Home > College Years, Communication, Discover People, Live Well Live Wisely, Personal and Thoughts > Things I wish I knew when I was at College

Things I wish I knew when I was at College

For years I have been trying so hard to understand what I want from life, and what I could do to make the best out of it. Four years of college life (not limited to “college” life, obviously) in a different country have constantly challenged my boundaries and characters, and in retrospect, I feel grateful for all the good and bad that happened to me. Here are a few points that I want to share with all of you.

1. Be your own healer.

I used to believe that love is the cure for every pain. But I was wrong, because there are so many types of loves that we constantly confuse ourselves and draw each other into unnecessary troubles and conflicts. I have always been a “strong” girl, like many other girls, I am used to “pretend to be cool” and “always smile, be active” on the outside. But I realized long ago that I was not so strong from inside, I was actually weak, sentimental and even vulnerable. So I used to expect that one day there will be a guy coming into my life as a savior, a healer. It turned out pretty much to be an illusion.

Why? even you met someone really responsible, he is never really going to be responsible for you. Ultimately he does not owe you (or anyone) anything. If you devote for a relationship it only means you really care, but it doesn’t mean he will take responsibility for your choices, your mistakes and your sorrow. If you want a better life, please be your own healer, and make your heart, not appearance, stronger.

2. Face your fear.

A majority of our fears are psychological, not physical or biological. There are only 2 reasons account for fear, one is that you are afraid of failure, the other is that you are afraid of losing face in front of other people. If you had a drowning experience early in your life, you might not want to touch water forever; if you were once laughed by your classmates when you danced, you might not want to dance again in front of them, or anybody. The best and the only way to confront you fear, however, is to face it.

In order to achieve that, you have to tell yourself two things. First, I have already survived the first one, the second one can only get better. Second, why do I care about other people’s judgment? Why should I stop dancing just because they think my dance is ugly? Why I cannot free myself from my past experiences and other people’s judgments? It is hard at first, you have to try really hard to convince yourself. But once you pass that step, boom! You’re a free man! And you will be amazed by how wonderful it is to lift your limits and expand your boundaries! It is like flying, seriously 🙂

3. Tell a different story.

Good speakers are always good story tellers. Because nothing is more intimate and enlightening than sharing something “personal”. Don’t be afraid to share your most awkward, weird, stupid or fancy stories. Because being different is a privilege, not a constraint, and you have every reason to be proud of yourself.

One of the elements of a good different story is to be creative enough to re-interpret some settled theories, philosophies, or traditions. One of my friends once told me his personal interpretation of the old bottle and stone story. Every one knows that this story is about a crow throwing large stones into the bottle, and then smaller stones, and then even smaller stones, and then sand and finally water. It basically tells us there is always space for improvement. But my friend got something new from it. He told me this story is actually about there are certain things you have to do first, or you will never be able to do them later. If you put in sand and small stones into the bottle first, you will never be able to fit in larger stones later on. I was honestly impressed when I first heard this new way of telling this story, and from that moment on, I began to really respect this friend, and began to ask for his advices on certain things. He has always been giving me the most insightful advices.

4. Reach out to other people

I know people who have tons of friends, and I know people who have very few. There might be difference in their characters, but both are good students, and both are nice persons. Why there is such a difference? Because the second group of people are lazy. They have limited number of friends not because they are introverted; they are introverted because they are too self-focused and too lazy to reach out to other people, but they blame their own character or pretend that they don’t care, instead of admitting that they are simply lazy.

Just like sports may take up tons of your time, social activities can also be disastrous for your time management plan. But are you really spending your time wisely, If you are not doing social or sports? 90% of the time, you are not. If you can spend hours browsing facebook, watching TV, or calling your boyfriend (please don’t let calling him become a burden of your social life, girls…), why don’t you go meet some new friends, talk to them, laugh with them, or simply re-connect with your old friends!

Some people always complain that they don’t have many friends, because everyone is so busy and nobody really cares. Wrong. Never blame if you yourself don’t even bother to take initiatives. Just think it the other way around. One of my students always sends me emails with her personal updates and wishes me best luck with my own work. Compared with other students in the class, I am obviously more comfortable with helping “her” out if anything comes up. Bottom line: the more you reach out to other people, the more they reach out to you.

5. Do some sports

There are guys who do workout to build up their muscles, and there are girls who do workout to maintain their figures. I am not one of them. And I don’t think it is wise enough to set “maintaining figure” as your goal for doing sports. Why do you worry about your figure that much, at all? Sport by itself is so much fun, and every time I finish doing yoga, get ouf of the basketball court or ping pong table, done with swimming, or exit the African dance or hiphop studio, I always feel more refreshed, more relieved, more energetic and happier.

