The summer before my first year I participated in FSAP, an intensive five-week program allowing students to begin immersing themselves in STEM and pre-med coursework. In addition to earning college credit for courses, students in the program are encouraged to become familiar with the campus and surrounding neighborhoods and cultivate relationships with other attendees. My enrollment in the program’s rigorous chemistry course connected me with one of the most influential people I’ve met at WashU, Max Xu.
As our chemistry peer leader, Max was responsible for leading our review sessions prior to exams and upcoming assessments. One afternoon, I was preparing to head back to the dorms when I received a notification about a tornado warning. I had stayed past the end of the session to ask some additional questions but was instructed to remain in Cornerstone until the weather passed. During that time, I had a conversation with Max that profoundly changed my perspective.
A lollipop moment is an experience involving an encounter or conversation that radically alters your outlook on the world. To the person relaying the comment, they may not think twice about it, but to you, their words are revolutionary. I asked Max what he believed his greatest accomplishment to be. In response, he talked about his experience with the RA application process. At the time, Max was serving as a WUSA. He found out he was not offered the RA position; however, his students knew how passionate he was about the role and ended up writing a seven-page letter in support of his appointment. The fact that his residents took the initiative to advocate for him was a testament to the way he impacts others.
An anecdote that Max recounted so nonchalantly singlehandedly redefined the way I saw things. As individuals, our lives are sustained by the relationships we form with others. It is through these connections that we are awarded the opportunity to influence those around us. The coolest thing about Max is that he is completely unaware of the impact he has on others. He is authentic and embraces his individuality, each day pursuing life while unknowingly inspiring each person he encounters. Because of Max, I have come to believe that one of the most important things in life is to be the best person you can be to the people in your world.
While my FSAP experience was defined by the ultimate lollipop moment, my first-year experience has been characterized by interacting with people who constantly challenge me to be the best version of myself. I am eternally grateful to Max for sharing the story that has since made my life fundamentally better. I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by people here who make it so gratifying to translate a moment’s lesson into a lifetime pursuit.