Senior Wisdom: Sarah Ngu

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Name, Hometown, School: Sarah Ngu. Malaysia (first 10 years). Irvine, California (7 years). Now in Long Island (3+ years). Columbia College. American Studies & Political Science.

Claim to Fame? I like to think about questions, search for answers and create forums for people to discuss them, whether as the president of the Veritas Forum or as a journalist for Eye/Bwog. Also I do wellness things as a Resident Advisor (East Campus) and as a (retired) Nightline peer counselor.

Where are you going? I’ll be chilling at home with family to thankfully read books and watch movies, and after a few years of work (start-ups, journalism, who knows), I’ll apply to seminary to get a PhD in some theological topic. I’d like to end up teaching in a secular university some day.

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  1. Organizing Innovation, a class offered by David Stark, transformed the way I think about any organization I’m part of and how to structure organizations in a way that fosters innovative ideas. That said, leadership matters above all.
  2. I came into Columbia as a fairly hardcore individualist, but have since accepted the fact that our identities are irrevocably shaped by lots of things outside of ourselves (ideas, upbringing, social norms and structures, etc).
  3. Since I can be quite the hermit, I’ve surprisingly picked up in my time here a public, civic commitment to improving the campus community, inspired by my peers and leaders. If I see a problem, it’s almost second nature now to gather a few people, put together a solution, and talk to the right administrator (who is generally willing to listen).

“Back in my day…” Wellness wasn’t as much a priority as it is now; students were less involved/concerned with how this university functions; Spicy Special didn’t exist; Joe’s wasn’t there to rip you off.

Justify your existence in 30 words or less: This is silly; no existence needs to be justified.

Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? I’m really not a good person to ask this question (as an RA, I was written up for going to 40’s on 40 – womp), but I’m pretty sure what limits us is less the administration and more our creativity.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Did I mention I plan on going to seminary?

Advice for the class of 2016:

  • Don’t double major: double concentrate, and no one will know the difference on your resume.
  • So much of college is about you and your issues and your goals. Do one service activity that puts in direct contact with those you are serving (Nightline was that for me).
  • In thinking about what to major in or simply how to spend my time here, I found asking myself this question helpful, “What can I get / do in my time here that I can’t get / do anywhere else?” That has meant friends + humanities classes (because no one cares about that stuff afterwards!) + a few clubs/causes that are important to me.
  • The American Studies Dept is fantastic because 1) the faculty actually care about undergraduate teaching 2) they carry a sense of civic values in their teaching 3) it’s interdisciplinary which is great if you’re curious about lots of things and like to make connections. Also, sometimes they give out free cookies in the Center.
  • Always be up for a new experience, but eventually, start being really picky. Figure out what kind of fun you like having, whom you enjoy being with or learn from, whom you can hang out with without a filter, what you care most about, and what you want your academic experience to be about.

Any regrets:

  1. It took me awhile to realize that while the big problems of the world need people to fix them, sometimes that person is not you. By that time I had taken too many Poli Sci classes. Flourish where you are placed, where you find yourself drawn to, even if you can’t justify it.
  2. Not hopping on at the tail-end of Kenneth Jackson’s bike tour.
  3. Not spending more time doing things that are reinvigorating for me, like walking in nature and talking about theology.

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  1. Anonymous  

    Such a good Christian girl :)

  2. Anonymous  

    i'd eat cheese with her any day.

  3. great answer

    "This is silly; no existence needs to be justified."

    Thanks for your contributions to the community, Sarah!

  4. anonymous  

    "who you can hang out with without a filter"... yes! just realized it this year. friendship isn't friendship if it is conditional.

  5. Anonymous

    can i assume that the family name ngu originated from sibu?

  6. One time  

    she gave me a plate of food for free. THAT'S a good person.

  7. The whole double-concentration thing  

    Is that really true? Does it not make a difference? Cause I was thinking about doing that.

    • Don't do it  

      You can just tell interviewers that you're also studying X but unless you really want to take all the required classes, don't bother to make it official.

