicky, Carol's wife, is my house tutor this year, and I work with her as a House 3 Peer Supporter. The two of them also show up to Luca's weekly LGBTQ support group, which Paul and Anni are also part of.
  • MUN getting started

    MUN getting started
    I'm dreading this year's MUN, because I'm in leadership with Yohan (Gwen's new gay-ish best friend, and one of the main people I'm sad to be estranged from now) and Saskia (one of Wendy's closest friends) (Saskia and Yohan in the center). Lisa-Alem is also close with that group. I literally overhear Yohan telling Gwen about how "difficult" I am to work with, even though I try so friggin hard to be likable in the meetings with those three.
  • Laurence throws me a bone?

    Laurence throws me a bone?
    During one conversation with Laurence when he catches me walking, he remarks (in his thoughtful way) that he has caught wind of some unfortunate behavior toward me on the debate team last year. "In any case," he then says, to my surprise, "I have elected *not* to fulfill the team's request for funding this year." Which means....they won't get to compete :o Karma, I think. Maybe I got mine but you'll all get yours. The best part is that I wasn't even trying for revenge—and it just happened!
  • Being on campus kinda sucks

    In the Mensa (our cafeteria), whenever I try sitting together with other second-years who I know, it feels like they quickly move to a different table or get quieter and don't include me in their conversation. It could be that I'm imagining some of it, but this is very real with anyone close to Gwen, at the very least. I worked so hard on my reputation for so long and I managed to be too intimidating to ever be bullied in middle & high school, so this brings back some really bad old memories.
  • ...but slowly, I start feeling better about my table

    We start sitting on the far end of the cafeteria pretty much every day. At first, it's just me and Kento, but pretty soon Luca notices us there, and then so does Anni. Paul, Justin, Yuyang, Chelsea, Sarah (Kento's crush), and others start coming occasionally, too. I'm the most outgoing in the group by far, and (although I still have misgivings about my new friends' lack of social aptitude), it actually feels really good to feel appreciated by them.
  • One World Festival

    One World Festival
    I haven't been looking forward to this, because two of the people selected to go (and I was so excited about this in January!) are Wendy and Paul. We all have to spend the weekend in a teepee together—which means endless dum philosophy musings from Paul (even though it is nice to cuddle with him, as always). Wendy and I end up on a walk alone together on the last night, and we try to talk things over from last year; it ends in a bad fight, but I think the intention to reconcile means something.
  • I'm leading my second project week!

    After Barcelona was such a success in the spring, I decided that I'd lead a project week during both slots in my second year. I'm pulling something interesting this time—Kento and I are headed to Prague, because that's an SAT Subject Test location. We'll also be hiking, exploring, cooking, and visiting an international school to volunteer (by giving them a presentation about UWC....definitely not a cult, I swear!)
  • Another SUPER success of a Project Week

    Another SUPER success of a Project Week
    The group works together great, my trip planning was on pointtt, our trip to the international school to volunteer is a lot of fun (and Ibrahim is simping hard for a girl he met there), and we put together a fun karaoke/pizza night that I’ll remember forever. Kento and I share the master bedroom, and I (for some reason) still sleep in only underwear, and Kento cuddles up with me in his sleep, which makes me feel some type of way. He also falls asleep on my shoulder on the long bus ride back.
  • The way back—settling into something wonderful

    At a stopover in Munich, we run into Luca and Anni! Luca and I hug, we ask a ton about each other's weeks (we were both leaders), and suddenly it feels like I have friends again. On the four hour late-night FlixBus back, it's a deep talk with the four of us. I'd thought they were such oblivious tryhards that it would be really hard for us to gossip together, but when I share the story of what happened with Wendy and Gwen, it's a resounding "fuck them," which I couldn't be happier to hear :))
  • LOR fiasco

    When Kris (bio teacher who left) sends me a copy of his letter of rec, because he's apparently proud of it, it doesn't seem detailed enough for me, so I mistakenly ask my parents what they think. My friggin mother is FURIOUS, and says she'll contact Kris or UWC herself to ask for me to get a better letter if I don't "advocate for myself." I literally feel like the world is ending at this point, but luckily I also contact the fancy college counsellor, who says the letter is good. Crisis averted
  • My secret escapades

    Unbeknownst to anyone at RBC (bc it would confirm that I'm part of the capitalist elite), I take the tram into town every week to go to Starbucks (they have an INCREDIBLE chocolate cake) and meet with a team of expensive college counsellors my mom hired out of Pasadena. By mid-October, when my Harvard Early Action app is due, I've already been working over my essays for months.
  • The night I submit my Harvard app

    There's a horror movie night in the auditorium the day I submit my application to Harvard—it's about an alien life form that extinguishes all life when it arrives on a new planet. Horror movies don't usually scare me, but since this one is about science / pathogenesis, it REALLY hits home, and Paul and I are huddled in the corner on a bean bag, him fully curled up into me, both petrified. It's the best thing that could happen to me, because Harvard fully feels like it does not matter at all.
  • Peer Support wonderful/terrible

    I feel great about the job I'm doing as a peer supporter in House 3—my roomies and firsties are THE SWEETEST, and we're building a really great community. The Peer Supporter meetings, on the other hand, are still really tough, because almost all the other peer supporters are Gwen's people. At one meeting, we're pairing off to lead activities, and I'm the only one who doesn't end up with a pair, and I overhear Gwen laughing w Christina about how nobody wants to work with *points in my direction*
  • Start of fall break—Verona with Babu and Ba

    In the grand tradition of spoiling by grandparents—Babu somehow finds enough money to take me on a very extravagant weekend trip to Verona (Italy). We take the train down, by those GORGEOUS lakes in the Alps, then stay at a lovely hotel with a rooftop bar where we go every afternoon. There's a lot of walking around town and eating INCREDIBLE Italian food—including a Michelin star restaurant on our last night! Where they give us free dessert bc Babu complains!!
  • The final death of Zazu Evolution 2

    From Verona, I head straight to The Hague, Netherlands, where Lisa-Alem and I are head delegates at a MUN conference. It's a two-day train journey, and on the last leg of it, I see a new lyric video pop up: Call It What You Want, Taylor Swift again. I listen to it over and over again, for that whole last leg of my journey through Holland, smiling REALLY big, because this is me. I had my fall from grace, but I got back up again—and I came out of it with more joy than I've felt in so long.
  • Call It What You Want (my fav lyrics)

    My castle crumbled overnight
    I brought a knife to a gun fight
    They took the crown, but it's alright
    All the liars are calling me one
    Nobody's heard from me for months
    I'm doing better than I ever was All the drama queens taking swings
    All the jokers dressing up as kings
    They fade to nothing... And I know I make the same mistakes every time
    Bridges burn, I never learn
    At least I did one thing right.
  • THIMUN conference

    THIMUN conference
    I'm a chair at this year's THIMUN (to my utter shock, I was selected for leadership and Yohan was not, and he congratulated me??); they take us out to a glorious all-you-can-eat sushi dinner the day before committee, and there I flirt a little with an adorable, obviously queer Ecuadorian-French boi named Andy (pictured). The conference is so much fun, Sylla tells me I chaired better than anyone he's ever seen, and Lisa-Alem and I are friends now??
  • "You should write about..."

    I'm sure my parents are having private meetings with the fancy college counseling team, because one of the guys (who is himself gay) asks me at one point—in a very skillful way—about my sexuality. I say that I am "a member of that community," but I don't feel like it's an important enough part of my identity to be an essay topic. This becomes a whole discussion with the team, and they (again very subtly) convey to me that it will help me to bring it up. I decide to rework a few essays.
  • Hermann and Ilse (my host family)

    Hermann and Ilse (my host family)
    (shown: a rainbow I saw from my room in Hermann & Ilse's BEAUTIFUL neighborhood) Whenever I do feel alienated by the community at RBC, my favorite escape is to Hermann and Ilse's house in Rieselfeld—the amazing sustainable living commune where they live. They are truly the nicest people ever, and they give me a whole floor of their house to myself, with awesome food and excursions wherever I want to go. We see monkeys, go to a botanic garden, ride electric scooters in the Alps...just magical!
  • Things changing

    I think it's around this time that my snapchat streak with Rafa breaks—the only time I've ever cared about snapchatting anyone. I still talk a lot with Rafa and my other friends from China summer (once, when Rafa's friends abandon him at lunchtime, I make an adorable video montage to cheer him up), but it is a bit less now. I still generally feel like they will all be my close friends once I get to an east coast college.
  • Thanksgiving—not alone this year!

