Hi everyone!!!! I’m SO glad to say that I am done with junior year. I had finals throughout this week… On Monday, I took my last Econ exam ever. Then on Tuesday, I sent in my 7-page paper for Cultural Psychology. I spent Wednesday and Thursday preparing for my last two exams which were International Political Economy as well as Language and Thought on Friday.

My psychology and political science exams went well, I think! Or at least, as good as I could imagine them being, given the amount of preparation I put in. Econ was a brutal mess, though I can’t say I was surprised. I spent a good amount of time sitting there waiting for someone to leave first so that I could get out of there. Hahaha. I’ve never really been too good at Economics, especially since at Penn it’s basically 90% math. But it’s over!! My grades should come out within the next week, so whatever happens, happens—I’m just so ready to move on. Seriously. Very ready. Could not be more ready.

Me studying with my usual Econ study buds the night before the exam. At this point we were all so exasperated and just started playing with our phones and stalking people on Facebook and Instagram.
I brought food to eat during the exam, haha. I was so scared I would get nauseous again.
Working on my paper.

It was a pleasant semester, I have to say. Usually, I come out of finals on my hands and knees, teeth gritted, exhausted from head to toe and just relieved to get out of it all. But this time, I was super relaxed. It took me a while, but I think part of the reason is I’ve finally started to get the hang of consistent effort. Another part of the reason is maybe I’ve stopped caring so much hehe. But also, maybe it’s because I really enjoyed my classes this year. I’ve learned to listen to myself and not force myself to take classes just because I think it’s important or it’ll help me at work or whatever, but I’m taking classes on things I want to learn about and really care about (on the most part anyway).

Also, not to mention, the professors I had this semester were AMAZING. I wrote them thank you notes because I couldn’t emphasise enough how happy I felt all semester to be in their classes. Especially Professor Pollack!!! If you’ve been following closely you know he is my absolute favourite at Penn everrrrr.


Me, unshowered and awkward as hellllllll, with Vivienne, my lovely TA, and Professor Pollack, all-star professor.
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Just before our exam! One minute before, to be precise. This is captioned separation anxiety because even though I was happy to be done with finals, I could feel it in my body that I was going to miss this class so much.

I’m just chilling in my apartment now, grateful to be officially on summer break. I spent the afternoon just watching videos and clearing up my school stuff for recycling. Thinking about packing is making me really nervous though, because this summer will be the last time I go home before I graduate next year so I want to send clothes and books I’m not using back to Malaysia so that things will be easier next year.

My friend Hui Jie left this morning to go on a road trip with Selina! She’s going to the south, to New Orleans and some cities in Texas. It should be awesome. She’s not coming back next semester though, because she will be taking a semester to study in COPENHAGEN which is super cool for her but I’m going to miss my cafe/gym/study/pizza/maggi buddy. Seriously, that little girl is tiny but mighty. I respect her and look up to her so much.

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The last time we’ll hang out at my place until next January!!!!! 😦
She left me with her prized possession, her lap desk for me to use my laptop on my bed more comfortably!! Ok fine, I may have put in a little plug for this earlier this semester, but she still gave it to me even though I later forgot about it.

She’s also such a great friend! I kinda mentioned this on Instagram, but I was insanely sick last weekend. I threw up everything from Friday night to Saturday night. Literally, as soon as I swallowed something I would have to run to the toilet—my stomach was absolutely NOT having it at all. So on Saturday night, we went to the Emergency Room at the Penn hospital. Our friend Shaun drove us over, and I’m so thankful to him for that. Hui Jie stayed with me the whole night. We played two truths and a lie while we waited for the doctor and watched Saturday Night Live together while I was getting the IV treatment thing. It was my first time doing that and I was a little scared. I felt so much better after that and thankfully we didn’t have to stay the night.

The one thing I will say though is that I really appreciate how in Malaysia, we can just go to a clinic when we’re sick. Student Health Services closes on weekends and at night, so we couldn’t go there and had to go straight to the ER. And even though I felt really week, I still had to do some paperwork and look up my insurance details and whatnot. I just want to be babied, to be honest.

The last meal I had (with Jamie!) before I got sick.
…and then later that weekend.
We were both so sleepy 😦
By the time we left to go home it was like 2.30 a.m.
My friends are absolutely wonderful: my roommate Shahirah picked up my prescriptions for me from CVS and bought me bread + gatorade :’) Hui Jie cooked me alphabet soup with all my halal ingredients and pot and stuff, and the tea is from Christina from last year!

If you are wondering, I am feeling much much much better now. As good as ever, alhamdulillah 🙂 I’m looking forward to a relaxing week ahead with my friends and to being home soon!

