Week 3: I Think I Did Absolutely Nothing

Hi, friends. How was your week? 🙂

I’m not really sure what to talk about this week because I didn’t really… do anything… The Northeast had a pretty big winter storm last weekend so I kinda just stayed home watching movies (I saw Sisters and Miss Congeniality hehe) and doing my readings throughout.

Last week after Friday prayers, there was a reception at one of the college dorms to officiate the English House Dining Hall serving halal food starting the 25th of January. That was really exciting! I’m so grateful that we have this option now, it really makes the dining hall experience so much better for us Muslims. I just found out that Penn was, until last week, the only Ivy League that did not offer halal options. I hope now more people will know what halal means and stop saying they want to “get halal” when they mean they want to eat chicken over rice from the halal food trucks because it just doesn’t make sense grammatically, haha.

From the Penn MSA Facebook page because I took no photos and just ate.

Last Saturday night as the storm had its fun, Hui Jie and I had popcorn and maggi and stayed up talking, that was nice. A lot of people went out to play but I just… dislike snow. After the storm passed, Shahirah, Hui Jie and I went to Trader Joes (best place ever next to Disneyland) to do groceries.

My classes have been okay. I’m starting to love this Psychology class I’m taking called Language and Thought—we’re learning about the pathway between thinking and speaking. Being bilingual helps to understand some of the concepts in this class and in fact, makes the content a lot more interesting and engaging for me and I like that.

I also love my International Political Economy class! Professor Pollack is so energetic that he makes 9 a.m. classes very exciting and it’s always a great start to the day and week. For now, we’ve gone over some brief economic history and we were assigned to watch this documentary called The Commanding Heights. It gave me the basics to start learning about many things I’ve heard about but never really understood like Keynesian economics and the Raegan-Thatcher years. The readings were kind of difficult though. I don’t have a strong background in economic history or history at all for that matter, so I took a very long time to go through them.

I’m also taking 4 classes again this semester instead of my usual 5 because the work load for these 4 classes seems pretty heavy–I think I’m going to be writing 1-2 papers every week this semester. Plus I want to do less but do better, so I feel good about that decision.

In other news, I was awoken this morning at about 4-ish a.m. because I thought I heard the sounds of a rat or something under my bed, but was too scared to check so I went to sleep on the couch (which, if you know my room layout, doesn’t make much sense because it’s like two steps away from my bed).

But yeah, that’s all for this week. Next week is looking more exciting so I’ll tell you about it soon 🙂

P.S. Last weekend, I also discovered Noah Ritter’s videos on Ellen. If you have never seen it, let this be my gift to you: go look it up!!


Week 2: I TRIED

I had no idea when I was writing my post in Heathrow last week that I would be writing next in another airport. Yet, here I am, typing a blog post with one hand and eating a sandwich with another at Boston Logan (about to board my 8th flight in just over a month!). I’m hoping for a smooth flight back to Philadelphia—my outbound flight yesterday made me throw up twice. Thankfully, I was sitting only two rows away from the restroom. If anyone wants to know what Chipotle and all its guacamole glory looks like two hours after you’ve eaten it… let me know (too much information? hehe you’re welcome). 

Boston Logan Airport
View from my taxi: This is Back Bay! Reminds me of my trip here in March.
All I saw of Boston was what I saw through taxi windows.

Anyway, you might be wondering what I’m here for. I was lucky enough to be flown out here to interview for a job. Remember towards the end of last semester I told you I was sitting at a coffee shop agonising over a cover letter? Well, to my continuous surprise, that cover letter was only the beginning of what has been an interesting, stressful and somehow fun recruiting process. After I submitted my resume and cover letter, I was already telling myself “ok, you tried, good job” and was ready to kind of move on, fully expecting not to hear back. But I was then invited to interview with them while I was home in KL a few weeks ago. After those interviews, I again told myself, “ok maybe that didn’t go so well but I’m proud of you for trying!” (yeah, I refer to myself as “you” or “we” when I talk to myself, it’s weird I guess but whatever) and I was now doubly ready to let it go. To my surprise, I was invited to interview in Boston. I’m honestly so happy to have made it to the last leg and I will be fine with whatever happens because it means the world to me that I got over my fear of case interviews and that I approached this arduous process one step at a time. I think I’m super lucky to have gone through this process and I’m just reeling over getting through it.