    Last year, I lied to my parents on Thanksgiving, telling them that I was part of a Thanksgiving event with the other US kids so that they wouldn't feel bad for me. Last year was lonely, especially with all the pictures of my family all together in San Diego. This year is a little better: Ellen and I, as the second-year Americans, invite anyone who wants to come to get vegan kebab with us (food from Turkey!). 10 people come, we all say what we're grateful for, it's a chilly cozy day, cute stuff!
  • Exams! (Part 1)

    I applied early to Harvard with my spring 2017 grades (which were optional & don't matter for most people; your whole first year at RBC is no-grades)—38/42 "achieved" and 41/42 "predicted," with the only 6 being in English. It was a shocker that I'd pulled that off, and I was very worried about grades slipping this fall term, which is supposed to be the hardest of the four terms at UWC. However, things have generally gone quite well for me, especially in biology with Kristin, who's kinda great!
  • Exams (part 2)

    I've also been very successful this term with all of Sylla's dumb history class shenanigans, Lydia is flaky and so English feels a lot easier this year, German has always been easy, and I've even been surviving Nenad's math tests, bc of my strong background. The one class that's been a struggle this term is physics: Richard is indeed struggling to teach those of us who had Nenad last year, and I don't understand anything that's going on (electricity...big yikes). Going into finals, I'm at a 5.
  • Exams (part 3)

    I have a long meeting with Richard about what I can do to bring up my grades in IB physics, and he impresses me SO much with the resources he gives me. I lock myself in my room for three days, learn electricity, and then take the exam—and I get a high 7! Richard delivers it to my mailbox the day we take it, and I skip back to House 3 in the freezing rain, a huge smile on my face. I'm going to apply to college, and my grades will be good enough.
  • Exams (part 4)

    German and bio finals are great; Lydia disappears, so English doesn't happen. History feels good, but then Sylla is in a bad mood so I get 4/15 on both papers. Nenad gives us a test with crazy arithmetic and he hates calculators, so that isn't great. But then, Nenad decides not to grade the final (he feels like winter break is "calling to him"), and Sylla still predicts me a 7? So I get a perfect 45/45 predicted and 43/45 achieved (English and History 6) for my college apps.
  • Assembling my college list

    As I wait for Harvard, I am (of course) writing my apps for other schools, planning for the likelihood that I won't get in. The private counsellors, in addition to Sylla and Hubertus, think Pomona "would be perfect for me," and Pomona offers ED2, so that's a consideration. Additionally, after I get my 45/45 predicted (and joke w Luca that I'm the confirmed dumbest RBC student to ever get a perfect predicted), I fulfill my promise to myself and make one substitution: Brandeis out, Columbia in.
  • 12/12—crazy night

    Harvard decisions are coming out tonight, so of course I can't sleep. At 2AM, I check, see deferral, and feel mildly crushed at first. But then, within very little time, I feel something else...invigorated. And free. I thought Harvard could help me move beyond my competitiveness, because I knew there was no way I could maintain such a dominant personality at Harvard. But of course, one way to become less competitive is also...not to go to Harvard. It's also the night Doug Jones wins Alabama.
  • More college apps

    Paul, Wendy, Yohan, and Gwen all apply early to Yale, and ALL get deferred, which is the most incredible thing. Luca and Anni also don't get into their early schools (Pitzer in Luca's case D: ). I'm feeling strangely relaxed—my qualifications and essays are excellent, and I can always take a gap year if I don't get in. When my mom asks how I'm feeling about Pomona for ED2, I say I feel surprisingly good about it—this seems like a competitive year, so good to use ED2 to shoot for a great school.
  • Winter Banquet

    There's something I love about the last-class-before-winter-break vibes—the cold, scarves, excitement (especially when it's excitement about my 5AM train to the airport so I can get back to California!) That's why winter banquet—right at the end of the semester—is always so much fun. I sit with Luca, Kento, Anni, Paul, Justin, and a few others, and they're all super jealous of me because I'm headed home to California. I'm all smiles, and my heart is warm.
  • Heading out

    I stay up late in the night talking with Luca and Paul, before my 5AM train to Frankfurt (and then to SoCal! And then Galapagos!!) They are the only people at RBC who know about my deferral from Harvard—I learned to keep these things very private. I was so happy to see the Yale kids brought down a notch. Paul is going to Luca's small town in Bavaria for the holidays. "And out of all the people who deserved something nice—it was so great to see that Kento got into Brown" Luca says. WHAT??
  • Two days in Claremont

    I get two days in Claremont—of course I want to prioritize time with the pets, but I also make sure to go see Samantha & Aeris (I kinda feel closer to them now that we "catch up when I'm in town" like real adults!) I also submit my ED2 application to Pomona, as well as a few other applications, from the dining room table at home. It's a big moment, where I slide the computer across the table after clicking "submit" and all that, because I have a feeling this means I'm going to Pomona.
  • Messy journey to Ecuador

    I haven't slept enough in months, and the elevation change going through Mexico City and to Quito is really extreme, so I start feeling incredibly sick on the second flight. I'm trying to stay in control, but I can't help it, and I vomit on a customs officer. There's a lot of angry Spanish, I get shuttled off to a separate room to be cleaned off and told off, but I'm not even nervous. What's the worst they could do to me? Not worse than what the colleges I'm applying to could do to me.
  • Quito time

    Quito time
    We spend a lot of time in Quito at first hanging out with my old babysitter, Veronica, and her family—she moved back when her husband got a fancy job in the government. The fancy Jewish cousins also show up, and we get a tour of the city where they give us coca leaves to chew on—the most INCREDIBLE feeling, and the BEST remedy for altitude sickness everrrr, and then I find out coca leaves are banned across the world bc they're how you make cocaine.
  • The end of college apps

    The last night in Quito, before we leave for the Galapagos, I'm still editing my college apps. I decide to stay up late even though I'm exhausted, because it will just feel so nice to not have to worry on the islands. Uncle Jim comes out to talk to me—he always wants to talk—and I tell him I'm just finishing my UChicago app. "That shouldn't be hard for you, you were made for UChicago," he says, and pats me on the back. If only I had his confidence. I FINISH! And sleep so so very well.
  • Galapagos!

    We go with the Jewish cousins. The main city (Puerto Ayora, where we stay) is a very nicely developed, Spanish-style resort town, and we go on a beautiful hike from there to a wide-open beach with iguanas and eerily calm water, but our outings are a bit of a disaster. All in one day trip to Isla Isabella (that my dad booked—he got a great deal!), I get veery motion sick & dehydrated, get food poisoning, get attacked by a seal, almost fall off a motorboat, and almost drown while snorkeling.
  • New Year's

    We celebrate in Quito, after a lavish New Year’s dinner. From the top of our hotel, we can see the whole city—everyone has bought their own explosive devices, it seems, and it’s pretty to watch only from a distance. I consider everything I’ve learned from 2017 (what a friggin CRAZY year!), and I think harder than I ever have about how much I changed. It feels like everything makes sense; as Taylor Swift also realized, getting my reputation trashed led me to the realest friends I’d ever known.
  • Back to Claremont

    After a beautiful few days in a little jungle town, my mom and I head back (Eli and my dad will spend another month in Ecuador on an exchange). With two more days back home, I visit Claremont High School and am able to attend a MUN meeting. Alexandra has done an excellent job as president, and they now have 20+ active members, as well as a better faculty advisor. I guess that's one thing bitchy old me did well, I think. I leave before anyone can get me to anything theatre or Speech & Debate.
  • My CRAZY ride back to RBC

    This is always a fun story to tell: My plan is to fly into Paris, have a day in Paris, and then take a 4 hour train to Freiburg. We board 5 hours late at LAX, then sit on the tarmac for 3 more, because of weather. Then, in the air, it takes us 3 hours longer than it should bc we're "circling" the Paris airport. I miss my train, so my only option is an overnight FlixBus from a sketchy station. Luckily it all works, and I show up to school the next morning, VERY tired. I make it to class, tho!
  • So much time!

    It's something I haven't experienced in too long: time affluence. post college apps, I suddenly don't feel anymore like the world will end if I take a day off—amazing! What do I decide to do with my time?
    -I buy two books that will inform my centrist, institutionalist viewpoints: What Happened by Hillary Clinton, and Enlightenment Now by Stephen Pinker.
    -I join Kento's volleyball team! Which Luca is also part of. Needless to say, I successfully hit the ball exactly 0 times. A perfect record.
  • House 3 wholesomeness

    House 3 wholesomeness
    Especially through the fall and winter, we get a REALLY awesome cozy vibe going in house 3. Every Sunday, when we clean the house, I DJ and it turns into a big dance party for everyone. We have six South Asians, more than any other house, so people call us the Bollywood House with all the music we have playing. Shanta (pictured), a first-year from Nepal, is so impossibly adorable and sweet that it's almost tough to be in her presence. I think I have a crush on her?
  • Still can't really believe this happened...

