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How Duke has changed me, for better and worse

(04/24/21 6:17pm)

A few weeks ago, I posted a humorous TikTok about how my experience at Duke influenced my mental health, where I listed some of the negative aspects of life here: intense classes, exclusionary social scene, unhealthy diet culture, etc. The video reached a decent amount of viewers, many who I realized were prospective students, who were horrified by how bad life seemed here. Students from other universities echoed my comments as well. The issues I joked about in my video were so commonplace to my life here, and shared by all of my peers, that I forgot they were extreme. As a senior, I have an opportunity to look back at my years, to see the campus culture from a different lens, and reflect on the change I have experienced while at this university.

Sex and the mid-sized city

(04/15/21 4:00am)

Over the past few weeks, I have been indulging in Sex and the City, the early 2000s classic that redefined television and taught everything U.S. health education classes didn’t. I am faced with the daunting task of finishing the series and subsequent movies by graduation, as the HBO Max subscription belongs to my roommate. For some reason, in the middle of my peak post-grad anxiety, I am reassured by this poorly aged yet timeless portrayal of four women living professionally successful lives in Manhattan, who stumble through the challenges of adult life. 

10 moments at Duke that I want to remember forever

(04/02/21 4:00am)

I am a month away from graduating and concluding the most transformative four years of my life. It fills me with equal feelings of fear, excitement, and deep sorrow. My last year and a half were nothing like I expected, and gave me even more appreciation for the memories I made at Duke. It was a grueling, complex experience that I will have to learn how to move on from. But for now, all I can do is reflect and reminiscence. This column is a collection of memories from my time at Duke that hold a special place in my heart.

Finding gay friendship in college

(03/18/21 4:00am)

In in the past three years, I have written extensively—and often pessimistically—about being gay at Duke. My ramblings have covered how every aspect of being gay at Duke is uncomfortable: from finding a roommate, to walking past the chapel, to finding someone to date. Many students, alumni and professors have reached out to me to discuss an article, which I always appreciate and enjoy. But looking back I realize that I have painted a rather sad, although nuanced, picture of being gay at Duke. In reality, over the years I have experienced many beautiful moments of being gay and finding a community on campus. And I want to celebrate that—as well as reflect on why it can be difficult for most of us.

Love at first algorithm: Finding my gay soulmate

(02/04/21 5:00am)

To kick off Duke’s second unconventional semester, an exciting way to meet other Duke students was presented to the socially distanced student body: the Duke Marriage Pact. This trendy algorithm has made its way through universities across the U.S., giving students a psychology-backed way to meet their back-up soulmate. With a few thousand other Duke students, I decided to toss my hat in the ring, and trust in both the matchmaking abilities of a fifty-question survey and the previous selection by Duke admissions. Faced with this exciting semi-dystopian prospect, I was left thinking about everything most twenty-one-year-olds think about: marriage, sex and death.

Deleting the Twitter app saved my mental health

(10/29/20 4:00am)

I remember the first time I went viral—it was junior year of high school. The tweet was a simple commentary on my deteriorating organization skills. The caption read: “me back to school freshman year vs now” and showed an old picture of my neatly labeled freshman binder set compared to a folder, pencil, and pretzels. My tweet took off, and was quickly stolen by the meme accounts that once populated Twitter, which pushed the meme further throughout the web. A few weeks later, my Facebook friends spotted my name from the labeled binders in the meme as it finally made its way to that platform. It was an exhilarating experience that gave me the first taste of what my relationship with social media would eventually look like.

Missing nightlife and reimagining socializing

(10/15/20 4:00am)

A lot of Duke students are not happy right now. Maybe it would seem like we were, if you scrolled through curated social media feeds and strolled past the BC plaza on a sunny day. But from the anecdotal—yet strong—evidence I have received from private stories, personal conversations and the first minute of several break-out rooms—many Duke students are unprecedentedly sad. I’m not sure what exactly is causing this toll on student’s mental health: it could be the global pandemic, the incompentent and cruel administration running our country, the normalization of a surveillance state on campus, the relentless weeks of non-stop schoolwork or the cancellation of every activity that brought us joy. What I do know, or feel, is that many of us are not necessarily in a good place.

Anti-maskers don’t trust science: And it’s science’s fault

(09/17/20 4:00am)

Pop culture has long ridiculed the absurdity of anti-vaxxers, painting a humorous stereotype of unhinged parents clinging on to conspiracy theories and scepticism. Their objections to vaccinations can be catastrophic for their children and communities, and their reasoning and anti-science attitudes seem laughable. They are seen as an easy target for satire and scapegoating. This ongoing pandemic has brought out a similar group of skeptics and internet sleuthers, the anti-maskers. 

