Jian Yang Lum

Jian Yang Lum Pic

Hometown: Singapore
Major: international relations; Minor: music
Favorite Extracurricular Activities: Stanford Baroque Soloists, American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford

Why did you choose Stanford?

It's hard to not laugh at the Tree—come on, would you prefer to take yourselves so seriously all the time? As opposed to many institutions of higher learning that took themselves too seriously, Stanford, to me, had that good blend of seriousness and non sequitur-ness that I really enjoyed.

I was also blessed with the opportunity to attain financial support from Stanford, which I am truly grateful for.

What is/are your passion(s), intellectual or otherwise? Explain.

Aside from performing as both an orchestral and a chamber violist, I have recently discovered I like trying to whip up a dish or two in the kitchenette. Exploring is in my blood though; I enjoy cycling to nearby areas, or running around campus.

If I were to walk into the library to pick out a few books, I'd probably borrow titles that sound like Soviet Composers, Nuclear Terrorism, The Collapse of the USSR, Peace in the Middle East?, Behavioral Economics, Reaction Mechanisms in Inorganic Chemistry, Urban Transport Planning, Synthetic Pathways in Organic Chemistry.

 What has been your favorite class at Stanford? Why?

ITALIC (Immersion in the Arts, Living in Culture). One of the best-kept secrets of Stanford is the immense potential one can gain from exploring the arts in-depth right here—being able to ride the huge wave of infrastructural development in the arts here is simply unimaginable. I don't know of that many courses that give you: 



  • 3 expert perspectives (film/comics, music, dance) on the arts by renowned professors (not forgetting a playwright, an urban historian and a theater scholar!) 

  • Free trips to theater/opera/dance performances in the Bay Area
  • Integration of the marvelous Cantor Arts Museum and Bing Concert Hall into lessons
  • Once-in-a-lifetime interactions with guest artists

while living all in the same dormitory and learning from each other. Everyone is so talented in his or her own right, it's not just stunning and humbling, it's also a great chance to grow as thinkers. Best part? You don't actually need any experience in art—I cannot dance/draw to save my life, but the faculty and staff go to huge lengths to allow us to play to our strengths.

What is your favorite memory from freshman year? 



Biking through the Main Quad in a rainfall and ending up all wet. Also, screaming "They're taking the Hobbits to Isengard" out of the window during Dead Week (the week before finals).

Who—or what—has inspired you at Stanford? And how?

Its general accepting culture, in which you aren't judged about mistakes and thus you are always aware that the community will be behind you and not against you for what you do and who you are. Because this knowledge has empowered so many of us to look past impossibilities and turn them into reachable targets.

What is something you have done at Stanford that you don't think you'd be able to do anywhere else?

Talk to the ex-Secretary of Defense, Dr. William Perry, on what he did. Beyond listening to history from one of its writers is the awareness that its gravity is but a few people's decisions at a given time and space and that with it comes immense responsibility that not everyone is really prepared to bear. The deal with having such big names around is that you learn that a lifelong commitment to a cause is more important than fame and fortune in and of itself, and you learn as such to be more intentional about what you do.

Describe the moment you were admitted to Stanford. What were you doing? How did you feel? What was the first thing you did right afterward? Who was the first person you shared the news with?

It was Friday. Finally at home after a week of recruit training, I got the chance to clear emails and stumbled on the Stanford email; I grabbed my parents and my sister over and told them about it.

What advice would you give a student who has just been admitted to Stanford?

If you're intending on exploring the arts—come (despite what rankings may say). Nothing's better than being able to make a mark right here immediately, and you benefit because disproportionately huge resources are poured on you, so there is scope for growth and impact.

Even if you're not—Stanford's a place where ideas flow with ease and the school assists you so much that you think you can do anything you want. Inhibited is a word long since snuffed out from the lands here! 


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