No matter how it turns out though, I still have the rest of the semester to go through! Because I was prepping for this interview, I kinda haven’t really done my readings properly. I’m kind of nervous because I don’t like feeling as if I’m off to a bad start. But this just means that when I go home, I have to really burn through a week’s worth of material and try to get ahead. Did I tell you I have to learn MATLAB for one of my classes? I think I should really start wrapping my head around what that is and how it works so I’m going to do that this weekend.

Apart from that, the new term for Sangam has started and I’m so excited to be working with Wendy, Luke, Sydney, Jamie, Helena and Jing Jing. I feel really good about the new group and I am so inspired by their energy and ideas. I’m going to start reading my Psycholinguistics book now. I was reading about the human predisposition to learn languages before I threw up yesterday haha so hopefully this goes a little better. Talk to you next week!

I can spot stuff when I fly over Philadelphia now. That’s exciting!


Week 1: 3 Airports and 34 Hours

The sight I love in May and hate in August.

In 2009, my family went on a vacation to London. It was the first time we were going to make that trip since I could remember. My sisters and I were so excited that we started packing weeks and weeks before we left. We were counting down to it like crazy: “next month we can say we’re going next month!”

I was laughing about that on the way here because somehow at some point between then and now, suitcases and airports have since become a sight for sore eyes. I pack mere hours before my flights these days and I am always walking through airports with a characteristic muka monyok. I’m waiting for my flight from London to Philadelphia as I type this. I saw a red double decker bus earlier and I can imagine being on it with my cousins, giggling about god knows what we always find so funny. It still feels a little weird being here without my family. Even weirder to think that I have been in the same city as my sister for the past 10 hours and have not gotten to see her. Weirder still to realize that I’ve now been here alone more than I have with my parents. The airports that used to remind me of my family vacation group of 10 lugging many large suitcases  now reminds me of just… me and what song I was listening to on Spotify the last time I was here.

Leaving home hasn’t gotten much easier. Although, to be honest, I don’t think I can say I wish it would. I think I might find it sadder if I was leaving behind the country I grew up in and feel like I was leaving nothing behind.

But it’s painful. Every subsequent kilometre travelled is like letting someone have another tug on a loose thread on my favourite sweater, and me just sitting there watching it unravel. I am literally rolling my eyes at anyone who thinks I’m being dramatic. Stop reading. You don’t understand and you’re clearly not trying. Because I think this imagery is absolutely fitting; I always feel like I arrive in Philadelphia in rags–battered and beaten. Yeah, I guess that’s a little intense but that’s just how I feel.

I think this will all seem different to me when I look back on it though. In fact, I’m sure it will. I can already feel it change a little. As I entered this terminal, I felt nostalgic about how Uncle Asaraf sent me here the first time I left for Penn. I remembered the couple other times I’ve travelled through here alone and I know I’ll miss this when it’s over.

I mean, I already don’t want to leave Heathrow. Or maybe that’s just because I don’t want to sit on another plane for 8 more hours… but I have to go to my gate now and I’ll finish this later!

Update: I arrived in Philadelphia last night and as I made my way out of the plane, towards immigration, I saw the gates A15 and A17. Those are the gates Shahirah and I usually go to when we fly out of Philly. Looking at those gates made me so excited to go home again… I’m already missing the warmth, the constant fine layer of sweat we wear everyday, the stillness of my house’s living room in the afternoons–feet cold against the marble floor, the sound of cars passing by.

But as I shuffled my way with the crowd, I also felt nostalgic for all the times I’ve waited there to board my flight back. It’s always weird to realise I have so many memories away from home now.

Throwback: going home the summer after freshman year.

I’m now writing after my first day of class. My PSCI 152 (International Political Economy) class this morning was great and I’m very excited to stick with Professor Pollack for the rest of the semester–hopefully I stay motivated enough to roll out of bed for my 9 a.m. class in the cold. Then I had ECON 243 (Monetary and Fiscal Policy) which, quite frankly, was scary. We jumped straight into some of the math that’ll be required for the course and I know I’m super rusty with those right now. I’ll also need to learn MATLAB and stuff for it. It’s overwhelming, but I think it’ll be good to learn.

I think I am still a little lightheaded from all the travelling. I don’t feel too great right now… a little nauseous, a little sleepy but I can’t vomit and I can’t sleep. Since I can’t rest, I’m going to start crafting my plans for the semester. Talk to you soon. ❤