Life after Minds Matter: “You Are Not Alone”

Written by Minds Matter Portland on November 29th, 2014. Posted in MM Portland

An Interview with Alumni Annie Lai

By Briana Crider

Annie Lai, Minds Matter Alumni Class of 2013, is about to start her sophomore year of college at Portland State University, and she is even more excited than the day she started her sophomore year of high school and her first year in Minds Matter. Students spend every Saturday sophomore through senior year of high school dedicating their time and energy to getting accepted to a four year university or college and for Annie this was an incredibly busy, but totally worth it time of her life. We had the chance to catch up with Annie and wanted to find out what life has been like since she graduated Minds Matter.

Annie Lai in the middle with HKA friends at PSU

Annie Lai, center, with HKA friends at PSU

Briana: How was your first year of college?

Annie: My first year of college was great! I really liked all of my classes, especially Chinese. I also enjoyed my first desk job doing a work study program with the sociology department. College is a drastic difference from high school and a completely different environment, but I love it more because my schedule is closer to the real world. I have had to learn how to manage my time, and I have way more responsibilities, but I enjoy the freedom to make those decisions.

B: What have you enjoyed so far? What have you been not so keen on?

A: Joining clubs on campus has made a large impact on my experience so far. It is a great way to make friends and expand your network greatly. I highly recommend participating in organizations on campus for all incoming students. I have also liked my professors and feel they are extremely helpful and nice, and respond quickly to my questions and emails. It’s great feeling the support from them as some of my classes are very challenging. The workload has been tough to manage, especially with holding an officer position in my club, but it’s just taking time to learn the balance.

B: Do you feel Minds Matter prepared you for college?

A: Yes. I think Minds Matter prepared me for college in that I felt more competent than my fellow peers in the financial areas around aid. The trickiest part has been dealing with personal financial management and realizing there are always hidden fees or things you didn’t think you needed to buy but you do. I also felt I was prepared for social situations and am not afraid to speak up in class or talk to new people. Minds Matter provided many opportunities to practice public speaking and that has been a huge help with my classes and social life in college so far.

B: Would you come back and mentor with Minds Matter after you graduate college?

A: Definitely! Minds Matter has helped me so much that I would love to give back to the program.

B: What advice would you give students currently in the Minds Matter program?

A: Ask any and all questions you have about college. Take this time to get the most out of this program, because once you are in college you have to figure everything out on your own. I would also advise choosing summer programs that you are truly interested and excited about. Do not choose one simply because others are going there, or because it’s the most well-known school name. This is your chance to try something new, get out of your comfort zone and learn to adjust to new situations. You will get the most out of your experience if you are excited about your school.

B: What advice would you give to Minds Matter seniors about to start their first year of college?

A: Everything costs money in college. Summer classes were more expensive. Honors classes are more expensive. Food is always around and is expensive. Online homework classes and kits and books and everything you didn’t think you needed but do are expensive. Be wise about your money and spending, but realize you will be broke. It’s college.

B: How do you plan to use your life to positively impact other people?

A: There are many ways for a person to positively impact other people. For me, I want to share my experiences with other people. I want to give others, who ask, advice that may benefit them. I want to help the community out through the clubs that I am in. I just want to do little things such as these so that I can help people because I know how stressful and scary it is for a person to face these things alone. No one should ever feel like they have to face these issues alone, be it school, work, or life in general because they aren’t alone. And that’s why I want to share my experiences with everyone and give my advice to everyone. Future-wise, I definitely want to volunteer. I know that one person can never leave a big impact on everyone around me, but if I can help even one person, that is enough for me.


Annie is currently a pre-med student at Portland State University and an officer on the Hong Kong Association. She is also the first in her family to attend college, and her younger sister hopes to follow in her footsteps by applying to the Minds Matter Program this year.

It’s incredibly inspiring to watch Minds Matter students grow during their time in the program, but it’s even more phenomenal to hear about their development in college. We are so proud of all our students and cannot wait to catch up with more alumni around the U.S.

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