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October 29, 2018

Learning to Let My Guard Down

Written by

Jacky Tung

Cornell University 19'

“You can get rid of anything in the world: your friends, your co-workers, your job, even your family; one thing you can’t get rid of is yourself. That’s why you must learn to be your own best friend.”

This was a philosophy I carried with me wherever I went. For a while I considered myself antisocial. If I were to sit at a table full of strangers, I would not feel the need to engage or make small talk. I did not feel the need to be a part of any social group, because my collective experiences taught me one thing: people cannot be trusted. For this reason, I chose to close myself off and selectively pick my circles.

Despite having considered myself antisocial, I have had many worldly interactions. I have been blessed to have travelled to more than 30 different countries including Poland, Latvia, Kenya, Thailand, Singapore, and now, most recently, South Africa. 

However most of my travels have been a solo expedition. I take advantage of any summer and winter break and go wherever my spontaneity takes me. I have hopped from hostel to hostel across multiple continents. Uncharted waters and risky behaviors were my manic gusto: an explorer with no companion.

This is why I felt invincible when I first arrived at iXperience. I felt that my personal experiences were superior, but little did I know I would become vulnerable to criticism. My cavalier attitude attracted negative attention, and the next thing I knew I was singled out from my peers.

But things changed as I allowed myself to undergo a social and philosophical transition. I spent some time with my iX neighbors and data science peers, Chris and Mohammad. We bonded over making Indian cuisine together, specifically butter chicken and tikka masala.

Then one night, we talked while walking along the beach. I let my guard down. They shared some insights with me and my perspective took an unlikely turn.

A change in perspective

iXperience students at Camps Bay Beach

Jacky and iX friends at Camps Bay beach, Cape Town

During our talk, Chris made a point that struck me: “I get your perspective. You can get rid of anyone in the world, but why would you? You see. Every new friend I make is a new connection, and every stranger or even enemy I befriend is an opportunity in disguise. The way I see it. I can only benefit from making these connections, and there’s absolutely no reason for me to limit myself from goodwill.”

It was at this point I was sold. I took the first step and acknowledged that I had an attitude problem. Once I recognized my problem, I began to welcome strangers with warmth and grace.

I immediately noticed changes in how people reacted to my different attitude. People were kind to me. It startled me at first, but I eventually got over myself.

In the following weeks I met new friends and made amends. I was pardoned for my behavior, and my image was slowly but surely reinvented. I felt much better about myself.

The world that once brushed me off with cold shoulders embraced me with graceful serenity. I snuggled in and accepted its sincerity.

All the folks will tell you that, at iX, you will get the most out of what you put in. The context seems simple: your courses and internships will prepare you for the road ahead and you will feel ready to hit the pedal and cruise through the professional world.

But, there is way more to it. What you can get out of iX extends beyond academic and work. You will meet people that challenge you in the best way possible. iXperience has undoubtedly been the catalyst to a major social transition in my life, and for that, I can't thank them enough.

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