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Transitioning Well

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An incoming freshman and her mother entered the Asian American Activities Center (A3C) Ballroom, looking tentative. The student turned to speak to her mother. I caught what sounded like Toisanese, a dialect of Cantonese spoken by early immigrants from Guangdong, China. The same dialect I speak. It was freshman orientation and I was hosting the A3C’s Community Welcome. I greeted the student and her mother in Toisanese. The mother, who did not speak English, smiled broadly and immediately began talking to me in our native language. They were from New York City and she was both proud and anxious to be dropping her daughter off so far from home. I found out later that the mother had never flown before and had been uncomfortable attending orientation events that were culturally and linguistically alien to her. Her daughter became part of the A3C community, thrived at Stanford, and is now a public interest lawyer.

I share this story for many reasons. First, no matter what your background, you earned your spot at Stanford, whether you are the first in your family to attend college or you come from a family of college graduates. Key to thriving at Stanford are:

  • Community:  Finding a community where you feel a sense of belonging is critical. 
    You can find community at one of the community centers, in your dorm, or through a student organization.
  • Resources:  Know and take advantage of the many resources that exist at Stanford, including faculty office hours, tutoring, academic and personal advising. Never be afraid to ask for help and never believe that you are the only student who needs help. The A3C Fall Speaker Series features speakers on these and other freshman transition topics. All are welcome.
  • Mental health and well-being:  The transition to college, being away from home, making new friends can be stressful. Managing stress, anxiety, imposter syndrome and other issues before they become severe is important. Many community centers have Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff on site such as CAPS at the A3C or mental health and wellness programing like iLive.
  • Peer Support:  Upperclassmen can provide valuable peer advice. Meet upperclassmen by joining a student organization or attending programs. Many community centers offer peer support programs like AASIB.
  • Mentors:  Mentors can be staff, faculty, or alumni. If you meet someone who you feel a connection to, who you are comfortable talking to, don’t be shy about asking them to be a mentor.

The Stanford community is an incredibly supportive one. Make connections and ask for help when you need it and your four years here will be rich, rewarding and memorable. If you don’t know how or where to get started, start with me, come to my office hours. I would love to meet you.

Cindy Ng

Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Asian American Activities Center

If you have a Stanford Story you would like to share, contact