The Williams College student: an overachiever who perpetuates the myth of effortless perfection? Notwithstanding that fabled definition, and the academic, athletic and social overcommitment that we immerse ourselves in, most of us would approach the idea of a fifth class with caution, and steer clear of a sixth course. Then, there is Jackson Lu ’12: a man who does not abide by the strictures and conventions of society. He accomplishes the seemingly impossible, gazing through eyes of granite at scheduling conflicts. Lu is twice the man you are: enrolled in double the number of classes, taking charge of clubs and doing it all with a smile on his face.
Needless to say, when I heard rumors of some mythological student taking eight courses, I decided to find this man and figure out how he does it all. Meeting Lu for the first time, I was struck by the impression that he was very much the typical College student. That is to say, he was squeezing in our little talk between classical guitar practice and a meeting of the International Club, which he co-chairs. He seemed just like everyone else at Snack Bar – save for the fact that he is taking eight classes this semester, and plans to triple major in math, psychology and Japanese. Not only does he intend to triple major, but Lu will also fulfill all of his major requirements before he studies abroad next year, leaving room for “fun classes” when he returns to campus as a senior.
Any perceptions about overachieving students – thoughts of padded résumés or unhealthy competitive attitudes – are patently false if applied to Lu, whose quest stems from a self-professed desire to completely embrace the spirit of the liberal arts education. Beijing-born Lu spent high school in England, after which he had to choose between continuing his education in the United Kingdom and attending school in the U.S. “If you get into Cambridge, all you do for three years is math. Problem sets, that’s all,” Lu said. “No psychology, no language; it is all specialized.” Lu was more drawn to the well-rounded liberal arts of Williams. “I am interested in people and cultures, so having studied in England, going to America for school would be a new situation.”
When asked what motivated him on his lofty academic path, Lu stressed that it was the journey that meant most to him. “The majors are not the most important thing. I take a lot of psych, math and Japanese because I love those subjects,” Lu said. “If I am going to be taking those classes anyway, why not get the majors?” While his classes are important to him, Lu by no means spends his life holed up in a monkey carrel. His main passion, at the moment, is leadership of the International Club. Indeed, throughout our conversation, he was preoccupied by the feelings of his constituency regarding the new changes regarding FINANCIAL aid for international students.
Even though I take the average load of four classes, making me feel positively wimpy in the presence of such greatness, I often find myself getting miniscule amounts of shuteye during the week. When asked about his sleep habits, Lu cracked a broad smile and said, “No less than six hours.” Judging by his reaction, it may well be one of his proudest accomplishments. Despite his superhuman class load and seemingly boundless energy for extracurriculars, do not assume that Lu is immune to the stresses that plague all of us. When pressed about his ability to manage it all, Lu said that he is beginning to feel the burden. He is even considering dropping a class to bring his total down to a more mortal level of seven classes.
At one point in my conversation with this Atlas of Academia, Lu leaned over and showed me his screen saver. It was a magnificent drawing of a girl’s face. Seeing my look of non-comprehension, he glibly mentioned that he had drawn it.
Lu’s schedule paints a one-dimensional portrait. To Lu, the most important things are his friends, his clubs and his classes – in that order. To take advantage of an opportunity that few have though, Lu is merely getting everything out of Williams that he can.