What drew me to Olin was the emphasis on learning through projects and experiences. Up until sixth grade, this was how I learned. In fact, the motto of my elementary school was “joyous work,” and after going to a more conventional high school that emphasized grades and test scores, I sought to return to this approach to learning. Learning through doing was surprising, challenging, and valuable for my growth as a person. Experiences that stand out are the failure of a website I tried to start for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered(LGBT) students and perception-expanding experience of studying abroad in Japan. I came into these experiences not entirely prepared, but in the process I learned how much I did not know. Coming out of these experiences, I continue to learn using the skills I acquired.
Psychologist Dan McAdams posed in a 1995 journal paper the question “what do we know when we know a person?” According to his research, there are multiple levels at which differences in personality may be described. One of them is the life story that we “[continue] to author and revise over time to make sense, for [ourselves] and others, of [our] own life in time.” (McAdams, 1995) For myself, that story takes shape somewhere around the time I’m 16 years old. I’m working in open source software communities. And I’m mistaken by one of my closest co-workers (who had not yet met me in person) for a teacher. My path since then has been shaped by a nontraditional educational institution: I’ve spent my time at Olin College of Engineering, a small school outside of Boston with the declared mission of transforming engineering education. At Olin, students engage in a largely problem-oriented, project-based curriculum and enjoy a significant amount of autonomy, allowing them to pursue their passions. These experiences have naturally shaped my relationship to my learning, which is exhibited in my narrative. As I’m about to graduate from Olin and leave this place that has made up so much of my life over the last four years behind, I want to reflect on my story in this portfolio.