Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Today, I read the @prepschoolbtch and @ivyleaguebitch twitter feeds. Then, I wondered about privilege and stereotype. I went to Exeter, which, being a New England boarding school, has a reputation for being a school for rich WASPs.

I've actually never met anyone at school who approached the level of (somewhat funny) snottiness found on @prepschoolbtch. I do not doubt that some of my classmates' families were extremely rich. I do not disown my school's past as a grooming ground for rich, white, conservative young men. But that's not what is now.

Most of my friends came to Exeter for the academic privileges, not necessarily because saying "I went to Phillips Exeter Academy" in a room full of businessmen will get you something you otherwise wouldn't have. Most of my friends were on financial aid. Maybe it was only because the sample I'm examining right now is made up of only the people whose company I enjoy, but Exeter for me was full of people who are the opposite of the "I summer in the Hamptons; what country club do you frequent?" prep school stereotype.

I know that I was extremely privileged to be able to attend Exeter, to sit and converse directly with my peers and my teachers in class, to study in the largest secondary-school library in the world, to live in a dorm with heat and running water and eat in a dining hall open all day and not have to worry about having a job during the school year. I know that I was told Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during Assemblies that we were "the future of America", "the CEOs and presidents of tomorrow."

Not that that's actually true. I don't think that anyone can reasonably believe that every Exeter alumnus and alumna is going to accomplish something recognized as great by the general public. But yes, we received the kind of education that would benefit a leader.

My friends and I have ended up looking like pedigreed dogs. Exeter + MIT, Exeter + Harvard, Exeter + Yale, etc. Given only that, we seem like the WASPiest people in the world (a little less so with MIT). Or, some people see us as the smartest kids in the world. Even that's an unfair assumption. There are plenty of brilliant young adults out there who chose not to, or never had the chance to attend an academically renowned high school or college.

I feel like the luckiest person alive, having had enjoyed all the positive experiences and learned from all the negative ones that I had at Exeter, and having all the promise of MIT ahead of me. I know that I'm privileged. I hope others know what I mean by that, and it's not just having Nantucket Red blood.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I just bought a new laptop. HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition, Intel(R) Quad Core(TM) i7-2630QM, 1GB GDDR5 Radeon(TM) HD 6770M graphics card, 6GB RAM, 750GB hard drive. Sweet build for around $800.

I’ll probably read this in a few years and think that computers were crap in 2011…

It’s okay, though, because these are really good specs today. I’m really excited to get to play with it when it arrives in a couple of weeks. I actually can’t afford to pay for it on my own, yet, but when my next paychecks come in from my two jobs, I’ll have enough to pay my parents back. This whole having my own money thing is turning out to be really enjoyable.

(Today, I also had to buy my bed-sheets for school. Did you know that the Charter Club twin extra-long 3-piece sheet set ($70) cost more than twice as much as normal twin sheets ($30)? I ended up ditching those and getting one normal flat sheet ($10) and one extra-long fitted sheet ($25) which I think should work out okay. Who knew sheets were so complicated/expensive?)

Anyways, buying a computer reminded me somehow of the number of Mac users at Exeter, which reminded me of a couple of Mac users in my old dorm, which reminded me of the weird divide that existed among the members of the class of 2011 in my dorm while we were there.

I first noticed it upper year. We were waiting for a dorm meeting to start. Three other uppers (my friends) and I were already sitting down, when someone went, “Where are all the uppers? I bet they’re all in “Mary”’s room watching Mean Girls.” Okay, four uppers were already there. Glad to see we weren’t Bancroft uppers? That was just one example. “Senior picture time!” called “Meena,” after the after-check-in snowball fight the dorm head let us have one night. She grabs “Mary” and the other three members of her friend group and they take a picture. The other four of us…guess weren’t Bancroft seniors, either.

The most blatant instance was the last night of school. They had a Bancroft Senior/Parent Dinner right outside of the dorm. In broad daylight. Apparently they were all sitting there when two of us “others” walked out of the front door. I don’t regret being left out of that group at all. I’m perfectly happy with the very close friends I had in the dorm. I just wish “the seniors” hadn’t been so insulting about it to our faces, whether intentionally or not.

The most awkward part? I’m sure it wasn’t meant to end up like this, but “the seniors” were the white girls + the wealthy Indian girl, and the “other seniors” were the Asian and black girls. Alrighty, then.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


At 4:42 P.M., an hour and forty-two minutes after the promised "around 3 P.M.," I got my FPOP email.

"Congratulations! You have been accepted to the Freshman Leadership Program as your Freshman Pre-Orientation Program (FPOP)."

