St. Olaf Sentiments: March 11, 2016

2.5 years of attempts. 2.5 years of failures. 2.5 years and it all came to this.

Feb. 12, 2016. After 2.5 years, my application to attend a conference at Harvard University got through, and I finally set foot on the soil from which geniuses throughout history have gone out to achieve more than what the other 7 billion human beings are capable of.

There is more to the conference than what meets the eye, though. At the surface, it might have looked as if I were attending lectures and speeches from people who are apparently good at whatever it is they do and then returning to whatever it is that reality might throw at me in order to open my eyes or stifle my ambitions.

But no. It is the people that I met who had the greatest influence. And who were these people, you might ask? Well, since the conference focused on “Asian and International Relations,” it is pretty obvious where they are from, geographically speaking. But beyond that? Academics, entrepreneurs and government officials: you name them, and they were all there. Heck, the moment I realized that, I asked myself how on earth I got there.

But, alas, the opportunity to be within such a crowd compelled me to promote my maturity through my capacity for rational arguments and my ability to deconstruct the arguments of others into something my own mind could understand. It is one thing to do this with your friends with whom you spend your lunches and time at parties, it is another when you are doing it with a 29-year-old who realized he loves the environment after going through the ups and downs of being a lawyer.

From here, one could say that the conference is actually a networking event, albeit one that took me 2.5 years to get into. Knowing that there are other easier channels to do so, one is compelled to ask: is it really that worth it?

In all honesty, time moved so swiftly during the four day conference that I somehow said to myself that I might be exaggerating what this conference has done for me. Other people have already done more than suggest the same. I’m simply attending an event with the name “Harvard” attached to it.

Nevertheless, as I engaged myself in all the lectures, case studies, and even the dance, I felt that I had brought myself into a new step in my life. I have marked out a path that I will remember fondly, no matter how small or insignificant others may see it. What is important to me is the realization that I have to keep moving forward and not let myself succumb to the satisfaction of what I have already accomplished. There are still paths to be tread and marks to be made, and they are waiting for me to take the step forward.

When I got back and touched the soil of St. Olaf under a lukewarm sunset, I immediately went to the Buntrock Commons just to see what everyone else was doing. As I gazed over dozens of Oles glued to their laptops, textbooks and cups of liquid they have the gall to call coffee, I smiled and chuckled, saying to myself, “Look at all us undergrads.”