A virtual love letter to ProjectWild

(09/03/20 4:00am)

Over five months ago in mid-March, I was staffing a ProjectWild backpacking trip over Spring Break. We were deep in the mountains of Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina, blissfully removed from our busy college lives. Over the course of the week, through weak cell service and frantic emails, we saw our time at Duke abruptly end for the semester. We felt so much loss at having to leave Duke, and we had no idea how much our future plans would change.

Will Duke ship students their drugs?

(04/20/20 2:29pm)

Last week, graduating seniors were told in an email from Duke that their dorm items would be shipped to them by a third-party organization. Other undergraduates who plan to live on campus would have their items moved directly to their housing assignment for next year. The email left students with many uncertainties, but one question more important than the rest: what will they do with the drugs they find?

'I thrive in a high-stress environment' and other lies we tell ourselves

(04/06/20 4:00am)

I used to say that I “work best” in a high-stress environment. When asked about my future professional aspirations or my busy schedule, I would boast that I thrived when I was busy. Having things to do made me feel accomplished and happy. It was my justification for the impossible schedule I gave myself and the upkeep of that classic Duke effortless perfection. But it was an excuse I gave myself, which is made apparent in my present state. During social distancing, we are experiencing the stress of school without the feelings of occupation and purpose that usually come with it.

How to be productive under quarantine

(03/24/20 4:00am)

My first day of online classes feels immensely unproductive. I sit through my lectures taking notes as usual, taking breaks to entertain my dog and to cook myself lunch. My email notifications of piazza are flooded with fellow students asking about course updates and grading policy. My to-do list no longer concerns my research or extracurriculars, but is full of stressful changes and responses to cancellations. I feel a lack of purpose and overall motivation, the exact opposite of the whirlwind of engagement I feel on campus.

How DukeEngage made me a socialist

(03/04/20 5:00am)

DukeEngage gets a lot of flack for its voluntourism, performative altruism and minimally impactful yet costly presence. Critics of international development programs might compare it to a Peace Corp-esque form of soft imperialism. However, with almost 5,000 participants since its conception, DukeEngage can serve as a unifying experience for many Duke students. We all have unique stories and perspectives on how our respective programs challenged us: some students cried every week, some changed their major from economics to public policy, others suffered from the culture shock of realizing that poverty has larger impacts than not being able to join Greek life. My program had a different impact on me: it made me a socialist.

Devils in the closet

(02/04/20 5:00am)

It’s 3 a.m. on a Saturday night at Duke, and I am happily tucked in bed after a long night of socializing. Bored and curious, I open up the gay dating app Grindr and scroll through eligible bachelors in my area. The page is filled with blank anonymous profiles, mostly college-aged and within 1,000 feet of me. Bios read “Discreet” and “DL” (down-low) or say “DM me for a face pic.” The few profiles with face pics belong to my friends. 

Diversity should not be an educational tool

(01/20/20 5:00am)

In conversations about what Duke students love about Duke, we like to cite the diversity at Duke and the ability for us to be surrounded by people from “different backgrounds.” In academic contexts, the perspectives provided by a diverse populace are invaluable for meaningful conversations. 

Is being gay compatible with religion?

(03/27/19 4:00am)

Every day on my walk to class, I stroll past the stunning Duke Chapel that towers above me. Sometimes I stop to stretch my head up and take in the glorious architecture. I see this iconic structure every day, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve stepped in. The chapel is the epicenter of this school, yet religion is the most distant thing I experience on this campus. The stained-glass windows give me aesthetic delight and a warmth of nostalgia, but the reminder of religious institutions brings back dormant memories that leave a sinking feeling in my stomach.

We regret to inform you that you’re mediocre

(02/27/19 5:00am)

If anyone were to ask what singular skill I am most proud of acquiring at Duke, I would respond that it is dealing with rejection. Not memo writing, pouring agar plates, or wiggling my way onto the C1 at 9:50 a.m. Rather, it is learning to be rejected from amazing opportunities that has been the greatest challenge, and thus achievement, so far in my early Duke career. Not much in my high school prepared me for the constant cycles of application and rejection that sneak their way into every aspect of my life. The 25 percent early decision acceptance rate at the time I applied felt low, but now seems high compared to the acceptance rates of every insanely competitive opportunity at Duke.

Subtle Asian Diaspora

(02/13/19 5:00am)

During this Lunar New Year festival, I felt an incredible amount of pride for being Asian-American. I wish this feeling wasn’t something rare for me, but it is. Although I’ve always looked Asian to others, my ownership of being Asian-American has been sub-par to say the least. Only recently have I been able to wholeheartedly embrace my Asian-American identity. However, in my experiences, I’ve found that my racial identity hasn’t initially come from a connection to the Asian-American community, but rather from a rejection by the white community.