As for this blog, THANK YOU so much for following it, whether you’ve only read one or if you’ve read them all, it has been one of my favourite things about junior year. And honest to god, I am typing this with a huge smile on my face 🙂 I highly recommend other people to do it too because writing helps put things into perspective and it helps with building my sense of discipline. Plus, it’s fun to look back and remember what happened when. I think I am probably going to take at least a week off from this to think about whether or not I want to continue blogging or if I do, what “direction” I’m going to take with this. But I just really want to say this has been so much fun!!!! And I appreciate everyone who has reached out to me to say they enjoyed it and what not, it really means so much to me.

Take care!


Week 16: Wrapping Up…

I’ve had a pretty good time this past week, I can’t complain too much. My club put together our semesterly speaker event last week, which was pretty cool. Once a semester, we invite a prominent Asian figure to speak about their experiences and this semester, we got Yellow Rage, a Philly-based spoken word duo to come perform and talk about their current projects. It was a really great performance and I’m glad our team got to have dinner with them afterwards too. It was tough pulling this event together. I didn’t think it would be this difficult but I’m so proud of the team for making it happen. The event was good; I think when I’m organising something I scrutinize every little thing that could’ve been better and get stressed out about it. But people seemed to enjoy it and anxieties aside, I think it went pretty well!

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5/7 of our board with Michelle and Catzie of Yellow Rage. (L-R: Jamie, Luke, Catzie, Michelle, Sydney, Wendy and me)

Another really exciting that happened is that I’m done with classes for junior year!!! Classes ended for this semester on Wednesday and it’s now reading days, which is basically a time for me to half-heartedly prepare for finals I am not ready for.

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Me with Joanna and Erin, my cultural psychology classmates at our last class together.

All of this also means my friends and I are pretty much seniors now! We had Hey Day today, to celebrate the ~moving on up~ of the junior class to becoming senior class. It’s just some Penn tradition thing—we wear red t-shirts, styrofoam hats and carry around wooden canes and we march down Locust Walk together. I mean, I honestly did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The picnic part of the morning was so disorienting… everyone was loud and drunk, and I hate crowds so all of that made me really antsy. People were also like, rounding up their friends to get group pictures, which was really difficult because I’d be pulled aside to take one picture but as we’re walking around trying to complete that group, I’d bump into someone else who’s looking for me and all of that just made me really dizzy. But it was still moderately enjoyable (haha) because I’m glad I got to see a lot of my friends today and I’m happy to be this much closer to senior year.

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Hui Jie, Shahirah, Ken, Peter, Lian Han ❤ ❤ ❤
Class of 2017 Malaysians!
Freshman hall friends ❤

Just before Hey Day started though, I attended the Psychology department’s poster presentations, where all the students who did their independent research studies in the department get to talk about what they’ve worked on and discuss their findings with other students and professors. Some of my friends and classmates were there presenting their work, which was really awesome to see! I really love seeing people accomplish things and I was honestly really amazed by a lot of their work. I was particularly happy to meet this one girl, whose project I will be developing further for my research project next year. I got to talk to her about working with the Psycholinguistics professor in the lab and her experience with the project in general. She seemed really excited to know that I was going to be continuing this work, which I thought was really sweet. Coincidentally, the person who worked on this project before her was also there the same time I was and it was… a moment. You know? It’s like 3 generations of students who will have worked on this project and are really excited about this topic. They were both very supportive and I really appreciated that.

My friend Joanna explaining her research to Dr. Kurzban, the Psychology undergraduate advisor.

On the whole though, this week has really been all about the end of year events. I just got back from the senior farewell dinner with the Malaysians at an Indonesian restaurant in South Philly. It’s a little sad to see them go but I’m so excited for everything that’s ahead of them. There was also a end-of-year dinner for the Asian community house and I got to go. The speeches were really moving and it’s always nice to come together and congratulate the graduates. 🙂

I’m really looking forward to getting a break from Penn, honestly. But first, I have a 7-page paper to write and 3 finals to take so……. I’m going to go to sleep, hehe. Until next time!

Week 15: Superstars

I want to start by acknowledging that I do complain about Penn a lot. It is overwhelmingly competitive, stressful, tiring and annoying. It’s like trying to take a sip from a waterfall, sometimes. But of course, waterfalls can also be wonderful. This past week was pretty great, and I am writing while looking out my window, realizing for the first time this semester that the trees are green again.

Today, I had lunch with Professor Pollack who teaches my International Political Economy class. Anyone who knows me knows that I rave about his class constantly. I have to write 5 two-page papers for his class (and again, if you know me, I utterly despise writing papers for classes) but even while I’m writing my IPE papers I’m like “OMG I love this class!!!” First, Professor Pollack is exceptionally engaging in the classroom and he’s so good that, quite ashamedly, it’s the first semester I’ve had a perfect attendance record for a 9 a.m. class.