    I've been getting offers to interview with many of the colleges I applied to—Columbia, Stanford, Pomona, Williams, and Middlebury, I think—but then an email comes from...Harvard? They wanna interview me NOW, after deferring me? I bring this up in a hushed tone with Yuyang, and she contacts her point person on the Harvard admissions committee. He apparently tells her that, when an international student gets offered an interview after deferral, they are almost always admitted.
  • Lunar New Year!

    Last year, Gwen was organizing the Lunar New Year dinner, and she left me out. But this year, it's Yuyang, who recognizes (thank you very much) my status as an Honorary Asian from California, so she invites me along. It's a cold, rainy night, but we eat hot pot together in Freiburg (like half the group is vegetarian) and it does remind me of home.
  • The night it got better (and yes, the picture is from that exact night! I think this is the best year for photo evidence of literally the thing that happened!)

    The night it got better (and yes, the picture is from that exact night! I think this is the best year for photo evidence of literally the thing that happened!)
    With all my free time now, I sign up for a freeeeezing cold night hike one weekend—why the hell not? It turns out that Wendy is one of the few others in the small group. I start playing music (P!nk and Rachel Platten), and she knows all of it, so we just play music and sing to it badly, in the freezing rain and sleet, like after midnight, in the forest. At the end, we do some serious talk, and it turns out we both miss each other. I feel warm and fuzzy and great.
  • FEBRULIFECHANGE 2018 (Part 1)

    (because something momentous always has to happen to me during the middle part of February hahaha) It's supposed to be just any other day—Pomona has said they will send out decisions by February 15th, so I plan to check then—but I'm just looking at college confidential on the toilet (never a good idea) and someone's like LOOK AT POMONA ADMISSIONS TWITTER And they have a picture of acceptance letters being mailed out. "Some ED2 applicants getting good news later today" or something
  • FEBRULIFECHANGE 2018 (part 2)

    Of course I can't sleep, and somehow I find out that they'll probably be updating the portal at 2AM German Time (5PM PST). I tell my parents, and they invite over some friends for drinks and dinner?? My dad is on the phone when it's my 1:59AM. I'm thinking Pomona may not even release my decision tonight. But then, at 2AM, I refresh the portal and something happens. It's taking FOREVER to load. Pomona's mascot—a Sagehen. After an eternity on bad German WiFi, the graphic loads. "Congratulations"
  • FEBRULIFECHANGE 2018 (part 3)

    Everyone at my parents' erupts in cheers. Apparently, my dad is crying ("I'm still not taking your class," I tell him). Honestly—embarrassing as it is—I was kinda expecting to get in. My grades and scores are perfect, I'm the reigning national debate champion, and I'm applying ED2, which has a high acceptance rate. I just hope I made the right decision—but I'm confident, because getting half off tuition is INCREDIBLE, and I know that how I do in college is more important than where I go.

    I go back up to my room (to sleep!) and I see Justin there, still awake. I whisper the good news to him, he gets really excited for me (going back to California!) and he tells me he has also gotten into college—a top engineering school. WHAT?? I guess Justin tells Kento, because Kento comes and wakes me up at about 7:30AM (then he's "so sorry, oh my goodness!") because he's so excited for me. He sits on my bed and we talk for a few hours, sharing snacks and stories.
  • Project Week 4

    Project Week 4
    The day after that great news from Pomona, it's off to Bologna, Italy (my picture), for my last project week—which I'm planning with Luca! Focused on queer activism! I've also posted on Facebook about my acceptance to Pomona, and it's a constant barrage of congratulations from the U.S., and confusion from RBC ("why have you decided to go to the university of Panama?") But I'm just so happy. Here I am with my friends, more confident than ever before in my future.
  • Bologna times

    Bologna times
    There's the work of the project week—the amazing trans group that Luca found; the gay sexual health clinic that nudges me just a bit more towards medicine—and then there's the fun times with Ellen and Vlada, drinking and partying (which I've done very little of since my friend breakup last spring!) in the city. I take one day to visit my old friend Irina (pictured) in Milan, and we accidentally end up eating a Valentine's Day lunch together? But I love it bc it's the best pizza I've ever eaten.
  • What is my LIFE

    What is my LIFE
    The weekend after getting back from Project Week, I am still feeling the time affluence, so I go stay with Hermann and Ilse. They take me along to join in one of their favorite pagan rituals—throwing burning chunks of wood off a mountain?! To get the gods' attention so that they'll let the springtime begin. Hermann and Ilse tell me to make a wish with every burning chunk. There's music playing, we drink wine, and I have SO many things to wish for. A very memorable night.
  • MUN

    Yohan, Lisa-Alem, Saskia, and I are the four co-secretaries general of our MUN conference—but, in the end, it's me who they ask to bang the gavel and give the opening speech. Yohan says he "has realized I'm the better presenter in the group"—wild. The conference is SO much fun to run, and it's a great bonding experience with the other three in leadership, who I get along great with now. My proudest contribution is that I eliminated awards this year!! So it's just collaboration, no competition!
  • Mock exams

    I convince myself that it doesn't make much sense to prepare for mock IB exams, which take place in march for second years. If I just show up and wing it, then I'll know what I actually have to work on! I'm also preoccupied because I've been getting updates from my mom—she and her sisters are in New York with Grandpa David, who is experiencing serious complications from prostate cancer.
  • Sad surprise

    On the morning of my physics exam, a call from New York (where it's 2AM)—my mom, telling me Grandpa David passed away. He was always the least present of my grandparents, but it still feels weird, like it wasn't his time yet. Maybe because we lost Grandma Bea just last year. It's been nice talking to him lately about politics, the future, #MeToo, etc. My mind is preoccupied for the following week, and I'm upset that my parents don't invite me out to NYC for his memorial (I join via video call).
  • Social environment has changed over time—and feels a lot less hostile to me now.

    Gwen still hates me, and still hasn't even been willing to speak to me directly (even though I reached out a couple times), but most of her people are much better now. I heard that she and Wendy had a falling out on debate, and Yohan barely hangs out with her anymore. Meanwhile, virtually all of the first-years like me, for whatever reason—maybe because I'm the fun American, I'm friendly and inclusive, and I love a funny story. I guess a good reputation was always the norm for me.
  • I think I wanna do science!

    For the second year in a row, biology is my favorite subject...partly because Kristin is a wonderful and inspiring woman (she has a PhD + spent ten years in Mexico studying whales!) but partly because—as I am rediscovering—science is just cool. In my current, less power-hungry form, going into politics just isn't very appealing anymore. What could be more collaborative than health? I decide to sign up for medical volunteering this summer and pre-med classes in the fall. Let's see how it goes!
  • Taboo Monologues

    Taboo Monologues
    Yohan and Gwen are leading the Taboo Monologues this year, so I'm worried they'll shut me out—but Yohan is actually a huge fan of my monologue, a veeeery introspective analysis of how I managed to be so toxic and ambitious for so long, and how I'm trying to rekindle some of the optimism and wonder that made me so happy during that little part of my childhood (2010-12) where things actually felt right. I deliver my monologue to the entire school—I am one of 10 presenters—and it's INCREDIBLE <3
  • Spring break plans

    My second year spring break was supposed to be a trip to Morocco, to see Souhaila and check off my last inhabited continent before my 18th birthday. But, Souhaila stopped talking to me after the fight with Gwen, so now my plans are different—which is fine!
    I get myself invited to Luca’s place in Bavaria. Originally, he said he wanted me to stay for the whole break so I support him coming out, but he has changed his mind. He asks me to stay only 4 days, which makes me sad.
  • In Bavaria (stuff I can tell the north Germans to indulge their intense stereotyping)

  • The nerdiest of friends

    The nerdiest of friends
    Mathias often hangs out in the evenings with three friends—Marcus (picture), Zayd, and Sri. I get to know them quite well, even though I don't join in gaming. Marcus and I get pretty close. He is from Hong Kong, and desperate to get into a top US college for engineering so he can get out. I'm known to be one of the second years who has good intel on college apps. Marcus is in Gwen's house and tells me what she says about me ("everyone on this campus operates in good faith, except Zachary")
  • I'm ridiculousssss

    It's pouring rain, and I'm walking back form the school building to the student houses. I see earthworms being washed onto the sidewalks—and I have a sudden urge to do something. So I throw my stuff on the ground (it's still raining at this point, and FREEZING cold) and start rescuing the earthworms by moving them back to the grass. It was something I'd always do as a little hippie, environmentalist, rebel-child. And then I start sobbing, harder than I have in a long time. I guess I found me.
  • Other people hearing from colleges

  • Nenad is an idiot.

