The series kicks off at the beginning of summer, a few months before Holmes starts her freshman year of college. Being the over-achiever that she is, she decides to travel to China that summer to practice her Chinese as part of a program at Stanford. Although Holmes was paired with other American roommates, she refused to speak in English to them because she wouldn't be getting the full experience, making her come off as an elitist weirdo to them and isolating her in the process.
Because of this, the only friend she ends up making is Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews), an older, successful man who is also taking part in the program (there's almost a 20-year difference between him and Holmes). They hit it off and begin to hang out with each other each day, exploring China and learning about one another in the process. As the program comes to a close, they decide to stay in touch as they're practically inseparable at this point. This relationship is one that would end up lasting for the majority of Holmes' future life, as she would later make Balwani the COO of Theranos and become romantically involved with him.
At Stanford, Holmes' oddities stick with her, though she's able to nab herself a spot in a graduate-level research group under the leadership of Dr. Channing Robertson (Bill Irwin), a professor of Chemical, Medical, and Biological Engineering. After introducing a new invention to another professor, Dr. Phyllis Gardner (Laurie Metcalf), she is immediately shut down. Despite having no validity to it, Holmes throws in a Yoda quote as a means to win her over, specifically this one: "Do or do not, there is no try." If you can imagine, this didn't go over too well with Dr. Gardner, who eventually ended up addressing that moment by giving Holmes some advice: "One other thing, don't ever quote Yoda to anybody ever again."