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Pollack explaining that he searched for “Asian Tigers” on Google images and thought this was too cute not to use.

The course content is also really interesting; it covers topics like economic history, financial and sovereign debt crises, trade and multilateral agreements, monetary policy, development etc using the framework of interests and institutions. So like, what are the interests of the different groups of society when it comes to trade, for example? What are the roles of domestic and international institutions? I think the framework is also really useful to learn because I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a lot about the world, but this class truly has helped me learn to become an informed member of society… if that makes sense.

Anyway, enough nerd talk. Lunch with Professor Pollack was so much fun. I understand professors are accomplished people with busy schedules so the fact that he willingly sat down with me and my friend Christina for two and a half hours just talking about what he’s learned from being in his field, from teaching, from parenting and from life in general really meant so much to us. He talks about the colleagues he admires and calls them “superstars” but oh my god, as far as Penn professors go, he’s definitely one of my superstars. I’ve said it before, but I think people who offer their time and their insights to others so kindly are so generous and I am thankful to know people like that.

And speaking of superstars, (wow, what a smooth transition!) apparently, Penn is full of them. In the past two weeks, I’ve gotten to see 2 shows put on by Penn students. The first was Memphis, put on by the African American Arts Alliance. It’s set in the 1950s and centers around a white DJ, Huey, who plays black music on the radio, and falls in love with an African-American singer, Felicia. I went to see it because my friend Habeeb was in the band, playing the drums, and I’m so glad I decided to go because I had so much fun!

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Me smiling super wide because I was SO proud of Habeeb!!!!
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I had just met Sylvia the week to prior to this but I was so thrilled to see that she was one of the dancers in the show.

This past weekend, I saw All Shook Up, put on by the Quadramics Theatre Co. It’s a whole musical built up of Elvis’ hits and it’s some kind of a love pentagon (?) kind of story which starts off with this “roustabout” coming to town and shaking things up. My god, I, love, musicals. LOVE THEM. Seriously, I had such a great time. And considering I went to see the show alone, I really had a great time.  Like the other show, I went because my friend Clare is involved with it. We had brunch a couple of weekends ago (at the place with the best hot sauce I’ve had in America) and she told me about how she’s assistant stage manager so I wanted to go support her and again, I’m infinitely glad I did. I’m so, so proud of her! Plus, I later found out that my classmate from cultural psychology, Nate, was also one of the cast members. I was also happy to see him perform and was just amazed by his (and the other cast members’) performance.

Brunch with Clare at Renata’s Kitchen!!
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I wish I took better pictures of the show lol
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That’s Nate in the front/left 🙂
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With Clare after the show!

Not only were the two shows spectacular, but I also really love taking a step back to just be in awe of the amount of talent I am surrounded by here on campus. Because, I mean, on a day to day basis, it gets overwhelming. I sometimes feel like I’m the only one here who isn’t doing 50 things at once. But other times I get to realize how lucky I am to be around friends and other Penn kids who are just… remarkable.

Watching All Shook Up was just one part of a great fling weekend, though. So, if you’re not from Penn, Spring Fling is what some people refer to as a “weekend of debauchery” — there is a carnival in the Quad, a huge concert on Friday night (this year we had Chance the Rapper, last year was Kesha and the year before, we had David Guetta), and, from what I gather, many many many frat parties. As you can imagine, that’s not a lot of fun for me. I don’t love the crowd and I don’t wanna fork out the money to go see a performer I won’t enjoy, so I’ve never had the “conventional” fling experience. Instead, my friends and I do what’s fun for us. On Friday, I went to Fairmount Park with Hui Jie, Jamie and Selina. We saw the quaint little Shofuso Gardens and took lots of silly pictures. Later that night, Adel and Ahsen had a bunch of MSA people over at their place and we played Mafia and ate desserts and somewhat surprised Sanaa for her birthday at midnight 🙂 On Saturday, as is tradition now for the class of ’17 Malaysians, we have a fling weekend picnic! I think part of what I like about being a junior in college, is that I now know how to navigate parts of college I don’t enjoy by doing things I do enjoy and being with people whose company I value.

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L-R: Jamie, me, Selina and Hui Jie
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Haha Selina ❤
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The koi came to her because they thought she had food 😦

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Jamie, Hui Jie and I at the entrance of Shofuso gardens.
The whole gang at Adel and Ahsen’s place!
The birthday girl surprised with red velvet cake while eating hummus with a spoon!!
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LOVE these guys.

