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Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

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I will never forget March 25th, 2016. It was the day that turned my life on its toes. It was the day I was granted the opportunity to pursue a truly unmatchable educational, experiential vision. I was flooded with overwhelming feelings of relief, gratitude, excitement.

The time leading up to my freshman fall quarter was defined by conversations on whether I should be a consultant, an engineer, a designer, an interesting combination of those, or something entirely different. For me, as I understood it, Stanford would eventually bring a special aspect of certainty. Beyond the nebulous anticipation of my own self-fulfillment, I sought to help my family emerge from the cyclical poverty that had devastated us for so long. It was a miracle that I made it out the American Dream and meritocracy had exposed its colors in my favor. I felt that I had a lot I would be representing on the frontlines: my mother and little sister, my home country of Morocco, but oddly enough never myself.

Upon arrival to campus, my ambition only intensified. I played out countless realities in my head of becoming President of the Muslim Student Union, Executive of the ASSU, a member of Cardinal Calypso. On a more grounded note, I considered Management Science and Engineering, Product Design, and Science, Technology, and Society. All of these encompassed the interdisciplinary indulgence I thought was best for me. I always took pride in bridging together fields not necessarily thought to work in conjunction. This unorthodoxy was welcomed at Stanford, and was part of why I fell in love.

I thought studying abroad might be another way to engage my insatiable disposition. I wanted to connect with my inner-self and further explore my religion as a part of my identity. I wanted Stanford to be my avenue, my enabler of raw exploration. A place for me to really learn about the vastness of the world. A place to find out what and who I love. I knew my experience at Stanford wouldn’t be successful if I didn’t grow, and I believe you must be uncomfortable to grow.

This is where I faced the first of my faults. I avoided uncomfortability at all costs. I didn’t realize that being uncomfortable didn’t have to be bad, and that even with a negative connotation it yielded necessary growth. And despite the fact that my dreams spanned miles, I had such a narrow understanding of my identity. It consisted of just a couple pieces I felt I needed to vertically build upon, and I thought I would do so at Stanford. I was a huge dreamer, but scatterbrained. Unsure of how to efficiently pursue the goals that sized me up. Because of these things, I became uprooted.

It was in the heat of the demanding quarter-systemquarter that reality struck and expected me to face it. I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong, like I couldn’t belong, like I was never prepared for such rigor and responsibility. I had endured working three jobs to keep my family afloat and yet the strain I was feeling took a different toll.

The worst mistake I made was clinging to familiarity. I continued doing things I knew I was good at, and I didn’t challenge myself to improve my weaknesses. I was extremely occupied beyond the classroom. As I worked two jobs and served as an active, exemplar member of countless VSOs, neglecting my classes was an inevitable result. To attempt to offset this, I took classes that interested me as opposed to aligning with major tracks and academic progression. My involvement in LSP saved me from immediately crashing and burning. LSP reached out their hand and I didn’t grab back. The literature we read during LSP scared me, too. I thought I too would become a the statistic — another the first-generation, low-income student who dropped out of Stanford.

I felt like I went through my first three quarters in a vacuum. I took it all day by day. I had no sense of time. I didn’t realize how each action would pile upon the last and lead to my current status. I didn’t carefully consider think about whether I was taking a class to fulfill a general eduсation requirement or to progress within a my major track. At the time, I overestimated the time I could set toward experimentation. I should have known that freshman year is an experiment of calculated risk. Testing out courses and extracurriculars, but knowing that each decision could end up helping me in the future. Whether that be taking a class that satisfies multiple general requirements for multiple majors I was interested in or at least completing WAYS in ways that would be beneficial and help me at the end of the day.

My success on campus were borne of my natural strengths. I have a huge, toothy smile and an approachable demeanor. So, networking with people and sustaining positive relationships with my peers came naturally. I diversified the classes I took to encompass all corners of my mind. Any class that tugged at an interest, I tried to enroll in. This painted my transcript with courses from digital art to computer science.