So now I know one thing for sure about the fall: I have to arrive on campus by 5 P.M. on August 22. Two months to go. 61 days. Then we’ll go to the woods of New Hampshire for the program. (Of all places; I thought I wouldn’t be going back to that state for a while. I have mixed thoughts about visiting campus in the next school year. I want to see my friends who are still there, but I don’t quite want to go back. I want some distance.) Apparently, it’s “life-changing.” It makes you question your beliefs. You laugh, you cry, you develop lasting friendships.

I want that all to be true. I really do. I’m trying not to go into this comparing it all to Exeter, but I can’t help it. Exeter was three years of laughing, crying, questioning my beliefs, and developing relationships with people. I went in politically apathetic; I came out very nearly a flaming liberal, but tending towards being fiscally conservative-ish-maybe, and fiercely conservative about Exeter. I didn’t know I’d be that hard-nose opposing the removal of Saturday classes and the shortening of the daily schedule. I went in a shy thirteen-year-old, a follower. Now I’m sixteen and off to college, and I’ve become an outspoken, opinionated person. I’ve grown more in the last three years than in any other three-year period of my life. I find myself wondering if five days in a leadership program can live up to that. But it shouldn’t have to. I’ll try my hardest to keep an open mind.


I really want to wear my Exeter class ring to college. I don’t want to flaunt it; I just want to be able to look at it and remember what Exeter helped me accomplish. It is unmistakably part of my identity.

My mother says she doesn’t want my classmates to assume I’m a rich, nose-up, snotty prep-school snob. I definitely don’t want that either, but maybe I’ll just wear the ring and ditch the rest of the Exeter gear (blanket, jacket, fleece) for at least the first semester, so that people can get to know me first. I haven’t gotten a single comment about my ring yet from anyone, so maybe it’s unobtrusive enough.

I guess I didn’t really have that problem at Exeter. Most people didn’t talk about money, and no one really knew the names of any good/privileged/rich middle schools, so we couldn’t judge based on anyone’s previous school. I think most of us were public school kids. I was, besides a brief and interesting interlude as a non-Catholic at Catholic school my freshman year.

I still remember driving onto campus on September 3, 2008. I remember getting my ID/yearbook picture taken by a crappy little digital camera (horrendously, this would be a yearly occurrence). I remember finding Bancroft Hall, the one with the pink flamingoes. I remember walking into my room, right next to the Common Room. My roommate wasn’t there, but she’d already unpacked. She left me the side of the room with the windows, all three of them. My mom and I tried figuring out what she look like from the pictures on her desk. She was with some of the same people in most of them, so we couldn’t tell. I remember finding Joy, my acquaintance from MathPath, and her roommate Tomi. We went to P.O. We came out. Tomi directed us to the right…somewhat erroneously: we ended up at a boy’s dorm at the far north end of campus. We lived in one of the dorms furthest south.

Joy and Tomi are two of my closest friends. I wouldn’t even call my roommate my friend. Just a fellow Exonian.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the beginning

I'm trying to figure out a way to remember what it was like to go to Phillips Exeter Academy. So I'm going to write it down here.

It's the summer between Exeter and MIT, the summer after I graduated from high school, the summer before I head off to college. I tried to decide whether I was antsier and excited the summer before Exeter, all the way back in 2008, but then I realized that I couldn't remember. I remember that I went to Chinese camp under the dictatorship of a crazy Taiwanese lady. I went to Milwaukee to attend my cousin's wedding, and to Chicago to sightsee. I watched Michael Phelps dominate swimming in the Beijing Summer Olympics on TV. I can hardly believe that all that occurred before I started Exeter.

I remember that back in 2008, I got my Exeter acceptance letter for my birthday. This year, I got my MIT acceptance letter. How privileged I am, to be able to attend these two extraordinary institutions of learning.

I exchanged a few emails with my new roommate in August, after room assignments came out. I think that’s the most I ever got to know her. We were in Bancroft Hall, room 108. I thought I was lucky to have gotten a first floor room as a new student. My mom thought otherwise—too much through-traffic, she said. An acquaintance of mine from MathPath 2007 somehow landed in room 107. She ended up being one of my best friends. I didn’t know that though, that summer. I just remembered her telling funny stories about the Termichickenator, being awesome at origami, and coloring on people in silver Sharpie.

So here I am, waiting all over again. Waiting to see if I get into an FPOP tomorrow. Waiting for my housing assignment. (Will I get my first choice dorm? Who will be my roommate? Will we be those fairytale roommates who keep in touch decades later? Or will we simply coexist peacefully? We could even dislike each other, or be incompatible roommates, but I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.) Waiting for my advisor assignment, so that I can start planning classes.

I’m bad at waiting. But I remember that September 3, 2008 did eventually arrive, those three years ago, and that I ended up on Exeter’s beautiful campus. So tomorrow, I’ll know about FPOPs. I’ll know what date I will arrive on MIT’s campus. I’ll know exactly how long I have to keep waiting.