In fact the entire last week was pretty good. On Wednesday, I got to attend a talk by, or, well, I guess it was more of a conversation with Ben Bernanke. He was the chair of the Fed during the American financial crisis and given everything I had learned in class this semester, it was super interesting to me. He talked a little bit about how he got to where he is, defended the decisions he made during the crisis and talked about his book “The Courage To Act.” It was pretty cool to be, as Professor Pollack said, “in the same room with a historic world figure.”

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Sitting on the steps outside of Annenberg because the line to see Ben Bernanke was out the door over an hour before the event.
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Apparently Bernanke lost at the word “edelweiss.”

Summer break is fast approaching and as the semester is kind of winding down, people are trying to catch up with each other. It’s quite difficult to see all the people you care about consistently throughout the semester because we have a lot of papers to write, hundreds of pages to read, exams to take, meetings to run and etc… so I appreciate it when friends like Iman understand that and give me room but also let me know they’re there for me if I need them. Iman, exactly one year ago today actually, helped take care of me when I had my wisdom tooth extraction. Even though I don’t see her a lot, I know she’d still make time for me 🙂 we had the chance to grab dinner last week at Honest Tom’s (ahhh their sweet potato tacos!!!) and it’s really nice to end a long day with a good friend.

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The most generous serving of guacamole.
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Sweet potato tacos are so good.

Shahirah and I also got to catch up with Marcus, who’s a Malaysian graduating this year!! We always say he’s kinda like an uncle because of his mannerisms but we love him, he’s so nice. I also love that he’s the first guy I’ve met who is as scared of dogs as I am. He took us to Dock Street for pizza and it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had! Maybe the best but I’m refraining from making that statement because I know I have a tendency to overuse superlatives. The pizza I chose had brie and pear on it, which was a delightful combination. The one Shahirah chose had egg on it!!! I LOVE EGGS so yeah it was 10/10.

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Waiting for the trolley that never came.

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Next week is the last week of classes!!!! I am so excited because it’s Hey Day next week, which is when the juniors march down Locust Walk and are “declared” seniors. And also because I am tired and ready for a break. Anyway, so I think this post is long enough, and I’ll leave you for now. Byeeeeee.

Week 14: Memorial

[Trigger warning: this post talks about a recent tragic incident that happened at Penn]

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It was a nice morning in the spring of my Freshman year. My hallmate and good friend, Claire and I were having brunch at the dining hall in Hill when we got an email from our RA offering support in light of the recent tragic news. We didn’t know. Then, we found out that a fellow classmate had committed suicide the day before. She lived in the dorm we were eating in at that exact moment. We continued our daily lives, shaken, but ultimately, unscarred.

That was 4 semesters ago. I thought it would be the only time I’d experience news like that. But since then, we’ve lost way too many. I could say all of their names here, and I could even tell you the scary statistic that lingers over this institution but I won’t, because they were more than a list and more than a statistic. They were real people who walked on the same Locust Walk I use to go to class, people I’ve probably bumped into, people I have mutual friends with, people with vivid and complex lives.

Yesterday, we lost Olivia.

I didn’t know her, but it pained me to think about this loss. Like me and most of my friends, she was also from the Class of 2017, poised to sit on Franklin Field next May in a cap and gown. Like my friend Wendy, she was in the CSA culture show. Like my friend May May, she was in the PGN business fraternity. Like my friend Busra, she was in the APO service fraternity. She registered for classes, took midterms, was involved in campus organisations and had many friends. She was just like any one of us.

In times like these, my mind becomes somewhat naïve and child-like. “She was here. Now she isn’t. She was alive. Now she isn’t.” I grapple with this reality, and clearly all of my friends are struggling with it too. There was an outpouring of grief and support, simultaneously. At 5 p.m. yesterday, there was a support group held at Huntsman and hundreds came. Later that night, a vigil. Everyone was struck, and everyone tried their best to reach out to each other.

“Even if we’re not that close, feel free to come to me if you need someone to talk to.”
“I’m always here for you.”
“Given what just happened, I just wanted to see if you were okay.”
“You’re not alone.”

“You can always reach out to your advisor, counselling services, a professor, the chaplains’ office, your RA.”

But that raised so many questions in me. Questions that weren’t new, but questions I still could not answer: Why do we only offer support when something like this happens? Why do we not reach out to people who offer support when we need it? How do we stop things like this from happening again?

