Saturday, April 27, 2013

You Can’t Plan Happiness

During the summer of 2008, I attended a summer program at Brown University. It took me a few days to adjust to the atmosphere, make friends, and embrace all the freedom I was given. Once everything fell into place, I grew to absolutely love the campus and the city of Providence, Rhode Island.
When I came home, I decided that Brown would be my first choice for my undergraduate education. The application involved approximately three essays. The first essay was rather short, around 250 words, and asked the applicant why Brown was the right choice for him/her. In my opinion, I wrote one of the best pieces I have ever written. I impressed myself by including metaphors and analogies that not only displayed my desire to attend Brown but also were somewhat amusing, which I thought would be a nice relief to the reader after going through thousands of similar essays.
One of the other essays I included was more of a standard essay that I used for multiple college applications. A few days before the deadline, I submitted my application online.
In accordance with my pessimistic quality, I poured over my submitted application only to realize that I submitted an incomplete/unrevised version of the standard essay. I quickly picked up the phone and called the Admissions Office; while holding back tears, I explained my predicament. The staff member told me I could mail a hard copy of the correct version of my essay but he/she could not guarantee that it would be matched up to my application and replace the unfinished version.
Much to my dismay, I learned a few months later that I was not accepted to Brown University. I did not know what to do. My plan had been to attend Brown – I even told an alumnus interviewer for another, rather prestigious, school that I would choose Brown over her alma mater, which I am sure resulted in the placing of my name on that school’s wait-list.
Long story short, a few days before May 1st (the deadline to accept a college’s admission offer) I fell in love with Berkeley and felt confident in my decision to attend its Molecular and Cell Biology program.
In September of my freshman year, I attended a seminar relating to the College of Letters and Sciences’ On the Same Page Program, which was about gene sequencing and the statistics related to certain genes.
During the presentation, I learned about Dr. Urnov, a Berkeley faculty member, who was involved in gene therapy experimentation. I sat up straighter and said to my friend, “I need to meet him.” It took me about a month to muster up the courage to send Dr. Urnov an email, and I was ecstatic that not only did he reply to my email but that he also wanted to meet me.
I met with Dr. Urnov in his office at Sangamo Biosciences (which just so happens to be the original office for Pixar – AWESOME!) and handed him a copy of my resume as well as a copy of the evaluation my teacher at Brown wrote.
He poured over the evaluation and saw the instructor’s signature at the bottom. “You know Donna?” he asked. It took me a minute to realize he was referring to my teacher at Brown who I knew better as Dr. Lizotte and replied, “yes.” He smiled and said they attended graduate school together at Brown. I was in shock.
Dr. Urnov graciously offered to drive me back to the Berkeley campus after our meeting. During the car ride we spoke about Brown and Providence. He mentioned that although he received an excellent education at Brown, he felt that the relatively small town of Providence did not provide an accurate worldview. Then, he looked me in the eye and said, “You made the right choice to attend Cal over Brown.” I smiled. I did not feel it was necessary to share the struggle I experienced in my rejection from Brown. All that mattered was that I had found my place.