  8. CC 12  

    Sarah is a wonderful person, who I unfortunately haven't had the opportunity to truly befriend. Thank you for being a fantastic RA and person-I-say-hi-to!

  9. RRA

    Best answer to the existence question. Sarah is such a pure-hearted person, inside and out.

  10. Anonymous  

    Sarah, thank you for being such an inspirational figure on campus. You are one of the very few who are truly capable of crossing cultural and ideological divisions. I've seen you engage with both atheists and people of faith in Veritas forums (and having participated in one of them for a semester, I can say that Sarah is a fantastic, non-judgmental facilitator). You've formed relationships in both the Asian American community and the CU undergrad community at large. I think your wide and meaningful connections gave you a good, truthful perspective on this school. Our intellectual backgrounds may be different, but our goal is the same, which is the pursuit of truth. Good luck on entering seminary, but I hope we can meet again in the future.

  11. CC '12  

    Sarah, thank you for everything you've done for this campus.

    • CC '12 again  

      Should totally have read the other comments before posting. Sorry about that. But I'm going to take this opportunity to add something more personal: thank you especially, Sarah, for your commitment to student wellness and for your Eye article about Tina last fall. You made me feel a little closer to her for a while, and you reminded me that my classmates really are good people who want their peers to be healthy and happy.

  12. :)

    Sarah, I'm so proud to know you and to have seen you touch so many lives. I'm continuously blessed by your insight, and you inspire me in so many ways. God has truly crafted you brilliantly.

    Btw, this: "I’m pretty sure what limits us is less the administration and more our creativity."

  13. CC12  

    Sarah, thank you for your passion, commitment and curious nature always seeking to improve everything around you. Truly appreciated getting to know you this year.

  14. CC 12  

    is it just me, or have senior wisdoms gotten reeeeaaaallllly boring? feels like they all say the same things: work hard! don't work too hard! take risks! do what feels right! push yourself! love yourself! change the world! relax! be gay! etc. but honestly, as a senior, I really don't feel like I could every translate my columbia experience into any kind of "advice." So please, future Columbians, don't believe these people!!! They seem to portray themselves as individuals torn between their natures and an objective world order. But really, as we all know, the world order is an indictment of itself: if it imposes necessities unjustly upon us, and the courage with which we endure is our moral victory over our own fates. seriously, do your thing, hang tight, and bullshit when you need to.

    • Anonymous  

      wait why is this down voted so much? i thought it was pretty harmless. my bad.

      • Anonymous  

        I think people are attached to Senior Wisdoms because they want to hear what's going on behind the familiar faces, not because they're expecting ground-breaking material. It's nice to hear things from the point of view of someone as inspiring as Sarah, especially since we've had the privilege of sharing a campus with her. These people are saying things that hit pretty close to home for a lot of us. If Bwog were being flooded with Final Thoughts on College from seniors all over the country, I might agree with you.

    • bitter  

      betty who didn't get nominated

  15. Anonymous  

    thanks for the advice

  16. wait  

    what happened to Felicia Bishop's post?

  17. thanks  

    for everything, sarah. anyone who didn't meet her missed out.

  18. Anonymous  

    "chilling at home with family to thankfully read books and watch movies"

    YES! At last someone unpretentious about what they're going to be doing. You're a cool gal.

  19. Anonymous  

    Sarah Ngu is one of the most genuine, unpretentious people that I know here at Columbia. She is a treasure.

  20. a friend  

    Nicely said, Sarah. So much truth. See you in seminary!

  21. uh

    pretty sure the spicy special existed before Sarah's time.

  22. A Concerned Citizen


  23. True fax

    Sarah Ngu is made of candy!

  24. sigh  

    you were supposed to live with me. y u no :(

  25. maggie  


  26. Appreciating

    This bit's worth a thought: "It took me awhile to realize that while the big problems of the world need people to fix them, sometimes that person is not you." Thanks, Sarah, for stating things exactly as they are - in this wisdom and in all of yours. Keep writing things.

  27. Annie

    We appreciate you, Sarah Ngu. =)

  28. anon

    You are amazing :)

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