I certainly wasn’t alone in wondering about this. Coincidentally, the topic for my Psychology class today was mental health. There was an atmosphere of stillness, I would say. In class, we talked about “Penn Face”—a culture that immediately immerses you once you step foot here. It’s the idea that we all have so much we’re struggling with and yet walk around with this facade that everything is perfectly fine all whilst comparing our challenges to the seemingly-perfect lives of our peers. I mean, when I walk down the street and bump into someone I know, occasionally, we’ll strike small-talk. Usually it’s: “How are you?” followed by the obligatory “fine, thanks” or if you’re a little closer to the person, maybe “yeah, I have a shitty week with midterms, papers and OCR etc” to which they might reply “oh my god, ugh, same” and you end on “we should catch up some time” before saying bye and walking away. It’s well-meaning, and not always an entirely sugar-coated conversation but rather expectedly surface-level without fail.

I don’t know why “Penn Face” exists, to be sure. It’s partly about putting up our best selves at all times, whether in person or on social media. To me, it’s partly about persevering and not letting the negativity get to me or affect others. It’s partly the notion that we’ve worked so hard to be here, and now that we’re here, we have to make the most of it so that we can do so much more. I understand this culture and I have no doubts that I am complicit to some extent.

But that’s where it gets tricky, right? Because I do believe in putting my best self forward, I believe I always have to work very hard, I believe in maintaining a positive demeanor. So, where is the line? What do we change?

Some people talk about how the administration has failed us. Not enough resources, an environment that’s too competitive, not being responsive enough. Petitions are written and circled and debated and signed. President Amy Guttman sends out an email encouraging us to reach out for support. But what will be done and will it be effective quickly enough?

Some people talk about how Penn students need to break out of this cycle, that there needs to be a behavioural change in the undergrad culture. But the conversation tends to circle back to the fact that we don’t really know what to do. How do we consistently be a source of support to our peers and seem genuine when our schedules are so packed? How do we reconcile our internal monologues so that we can both push ourselves to do more and be more while being kind to ourselves? How do we destigmatise weakness?

I guess for now I don’t know the answers. But for now, we’re talking about it. We’re thinking about it. We’re reaching out to hold each others’ hands through this.

For anyone at Penn/even outside, if you need someone to talk to, please reach out. To me, if that’s what you feel comfortable with. You are stronger for it. Lastly, if this post was misinformed in one way or another, feel free to let me know.

Take care ❤

Week 13: I Really Like Using Italics

As I write this, I’m taking a break from doing work at Hubbub, my favourite cafe on campus. At the corner of my eye, I can see that the girl sitting at the table next to me is watching a really good episode of The Office and I just wanna slide over and cozy up next to this random stranger and laugh about it with her (like a creep) but luckily for me, I have proper socialisation and know to buckle myself down and keep my eyes on my own laptop screen.

How was your week? I was kind of sick last weekend so I didn’t do much except go to Trader Joe’s and Uniqlo. Their new collection of pants is so awesome (!!!!) but I reigned in my self-control and got only 2 pairs. I had a midterm yesterday which I feel I kind of blew and I was a tad bummed but I was like okay about it. This morning, I thought, maybe I’ll just go see my TA to talk about how I’m doing in the class in general and whether that grade would seriously hurt me. I walk into her office, she asks me “hey, what’s up?” and I just choked. It took me a while to start talking not because I was so upset (I honestly did not feel upset walking into the room, just out of breath from all the stairs leading to her office) but because I was seriously puzzled about why I was at the very brink of tears. Seriously, the whole time, I was like WHAT is going on??????? I have gotten Bs and Cs, my transcript is basically a melange of alphabets and I have always shrugged my shoulders and carried on. Yet, here I was, tearing up about the prospect of getting an A-. You can probably tell I’m still bewildered. But anyway, after a few deep breaths, we talked about my grade. The class won’t be curved so I will have to pull myself up if this goes badly but she doesn’t think it will be too bad.

I am pretty much at the tail end of the semester so the focus is very much on the last few hurdles. Nothing too exciting has happened so I will leave you with some ~pop culture~ recommendations.

  • “Blue Neighbourhood” by Troye Sivan—my favourite tracks are “EASE” and “BLUE”
  • “Binge” by Tyler Oakley—a book you can get as an audiobook for free on Audible.com like I did! It’s so entertaining
  • “Room”—an Oscar-nominated movie, for which Brie Larson won best actress and it’s so riveting
  • Season 28 of The Amazing Race—I know TAR is so like 10 years ago or whatever but I think we all just forgot how fun it is to watch
  • The Commanding Heights—I had to watch this 3-part documentary for a class and it’s super informative and interesting, for anyone interested in economic history (I guess this one is not really pop culture but it is still fun)

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Week 12: New York City

Several years ago, when my family along with my Mak Long’s family went to London together, they came back to KL with us and stayed at our house for a few days before going back to Kuching. There were probably like 12 of us staying together under one roof and my house isn’t like, huge. So people were kind of sprawled over the living room upstairs, and there were pillows and blankets all over. There was always someone at the dining table, in the kitchen, in the living room. It was always noisy and the house felt so full. I think we hosted the whole bunch of them several times and I remember that every time they leave, I feel like the house kind of expands and falls into a silence. Everything becomes bigger and quieter than I remember.

