Last year, we featured Chit Khin (Khinny) as part of our Senior Spotlight Series. Khinny belongs to the Karen ethnic group and grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand. He graduated from YES Prep West, and QuestBridge matched Khinny with Carleton College in Minnesota. We checked in on Khinny at the end of his first year of college to discuss the challenges he has faced and the lessons he has carried with him from YES Prep.
What has college been like socially?
At YES Prep West, I was an Asian person in a predominantly Hispanic school, and it was a cultural adjustment for me. And now, it’s a different culture shock– with the population of Carleton being predominantly white. I do have a few good friends and awesome roommates, who I go out with on the weekends. I like to try to do as much as I can, so I’m doing Aikido and played volleyball and soccer. I’m also taking guitar lessons that are covered by my financial aid and part of an art practice requirement. When I’m no longer in the mood for Netflix, I opt in for SUMO (Student Union Movie Organization), where they show recent movies that were released like Black Panther (Go Wakanda!!!). All of this activity sort of helps with the stress of college. Social interaction, to me, is a distraction and a way to build connection with others.
What challenges have you faced since starting college?
My sociology teacher talked about how sometimes, when you’re a minority, you don’t feel like you belong or that what you have to say is a valuable contribution. She said it results in not asking questions or for support– even when you’re aware that there’s support available. Psychologists call this imposter syndrome, where you internalize doubt about your accomplishments and feel like a fraud. That was really true in my case. I knew that there were services but approaching them was difficult. Additionally, I felt like everything I’d accomplished was based on luck and timing. Sometimes, I even thought I was only accepted into Carleton because of a diversity quota and not because of my merits.
Despite the constant reminder from peers and staff that I do indeed belong, this mentality is still a challenge. Compared to when I initially started the term, I’m starting to get more comfortable with reaching out for support. I even emailed my former econ teacher at YES Prep when I was struggling with the class here and asked if he could share the notes. He was happy to.
What’s something you wish you’d learned at YES Prep to better prepare you for college?
I think I speak for the majority of YES Prep students when I say I hated homework and reading. Now that I am in college, specifically a liberal arts school, assignments back at YES seem like nothing. I wish YES Prep had exposed me to more scholarly research articles and studies from the academic community when relevant to the topic.
What’s something that you learned at YES Prep that has been helpful in college?
In college, note-taking is really up to you. There’s no one to force you to do it. But I’d learned a system for taking notes at YES, and now I’ve been able to make adjustments to that style for my classes here. Also, YES Prep West teachers informally taught us about office hours. Teachers would say you needed to talk to them about a paper before it’s due or would tell you to stop by for help. Teachers were pushing for communication and were so friendly. Even though I’ve been struggling to ask for help at Carleton, that was a significant lesson. Professors are often delivering a very general lesson, and so if you need one-on-one or to learn about something in a different way, you can speak with them at office hours.