• Nicole Gouw

Have Fun with It - Nicole Gouw


Bona Nguyen '21, Chi Nguyen '20, Nicole Gouw '21, and Vanessa Rae '21(transferred) poses for picture

Dear Freshman me,


Congrats, you’ve not only made it to high school, you’re going to be studying in the United States, in California and smack in the middle of the woods! I know your mind must be running at 100 kilometers per hour right now — or should I say 62.1371 miles per hour? You definitely have loads of questions, some even your brother won’t answer. But to get some out of the way, no, it isn’t anything like High School Musical, and you don’t have your own locker (bummer, I know). Just like at your brother's graduation in 2013, there are still tons of deer, and a whole lot of fog. Plus, in a few weeks' time at Orientation, you’re going to be really confused as to why Dr. Hicks (and everybody else) keeps mentioning that Stevenson is your second home. You’ll probably think of it literally because yeah, after all, you are a boarder and you will get tons of packages delivered but if you follow my eight simple tips, I think you’ll really get to experience why people view Stevenson this way.

At preseason you’d play volleyball for the first time. Though you quickly realised that volleyball was not for you, you did find some of your closest friends there. Losing almost every single match, the bond was never stronger. Your teammate and roommate, Vanessa, would end up practicing diving with you in your shared room; but really, you both were just laughing the night away. Speaking of dorms, it’s your first time living away from parents! And who knew there would be so much for you to learn. One of the biggest takeaways is to always remember to set an alarm for your laundry (unless you’d rather see a pile of wet clothes on top of the dryer).


Now that we’ve got the ball rolling, here’s a small list of things that you managed to come up with from the last four years in high school:

  1. Go to more of the weekend activities! They’re a whole lot of fun and, more often than not, there’s always something to nibble on.

  2. Remember to click on the “Reply” button and not the “Reply all” if you just want to respond to the sender. It happens way more than you think. (P.S. teachers are on the class email lists too).

  3. Get into the habit of putting your keycard in a specific place. Whether it is at the back of your phone, attached to a lanyard, in a small pocket in your school bag, train yourself to put it in one place! It’ll save you the trouble of finding your dorm faculty and asking them to open your door before your next class.

  4. If you and your friends order food to share in the common room, please throw it out in the bins outside the dorms! Just do it - please and thank you.

  5. Just like Mrs. Schmittgens said in your Public Speaking class, “don’t say no” to new opportunities! Stevenson really does have a lot available to you — even writing this letter for the school newspaper! Whether it is trying different sports during each season, choosing different class electives or even joining one of the many clubs on campus, you’ll learn a lot from that experience and you get to meet new people. For example, who knew adding the one extra “Intro to Computer Science” class would help you realise that you actually quite like coding!

  6. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others — students and teachers alike. Admittedly, you realised this far too late but better late than never! Due to a pandemic (which requires a whole different letter), you had no choice but to reach out to teachers more often as an asynchronous student. All of them supported and helped you every step of the way whether it was scheduling to meet on Zoom or filming themselves working through a problem. Your teachers are more than happy to help you, so go ask questions instead of struggling by yourself!

  7. Though it is good to think before you speak, don’t just think and not speak! If you have an idea for a project, go and share it! If you had read a paragraph differently from the class, talk about it! I promise that people won’t judge you after you share something. It is easier said than done but I promise it’ll be helpful. Doesn’t even have to be in a class setting too — if you would like your roommate to change the way they are doing something, ask to talk it out and share your thoughts! It’ll prevent a relationship from going sour.

  8. You’ll hear this one often over the next four years, but there’s a reason why it’s reiterated so often. Practice active listening! As much as I asked you to share your thoughts in the last paragraph, it’s equally important to listen to what others are saying too.

I guess I baited you in the beginning. There’s a whole lot more to your high school experience than these vague 8 tips. But what’s the fun in telling you all of them? I hope my message came across clearly; if not, experience the things that Pebble Beach and Stevenson have to offer you! It may not seem that way in the beginning, but your time will definitely fly by quickly and even faster if you immerse yourself in the community. I’m excited for you to embark on this four-year journey and I promise by the end of it you will happily call Stevenson your second home.


Nicole :)


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