My sister left for London last night and suddenly the apartment feels so empty and quiet. It felt odd not to see a suitcase burst open in the middle of my living room, a bunch of her coats on my couch and another toothbrush in the bathroom. It’s weird, it’s almost like she was never here, but I know she was because I have all this trash to take out and leftover of food I bought for her and whatever. It’s just funny how that is, considering I’ve lived like this for the past year or so. It’s funny how people come and leave and alter how our everyday lives feel to us.

But it’s all good 🙂 we had so much fun this week and we’ll all be back home for summer soon! We went to NYC over the weekend and I think for me, every trip to New York just gets better.

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We stayed in the East Village, so we started the morning with a quick walk to Washington Square Park. This is one of my favourite places.
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Breakfast at Chalait—best green tea drinks and 5/5 sandwiches.
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West Village is full of pretty houses.
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The Whitney Museum (we didn’t go in… tbh, I was just looking for a restroom)
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The High Line
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Because it was such a nice day.
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With my sister!
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Isn’t this really cool? It’s a model of the city we saw on the High Line.
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We used the High Line to get to Chelsea Market for lunch.
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We also found Taylor Swift’s apartment building… hehe.

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In Williamsburg, we had the hugest serving of cereal milk soft serve I’ve ever seen.
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We went to Devoción in Williamsburg for coffee in the evening. Look at the interior!

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And there it is, the single best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Their OJ also seemed really popular and I really want to go back there to try it.
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We spent most of the evening in Brooklyn, and we took lots of pictures of this iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo.
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On the Brooklyn Bridge because it was my first time in Brooklyn and I don’t know why I had never gone before.

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At the Brooklyn Bridge Park.
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At Main Street Park, under the Manhattan Bridge, waiting for the sunset.

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Oh hi, Manhattan.
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We couldn’t get over this beautiful view.

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We went back to Manhattan to by CHLOE., a vegan restaurant in the West Village for dinner. It was so good. Seriously never knew vegan food could be this amazing. 5/5.
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The restaurant was crazy packed, so we went back to Washington Square Park to eat.
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The next morning we went to Tompkins Square Park, which was near where we stayed. One of my favourite movies (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) has a scene that was filmed here. It was such a cold and sunny morning!
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Met Amanda for brunch at Mud, and they have this really cute seating space at the back of the restaurant.

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The East Village is amazing and I’m definitely hoping to come back here.
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Subway scenes.

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Times Square.
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Aida really wanted to see the Bethesda Terrace because she’s a Gossip Girl fan, haha.

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Halal Guys at Central Park (!!!)
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My first time at The Met. We didn’t go in because we didn’t have much time and we were carrying food hehe.

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And that’s pretty much everything we did in New York! Yesterday, I spent the entire day at home, barely even leaving my room because we walked 24,000 steps on average each day in the city. Plus, I also had to catch up on some work.

As you can imagine, I’m now suffering from insane Monday blues. Thankfully I’m not really behind on work despite taking like, 3 whole days off from doing anything. Good thing I spent my entire spring break slaving away haha. But super grateful for the opportunity to travel and see all these amazing things with my sister. Now, with just 4 weeks left of the semester (!!!!!!!) I have to refocus myself and get back into my rhythm.

Until next week, then! 🙂

Week 11: Rejuvenation

If you’re reading this, I hope you’ve had a good week. 🙂

I had a great time last week. I was invited to attend Penn’s Women of Colour luncheon last Friday. It was really encouraging to see that Penn had an event like this, celebrating accomplishments of coloured women and acknowledging the efforts being made in bettering the lives of our communities.

There were speeches by Hispanic, Asian, African American and Native students. They were pretty good but I didn’t have my pen and journal with me, so I could only sneakily type brief snippets of notes on my phone. This is a tidied-up version, if you care for it:

  • There’s a Mayan saying that goes, “I am the other you” which speaks to how when you respect/love/care for me, you’re also caring about yourself and vice versa
  • It doesn’t matter where you are, there is something you can do for your community
  • Many people have created legacies of creating something from nothing
  • You can affect change in the hearts and minds of others when you feel empowered
  • Be the voice for people with a silenced history

It’s kind of cheesy I guess, and if you’re not “into” this sort of things, I can see how you think it is. But as I firmly believe, there is nothing bad about being able to see beauty in and draw inspiration from the cheesy things.

