Up until this past year, I dreaded the infamous “So, what school do you go to?” question, especially around my Chinese relatives and family friends. Growing up in Shanghai, I seldom encountered people who know where Syracuse is. Some of my favorite responses thus far have been…
“Syracuse … that’s California right?”
“Syracuse! Oh … is it also known as Cornell?”
To make matters worse, there is no official name for Syracuse in Mandarin, making it seem even less legit. As a result, we often dub it “Snow City,” or sound it out phonetically in Mandarin (Xi-la-qiu-zi). In the eyes of my relatives and family friends, if it isn’t Harvard or MIT, is it even worth traveling halfway across the world for?
And the simple answer to this question is: yes.
When I was young, these interactions used to tug at my deep-seated, irrepressible insecurities. Coming from a culture where SAT prep, ACT prep and college consulting were common practices, I – for the longest time – could not reconcile these discrepancies between expectations and aspirations. From a young age, I sought comfort in knowing that I couldn’t and wouldn’t always be the best. I feel like my parents built me up that way but somehow society, people I barely knew and distant relatives felt otherwise. Outside of my home, I had standards of perfection, expectations for attending a good university and attaining a prosperous future constantly drilled into my conscience. The culture of disapproval felt prevalent throughout my experiences with Chinese culture and at times, engrained.
“Can’t you do better?”
“Good college means good future!”
To be honest, while attending a more prestigious college could’ve been a possibility, I genuinely believe that my experiences elsewhere would have yielded similar results. As my time at Syracuse is coming to an end, I can’t help but reflect on the different clubs and organizations I’ve joined. From the Women’s Club Ultimate Frisbee Team to Phi Sigma Pi Honor Fraternity, my involvement at Syracuse has supplied value to my life and consistently motivated me to achieve better. I gained the support of teammates who give me a greater sense of belonging; my fraternity has provided me with vital friendships and a backbone for my endeavors both on and off campus since freshman year. I often wondered if my experiences could be validated by quantifiable studies, and I soon encountered the answers.
In a 2011 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 19,000 college graduates were interviewed to test the correlation between the university these students attended and their post-graduate job opportunities. Test results yielded that there was little to no relationship between attending an elite college and having a better future.
Then again in 2014, a Time article was published to reiterate this relationship. It added that, “earnings are only a part of the employment picture… [and that] on a range of measures of job satisfaction, attendance at an elite college had little impact”.
This past summer, these statistics proved themselves a reality for me. I had the opportunity to intern at FedEx Services in Dallas, Texas. My biggest takeaway from the internship was that beyond just technical skills, it fulfilled me with the sense of the bigger picture. Based solely off my day-to-day interactions with fellow interns and company employees, I came to the realization that where we attended college was not a measure of our abilities and it never will be.
Every now and then, I think back to those interactions I had with family friends and relatives. There are days I wish I could travel back in time to tell them that none of it (the prestige or status of the school) mattered. So to all my readers, know that college is entirely what you make of it. As cliché as it will probably ever sound, the opportunities for you to grow are endless; especially on SU’s campus, you’re constantly surrounded by them.
So, go out and seize these opportunities, build yourself up and maximize your time here because, at the end of the day, all that matters is what you do with what you’re given. Take a deep breath and filter out unnecessary, discouraging energy. Focus on yourself and how you want to achieve your end goals.
You’ve chosen Syracuse and it’s chosen you too.
Communications Director Joann Li is a senior majoring in information management and technology and broadcast journalism at Syracuse University. She is a lover of cats, hiking and all things Orange.