‘Hey, what school are you in?”
“Oh, I’m in the NHS, human science, pre-med.”
“Oh my God, you’re like a unicorn.”
Freeze. Rewind. Looking back on those moments when I was a first-year student, I am taken aback. On the one hand, I felt respected; on the other, I was unintentionally pushed off to a distance.
As Hoyas, we are constantly on the go, putting more on our plates, juggling innumerable responsibilities and wearing multiple hats for a variety of social and academic occasions. We set high standards for ourselves, but we must also shoulder and confront the expectations of faculty, family, friends and others.
As a pre-med student from the School of Nursing and Health Studies, I am considered a rarity in the overall population at Georgetown. Being pre-med carries a hefty weight of respect and responsibility, but there are considerable assumptions that others make of us before we even utter a single word.
“Why are you doing this to yourself?
“Oh, so you’re going to cure cancer?
“Hey, what do you think about Obamacare?
“Hey, I have this rash on my arm; can you tell me what it is?
“Shouldn’t you know this already?”
“But beyond these academic expectations, we actually assume a lot more about other individuals.
“Where are you from? No, where are you really from?
“How come your parents aren’t coming to graduation?
“Wait, you’ve never used a Mac before?
“I’m confused, how can you like boys and girls?”
From the moment we enter into a community, we find ourselves measured and defined against the pre-established norms of that group. Yet, we are an ever-changing, ever-progressive society. We can recognize the natural diversity of humanity, rich with detail and variation.
These expectations, whether intentional or not, place an enormous burden on those who live outside the precast molds. The stresses and pressures have the capacity to gradually chip away at an individual’s physical and mental health. They have the power to isolate and ostracize individuals, preventing them from finding a home, all because of labels.
“You are such an Asian.
“You are a workaholic.
“You are a nerd.”
Labels certainly are useful when you are trying to find something quickly in a drawer. But when we enter into a society, is it fair to assume that individuals are created from the same design? Putting professional titles aside, social labels and confinements of thought can have widespread negative consequences.
But how do we even go about fixing these preprogrammed tendencies that are so deeply ingrained in our everyday lives? The conclusion I have reached as a graduating senior is that we simply need to have more conversations, not just with our close friends, but with those outside of our inner circles. By breaking the barriers of communication across science and legislation, social and political thought, and diversity and privilege, we expose ourselves and can draw out new forms of acceptance, ideas and understanding.
When I came to the Hilltop four years ago, I never expected how much I would be pushed to find myself. We all wrote college entrance essays to say how we could be differentiated from the other applicants, but the fact that we each came from such unique backgrounds never really hit until years later. We should not be subject to predestined paths of past, present or future. Instead, we need to learn to shape our own opportunities, prioritizing our own desires while still being willing to synthesize the advice and needs of others. We need to see beyond what is apparent.
In our everyday lives, now and in the future, we will engage in countless interactions. Expect diversity and develop a welcoming attitude. Welcome the unexpected and entertain both new faces and new thoughts. Find yourself and care for others. Build a home and share it with those around you. Spread the community and carry the ideals of cura personalis that we have developed here on our Hilltop to wherever you may go in the future. Embrace your individuality and rejoice that we are all unicorns in our own respects: unbelievable, unique and, quite frankly, undefined.
I am an Asian American. I am an academic. I am a Georgetown University graduating senior.
But, I am so much more.
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