I also am part of a team that organised a dialogue event last week. We talked about the experience of minorities in college and the conversation touched on quite a number of things: the process of getting into college and what factors play a part in that, opinions on affirmative action, how easy/difficult the college experience can be depending on the background you come from, etc. How it works is that usually, 2-3 people would moderate the discussion by asking open-ended questions and people chime in with their experiences and opinions. I can’t and won’t say much because I respect that space so much and would not talk so openly about what people shared with everyone in the room that day. But what I appreciate about these events is when people warmly open up to share their stories, I think they provide empathy and strength to people listening without even realising it and to me, that’s such a generous act. On the other end, when people thoughtfully listen to others, it’s a sign of respect/solidarity somewhat (?) and I think that’s just really cool.

There were over 50 people at the Pan Asian American Community House 🙂

It really warmed my heart to see the room fill up with people ready to engage by sharing their stories and listen to other people talk about their experiences. Despite being on the team that does research on the topic, comes up with the questions and has a run through of the discussion before the event, I always learn so much from everyone and I always find it a, for lack of a better word at the moment, rejuvenating experience and I am so glad to be a part of this.

Another cool thing that happened this week was I got to meet Omi Vaidya! If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he played Chatur Ramalingam “The Silencer” in Aamir Khan’s Bollywood film, 3 Idiots. He was speaking at Penn as part of the South Asian Society’s Symposium for the Awareness of South Asian Issues. He mentioned how great it was to work on 3 Idiots. He also talked about his experience being on The Office. But mostly he spoke about being South Asian in America; about coping with discrimination/bullying in a constructive way, how being Indian American meant that he felt he belonged in neither India nor America and how he navigated a discovery of his identity. He also spoke briefly about how he plans to use his craft to tell important stories about people in his community. Currently, he wants to produce a movie about Dalip Singh Saund to tell the story of the first Asian American member of the U.S. Congress. I am so grateful to have been able to meet him. He was warm and funny in person, and I just had a great time.

So yeah, this week has been pretty good for me. My sister has been in town since the weekend! We’ve just been going around campus, watching TV, baking, cooking, shopping and making short excursions in the nearby area because I have classes this week. This is the reason I had to do so much work during spring break! Because I just have done so little work this week, since I just wanna go out and enjoy myself now that my sister is here. We are heading up to New York City tomorrow and I’m really excited about that, so I’ll write all about it next week 🙂 until then!

Week 10: “Birds Don’t Just Fly, They Fall Down and Get Up”

The title quote is from a line in Shakira’s song Try Everything, which is on the soundtrack of Zootopia. This line made it into my journal because I love finding inspiration from pop songs which are usually thought of as being vapid and built on trite lyrics. I think it’s cool to find awe in little things.

It got me thinking about how we always say things and underestimate the effect it has on people. Like for example, while I was cooking lunch earlier, I found myself laughing because I suddenly remembered an old funny story told by one of my parents’ friends. Yesterday, I saw a quote in a dorm hallway that literally just said “enjoy every sunset, look forward to every sunrise” and I thought oh my god that’s beautiful because really every dark night is just an intermission between beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

I don’t think the RA who put the quote up meant for it to be so deep or to be interpreted too much, it was just a beach-themed dorm floor but he/she gave me a nice thought. I don’t think my parents’ friend (whose name I can’t even remember) thought his story would continue to occasionally make me laugh for the next 10+ years, but it really does. I don’t know what my point is here exactly… I guess, they don’t see how the little things they did would have an effect (and in this case, a good one) on someone like me, and it’s just a little reminder for me to always put good things out there in the world because you don’t know who it’ll reach and in what ways. 🙂

Anyway, moving on from my sappy life-lessony musings, today has been the first day back to classes after nine beautiful, blissful and restful days. I’ll admit my limbs felt a little heavier today getting out of bed. It didn’t help that we just started daylight savings and it was raining outside. As Professor Cole said this morning, “it’s quite a cruel combination.” Nevertheless, everything will be okay. I’ve hit the halfway mark of what seems to be a marathon of a semester, I finally secured a summer job (!!!!!) and I’m well ahead in terms of my workload.

Ahhh, but break was so good, you guys. I didn’t even leave Philadelphia for any part of it. My break was mostly spent working out daily, cleaning the apartment and doing 1.5-weeks worth of work.

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Thanks to May May for lending me her home workout equipment so I could do Barre at home!
Hundddddreds of pages of readings…

But, of course, the funnest part for me was experimenting in the kitchen!!!

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Ingredients for my smoothie.

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This is what you get when you save pictures from Snapchat: blurry pictures.
Spicy tuna. Emphasis on spicy.
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My tuna salad and raspberry/blueberry smoothie.

