A Letter to My Freshman Self: An Interview with Author Lily Kang
Recent graduate shares goals, vision for recently published book
Jingting “Lily” Kang is a 2016 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she studied information technology management and sociology with a minor in actuarial science. She co-edited the recently published book A Letter to My Freshman Self: Domers Reflect on Their Undergraduate Experience. The book is a collection of personal letters to Notre Dame freshmen that seeks to share insights into the Notre Dame experience. The Irish Rover conducted an interview via email with Kang to discuss her goals for the project as well as her continued involvement.
Irish Rover: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Kang: Freshman year, in many ways, sets the tone for the rest of our undergraduate careers. As a graduating senior this past spring, I was looking for an opportunity to share the lessons that I had learned from the bittersweet journey of college. I knew [that] some freshmen, especially those who were just as motivated yet lost as I was, would find my words relatable, comforting, and helpful.
From my own experience, I found the style of writing letters to my younger self both an effective way to reflect and a sensitive approach to share my honest advice with others. I proposed the idea of a publication that contains letters from Domers to their own freshman selves to the Steering Committee of Sorin Scholars at the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement. The encouragement from the program’s directors and the interests from my peers led me to take actions. Ian Tembe (ND ’17), a member of the committee, joined me as a co-lead to put together a team of seven undergraduate students, solicit letters, and examine each submission for inclusion. In less than three months, the team brought this book to life with the help of Corby Books, a publishing company in South Bend.
What was the original goal for the book?
The book’s goal is to share journeys and wisdom of a diverse group of Domers and pass along their deeply personal and authentic reflections to the current students. In its essence, the book is an anthology of Domer’s personal stories that help freshmen make the most of their four years and feel more connected to Our Lady’s University through the wisdom of their predecessors.
What are the next steps for the book?
The book was published in June 2016 and has become part of the team’s ongoing collaboration with the First Year of Studies. Selected letters from the book are currently under review as reading materials for Moreau First-Year Experience course in spring 2017. Additionally, we are designing a component of the Moreau capstone assignment by integrating “letter to my freshman self” as a method of reflection and designing ways for students to share their writings with the public. Evan Holguin, the primary editor of the book and a current junior, is coordinating and leading this ongoing endeavor with FYS. [Editor’s Note: Evan Holguin is a Religion & Ethics Editor for the Irish Rover.] Furthermore, we will start running a regularly updated blog featuring new letters to both keep freshmen students engaged in their personal growth and share Domers’ stories with an extended audience.
How have you continued to fulfill your goals even after graduation?
I am thankful for continued encouragement and support from the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Engagement, FYS, and Corby Books. Despite graduation, I have maintained in touch with members of these organizations and they have all been eager to work together to expand the book’s impact. Evan Holguin has been serving as the campus coordinator for the project. Meanwhile, we are looking for new students to get involved as Editor-in-Chief for the blog, Marketer, Public Relations Coordinator, and FYS & Student Affairs Consultant. If you are interested or would like more details, please contact me.
What was the most unexpected part of the project?
The most unexpected and also the most worthwhile aspect of working on this publication was the relationships that I built along the way. My team never ceased to surprise me with their enthusiasm, professionalism, and dedication to serve the Notre Dame community; my work with FYS and CUSE allowed me the opportunity to get to know some of the most wonderful staff members of ND; I didn’t think a life-long friendship, one with the book’s publisher, Jim Langford, would come out of the project. I will be forever grateful for this publication because of these relationships.
A Letter to My Freshman Self is available for purchase at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore and on Amazon. If you would like a signed copy, have ask any questions, or would like to get involved, please contact Lily Kang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Angell is a freshman intending to major in economics and political science and living in Duncan Hall. He is also a proud member of the Knights of Columbus and is grateful for the very comfortable couches in the Knights’ building. With questions, comments and reactions, contact Kevin at email@example.com.