A more personal anecdote is that I participated in sports intensively back in high school, then I came to the US and basically stopped doing sports because everyone here is so strong and powerful. I feel I could never “beat” them, for I simply look tiny in front of them. Then I realized that sport by itself is nothing about competition; it is simply about self-improvement. How many hours you stay in front of the computer every day, surfing useless websites and talking to random people? Why don’t get out of the room and go to the gym to put some effort on yourself and for yourself? Or simply watch a basketball game, at least you will be inspired by their spirit! I was so happy my senior year and I firmly believe that one major reasons is that I began to do sports intensively again. When you look into the mirror, it should not be the muscle or figure that makes you happy, it should be the confidence built with-in, and your genuinely relaxing smile.

6. Learn some other language/culture

I was put into Japanese specialty class due to a lottery draw when I was 12 years old. A total disaster, but turned out to be the most rewarding experience of my life. Language is not just about alphabet or pronounciation. Language is social. It can honestly influence, structure, expand or limit our intellectual understandings. It is interesting that Eskimos have far many vocab for “snow” and Arabs have far many vocab for “camel” than in English. It is also interesting that Japanese incorperated both Chinese and English so Japn is one of the Asian countries that took lead in many of the economic advancements. I know people who have learned 8 languages and be fluent in like 6, and I know people who have never learned a foreign language. There is a huge difference between the scope of their understandings and perceptions.

Knowing something about a different culture is also crucial for our generation largely due to globalization. Can you tell where is a person from by looking at his appearance, gestures, or listening to his accent? Do you know that in Middle East, there are people saying no while nodding their heads? What political symbol does head scarf represent? or grey wolf, or a downward bending mustache? Can you tell the difference between a Spainish or a German? Will you know if the person sitting next to you is Christian or Buddism? Oh, and will you know that guy at the other corner of the bar is absolutely into you? It might be hard to learn these stuff from textbooks, but they’re without doubt so useful and so cool.

7. Try it

Try it, but for a good reason. One of the Mckinsey managers once told me that by far the greatest task of your life is to discover who you really are, what are you strengths and passions, and what you really want. How to achieve that? By trying different things, exploring different academic disciplines, participating various activities, challenging yourself with different internships. I know people who did ibanking, and absolutely hated it, and people who did ibanking, and wanted that for their entire life! It is ok to take risk, to try new things, to make mistakes, and to laugh at yourself. It is always better to make a mistake and learn from it now, when you’re still young, than later. I have made many mistakes and I even failed on certain occasions. But I am now so happy that I have made it through and I know I have come a long way.

There are many things that you will never learn without trying it. Yet there are other things that you can learn without really doing it yourself. For the latter case, you are not looking for an experience, but a proof. Just like what Miranda did in Sex and the City, she only needs a proof that some couple is willing to do a threesome with her. And after gaining that confirmation and rebuilding her confidence, she doesn’t have to go any further. Same logic, there are many students here in the US are regularly users of certain drugs. Maybe it is ok to give it a try. But before doing that, you should know your body, your control system, and you should observe how others are doing it and their reactions. Please reject the temptation of trying things out just because you want to show off or everyone else is doing it. Bottom line: Be your own judge and ask if this is really want you want.

P.S. I actually wrote the above just a few weeks after graduating from college. But hope this still makes sense to you!


  1. Shirley
    September 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Hi~ I’m a 2014er from cuus and I find this blog via your signature. Articles here are all very helpful and enlightening!
    I feel really dispirited when I realize that there will be no savior in my life. After all the tears you shed and all the sorrows you go through, you will still be alone. But when I understood that this is what life should be, I rallied, though still feeling at a loss sometimes.
    Thank you for your encouraging words!I will check this blog everyday! Looking forward to new entries!~:)

    • September 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm

      Shirley yes cuus used to be a big part of my life when I was at college. I am glad you found my blog through cuus, though I hardly visit the website anymore. What I meant, probably, is not that there is no savior in your life. I meant ultimately you make your own decisions and you take responsibilities for your own actions. Ultimately this is fair, and the only way that it is fair. I have been through tears and sorrows too, and I believe it’s the same for everyone, but you feel the excitement and joy exactly because I’ve been through the disappointment and pain. Without bad, there is no such things as good, right? Good luck with everything Shirley, and keep checking back my blogs! 🙂

  2. October 3, 2010 at 4:26 am

    Thank you for your words!
    It was what I need it to read.

    • October 14, 2010 at 5:51 pm

      I’m glad you found this helpful. Let me know if there are any other topics you’d like to read.

  3. eugenia
    October 26, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Coool ! I like your blog, esp this one.
    I wished I could have learned the first point much earlier, but anw, it is always good to learn it now.
    Carry on! Great job!

    • November 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      Thank you, I appreciate the note. Glad that this is helpful!

  4. Yuqing Deng
    October 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Yes, master yourself! It is really annoying that you help someone once to show them how to handle difficult situations, just so that they can do it themselves next time. Yet, they come back with the exact or quite similar problem for help again.

