S.M.A.R.T. Goals

One of our challenges this week is to write down our goals using the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Boxed. Each goal that we want to pursue must meet these five characteristics.

Here are my goals for the week based on the SMART method:

  • Working out: go to the gym three more times this week (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday)
  • Working out: go to Bikram Yoga Classes twice this week (Thursday and Saturday)
  • Cooking Chinese dishes at least four more times this week (go grocery shopping on Thursday)
  • Decide which country I want to go to for my voyage phase
  • Work on completing one item from the “To Learn” List
  • Sign up for an MOOC and start watching the lectures

I will update you all on how this goes by the end of the week!


Exciting Stuff!

The launch phase has been extremely beneficial for my personal development so far. For the first time in my life, I am living and “working” in the real world, with like-minded people and an extremely supportive team. I am no longer bound by the rules and regulations of boarding school or a school curriculum – I haven’t felt this free in a long time. I used the past week to explore some interests of mine and try out a few new things. I will be doing fire-arms training on Thursday, visiting the Noise Bridge hackerspace today (I have never been inside a hackerspace before!) and attending my first real music festival on Sunday! Additionally, I will take part in Bikram Yoga classes, take swing lessons starting in October, go to the nearby gym more often and probably visit the Buddhist Center a couple more times. San Francisco has so many things to offer, and I don’t know if I will be able to take full advantage of the myriad of opportunities, but I will certainly do my best. I am just extremely grateful and excited that I am able to have all of these new experiences and utilize them for my personal growth! Thank you to all the people who have made my first week such an adventure 🙂


To bring last week to a close, I want to reflect on our learning outcomes and how successfully I “completed” them. The expected learning outcomes for the last week were:

  • Understand your current identity and the value in its malleability
  • Think about how your identity will change
  • Learn how you can control and communicate your identity
  • Understand how your identity influences your actions + decisions

The first week of the launch phase has been filled with challenges, adventures and new experiences. Through our discussions during the workshops, the reading material and my meaningful conversations with the other fellows, I feel as though I have gotten to know the others, and myself, a little better. Watching Julian Baggini’s TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/julian_baggini_is_there_a_real_you.html) was especially inspiring, because he gave me a new definition for the word “identity” – one which really resonated with my beliefs. When I was applying for the UnCollege Gap Year and was asked to describe what kind of person I was, I did not really know how to answer the question because it was difficult for me to summarize myself into a paragraph filled with definite, unambiguous statements. I realize now that I was attempting to say the same thing as Julian Baggini, just with my own words. I am very thankful to have listened to his TED talk, because it makes things much clearer for me.

All of the challenges that I have completed throughout the week have contributed to this entire process as well. I have made new and fascinating discoveries about myself (I like Mexican food!) and the world around me (There really are more crazy people on the street here). I will continue with the “identity” challenges whenever I get the chance, because they are a great way for me to put things into perspective and reflect on myself. What I was not able to accomplish this week was to communicate my identity effectively – I will make sure to address this issue by writing a new CV and sending emails to potential “employers” for my voyage phase.

I am really excited about this week and all the new experiences that will come my way!



This pinterest board that I have created is dedicated to T-shirts with a message – one of my favorite items of clothing. I enjoy wearing individual, unique and quirky things, and a T-shirt is the perfect way for me to get that across. A T-shirt is not only an item of clothing, but also a statement: about what you stand for, are interested in or find amusing. In a sense, a T-shirt can reveal a lot (or very little) about you. They do not always have to have a deeper meaning, sometimes they can just be funny, for you or for the person reading it. Depending on my mood or outfit, I’ll wear any of the T-shirts with a message that I have. Somedays I’ll wear T-shirts with no message or drawing, it all depends how I am feeling that day. My collection will definitely grow in the future.



Here are my 5 most important values:

Integrity: I love the quote “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. In our ever-changing and evolving society, it can be so easy to get swept away with the tide and lose your sense of self. That is why I firmly believe in holding on to your core beliefs and standing up for them, even when no one else is.

Open-mindedness: having spent almost half of my life in an international school, this experience has taught me the valuable lesson to be open-minded towards people from all sorts of different countries, cultures and ethnicities. This can open many doors for you, leading to new friendships, adventures and conversations.

Honesty: although I am not as extreme as the people from “Radical Honesty” (http://www.radicalhonesty.com), I do believe that being honest and truthful with people benefits our social interactions/relationships. Whenever my friends or family members ask me for advice, they can expect to hear an honest answer from me.

Beauty/Acceptance: I believe in finding beauty in the world around us, even in the most mundane things. This can also mean accepting things or others as the (beautiful) way they are, which is why I grouped these two values together. This sense of wonderment and awe can disappear as we grow older, which is why it is so important for me to hold on to it.

Community: no matter where or at what stage we are in life, we need the support of others to accomplish our goals. I am very glad to have the support of my family, friends and fellow fellows (see what I did there? haha), especially during this gap year where I am trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.

Before Night Falls

I am currently reading the novel “Before Night Falls” by the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, which is one of the two books that we can read for this week’s challenges. I am about half-way through the novel and am thoroughly enjoying it. Although I have not finished his autobiography yet, I am getting a sense of what life was like in Cuba during the early years of Castro’s rule as well as the time before that. His writing style is very concise yet descriptive – a balance that is difficult to achieve. In that sense it is quite different from novels that I have read that discuss the theme of living under a dictatorship (such as 1984 or Brave New World), because the writing is much more poetic and vivid. One really gets the feeling that he loves his home very much, and can’t help feeling bitter because he is ostracized from his community for being a “counter-revolutionary” writer as well as a homosexual. I am watching the movie (with Javier Bardem) at the same time, and this helps bring the book to life before my eyes even more. The movie has beautiful visuals, just as the book describes them.