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May-June 2011

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Listening to Students: Looking Back, Looking Forward

As a high school student almost through my senior year, I'm unsure if I want to glance back at the whole experience again. The last four years have prepared me for what I'm about to face this coming fall work-wise (being a student at Palo Alto High School has been no stroll in the park), but I feel that stepping out of high school will be like stepping out of the microcosm that is my own comfortable life.

My freshman year was lived mostly in anticipation of the bigger and more exciting events of high school—I went along happily while trying to keep a low profile among my older peers. I had math, English, science, and history—core classes divided by finite boundaries, with separate binders and folders. World history was my hardest class (I smile when I think of what “hard” is to me now), and the only classroom memory I have of that year is seeing my teacher waltzing across the room by herself, shooting a blank bullet and acting out for us, with great bravado, how World War I began.

I hope, though I cannot know for sure, that college is not separated into finite subjects and into things that I want to or have to do. As a soon-to-be college freshman, I expect to be thrust in the midst of an ongoing conversation between peers and professors. Freshman year in college will be a time where I can test a new way of living and thinking with hundreds of students like me and many more who are not.

Lillian Xie ( is a graduating senior at Palo Alto High School who will be attending college in the fall.

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