MINERVA VOICES

A Note Home, From 10,000 Miles Away

by Cindy Leow | Class of 2020

March 9, 2017

Back in Malaysia, my family calls the first day of the Lunar New Year Chor Yat.

On Chor Yat this year, I woke up in sunny San Francisco.

But it didn’t feel like Chor Yat.

It was actually the first day of Ascent weekend, so many of us in the Class of 2020 were going to spend the day showing prospective members of the Class of 2021 around our “campus.”

I was excited, but at the same time, there was something amiss.

Where were the unnecessarily obnoxious fireworks that would jolt me awake every year?

Where were the giggly shrieks, snaps, and pops emanating from the mini firecrackers my little cousins threw around?

Where were the angpaos — the money-filled red packets that married couples give children for prosperity and luck?

Where was the scent of pan-fried scallions mixed with burning joss sticks from the reunion lunch my grandmother cooks?

Why wasn’t I there with them? Why wasn’t my family celebrating this with me?

As I started to get ready that morning, my phone buzzed. With a sigh, I turned to see what it was.

One text message. From my mom. “Open your I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings book and turn to page 49.” I was surprised she knew I’d brought one of my favorite books to San Francisco: she must have seen me immersed in it during quiet moments at home during winter break.

I was puzzled. My mother never does things like this… Cryptic conundrums aren’t her thing. What was on page 49? I opened the book.

Sandwiched between pages 49 and 50 was an angpao. I grasped it, as if it might vanish.

Rather than just shiny, hard cash inside the red packet, I found a note.

I could hear my mother’s voice, as I read her words:

“This is the first year you won’t be with your family on our New Years’, but I hope you’re just as happy, as you always are.”

That night, I didn’t hear any Lunar New Year fireworks in San Francisco to remind me of home. But just before midnight, as we trudged up the steep streets with new Minervans to Corona Heights, I found myself in awe of the unbelievable magnificence of the city lights, and enthralled in the splendid background music of our excited chatter.

No, my siblings and cousins weren’t chaotically running around me, like at home. But just two nights before, my friends and I had climbed trees at playgrounds in Hayes Valley, chasing each other, mingling, and dancing around (as we so often do at Minerva).

Aside from the one from my mother, I didn’t get many angpaos. What I did receive were cards from my best friends here, pinned to my wall, written for me in gratitude.

No one was cooking up a storm of Chinese food in our communal kitchen at 1412. But Chinatown is just a stone’s throw away — and remember, San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the largest and oldest in the world.

Perhaps — just perhaps — if we can’t be home with our families for these traditions, being here at Minerva, in San Francisco and with this community — busy, bustling, and bubbly — is the next best thing, for Chor Yat, for Christmas, for New Years, for Ramadan, and for any traditions each of us might be missing back at home.

Innovating traditions? Sounds like Minerva.

So, thank you, San Francisco. Thank you, Minerva.

Thank you, Minerva families, for giving us this opportunity to share our traditions with each other, as we share ourselves with the world.

Yam-seng (that’s “Cheers”) from San Francisco,

Cindy Leow

Quick Facts

Name
Country
Class
Major

Social Sciences & Business

Business & Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Computational Sciences & Social Sciences

Computer Science & Arts and Humanities

Business and Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Arts and Humanities

Business, Social Sciences

Business & Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences, Natural Sciences

Data Science, Statistics

Computational Sciences

Business

Computational Sciences, Data Science

Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Business, Natural Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Science

Social Sciences, Business

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Science

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Science, Statistic Natural Sciences

Business & Social Sciences

Computational Science, Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Business

Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Arts and Humanities

Computational Science

Minor

Computational Science & Business

Economics

Social Sciences

Concentration

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence & Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Designing Societies & New Ventures