    Nenad is an idiot.
    One of the most absurd moments in my IB career: I submit my math IA draft in November. Nenad sends me feedback on April 8th, ten hours before the final IB deadline. I change everything he asks me to, even though he tells me the IA is "already very good." But it turns out he forgot to check my math, and I made a HUGE calculation mistake. My final IA grade? 8/20. Hella salty.
  • Holi! (my haircut is horrendous, but the friends were stupendous. Luca, Kento, and Justin in picture.)

    Holi! (my haircut is horrendous, but the friends were stupendous. Luca, Kento, and Justin in picture.)
    Always one of the best days of the year at RBC. Although my pictures aren't as perfect this year as they were last yar, I have a MUCH better time—hanging out with my squad (yes! I have a squad! A real friend group at school!) and....dancing to a Bollywood song? Arham made me do it LOL
  • LipDub

    Too much time? I let myself be recruited to help plan the LipDub for this year, where the entire school lip-synchs to a pop song in different parts of the school to advertise the UWC. Arham and I have been running the planning meetings. However, Gwen and her friend Cristian (also gay) show up to our fourth meeting and try to take over—they think we need a "song that people are more excited about." But the other 10 people in the group back us up and shoot the two of them down. Feels awesome.
  • Peer Supporter training

    Peer Supporter training
    I go away for four days—during the break before IB exams, because I'm feeling VERY chill about that—to the retreat to train next year's peer supporters. The brand-new RBC mental health coordinator, Ronja (picture) is probably the closest I've ever come to having a teacher crush. It's a beautiful spring weekend in the Black Forest—hazy and calm and warm, with good food all around. I have fun bc I'm friends with Ronja and with the first-years (Arham is there!)
  • I'm an adult now??

    I'm an adult now??
    My lonely birthday last year was a low-point—so this year feels like heaven. Mathias bakes me a cake, and all of House 3 shows up at midnight to sing and congratulate me. Shanta calls me the "man of the house" Then, it's a beautiful day in town with Luca, Kento, and Anni (Paul sends Luca with the definitely-fake excuse that he fell down the stairs). They take me out to sushi—first time for Luca and Anni—and I feel full and happy with the life I've built for myself this year.
  • Herr Doktor Doktor Wolfram Dreißler

    One of the funniest characters I've ever met: he helped me prepare for my summer trip to Kenya and Uganda, with shots and medications. A "Tropenartzt" (tropics doctor). The ultimate German stereotype. He ran a timer for the entire consultation, and charged for every 10 minutes. He was FURIOUS that I did not have a proper German document that showed my vaccine record (even though I could decipher my US record just fine). And his accent....chef's kiss.
  • Candy Jar

    I get a text from Wendy, asking if we can chill together and watch a movie about two high school nemeses who fight to be anointed debate team captain but eventually fall in love. The movie's relevance is especially weird because the one main character is deferred from Harvard and the other from Yale—same as what happened to me and Wendy. I give Wendy a lot of chocolate, and we talk for a long time after the movie. What the fuck were we thinking, being so mean to each other last spring?
  • IB exams

    I study hard, and that's definitely good enough for five of my exams (including physics, English, and biology, which were all so hard for me at different points!) We're all fuming about the history exam though, because Sylla (who is the friggin chief moderator, so he should know what he's talking about!) never taught Korea, but there were so many essay questions about Korea that we had to write one. So, one of my paper 3 essays was exactly 4 sentences long D:
  • The beginning of the end

    The beginning of the end
    (shown: Babu in Freiburg) Babu and Ba arrive in Freiburg on the day of my last exam: biology. Kristin invites us over to her house for tea right after the end of the exam, and then it's ice cream with the grandparents! I know this week is gonna be so tough, but for now it's just joy and freedom. I survived the IB!!
  • Alumni Reps

    The day before graduation, I am told that I was elected to be one of the alumni representatives for my grade. Voted? By my grade?? I ask who the others are—Yohan, Gwen, and Arthur (Gwen's boyfriend). Man. But I guess that means people eventually came around to me!
  • For the last time

    Everything is happening so quickly, and so much that has been so great in my life is now taking place for the last time. I’m TERRIFIED about college (convinced that I’ll fail academically, because I feel like American high schools train you to overwork yourself much more than UWC did), and really sad to be leaving these friends. I write them all letters. But I remind myself, again and again: do not forget to be proud. And telling myself that, helps so much.
  • All my people

    All my people
    It's my mom's first time in Freiburg since she dropped me off in 2016; for my dad, Babu, and Ba, it's like the 10th. My great-aunt Ulla and my parents' gay friend Jim from London also come, as do Hermann and Ilse. More people have come for me than for anybody else. It's a beautiful green day, and everybody at school has the feels. Shanta makes me a beautiful necklace from flowers she picks around town. And it's incredible to see my parents finally meet all my crazy teachers.
  • The last night

    I leave campus in one of the vans that Laurence drives to the train station ("I'm so very proud of you, Zachary," he says, teary-eyed), but then I stay in Freiburg one more night. It's a whole family dinner on top of the mountain where Babu and Ba met—windy, but beautiful. I know I have a lot to process, but I'm feeling surprisingly okay. More than anything, I'm proud.
  • Back to Claremont

    In typical Zachary Wakefield fashion, I arrive in Claremont and immediately try to make a surprise appearance with my people here, hoping for an opportunity to talk about my world travel and see some friendly faces.
  • Senior Circle

    It's a tradition in the Claremont HS theatre department—everyone at the park all day, seniors go up one by one to trash the department leadership (i.e., Ms. Elhai) and give advice to underclassmen. I show up at the park, because I would have been a graduating senior in theatre this year, but I can't bring myself to get up and give a speech like everyone else, because I don't know the underclassmen. It's a disarming experience overall (brings back trauma), but nice to see a few old friends.
  • Zachary and Samantha grad party

    Samantha lives in Colorado; she has been training full-time as a pre-olympic ice skater for the last 3 years and finishing high school online. So, her parents and my parents convince each other that it will be a good idea to have a "small" (but of course it ends up being huge) graduation party for the two of us and our unconventional HS experiences. It's a brutal roasting session for me with Sarah, Caroline, Aeris, and Samantha—but I'm glad I still have good friends in Claremont!
  • Class of 2018 Claremont High School Graduation

    I go with Caroline's mom. It's about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and we have no shade. I do find myself wishing I had more time to spend with my old friends (the real ones and the fake ones), but it's still nice to see them graduate, and even find my way into some people's grad pictures (I barely even dressed up). The best part is that everyone thinks I would have been the Valedictorian if I would have stayed, and Sarah Hamid even asks me to give an example of what my speech might have looked like!
  • Before Africa

    Before Africa
    Time slips by so fast over three weeks in Claremont with nothing to do (for the first time in YEARS, nothing to do!); there's a trip to Portland, Oregon, and a hike to the top of Mt. Baldy with my dad. The day before I fly out, I get my hair buzz cut, set aside all my most colorful clothing, and roll out my "straight voice"—Uganda is known to be one of the most homophobic countries on earth, but I'm just having fun. I've never been in the closet before!
  • Nightmare in Abu Dhabi

    It's the longest flight of my life: 17 hours from LAX to Abu Dhabi, where I spend the night before my flight to Nairobi the next morning. I'm scared to be all alone, but the flight is comfy, and the airport in Abu Dhabi is GORGEOUS. I get a lovely greek salad for dinner. What an incredible adventure this is! Right before bed, I look at my phone and see "Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement." The worst possible news—suddenly, it feels like my whole trip is ruined ;(
  • The story of me and Yohan (part 1)

    The story of me and Yohan (part 1)
    At senior circle last year, in the middle of my altercation, when nobody wanted to sit down with me and tie their string around my wrist, I managed to corner Yohan and be his partner for a few minutes. I confessed to him that he did everything I did—but he did it better. He was a better speaker, writer, and MUNer; he was always getting elected to lead student meetings and was Sylla's favorite student. He also managed to stay tight with all of my friends, including Gwen, which made me so jealous.
  • The story of me and Yohan (part 2)

