Vivian T. Wong
Undergraduate Major in French
As my undergraduate career wraps up, I’m feeling the pressure to tie all loose ends, to know where I’m going after- wards and, essentially, to understand life. Needless to say, I’m more frayed than ever before. Graduation is a time to celebrate one’s progress, but progress is usually not as linear as one wishes. The true markers of progress, in my opinion, are the relationships you cultivate and the experiences you collect—both of which help you develop as a person.
I want to give due credit to a dear friend I’ve known for ten years. I started studying the French language in seventh grade—on a whim that gradually became a passion. Not the fleeting kind, but the sort that recycles, refuels and revitalizes. Already majoring in International Relations, I declared a second major in French after I returned from studying in Paris during my junior year. Paris is as cliché as reputed: its beauty revealed the world’s beauty and—cringe—my beauty within. After taking political science and economics courses, it was refreshing to read La Fontaine’s fables, theater pieces about the game of love by Marivaux, all of Balzac’s minute details, and the political philosophy of Rousseau.
My two majors complement one another, one giving the other reason and the other providing meaning.
I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue both because, admittedly, I have the tendency to romanticize in my pursuit of reason—just as I’m inclined to use logic to rationalize my dreams. Like Baudelaire, I am obsessed with irony and paradox. Baudelaire, flâneur par excellence, taught me the French verb flâner—which means, as I under- stand it, to wander, to explore, to walk with no aim but to appreciate life. The irony of wandering aimlessly as an aim may be comparable to carrying out 10-year plans depleted of passion— but I find the former more enjoyable and ultimately rewarding. Once over coffee, Professor Jean-Marie Apostolidés told me, “The search for stability will give you instability”—a wisdom that will forever echo in my mind.
For the next few years, I’d love to travel, study for the LSAT, work in a flower shop, finally build a website for my pho- tography, and continue my devotion to public service, particularly advocat- ing for underserved communities. It is good to plan and to see how things fit into the bigger picture. However, life is often ironic—and studying French has prepared me to enjoy the unexpected detours that, for me, have created the best memories.