Strategic Finance & Data Science and Statistics

Brand Management and Designing Societies

Data Science & Economics

Machine Learning

Cells, Organisms, Data Science, Statistics

Arts & Literature and Historical Forces

Artificial Intelligence & Computer Science

Cells and Organisms, Mind and Emotion

Economics, Physics

Managing Operational Complexity and Strategic Finance

Global Development Studies and Brain, Cognition, and Behavior

Scalable Growth, Designing Societies

Business

Drug Discovery Research, Designing and Implementing Policies

Historical Forces, Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Artificial Intelligence, Psychology

Designing Solutions, Data Science and Statistics

Data Science and Statistic, Theoretical Foundations of Natural Science

Strategic Finance, Politics, Government, and Society

Data Analysis, Cognition

Brand Management

Data Science and Statistics & Economics

Cognitive Science & Economics

Data Science and Statistics and Contemporary Knowledge Discovery

Internship
Higia Technologies
Project Development and Marketing Analyst Intern at VIVITA, a Mistletoe company
Business Development Intern, DoSomething.org
Business Analyst, Clean Energy Associates (CEA)

Conversation

Back in Malaysia, my family calls the first day of the Lunar New Year Chor Yat.

On Chor Yat this year, I woke up in sunny San Francisco.

But it didn’t feel like Chor Yat.

It was actually the first day of Ascent weekend, so many of us in the Class of 2020 were going to spend the day showing prospective members of the Class of 2021 around our “campus.”

I was excited, but at the same time, there was something amiss.

Where were the unnecessarily obnoxious fireworks that would jolt me awake every year?

Where were the giggly shrieks, snaps, and pops emanating from the mini firecrackers my little cousins threw around?

Where were the angpaos — the money-filled red packets that married couples give children for prosperity and luck?

Where was the scent of pan-fried scallions mixed with burning joss sticks from the reunion lunch my grandmother cooks?

Why wasn’t I there with them? Why wasn’t my family celebrating this with me?

As I started to get ready that morning, my phone buzzed. With a sigh, I turned to see what it was.

One text message. From my mom. “Open your I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings book and turn to page 49.” I was surprised she knew I’d brought one of my favorite books to San Francisco: she must have seen me immersed in it during quiet moments at home during winter break.

I was puzzled. My mother never does things like this… Cryptic conundrums aren’t her thing. What was on page 49? I opened the book.

Sandwiched between pages 49 and 50 was an angpao. I grasped it, as if it might vanish.

Rather than just shiny, hard cash inside the red packet, I found a note.

I could hear my mother’s voice, as I read her words:

“This is the first year you won’t be with your family on our New Years’, but I hope you’re just as happy, as you always are.”

That night, I didn’t hear any Lunar New Year fireworks in San Francisco to remind me of home. But just before midnight, as we trudged up the steep streets with new Minervans to Corona Heights, I found myself in awe of the unbelievable magnificence of the city lights, and enthralled in the splendid background music of our excited chatter.

No, my siblings and cousins weren’t chaotically running around me, like at home. But just two nights before, my friends and I had climbed trees at playgrounds in Hayes Valley, chasing each other, mingling, and dancing around (as we so often do at Minerva).

Aside from the one from my mother, I didn’t get many angpaos. What I did receive were cards from my best friends here, pinned to my wall, written for me in gratitude.

No one was cooking up a storm of Chinese food in our communal kitchen at 1412. But Chinatown is just a stone’s throw away — and remember, San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the largest and oldest in the world.

Perhaps — just perhaps — if we can’t be home with our families for these traditions, being here at Minerva, in San Francisco and with this community — busy, bustling, and bubbly — is the next best thing, for Chor Yat, for Christmas, for New Years, for Ramadan, and for any traditions each of us might be missing back at home.

Innovating traditions? Sounds like Minerva.

So, thank you, San Francisco. Thank you, Minerva.

Thank you, Minerva families, for giving us this opportunity to share our traditions with each other, as we share ourselves with the world.

Yam-seng (that’s “Cheers”) from San Francisco,

Cindy Leow