    Things have changed so much this year. I'm on great terms again with Yohan and most of our mutual friends; Pomona accepted me and rejected him (he is taking a gap year because he aimed too high and had 0 college acceptances). I ended up being the spokesperson for our MUN club and for peer support, and I was chosen over him to be an officer at MUNISH. Most importantly, I'm kind of a STEM kid now, so he isn't competition. So, now I'm flying to visit my friend Yohan in Nairobi!
  • Dayz in Nairobi

    Dayz in Nairobi
    (Pictured: buzz-cut Zachary and Yohan's brother) I spend 3 nights at Yohan's house (which is less bougie than I had assumed) in Nairobi; I learn that his father is polygamous and does not live at home. Yohan's mom reminds me of Trevor Noah's stories about his mom—this makes Yohan very happy. He and I go to the giraffe sanctuary, see a giant traditional dance troupe, talk a LOT, and then sneak to his basement to watch drag race at 2AM (he is also queer). Good times.
  • Yikes arrival in Uganda (part 1)

    My flight to Uganda is delayed, so my driver calls me (he's breaking up) to say I'll have to wait 9 hours at the airport, until 8PM, because he had to go. At 7:55PM, I peek outside to look for him. I'm surrounded by men trying to drag me to their taxis to get my business. I try yelling out "Love Volunteers Driver!" The scary men at security won't let me back inside, so I wait, tightly gripping all my things, looking for my driver. I have no phone number for the program or driver. Terrifying.
  • Yikes arrival in Uganda (part 2)

    I sit and wait outside, warding off people trying to take me to their taxis or motorcycles or sell me things, trying to decide when I'll just call my mom and tell her to send me home. I try calling back the number that my driver called from to tell me he'd be so very late. My phone is running out of charge. At 11PM, after 3 hours of waiting, Mr. Charlie saunters over and shakes my hand. "Hello Mr. Zachary!" he smiles. This is my driver. I am FURIOUS.
  • Bazil and Alice

    Bazil and Alice
    Bazil and Alice live in the nicest compound in their small village—still dirt floors, bucket showers, pit toilets, and a creaky bed covered in mosquito netting without any AC, but I get used to it. Electricity only works when the sun is shining—solar power. Bazil is a doctor; he is sweet and funny and almost 50, which I can't believe. Alice is an AMAZING vegan cook. They have 4 kids. During my orientation, they say that they support gay people, which is surprising and makes me feel good.
  • The Americans

    There are 5 other volunteers staying with Bazil and Alice—mostly nursing or pre-nursing students, all Americans. I am by far the youngest, and I sometimes feel left out, but it's mostly a very fun group. On the 4th of July, we try to buy mozzarella cheese and make a pizza in the fire pit outside Alice's kitchen, wrapped in banana leaves, but it is completely inedible (the cheese went bad). Alice had a feeling it would turn out bad so she made some cabbage just in case. Thank goodness.
  • My (intellectual) hero

    The afternoons are beautiful in the compound: shady, a breeze, a perfect lawn (VERY out of place). I see why East Africa is humans' natural habitat. In the afternoon, I read Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now. The optimism of that book, his statistics, and the perfect way it all seems to "own" my enemies from UWC and also Donald Trump is incredible. It's so simple: progressives need to recognize progress. I learn about space travel + life extension for the first time, and I am blissfully happy.
  • A day in Uganda (Part 1)

    I'm getting more than 10 hours of sleep each night, finally catching up after high school and taking advantage of that nothing-else-to-do-after-dark situation. Together with the other Americans, I walk through our small village to the main road in the late mornings (African time!). We negotiate a boda boda (ride on a motorcycle) to the clinic in Mukono. It's a wild ride, and I always feel the wind rush past me, content with a fall and lifelong paralysis because I've lived a good life.
  • A day in Uganda (part 2)

    At the clinic, I rotate between the different wings, mostly helping with the HIV testing and patient support/consultation. I prick people's fingers and collect blood to test for HIV; there are a (small) number of people who do test positive. I get to know my coworkers at the HIV clinic quite well—both of them are named Lucy, and one of them is kinda cute. In the evenings, we hang out at the compound; I read and play with the orphans in the house next-door. And Alice's food is great!
  • Boda-boda nightmare

    My motorcycle driver back from work starts off in the wrong direction. At first I think he's just taking a different route, but then he keeps going, and we're leaving town. I tell him I think he's going the wrong way, but he doesn't understand, so he says "let me show you what I can do!" and speeds up. I panic and think I'm getting kidnapped, so I say "please stop right now and let me off or I will start screaming." He doesn't stop, so I scream! And then he stops. Luckily, I get home.
  • Zariah

    In my last week, another American girl arrives at the compound: Zariah. We're all very curious about what kind of person she'll be with a name like Zariah, and it turns out she's a Mormon neuroscience major and pre-med girl from Wyoming! Who I totally insult on the day we meet by making fun of the Mormons in Uganda (who have all never heard of the Book of Mormon the musical). But Zariah ends up being one of my closest friends in the program—funny, super smart, and accepting of my queerness!
  • Cultural show

    Cultural show
    I go to a dance/cultural show in Kampala (capital of Uganda) with Bazil's kids (shown) and the other American volunteers. It's a beautiful evening, with a very charismatic master of ceremony and a fun dance at the end. But I corner Taylor—a sweet, pretty 27 year old nurse from Pennsylvania—near the end to talk through my internal crisis that my life is about to start. This feels like the peak of my chilled-out, idealistic post-UWC summer life, and it's all downhill from here. Premed times—yikes.
  • Back to Nairobi

    I fly back from Uganda to Nairobi to meet my family, and it's feels so developed that it could be Tomorrowland. I think of Pinker writing about how globalization has changed Africa (Kenya is one of the best examples) for the better. At our hotel, the running hot water and fast WiFi makes me so INCREDIBLY happy—I shave my beard (mom says I look "middle eastern" with my suntan) and eat Ethiopian food for dinner in our leafy fancy neighborhood by all the embassies. Heaven on earth.
  • IB scores

    It takes an hour to load each time I try refreshing the page–Uganda, man—and I'm about to give up and just try tomorrow (because my phone is running low on charge and we have such unpredictable electricity at Bazil's house), but then I see my scores! And they are much better than I was predicting. I just barely pull off a 6 in history (lowest grade bounds ever, because the material was so tough) and 7 in physics (terrible IA, but good exam score). I'm upset only about my 6 in math SL.
  • Safari is great

    Safari is great
    We have a sweet and knowledgeable driver, the places we stay are really fancy (especially after Uganda), and the animal watching is just incredible!
  • Elephant bedroom

    Elephant bedroom
    One night, in the beautiful outdoor lounge area at our fanciest lodge (Elephant Bedroom in Samburu—with an Indian vegetarian chef, private hot tubs for each tent, and elephants + monkeys literally walking around the premises of the place), there's a card games night for all the teenagers who are staying there. I start talking to a Brazilian-Italian girl who is SO gorgeous and attractive, and lets me put my arm around her. Yeah. I guess I can still be a little bit straight.
  • Food allergy meds

    I see my allergist (Dr. Patel, a lovely man who validated that my oral allergy syndrome was real and gave me an amazing victory over my parents) and talk once again about my many food allergies—still about 1/3 of all fresh fruits and vegetables, but it's unpredictable. I ask about side effects of taking consistent allergy medication (which he recommends), and he asks me about the side effects of cutting so many healthy foods out of my diet. That's a good point. I decide to start the meds.
  • Permit test

    I take the written test for my driver's permit and I pass! I was sure I wouldn't pass because I barely did any studying, but then I found practice tests online just a few minutes before while I was waiting. They take a really good picture of me for my permit and license! (Even though my hair is still short) Now, it's off to Cardiff, San Diego, with Jim Bjork (one of my parents' gay college friends) for the weekend!
  • Back to the cabin

    Back to the cabin
    It's the place I used to describe as "my favorite place in the world"—but I haven't gone back since 7th grade. A symbol of the "old me" (Zachary 2, that is) drifting away from what matters in life. So I go back again, convince my mom to let me fly to the cabin and let me spend a week there with Babu and Ba, and reaffirm that this may well be my favorite spot in the world. We hit all my favorite trails, pick some INCREDIBLE berries, and catch up. They've missed a lot from my life.
  • Failed driver's test

