My cousin, Emily Hsieh, age 16, is a sophomore at J.P. Stevens High. She lives with her mother, father, and older brother in Edison, New Jersey. In order to learn more about her outside of the context of special holidays or family occasions, I decided to sit down for an interview with her.
A dedicated athlete currently in the midst of the difficult preparation processes for AP exams and the SAT, Emily is determined and optimistic (with a touch of goofy)! Based on her responses to my questions, there is no doubt that she has been taking good care of herself during the chaotic times of the pandemic. In this interview, Emily tells us more about herself, from her current hobbies and interests to her experience with school this year. However, she also elucidates her career goals, reflects on areas for personal growth, and ponders the development and quality of her friendships, allowing us to get to know Emily on a personal level!
Alex Chou: Hello, Emily. To start us off, how would you describe your experience with school this year? Maybe in terms of hybrid/online versus in-person, or in comparison to previous years of school?
Emily Hsieh: At the beginning of the year, it was mostly online, because COVID was pretty bad then. Despite that challenge, it was still relatively easy and then I went back to school for a week to try things out. But it didn’t change much besides the fact that there were fewer people in school which was helpful because J.P. has a problem with overcrowding. So it’s nice to see the school without too many people. Except we had to wear masks a lot, which was pretty annoying. But after I went in person for a week, I figured this is kind of dumb. It’s better online because I can wake up later, and I have more freedom during class, so I just did that. And I never really had any struggles with it. I know, I have some friends that think that online is very tough because it’s a whole different experience. But I haven’t found much of a difference between online and in person.
AC: That’s good to hear. What are your favorite and least favorite classes in school?
EH: Let me figure out what classes I’m taking. I’d say my least favorite class is probably orchestra just because online it’s really annoying. You don’t really do much in class besides playing, and the teachers barely even talk to you then. So it’s not really a class, it’s more of a second study hall. My favorite class is probably… I think I’ve had the most fun in Latin. Just because our teacher is really nice, and she’s very interactive with us. We play a lot of games in class and it’s just been more fun. It’s just as fun online as it is in person because our teacher really cares about making sure we understand things.
AC: That’s really cool. What extracurricular activities do you participate in, in school or out of school?
EH: I mainly do tennis, I don’t really do much other than tennis. But I do sometimes volunteer for an organization I’m in called FASCA, which is focused on trying to show Taiwan and Chinese cultural appreciation. So that’s been pretty fun as well. Tennis is the same as always, quarantine hasn’t really affected it, because I’m still able to go out and hit, and tournaments are still going on. So nothing’s really affected.
AC: Those both sound really cool. Do you have any particularly pleasant or unpleasant memories that you can share? It can be from tennis, or FASCA, or just from school. Anything?
EH: Huh? Unpleasant in what way? Like related to COVID, or in general?
AC: It can be anything. Unpleasant can be something that made you feel embarrassed or unpleasant in the sense that when you look back on it you feel regret. Or it can be a pleasant memory that made you feel happy or proud.
EH: I have no memory. Let me think for a bit. I guess it’s unpleasant when you’re presenting something, and your Wi-Fi cuts out in the middle. But that’s happened a few times because my Wi-Fi is really bad. So then it’s kind of awkward for my classmates or my group mates because I’m usually the one presenting my screen, and then I just leave it in the middle of it and then my teacher is wondering what happened. That’s a very awkward situation. But other than that, I can’t really think of anything that momentous.
AC: That’s okay. You know, it’s very relatable: Wi-Fi issues during this time. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
EH: I play video games online, or I just study for the SAT. Either one of the two. I don’t really have much to do. It’s just studying, especially now that APs coming up like there’s a lot more to do, a lot more to study for, and I have to balance all of that along with tennis, and having friends because being social is good. So that’s always a challenge. But other than that, everything is good.
AC: Yeah, that sounds really tough, but I’m glad that you are managing. What is a hobby of yours that people don’t know about? Or what is something about you that most people don’t know?
EH: I guess I have too many stuffed animals, more than I probably should have. I like collecting them every time I go somewhere, it’s a bit of a tradition to get a new stuffed animal from that place to memorize no, that’s not the word. To have a momento. I think that’s the word I meant. So I like to look at it, and I remember what I did there. And that sounds kind of stupid, but it’s just fun. So my collection is way too big.
AC: I think it’s very heartwarming, and it is a great way to commemorate those experiences. How do you usually make friends? And what do you look for in a friend?
EH: I never really thought about it. If I talk to someone, and I like how they act, as long as they’re not overly chatty, or too annoying. That’s very broad. But if I feel like they’re very egotistical, I tend to back away from that, because it’s a very weird situation. It’s just very awkward. So, I look to see if when we have a conversation if it flows evenly, and it’s not you just awkwardly waiting for someone else to talk. If it flows, then I feel like we would be good friends and we just keep talking.