    Languages are interesting Steven Pinker begins with a story in his “Language Instinct” http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/books/tli/index.html

    “When a male octopus spots a female, his normally grayish body suddenly becomes striped. He swims above the female and begins caressing her with seven of his arms. If she allows this, he will quickly reach toward her and slip his eighth arm into her breathing tube. A series of sperm packers moves slowly through a groove in his arm, finally to slip into the mantle cavity of the female.

    Think about what these words have done. I did not simply remind you of octopuses; in the unlikely event that you ever see one develop stripes, you now know what will happen next.

  5. Tianshu
    November 7, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Danye I love your blogs! I remember the first article I read was 写给还没毕业的你们 about a year ago on renren. I read it again yesterday, and I felt like I could relate more to some of your experiences that I didn’t understand before(like the job hunt part). I just realized yesterday that you graduated in summer 08–the market was HORRIBLE that year! Solute to your courage for looking at only US offices–a lot of our alums scattered to Asia that year.

    I liked the bottle and the stone story. In fact, I just heard another interpretation from a woman executive. She used it to describe work-life balance–in order to achieve a good balance, you will need to prioritize what’s important to you and put these rocks in first, and then fill the bottle up with pebbles, and eventually sand. If you don’t balance your life well, i.e. fill up the bottle with sand first, you will not be able to fit your stones in and your life would be offbalance. A similar interpretation, but applied to a specific settng, I guess.

    Anyways, hope your work is going well! Enjoy life in the Big Apple! 🙂

    • November 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      Hey Tianshu, thanks for stopping by my blog and I appreciate your comments. Too bad I missed you in NY this time but do let me know next time you visit. I was in HK a month or so ago and a lot of my friends who used to be in NY are now in HK. They’re having a great life too. Courage is one thing, job market is another, but ultimately it’s where you want to see yourself and what you want to do with your life. Many people are doing great back in Asia too, I have every respect for them as well.

      Yes I’ve heard the work-life balance story as well. It’s quite interesting indeed. I wrote another post on work-life balance a while back and basically the idea is “there is no such thing as work life balance”. You try your best every day. Some days you do great, some days not that great, some days awful. But that’s exactly how it is. You can’t expect your work life balance to be perfect every day because you do have a demanding job, but you do the best you can. And you make time for other things when you want to. That’s it to be honest. haha.

      And yes, see you soon and you enjoy school too!

      • Tianshu
        November 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm

        Hi Danye–

        I hope you didn’t get me wrong, because I’ll be applying to Hong Kong offices too! I was there during the summer and I simply loved the city(all except the weather–we’re 东北人! lol) What I meant was that when the market was bad, a lot of people looked into opportunities elsewhere in case the US market couldn’t provide what they needed at the moment. And some indeed went to Asia because they were turned down their first choices in New York when the employment ambience was not optimal. However, I met up with some of them during the summer in Hong Kong and I think they’re having a fabulous time there! Actually I have a friend who summered at GS Shanghai and is thinking of going back–GS doesn’t have a license to do IPOs in mainland and the group he worked in is tiny, but it doesn’t prevent him from loving the office and wanting to go back! I hope you didn’t get the impression that I’m judging people for wanting to work in Asia–I simply meant that in times of hardships a lot of people would want to keep their choices open even if the alternatives are not what they would prefer if they had a choice, so I admire that you always go after what you want and keep your mind only on that one goal.

        I read your Chinese blog too and I tried to comment but I don’t have a sina account and I don’t think the comment went through. I read in 温暖而孤独–没想到你也研究星座!看你写中文有种特别的亲切感 因为天蝎座女生对我有天生的吸引 从小到大在天蝎闺蜜的陪伴下 难免对这些女生有更多的了解 这大概就像你描述的水瓶对你的吸引一样吧 我记得上次和你聊星座你给了我一个号码是5618结尾 还在用吗

        看到你的facebook状态突然也很伤感 自从离开育才之后就再没人能理解我们的“水房”文化 我高三那年开始改在寝室楼下打水了 毕业后回去照相看着锁着门的水房突然特别伤感 这些我们share的experience就即将literally永远的不存在了 想想那个六点起床做早操只能留短发的地方居然如此让我们怀念 育才确实是个神奇的地方

        抱歉翻出你n久前的日志 不是故意这样明目张胆的stalk你的呵呵 只是看到有感觉的文字就想再继续看下去而已 所以多翻了你几个blog hope you don’t mind 😛

        • November 7, 2010 at 6:26 pm

          Hey I am flattered that you took the time to read my Chinese blog. I know I write my Chinese ones in a very different style and many of my friends actually enjoy reading my Chinese posts better, so i don’t blame you, hahaha. Nah, well actually as you can tell most of my Chinese blogs are subtle, personal, and quite emotional (these ones are always way better than blogs a few years back), but this is precisely the reason why I don’t write them very often nowadays. I am hoping to be more forward-looking and be more focused on a positive mind-set, and share more practical work and life experiences. Does that make sense to you? My phone number changed but you can always reach me on FB and Gmail, and we’ll chat offline more for sure.

  1. January 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm
  2. February 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

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