    I take a few classes with, overpriced company that my mom found (Instructors are very coach-y American toxic masculinity, but they are sometimes helpful). My first time driving around the block, the instructor goes "golly, you haven't driven anything before." When I go for my behind-the-wheel test in Riverside—down the street from the emergency room where my mom works, interesting place—I do everything right! But I drive too slowly, so I fail. Devastating.
  • Few days with Julia

    Few days with Julia
    Julia comes to visit me before the start of her (forced—because she didn't get in to any college either) gap year program, stays at my house, gets to know my family. It's a really fun visit: I show her around LA and Santa Monica (it's like I am discovering everything for myself for the first time!) and her favorite is a trip up Mt. Baldy, where I have a lot of personal issues and memories, but I am just so happy to make it to the top of the mountain together with Julia.
  • Naomi—my first friend in college

    Naomi—my first friend in college
    I meet Naomi on international move-in day, when we recognize each other from social media. As I am moving into my room, she walks up to me, calls out "you're Zachary Wakefield!" and introduces herself as a fellow European-American half-Jew (from Ireland by way of Seattle) who also "survived" the IB diploma. Her parents get along well with mine, and soon they're invited over for wine at my house.
  • Gunn

    He is a fellow UWC alumnus (he graduated from UWC Japan in my same year!) and openly queer, and I think he's cute. We talked on instagram before even coming to campus, and it's fun to meet in person—but he is not flirting with me at ALL. This turns me off pretty quickly, and although I will keep having my occasional fantasies about Gunn, we settle into being just friends, because his personality doesn't seem special enough to me yet.
  • Ananya

    At first, Ananya is a shy, persistently confused girl from Delhi who dresses like she's still in elementary school—several of the first conversations we have involve her asking for directions around Claremont. She claims to have been accepted to UWC, but turned down the offer. I make an effort (probably because she reminds me of UWC people) to include her in my outings with new friends during international orientation, and invite her to sit with us in dining halls.
  • Domestic students' move-in

    After three days of international orientation (which ppl make fun of me for doing, but I think it’s really fun and helpful for making friends) it’s time for the entire rest of the first-year class to have our official move-in day. I spend most of the day hanging out with my sponsor group—the people assigned to live near me, and basically sanctioned to be my friend group by Pomona‘a administration. They are too quiet and boring and sheltered. I want my international orientation friends back!
  • Community Engagement OA

    Community Engagement OA
    I end up on the OA (orientation adventure) for community engagement, because I was worried about going on one of the other OAs (they mostly all involve serious backpacking / outdoors) and becoming known as a complainer, because I don't like the outdoors. Everything we do on the community engagement OA is lots of fun, and it's also just the most wholesome and sweet group of nerds (reminds me of UWC friends!) I bond with Jenna (picture) when she has an anxiety episode and we talk it through.
  • Isha

    When I first met Isha Raj-Silverman, she was wearing a ridiculous dress and saying ridiculous things at our sponsor group lunch on move-in…she reminded me of Rachel Barry from Glee: incredibly political, melodramatic, quirky, half Jewish. Before the start of OA, I told Naomi about how I was underwhelmed by my boring sponsor group; ow, Isha goes on the same OA as Naomi and tells Naomi about how boring her sponsor group is! Soon, we will all be best friends and recognize the irony of it.
  • Sneha

    Sneha tells a funny version of the night we met. She says I ran to her as we were getting off our buses back from OA, got really excited about her being in my sponsor group, and invited her to the Hawaiian-themed dinner that night. I was convinced it would be a huge event for the whole first-year class, so I insisted we get to the dining hall at 4:45PM; my German instincts were wrong, and so my we got there way too early, waited for 15 minutes to be let in, and then ate in an empty dining hall.
  • The spogro (and Sneha)

    My sponsor group (spogro) is growing on me—too quiet at first, but now we're getting friendlier. Sneha though…too much, too soon (I will later learn this is because I remind her of the boi she loved in high school). After 8 hours with Sneha, I know she doesn’t believe in love. After 3 days, I know about the boy whose texts from 3 years ago she still obsesses over—an ex-friend, who she knew for 10 days. I also know about her suicide attempt. But what she really talks about is Noah—the boy—so much
  • My academic advisor

    My academic advisor
    My assigned academic advisor is prof. Charles Taylor (who my parents know as Chuck! Yikes!) and I have my first meeting with him before the start of course registration. He is teaching an intro chemistry lab section, so I decide it will be a smart idea to sign up for his chem lab to get closer to my advisor. He asks about my dogs, my family, and especially my experience with Claremont high school German—his son is in 10th grade and involved in the German department.
  • Course registration

    The most surprisingly difficult thing I’ve done in a long time. My sponsor group is assigned the worst registration time out of all freshman groups, and we all panic (Kate and Isha, the most melodramatic of us, are already talking about transferring). I only get into one class, I have no idea whether I’ll even be able to be premed now, I’m just submitting Permission to Enroll requests and begging professors to let me into their courses.
  • Prof. Martinez and dad

    Prof. Martinez and dad
    I get into Spanish and biology, along with chemistry and my intro writing seminar that I was already signed up for. Yay! I text my parents the names of my professors this term, and then I get a long text from my dad. My intro biology professor, prof. Martínez, is apparently on bad terms with my dad. They played on opposing soccer teams like 10 years ago and had a screaming fight over the rules of the game, with my dad pushing Martínez and calling him a jackass.
  • MUN and Nina

    MUN and Nina
    At the club rush, I’m most interested in finding the table for the Pomona MUN team—I have mostly decided that all my other high school activities (theatre, debate, speech, social justice clubs, volleyball, being an ambitious asshole) are dead to me because traumaaaa... The MUN club President is at the table, and I introduce myself to her. Her name is Nina, she went to high school in Switzerland, and she reminds me of my no-nonsense European roots. I like her.
  • Bernie dies

    Bernie dies
    My parents decide to put Bernie, who has a (non-cancerous) tumor on his leg, to sleep. They bring Bernie to campus so I can say a tearful goodbye. It's emotionally confusing bc I don’t agree with their decision to put him down + because I don’t know any of my friends well enough yet to bring it up (of course, Prof. Taylor will bring it up in front of my whole lab class) I decide not to tell my parents how I feel because accusing them of killing my dog seems radical. Best to not fight this one.
  • MUN tryouts

    MUN tryouts
    Takes 2 hours, and sooo much stress, because I know less than a third of the 35ish of us will make it on the team, everyone is good. After tryouts, a ridiculous high energy white girl (Kelsey—pictured) grabs my arm, tells me how great I was, and takes me to eat dinner with her. We decide that our similar energies make us "twins", although she will become an outlier among my friends: my only best friend at Pomona who isn’t a minority of any sort.
  • Alexandra on MUN

    Alexandra on MUN
    I did not see her at tryouts because she had a conflict so she went to the alternate tryout day—but then she shows up at the first meeting! Absolutely phenomenal! One of my best friends from Claremont high school, now on the same college MUN team as me! We spend the evening of the first practice (and many more evenings in the future) catching up—she claims to have "known I was gay" in HS, which I do find a bit annoying—just getting excited to be seeing each other again.
  • Break-Fast

    Upon my mother’s insistence, I invite Isha and Naomi to my house for the break-fast after Yom Kippur (my mom’s favorite Jewish holiday). It’s a lovely evening, and my parents love my friends & vice versa (they text Naomi’s parents about it). Validates my hopeful idea of my parents as supportive of my new, less competitive, less toxic vision for my life.
  • Ellen comes

    Ellen comes
    Ellen, the only other American in my year at UWC, moves in with my parents in Claremont to work service jobs for her gap year. Ellen has an unstable (although very wealthy) family and relationship background—and she has idealized Claremont + my family, hoping to "find herself" this fall. But Ellen is not a great houseguest: emotionally turbulent, a bit entitled and ungrateful, and (most of all) EXTREMELY judgmental of all my friends from Pomona and UWC. She thinks they are "posturing."
  • First bio exam

    I hype up the first intro bio exam sooo much—it’s my first test in college, in a premed class AND in my major, it’s stuff I learned in IB (basic punnet squares + rules of genetics), and prof. Martínez has told us students do badly on this test. I study hard and the result that I get the highest score in my whole class!! It’s especially validating because I see these exams as the best way to be successful without feeling manipulative (i.e., networking, which consumed my life in high school).
  • MUN mentor group