AC: That’s really cool. Do you like having a lot of friends or just a few?
EH: I’d say I have a lot of friends. But I have very few close friends I talk to every day. So I think I’m somewhere in the middle.
AC: How do you think your friends would describe you?
EH: Probably very chaotic. I don’t know because when I play games, I’m a completely different person than when I’m talking normally because I tend to rage a lot because it’s very frustrating. But then when I talk normally I think they’d say I’m pretty funny. I feel so egotistical talking about this. But pretty funny. I’m somewhat helpful if they need help on anything. Well, I mean, sorry—I’ve never really asked them what they thought about me! We just kind of hang out and have fun.
AC: What is a value that you abide by rigidly? Or if you don’t really know, what kind of person do you aspire to be personality-wise, or in terms of the moral direction, you’re headed?
EH: I want to be that person who can make someone forget about being sad by being extremely stupid or extremely goofy, because I feel like that’s very helpful, and it helps you forget that you’re sad or something. I kind of want to be someone like that.
AC: Those kinds of friends are very nice to have around. What’s a life lesson or a fact you wish everyone knew? Or what’s a life lesson or fact that you wish you knew earlier?
EH: Honestly, it’s hard to believe that people care about you in the same way that you care about other people. I wish I’d known earlier that relationships or friendships are a two-way street. When you’re friends with someone, the attraction is equal on both sides. It’s not like you’re liking them more than they like you. You guys are staying friends because you both have an equal attraction to each other and you both are having fun with each other. It’s not one-sided. You’re not doing all the work. I wish I knew that earlier.
AC: What is an issue in our society that you’re really interested in? It can be anything from politics to the economy, to health, to video games, anything.
EH: I think the way society reacts to issues should be changed because we tend to fight back and fight back with everything we have, even if it’s a minor issue. When you go on Instagram, and you see a political post, the comments are usually some sort of warzone of people trying to be polite. Then people get very angry by this politeness and start responding with threads like go kill yourself or something extreme like that. And that talk is totally unnecessary when that person was trying to make a point. So I feel like society needs to learn how to better react to feedback because we tend to let it get to our head a lot. And it makes things a lot worse.
AC: Yeah, that’s a really good point. What academic or career fields are you interested in? And realistically, what career do you want to pursue in the future?
EH: I’ve always been interested in psychiatry, and pharmacy; those have been my two main interests throughout my life. But realistically, I want to be a pharmacist, just because it’s not 12 years in school, seven years is better than 12. It’s still good pay and it’s a lot of fun and something I’m interested in.
AC: I admire that you know what you want to do. What do you imagine your life looking like in 10 years?
EH: I’ll probably still be in pharmacy school in 10 years, so I’ll probably just be in college, doing a job trying to pay off my college debt or something.
AC: Okay. What do you think your life will look like in 20 years? What do you think your life will look like when you are 30? After pharmacy school, and you have a stable career? What do you imagine your lifestyle looking like?
EH: I’ll probably just live in a nice suburban area. I’ll probably be married or something. Maybe one kid? I’m not sure. But I’ll probably be working in a pharmacy, being a normal person. I don’t know what hobbies because I know, I probably won’t be playing tennis at that age, because I’d be very busy. But maybe I’ll occasionally go out for walks and stuff.
AC: Yeah, that sounds really nice. In what ways do you think you’ll always stay the same?
EH: I’ll always be Asian. Always be a girl. Let me think… I’ll probably stay being ridiculous, and always coming up with random stuff out of nowhere. So I don’t think that’s changing. I’ll still be pretty athletic because I like moving around and having fun with people. I’ll probably still collect stuffed animals and I’ll probably still have my room be a mess all the time. But I don’t think anything else might stay too similar.
AC: In what ways do you think you will change as you grow older?
EH: I’ll probably be smarter in decision-making because as I grow up, I’ll have more experiences to look back on. I’ll also be a lot more conservative with money spending as I learn to understand how hard it is to make money. I’ll probably change in the sense that I’ll have higher expectations for what’s to come, and I’ll probably learn to not take things for granted and to be more thankful for the stuff I have.
AC: Are you satisfied with your life right now? And if not, what changes would you want to make?
EH: I’m pretty satisfied. The only thing I would really change is that I wish I had a bit more free time. But I think the summer, once my APs are over, I’ll finally get an experience that’s outside of just playing tennis and studying for my SAT. It’s been a while. So I’m kind of looking forward to that. But other than that, I’m pretty satisfied with how things are going so far.
AC: Is there anything else you would like to add for anyone who wants to get to know you? If not, that is totally okay.
EH: Can’t think of anything off of the top of my mind.
AC: That’s okay. Okay, well awesome, and thank you for your time!