23 Mar To My Kenyon Professor: An Open Letter from a Senior
College has been four years of twists and turns in what I thought would be a journey of straight arrows. I found myself unable to savor each moment while attempting to fulfill a predetermined to-do list that has since ceased to exist. So I let that plan go. In turn, I found this hill: a place that welcomed me as an aspiring cognitive psychologist but transformed me to be a politically inclined person and instilled in me a dream of becoming a development policy maker. It taught me to embrace challenges, to be self-reflexive, and to seek significance with every purposeful action each and every day. I owe a lot of these realizations to you, my professor.
As my junior year abroad ushered in my senior year on campus, I found myself in a transient state of panic, eager yet apprehensive to explore the Middle Path beyond Kenyon. As a senior admissions fellow, one of the most frequently asked questions besides “Why did you choose Kenyon?” is “What are your plans after Kenyon?” I dreaded that inquiry, especially knowing that I must confront it sooner or later. Within and beyond the four walls of a Kenyon classroom, I have become increasingly conscious of my identity as an Asian American and a daughter of immigrants, and that identity’s beauty in a world that continuously confronts the tenacity of minoritized bodies, while also realizing my power in cultivating change and a greater sense of belonging. The intersectionality of my identity straps me with certain sets of expectations and insecurities to fulfill, both in the academic and professional worlds. Professor, you didn’t share my lived experience, but you were respectfully inquisitive in learning, empathetic in understanding, and amenable in embracing the values that compose the equilibrium of my hybrid, cross-cultural being … as a student inside and outside your classroom, as a human being, as someone you now call a friend.
Pinned on my wall is a piece of lined paper ripped from my notebook: I remember that August Friday before classes started for the new school year, when I jokingly wrote in the now-faded neon orange ink: “Wake me up when September ends,” as I hastily listed all the things I had to do over the next 30 days. I laugh at it now, the words barely there, but I can still savor the uneasiness: Where the heck will I be next September? The transient image of the Ohio landscape through a car window has always been symbolic of my return to the Hill for the past eight semesters. In January, I remembered to take my last mental snapshot of that image.
Being the planner that I am, I applied to not one, not two, not three, but eight grad schools. Frankly, I really did not have an acute focus for my future early last fall, only a rough outline of the things I potentially I wanted to do (I still question whether what I know now is the one; probably not, we’ll see.) Serendipitously, it was through revising and refining draft after draft of my personal statements and analytical essays that I realized exactly what I want to do with my life (I’m guessing?). One of the most tedious yet significant tasks was curating exactly 2,500 characters that recount my personal and academic purpose: who I am and what I want to do. As strenuous as the process was, I learned a whole lot more about myself than I thought I ever would; it was a nice synopsis of my growth over the past four years. Thank you for patiently sitting by my side, drawing mind maps and spreadsheets, declaring “if you can apply in eight days, I will write you a reference in eight days,” and questioning me on a document called “Jodi-Ann’s anxiety-inducing (but nevertheless fun!) post-Kenyon plans.”
Thank you for instilling in me the faith to pursue seemingly unreachable goals; for sharing your confidence in me with me when the incomprehensible future blinds me from discovering my own faith in myself; for providing a haven for not only academic inquiry but also mutual intellectual dialogues; for showcasing your motivation in academia and education through action … as I am writing this letter, I chuckle at the amount of stress I put myself through. Is this what everyone goes through? Maybe. I’ll never know.
To “INST 201: The Expansion of International Society,” for fundamentally altering my world views and making me reevaluate my responsibility and duty to fellow human beings; to “PSCI 346: Riots, Ballots and Rice: Comparative Asian Politics,” for allowing me a space to explore in-depth the academic focus that I will further investigate in my postgraduate studies; to “MUSC 480,” affectionately known as the Kenyon Jazz Ensemble, for providing me a haven to express my love for this institution through notes and rhythms when words fail, for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to play with a Grammy-nominated band; to Edwards House 202 for instilling trust, confidence, and faith in my future … the list goes on.
Today, I write this letter to you, elated to know that I have been accepted to all my graduate school programs — and those 2,500 characters have turned into an acceptance letter to my dream program, the master of philosophy in development studies at the University of Cambridge.
To you, Professor, I am forever grateful.
With my utmost respect and gratitude,
Jodi-Ann Wang ’20