    I make it onto the MUN team!! At the first meeting, Skye Jacobs (the team's SecGen) is assigned my and Kelsey's mentor. Skye is a Jewish pre-law politics/philosophy major from New Hampshire and the MOST pretentious man. The type to un-ironically “play the devil’s advocate here for a second." We eventually have a third mentee added: Liam, who just seems confused, but makes points very confidently when Skye goes off. Kelsey and I bond over making fun of the two of them after mentor group meetings.
  • Desponsored (Part 1)

    We get an email stating that Min, one of our two “sponsors” (sophomores put in charge of mentoring the sponsor group), has been removed as sponsor. He is furious about it, claims to have no idea why it happened, and we go to the dean's office together to protest. But Isha and I privately agree that we don’t know the full story, and the de-sponsoring might have been justified.
  • Desponsored (part 2)

    Desponsored (part 2)
    Min is gay, and I do get weird vibes from him (I also heard that he bragged online about sleeping with freshmen and posted about how his sponsor group was "full of losers"). Min was sometimes fun and nice to me + gave me helpful fashion advice, but I also sometimes felt I wasn’t acknowledged or welcomed by him given that—as a white guy who is not a leftist and on the spectrum so not familiar with “cutting edge” gay humor and culture—I am not the type of queer person he likes to associate with.
  • Tanya

    I first meet Tanya as Sneha’s acquaintance from Mumbai who lives in our hall, all alone, because she studied so hard her freshman year that she didn’t really make any friends. Turns out I have 3 classes with Tanya: Spanish, chemistry (which she’s taking for the GE), and Friday chemistry lab. Jenna and I decide to be each other's lab partners, because we know each other from OA—but Tanya is someone I also start frequently talking to during the MANY hours of lab.
  • Forgetting lab homework

    I like to say that college feels more like high school compared with UWC, where we had no mandatory assignments, just final exams: I’m not used to all the small assignments (quizzes, HW, etc.) that matter for my actual course grade? Let alone strict deadlines! For a bio lab assignment, we have to hand our work in at 1:15PM. I finish at 1:13, on the wrong side of campus, and my printer isn’t working. I have to sprint to lab and beg the professors to let me print out after lab and turn in late.
  • Labs....

    I expected labs to be annoying, but I didn’t expect they would be THIS frustrating or scary. Bio lab reports are hard to write, but chemistry lab is even more soul-crushing. Every Friday afternoon (prof. Taylor co-teaches with the lab coordinator: Dan Wellmam, who is a harsh grader and pro-weed out), Jenna, Tanya, and I suffer through 6 hours of badly written instructions, only to fail at some obscure calculation and get a B on the weekly lab report. But I bear down and work as hard as I can.
  • Forgetting lab streaks

    Forgetting lab streaks
    My lab partner was assigned by Martínez (malicious intent?) to be Jack Lafferty "The Laff", a sweet but confused American Footballer from Oklahoma who is so conservative that I avoid queer topics with him. But it’s me who screws up and he who forgives when I totally forget to go to the lab work out our Petri dish one afternoon when we said I would come. I’m left begging the professors (once again) to let me make up for it by coming early to work the next day to let me in.
  • AJ (part 1)

    The conference is annoying…of course, Americans make it into the most extreme competitive sport, with everyone trying to out maneuver each other, and I’m considering dropping the team. But I’m not a quitter.
    Delegate socials (parties) are lots of fun, though. It’s cool that Pomona pays us to stay in hotels, eat fancy food, travel, and go to parties, especially because my shy “normal life” friends on campus don’t want to party. At the social the second night, we meet the Claremont McKenna team.
  • AJ (part 2)

    AJ (part 2)
    I meet AJ Moore for the first time in person—but I know lots about him already. He went to a school in the same speech and debate district as Claremont and was just unbelievably successful. As in, 2 national championships. To me, AJ is like a living legend, and he also knows several of the same people I went to high school with (AJ accurately describes Jack, my close friend and Claremont’s closest thing to an AJ-level superstar, as “the embodiment of big dick energy”)
  • AJ (part 3)

    We’re getting along so well and I’m such a fan of his work in the speech and debate universe that I don’t even realize AJ is hitting on me until I’ve talked about being queer with him, given him my number, let him get all touchy with me, and nodded along when he talked about sitting in my lap. On the drive back, talking with Liam and Alexandra, I realize what’s going on, stalk his Instagram, and quickly + confidently decide that I do NOT like him, and I’m not interested.
  • AJ (part 4)

    The reasons I give? Most straightforward is that he’s Jewish, and I don’t date Ashkenazi Jews because genetic diseases + I believe in interracial couples. But it’s also that he bragged about being "4 shots in," that he’s a speech and debate guy (I still associate a lot of bad things with S&D), and that because he is an ambitious debate kid at CMC, he just seems too smooth and too network-y for me. I don’t want to date someone I don’t trust. So when he texts me, I am not enthusiastic.
  • I want to kill Skye

    I want to kill Skye
    My first college MUN, at USC, is coming up, and even though their website says I don’t need a position paper (annoying 2 page research paper about committee topic), Skye insists that I have to. So, the day before an important bio exam, I have to balance studying with writing. I send the position paper to my committee director, and she responds that our committee doesn't need position papers. I tell Skye, who says he knew that, but lied to me so I'd be more prepared. WHAT AN INFURIATING MAN AHHHH
  • Disneyland and more AJ

    I go to Disneyland with Sneha, Ellen, and Isha’s high school friend Amaya (Isha hates Disney). It’s an odd group—Ellen hates both Sneha and Amaya for being too basic—but I have fun.
    While we wait in line for the haunted mansion, I get a text from Ashley on MUN. AJ texted and asked her to set us up on a blind date. Underground, with no reception, I wonder what to do. Ellen tells me not to be “desperate” and date someone I don’t like; I resent her calling me desperate, but I take her advice.
  • Anni visits

    Anni texts me that she’s in LA for a conference and wants to see me; I tell her that I feel bad about not being able to drive out and get her, but she actually takes a 3 hour bus to Claremont, which is FANTASTIC. We eat out and then she comes to my house—talking is a lot of fun until Ellen enters the mix and starts defending Gwen when Anni and I want to talk about how nice it is to feel free of that marginalization we experienced at UWC.
  • Second bio exam

    Gets graded after fall break, and it’s not good—I got a C, below the class average (it was a tough test for most people tho). My relaxed overconfidence is probably at fault, combined with Skye and Sneha (who came to my room the night before and couldn’t stop going off about her feelings). Now I need to do much better than this on all the other exams this semester to meet my GPA goal and still be on track for med school. And lab isn’t going well either (but I did great on my second chem exam!)
  • Plagiarism (part 1)

    Martínez is handing back lab reports, but nothing for me and Jack. He says he needs to speak with us outside. “There is clear evidence of plagiarism in your lab report,” he says to us, then he dramatically walks inside. I panic like almost never before. I do something I’m not proud of, and fully throw Jack under the bus. “I know what I’m doing, and I don’t know what Jack did but I had no part in it!” I yell after prof. Martínez. He rolls his eyes. "Ok, well you have to confirm that with Jack."
  • Plagiarism (part 2)

    Remarkably...Jack fesses up. He says it was all just his section that he copy-pasted from his friend’s lab report. And he tells professor Martínez this; so, despite my name being on the front of a plagiarized lab report, I face no consequences. No hearings, nothing on my record, no zero on the assignment. I apologize for being so mean and dismissive to Jack, wish him the best, and he’s incredibly nice and understanding about the whole thing.
  • Halloween

    My parents tell me to bring a friend to their big Halloween party, so I go with Sneha. The party is fun (my mom is dressed as Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the devil—very meta) and a girl approaches me—Indira, a ditsy Pitzer first-year who is family friends with one of my parents' friends, which is how she was invited. I introduce myself and she lights up. "Zachary! Oh my god, you know Gunn! He's like my best friend and he always talks about you." I am ecstatic. Gunn likes me!
  • Date with Gunn

    After my conversation with Indira, I text Gunn to ask if he wants to get dinner together at a dining hall—Scripps, the prettiest. He says yes, and I'm so proud because (as I realize, talking it through with Sneha) this is actually the first time I've asked someone out since 7th grade! It's a beautiful fall evening and we sit outside. Gunn's friend is there at the beginning (oh no, I think) but then he tells his friend to leave. I think I like Gunn, not sure, but it was a good time.
  • Midterm elections

    I watch the midterms with my most political of friends—Isha and Naomi. In a lovely burst of theatre kit energy, Isha is dressed entirely in blue, including lipstick and a huge gown. But the early returns (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky) are dismal. "It's all over. We're fucked," says Isha, always the optimist. I feel like it's 2016 all over again, especially after we lose the senate by so much. But then, slowly, the better news starts trickling in. And then we win the house!
  • Diwali

    I go to Diwali with Sneha, Ananya, Tanya, and Isha (we're all kind of a loose friend group)—I wasn't sure about going bc I'm not technically Indian, but then I saw that Gunn invited me to the Facebook event! Super exciting! Gunn is there, and I go over to talk to him, and then we start dancing together. I worry that he can't understand my humor, or isn't smart enough for me. But I want to give him a chance—and it seems like he likes me, so I'm feeling great at the end of the night.
  • Third chem exam

    I spend the weekend feeling warm and fuzzy about Gunn—and about myself, for being likable and putting myself out there. I'm "on track for a relationship," according to Ellen. Unfortunately I don't find much time to study for the upcoming chemistry exam (I'm pretty confident after A's on the first two tests) and it shows. I get a B on chem exam #3, and I blame Gunn. Maybe there isn't time for a relationship + premed. I stop talking to him.
  • ID1—intro writing seminar.

