A Passion for Exploration

28 November 2018

Stuart Yi ’20

When Stuart Yi ’20 arrived for New Student Week at Carleton, he jumped at the chance to meet as many classmates as possible. About 150 total, he says. Yi grabbed a Zoobook and counted.

He’d been preparing for this moment for his entire academic life. In a high school class of 76 students in Forest City, Iowa—population 4,013—Yi had to set himself apart in a community where expectations are often limited to local schools and where textbooks are so old they have the names of classmates’ parents in them.
Carleton was a chance to shed his hometown roots and explore new possibilities. Except a change in surroundings doesn’t automatically negate your past, an important lesson Yi learned from a humbling yet satisfying first year away from home.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to take AP or IB or honors-level classes,” Yi says. “As a result, I’ve talked to friends about the coursework, basically asking, ‘This is hard, right?’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh, I already did this in high school. I don’t even have to study.’ Well, that’s nice. But I have to study for three hours a night. It put things in perspective.”

Something changed for Yi once he saw the total Carleton experience open up. He joined the orchestra and student-led Pied Pipers as a percussionist. He began playing intramural Frisbee. Academics, while still important (Yi is eyeing a chemistry major and pre-med track), weren’t the only thing defining his time on campus. There was more to life than having a 4.0, Yi says. And once he let go of the pressure to always overachieve, Yi found himself settling in. He belonged.

Additional peace of mind came from landing a Fritch Scholarship. Herb ’73 and Barbara Fritch established their scholarship program ($10,000 per year) at Carleton specifically to help moderate-income students from U.S. cities of fewer than 200,000 people.

“My parents always told me that they’d do whatever they could to help me get into the school of my choice. But once you start to see how expensive college is. . . . well, the scholarship really helped me worry less,” Yi says. “That let me focus on what’s important.” “For college, I wanted to reach out and go somewhere kind of scary. I didn’t want to settle. I’m glad I was given that chance by Carleton.”