Sitting in the lounge of Theta, my home for the last two weeks, I am entirely unprepared to pull the all-nighter ahead of me. But, as with most things in life, it is happening whether I’m ready or not.

Two weeks ago, I arrived on Stanford’s campus, unprepared for the job ahead of me. A quick day of training helped, but it did not allay all of my fears. Being responsible for a group of 46 international teenagers is no small task. Luckily, I had friendly coworkers who ended up being super capable and super cool. And I had a group of really nice, funny kids who made my job fun and relatively easy. Two weeks is not a long time to get to know anyone, but I’m glad I got to spend time with these people regardless.

My house had a mix of Colombians, Chileans, Canadians, and Japanese kids. And I was shocked and impressed to watch these kids warm up to and make friends with each other so quickly, despite their cultural differences. I also had the privilege to learn about their countries and see their love and pride in their respective cultures. While handing out their superlatives at our last house meeting, I found myself grinning like an idiot as I watched them laugh and shout out their guesses for who won what award.

It reminds me of a similar night a few years ago, when I was again on Stanford’s campus, and sitting in the same seats as my students. My experience as a student in Stanford’s Pre-collegiate summer institutes was a formative moment for me, and was ultimately what made me so passionate about writing and what inspired me to apply to out of state schools such as Stanford and Yale. And look where that landed me. My three weeks at Stanford the summer before my senior set the stage for all the great things that followed. I changed during my time here; I learned to be brave enough to want things that seemed impossible; I learned to be brave enough to pursue dreams, no matter how unrealistic.

I think that’s a hard lesson to learn and an even harder lesson to retain. It is so easy to forget, to settle, to give up. Watching these kids come out of their shells and hearing them tell me how this experience was the most amazing thing to happen to them is a sweet reminder of that excited, hopeful outlook I had as a 17 year old. Such an outlook is hard to maintain as I grow older and adulthood rears its ugly head. But thankfully, I have opportunities like this to remind me.

And this is why I love working with kids. They aren’t jaded (usually) and they are so excited about the future. And after the multitude of adults who had a positive impact on me and my life, I want to return that positive energy. Also, there’s nothing more rewarding than the round of hugs I got tonight, each one accompanied by a “Thank you”. Kids are crazy, and they will push your limits and get on your nerves and make you want to pull your hair out or scream; but ultimately, they’re just trying to figure everything out (just like us old folk). So no matter how annoying or loud or frustrating they may be, I will always be grateful to be part of their journey. I’m gonna miss these kids; in fact, I already do.

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