    ID1—intro writing seminar.
    This is my worst class in college—my intro writing seminar. But it isn't about writing at all, it's about Professor Kassam and her opinions. Just Edward Said and shoddy documentaries (including one by a Holocaust denier). Prof. Kassam is in phased retirement and gives us all B+'es on every single paper. Without any feedback. Everyone else in class is SO impressed by what she has to say—"what if...Israel is also doing terrorism?" "MIND BLOWN" Americans man.
  • Spanish!

    And here's my favorite class this fall + the only professor who I actually feel like I get close with. Dalia Gómez (pictured) is brand new at Pomona, so I took a risk by signing up for her class, but intro Spanish was one of the only courses that I thought might let me in—and I was sooo lucky! Dalia is sweet, funny, not too difficult at all, the course is wonderfully predicable, and I really feel like I am learning Spanish in her class.
  • MUN wine night

    I rarely drink in college (especially because I'm on isotretinoin), but I do drink half a glass of wine at our MUN team wine night—reminds me just a bit of my wild days in Europe. We play "hot seat"—where people take turns spending one minute answering whatever questions the rest of the team decides to ask them. Skye asks me who the cutest guy is who I've ever seen in Claremont. I've thought about this already. "One of Tanya's friends—I think his name is Shan Ming."
  • Thanksgiving break

    Thanksgiving break
    My parents offer to fly Luca down from his college in Portland to California to stay with us for Thanksgiving. We spend break in San Diego, in a lovely AirBnB with Babu and Ba. Luca and Ellen know each other but did not like each other at UWC, but they get along well now. We also spend a day visiting Isha ("social justice warrior" according to Ellen) and Naomi ("just blah"); Ellen calls Babu annoying, which ticks me off more than anything. But I still have fun! Beautiful days + nice people :)
  • Bombarded by Sneha

    The first night in San Diego, I listen to Sneha (over text) for 2 hours because she is feeling so bad about her family situation—parents arguing about something. The next night, she tries calling me 21 times, leaves several messages, and instead of telling her I can't, I passive aggressively just pretend that I had my phone off and still listen to her later. I don't exactly know what else to do besides just be there and give her my attention, but I am getting frustrated.
  • Sneha hates me now (part 1)

    When we get back from winter break, Sneha tells me about how when she was texting and calling me, it felt like it was Noah she was talking to—Noah, who is 5'11, lanky, half-German, half-Jewish, bisexual, ambitious, from SoCal, and wants to work in politics (as I used to). And he loves thin mints—which is the similarity between him and me that Sneha somehow focuses on the most. I really don't like the idea of Sneha liking me, which I'm worried could consume my life or ruin our friendship.
  • Sneha hates me now (part 2)

    (side note tho: I have told all my Pomona friends that I'm gay, even though I am actually probably bi, because I don't want to give Sneha and Ananya and others hope—or fear hahaha) At one point, an hour into another evening of Sneha spilling her hurt and sad to me, she asks how I feel. And I decide to take a risk. "I think I understand where Noah was coming from when he said that he couldn't be your friend because he didn't want to feel like your therapist" And then I put my phone down. Oooof.
  • Sneha hates me now (part 3)

    Sneha just says something like "I just can't," blocks me, and then turns up her angsty Taylor Swift breakup music to full volume so I can hear it from down the hall. Later, I walk by her sitting outside her room with Binh and offer her gummy bears, and she just says "what the fuck Zack" and walks inside. Not the best way to offer an olive branch.
  • Picking sides (part 1)

    The next morning, as we are walking across campus, Sneha literally grabs Binh and Ananya by the arm and tugs them away from me, walking ahead with them by her side. She screams "THESE ARE MY FAVORITE PEOPLE" to the world, melodramatically, so I can hear. I also learn she called me an asshole this morning when she was talking to Jenna. It feels eerily reminiscent of what happened with Gwen, and I am trying to avoid a repeat where I lose all my friends—so reluctantly, I decide to be strategic.
  • Taking sides (part 2)

    Taking sides (part 2)
    At sponsor group lunch, Sneha makes a point of not sitting with the rest of us, so it's just me with Isha, goofy jewish grandpa boy Spencer Barsh (pictured), and a few others. Isha–who will later tell me she would have taken my side—says that she agrees with me; friends growing apart is normal, and what Noah did to Sneha really wasn't that bad. Ananya tells me the same thing later. I am basically moved to tears...after everything that happened at UWC, I feel like I learned how to friendship <3
  • Reconciliation

    Sneha says something about a truce + comes to my room, and I don't care what her terms are—I want my friend back. I tell her about my past and explain why I had a hard time dealing with her complex emotional baggage (especially the suicidality stuff). She says she understands, but doesn't want to be too close to me for awhile. But we get to share our mutual friends, which is what makes me happiest. I'm exhausted, but overall proud I kinda stuck to my values and tried to resolve a conflict.
  • Last bio lab report

    Last bio lab report
    My assigned partner for the final bio lab report is Anna Resek—who I actually was at Chinese camp with in early high school. We share a lot of memories from then and get along well (she's shy and lets me take charge in the lab, for better or worse). But when it comes to lab report writing, I know how well I have to do on this one. It's so important. And Anna and I have a fight when I'm pacing around the room thinking, and she just wants to get it done. I think she's kinda exasperated with me.
  • bio tests 3 and 4

    The last two exams for my intro bio course happen in November and December—so many tests, and we call them all midterms at Pomona?? Strange. But, I get A's on both of the last two exams! Including a stunning 97% on exam 3, which I study sooo incredibly hard for. I know how much the other competitive premeds in my class care about these exams, and I feel so good about myself for how well I'm doing.
  • Global Warming Project

    Professor Grieman (intro chem), difficult and intense as he is, dumps the MOST time-intensive project on us at the end of the semester. We have to answer several hundred questions about global warming and turn them in. It takes about 10 hours/week for 6 weeks. I get with Jenna and Tanya—a group that I was really grateful to have willing to work with me. Tanya obsesses over the project, checking every answer to make sure it will be satisfactory. And we're really proud of ourselves in the end!
  • Puppies!

    Private school privileges: they bring puppies during finals week to the student center for de-stress, and I am eager to go of COURSE...shocking that only Ananya wanted to come with me. But we have a great time (of course we do...because puppies!)
  • Chem final

    I know I'm right at the cusp between A and A- for chem lab, so every point matters there—but I see the final exam for the chem course as my golden ticket to a good grade (lab and course are combined into one grade for transcript). I review the entire textbook, do hundreds or even thousands of practice problems, and feel relatively prepared—and the final exam feels pretty good (for once I finish early and check my work!) UWC and IB have taught me to be a good final exam taker.
  • Brilliance Personified

    We write six papers altogether for Prof. Kassam's class (the longest of which is 22 pages). She takes ~a month and a half to grade; one paper takes her 3 months to grade. But in the final paper, which is "only" 12 pages and supposed to be more personal, I make the strategic move and talk about my dad being a Pitzer professor. Prof. Kassam knows my dad and draws the connection. On her feedback for the paper, she just praises him, calling him "brilliance personified." And I get an A.
  • Biology final (and FREEDOM)

    I barely have any energy after the chemistry final, but I work as hard as I can for this bio exam—I calculate that I need a 98% to pull off an A in the class though, so I also try to be realistic. On the test itself, though, I actually feel incredible; there isn't a single question where I'm unsure. Just like this spring, my semester ended with biology...and I feel incredible. I scooter down the hill, a huge smile on my face. I survived my first semester. Time to get ice cream and celebrate!