Some stray thoughts before I leave for the summer. Based partly on a letter I wrote to a friend a week ago.

Somehow, junior year is almost over. I still don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve realized now that no one does, really. Anyways, I’ve spent the semester exploring myself and am starting to finally figure out what I want. Or at least, what I enjoy.

What have I enjoyed?

Classes, definitely. I’m taking Intro to Creative Writing, which samples fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Each week I write a little, read a little. It’s good. I do my best thinking when I’m writing.

night fall

Film photography. Wow, what a class. I think any visual person should take it—you really do learn to look at the world differently.

boston shot, kodak tri-x 400 film

My dad’s dad was a journalist in China and developed his own photos on film. I never met him. But I met the darkroom and in all those long hours of rocking trays of chemicals and shaking development jars, I thought about him and my dad and my family and where we came from.

madame president, kodak tri-x 400 film

That relates to another class, Chinatowns. We covered a lot of Chinese immigration history — stuff my parents and teachers never really talked about. Our projects have been great too — for one I visited a local Chinese restaurant to interview waiters and the manager. And our last project was a 50-person roleplaying game that I’ve talked about .

downtown durham

Outside of class, I’ve trimmed my previous commitments down to two: organizing HackDuke and being a part of APO. For HackDuke we put on our second year of the Ideate design conference. Much better organized this time—last year we ordered double lunch for one day and no lunch for the other.


APO probably will get its own post. Yesterday morning our pledge class got initiated—I can’t believe I joined just last Spring. It’s funny, I feel like I’ve finally found my place here and yet it’s already almost time to go. Sad, but okay. I’ve enjoyed my time here so far.


I almost feel like college has mirrored high school. Freshman year I was very close to my high school friends. Not a bad thing, to be fair. It’s good to have very close friends and I always go to them for advice now. But I didn’t reach out enough.

car wash

I also met a great group of friends in engineering class that first semester. Mainly other first generation Chinese American kids that had come from all over the country, but once we got to know each other, all our suburbs seemed so similar.

downtown durham

I’ve also been learning Chinese. Not being able to speak has been my greatest regret in life. I guess growing up in the US you really don’t need it. But I’m missing part of myself without it. Trying to fix that now.

me in boston

The last thing I wanted to talk about is success and happiness. Last semester all I could think of was recruiting. All I could measure myself was by my resume and all I wanted was a job. And then I got one.

I felt good for an entire afternoon.

And then I realized that I wasn’t happy. I think in college it’s so easy to equate success with grades and resumes and jobs. It’s so easy. It’s all we ever talk about as students, you know?


But you realize eventually that it’s kinda like ACT scores. No one cares. No one. Everyone has their own life they’re living, their own things they do, their own people they care about.


What do I care about? Still figuring that out.

—April 30th from Durham, North Carolina

Brian Lin is a writer, runner, and stray cat lover. A recent Duke grad in CS and English, he is a software engineer by day and a typewriter poet by night.