Gillian Lee: Seeking value

Guest Columnist
Friday, May 25, 2018
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2018

As an applied math-economics concentrator, I’ve spent my undergraduate career learning about different ways to quantify the difference between an expected value and a true value. I’ve spent hours poring over notes and problem sets on concepts from mean squared error, which measures how close an estimated value is to the true value, to the Kullback–Leibler divergence, which measures the distance between a probability distribution and the true distribution. Though I could never quantify how much Brown means to me, I’ve begun to reflect on the difference between the expected and the true in my time here.

Before coming to campus, I spent months listening to my parents and teachers share stories their college memories. Friends who came home after their first year of college with thrilling stories about their new lives. As orientation neared, I could hardly wait to begin what I expected would be four years of self-discovery.

But my first night at Brown, I called my parents crying, feeling completely alone as I haphazardly tried to turn my room in Woolley into a place I could call home. That loneliness lingered for a while. When spring of my freshman year came, I questioned my belonging here in a way I had never experienced before. Though I was struggling and barely sleeping, I tried to convince myself that I loved Brown and that this was the perfect place to be. After all, it seemed everyone was supposed to feel that way about college. I eventually found the answer to that nagging doubt, though it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what changed. By junior year, as the leaves fell and grew back again, I realized I was engulfed in the familiarity of life on campus. I found I loved Brown beyond the expectations I had placed on it.

As my days on campus wind down, I’ve been trying to map out my memories here to think of what exceeded these expectations. There were ceremonious occasion like Convocation, when my roommate and I took a picture together right before we walked through the open gates. There was the time my roommates and I signed our lease for our senior year apartment, and all the fanfare of the last game I cheered after four years as a cheerleader. 

But I also find myself longing for the days that passed by quietly. It’s not a discrete memory that could be easily tied to a location, but rather a feeling of endless days spent with the most wonderful of people. I can’t put into words how familiar the cracks and crevices of the sidewalks, narrow stairs of Robinson Hall and the SciLi and, above all, the faces on campus feel now. This was truly what made Brown feel like my home, more than I ever could have expected. 

I couldn’t be happier that the love I expected to have for Brown is so much different than the actual love I have for it now. Brown taught me how to dream, and the people I’ve met here have inspired and encouraged me to do so. Though I’m excited for what lies outside the gates, I also know that it took time to realize how special Brown is. With these memories, I wish that the flowers could hold back from blossoming and that we could stay suspended in time for just a little longer.

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