Feature image from admissions.northwestern.edu.


From time to time the Zen writers get together and have conversations. This time, we talk about our experiences going to college in different parts of the United States and how each of our experiences are different.




West Coast:

“I love the San Francisco weather and the melting pot culture. There’s no shortage of ethnic cuisine restaurants and cultural festivals and performances. The west coast is the best place to satisfy milk tea cravings outside of Asia, and we also have In-N-Out Burger!”

“It’s also cool that a lot of huge companies like Facebook and Apple are located nearby, and there are definitely a lot of opportunities available in the Silicon Valley. You can head out to the beach on any weekend and enjoy a beautiful day out with friends.”

“However, there’s not really a ‘college town’ feel, at least in Berkeley, and everyone seems to be very busy going in and out doing their own work so it’s easy to feel lost or alone in the area.”

Sara Tsai






“Pros: The sun never doesn’t rise before 7:30; cons – it literally starts setting at 3:30.”

“Going to school in the Midwest, coming from the Pacific Northwest, was a massive cultural shock too – skiing, surfing, and hiking are practically nonexistent and as a result it’s pretty much just spending money/eating out/clubbing if you wanna have fun recreationally.”

“And I don’t like to spend money (no money to spend really), so I found myself opting out and eventually left out of a lot of things freshman year before I found friends who grooved like me.”

“I didn’t know how much trees meant to me until I didn’t have the year-round green.”

Erika Sun 





East Coast

“I’d say personally the weather really gets to me, more than I thought, because I’m pretty sensitive to the cold and dark, so fall semester is always really hard to push through.

“At least in the spring as you progress towards finals, things get harder but you have nice weather to look forward to, but in the fall as your classes get harder and you struggle more the weather also gets worse, which makes it all the harder to keep up your morale.”

June Xia

“So I go to school in Ithaca, and it’s cold. Like, today got up to 70 degrees and then by the evening it was snowing. It’s nostalgic for me because I’m from the Midwest – on Lake Michigan, actually – so the erratic lake-effect weather in Ithaca is really similar to what it’s like at home.”

“There’s a lot of open-mindedness in the Northeast, whereas back home you can sort of count on people to hold more true to their values. Both of those are incredibly good things, though, and what I like is that, having both experiences, I can mold myself into a person who is both values-driven and flexible.

Sarah Chandler

“I took a risk with picking colleges; having been a SoCal girl for most of my life, I decided to take a chance and go East Coast — because why not, right? I feel like people are definitely a lot more put-together on the East Coast (I had to kick the habit of wearing flip-flops everywhere) and they are a little…colder than what I’m used to.”

“I was also surprised by the amount of old money here on the East Coast — some of my classmates literally come from dynasties of wealth. They’re not the Calabasas-Beverly Hills nouveau riche I’m accustomed to; these people literally have grown up in and around money their entire lives. I have a friend that wouldn’t bat an eye at ordering pizza for 200+ people at the drop of a hat. It’s really amazing to me, as someone squarely middle class, how much they can spend.”

Jeanette Si 

Jeanette Si

Jeanette is part of the class of 2018 at Cornell University, double majoring in Information Science and China Studies. She hails from a public high school in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and enjoys geocaching, skiing, and gaming in her spare time. Admissions season has given her humility, resilience, and the ability to answer ten different prompts with one personal statement.