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But I hyperextended myself to a dangerous extent. As an active member of nearly twelve VSOs, the possibility of having a minute to dedicate to my coursework just didn’t exist. I overloaded myself with so many things beyond the classroom that they eventually kept me out of class altogether. I was a self-destructive people-pleaser. I suffered when I saw someone unhappy or facing even slight discomfort, and I exuded a hospitality toward others in my space that I didn’t even exude toward myself. Not even three weeks on campus and I found myself employed. I needed the money for various reasons. Back home, things were rough and most of my checks would be directly transferred to my Mom’s bank account.

Stanford’s culture shock for a first-generation student from a low-income background is underrated — even the slightest thing was shakening. Observing students constantly eating off campus and flaunting extraneous gadgets and clothing pressured me into a lifestyle of projecting more than I had. I would try to rent a Zipcar for get-togethers with friends. I felt that I’d bore my friends if I didn’t go out to eat with them, as opposed to eating my (thankfully) paid dining hall meals.

I had crippling mental health. But the worst part is that I didn’t know it. I had showed every sign and symptom of depression, but simply never knew it could be me. Growing up under a roof (thank you, Mama) where I was exposed to high-stress through housing instability and food insecurity, mental health wasn’t prioritized. In response, I developed the most self-compromising coping mechanism: sleep. A means of escape wherein no person, no thing, and no thought can bother you. Whenever I felt challenged or immersed in failure, I ran to my sheets. Time would pass, my problems would snowball into larger, consequential problems, and the vicious cycle got the best of my ever-weakening mentality. I toiled with an awkward balance of hope.

My confusion as to my role at Stanford led to my demise. At one point, I didn’t fully understand the reason of even attending class, receiving good grades, and graduating, when I didn’t understand where it would lead me. I drowned in my thoughts and felt that I had no way out. Ultimately, my academic journey at Stanford was characterized by a lack of consistency.

The letter notifying me of my academic suspension did not come as a surprise. I knew due to my actions and, perhaps more notably, inactions, that I would have to face consequences. And I am thankful I’ve been granted a second chance. The events which took place within the past year have changed me as a person, from my overall morale to my understanding of the identities I possess and roles I carry. Most significant of all, I learned of the profound power of consistency. I primarily worked during my time away from Stanford, first to help support my household, and later to create a foundational platform for regrowth. The apex of this came with Infomineo a research provider to international institutions and companies. Infomineo offered me the opportunity to complete a six-month Marketing and Business Development internship. I would be based abroad, at their Casablanca headquarters. This professional experience with Infomineo has given me immense insight into who I am, who I want to be, what I want to do, where I want to be, and how I need to get there. And this overdue, concrete introspection was made possible by one thing: consistency.

Consistency first manifested itself through a repeating work week, but then began to transform how I understood myself and my capabilities. It was my first real internship experience, so I wasn’t exactly sure where to place my expectations. But, once I solidified my grasp on daily tasks, I tapped into something much greater: the confirmed belief that I possess the capacity to change my behavior. The change started off relatively small, and it still is, but the results have done wonders for me.

First, it was a healthy breakfast stop every morning on my commute (almond butter on a multigrain toast and two boiled eggs, to be exact). Then came a two kilometer run every day. It was much easier for me to locate the motivation to do what’s best for me since it became as simple as slipping it into my defined routine. I would transition each action in slowly, but they would gradually take root.

After I could tangibly acknowledge that I am capable of changing my behavior, I realized massive change is borne of little consistencies. This is a virtue I will carry for the rest of my life, especially at Stanford. Consistently attending a professor’s office hours or routinely setting aside time to review notes outside the classroom. This is where I stand now, feeling accomplished from over four months completed with Infomineo, and ready to tackle Stanford again. This time, with clearer sight of how to accomplish my goals consistently. I feel that I have detected and revealed a new power within me. Consistency creates healthy momentum. It instills willpower.

I took this essay as an opportunity to provide you with the context for my academic shortcomings. I have had an exceedingly difficult time advocating for myself in the past, especially regarding scenarios in which I have little or no control.

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Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/mistakes-made-and-lessons-learned/
“Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/mistakes-made-and-lessons-learned/
Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/mistakes-made-and-lessons-learned/> [Accessed 28 Jan. 2023].
Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Jan 28]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/mistakes-made-and-lessons-learned/
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