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Cucur udang/ikan bilis 😀
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Cod marinated with lime and coriander overnight.
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Pan-frying them with onions and tomatoes.
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It doesn’t look great but it tasted pretty good!
Buttered rice with lime and coriander.
Coriander with tomatoes and onions. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I was trying to use up a huge bunch of coriander because I didn’t want to waste them!)
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All together!

I also managed to spend time with some friends and walk into the city when I got restless 🙂

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Finally made a trip to Bluestone Lane.
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The interior is super homey.
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Flat whites >>
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Because the coffee cup fit my colour scheme.
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Stumbling across a playground on the walk home from the city.
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Joanna and I watched Zootopia together – it was a great movie and so much fun, go watch it!!
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Found a balcony to look over the city (outside the trash room LOL).
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Brunched with Claire. The fruit with honey and granola was so good.
Warmer weather necessitates popsicles, and popsicles necessitate selfies.

Okay, I think that was probably the most number of pictures I’ve included in one post so far. But yeah, I’m actually quite pleased with how I spent my break. It was productive and healthy and I had fun. It makes me feel more like I am the person I want to be. But really the reason I stayed in is my sister is visiting me next week!!! That’s mostly why I needed to get work out of the way. I’m really excited to have family around and for the trip we’re going to take 🙂 5 and a half days to go!

Until then. ❤

Week 9: I Said I Would

Since I have the week off from school, I have more time to do things I usually want to do but don’t have time for. That is primarily cooking, but it also includes hanging out with some of my friends who are also on campus over break and exercising more frequently.

I made some amazing pancakes last weekend as my search for the fluffiest pancakes continued. I used this recipe and tweaked it a little (slightly less milk, more baking powder) and here’s what I  got! It was 8/10, I have to say.

I also made pasta with salmon, lemon, butter and herbs with a side of broccoli. This was like, only 5/10 though to be honest. But I’m all about trial and error when it comes to cooking and it was still worth it 🙂

I also made ginger-soy marinated cod (thanks, Trader Joes) to be eaten with rice with ghee and curry leaves as well as some steamed broccoli. It was the first time I used the steamer over the rice cooker and I was very excited about that! This is probably one of my favourite home-cooked meals because it tastes incredible and takes only 15 minutes to make. 9.5/10.

I don’t usually get cereal because I don’t love milk and I don’t usually buy it, but the other day I got milk because I wanted quick breakfasts. It was a busy week and I didn’t have time to be frying eggs and washing the pan etc. in the morning. I got this vanilla and almond clusters cereal (also thanks to Trader Joes!) and ate it with some fruit. Yum. 7/10.

My favourite breakfast though, incorporates 2 of my favourite things: salmon and eggs. I don’t really know how to keep my omelettes intact despite watching the Jamie Oliver video on omelettes like 20 times, but the taste is there for me and that’s good enough.

Apart from the food, I finally managed to jog my way down to the Schuylkill! I hate running outside because I feel super self-conscious about the way I look when I run, haha. But since it’s break, campus is relatively quiet. So, I thought there would be no better time to take the first step in getting over one of my irrational fears. It ended up being so rewarding because it was a gorgeous day, plus getting over a hurdle always makes me feel good.

Besides all of that, I also have been catching up on my backlogged work and trying to get ahead. I broke down everything I need to do in the next few weeks into little chunks, sprinkled across the 9 days of break and so far it’s going well. Something very exciting is happening in the next 2 weeks which is what I’m trying to clear my schedule for. I’m having such a good time with the quiet on campus and not having to be among so many people so often these past few days. Also, I’m really happy to be doing things I said I’d do if I had more time because I didn’t want “not having time” to be just an excuse; the only way for that was to make sure that when I 
do have time, I get things done.

Week 8: Making It Out On The Other Side

I love how much difference the sun makes. It is unintrusive and intangible, but warm and gentle. As we inch towards the end of winter, spring starts teasing us with sporadic days of 15°C weather and sun, sun, sun. Yesterday afternoon, I saw some boys playing frisbee and some other people laying on the grass on high rise field. It made me realise that the start of autumn seems so long ago and by now I’ve forgotten the merriment I take for granted during the warmer days of the year. I forgot that we’re not always bitterly cold, hiding indoors and rushing from point to point whenever we do need to go outside. I always know spring is coming but just like the way I don’t realize us creeping into winter, spring also always finds a way to surprise me.

I’ve just made it out on the other side of a heinous two weeks of midterm exams, essays, problem sets and interviews. I knew I was going to make it out but I didn’t know how and suddenly I now I have… and it feels like spring. I know it will happen but at the same time I don’t see it coming. And that just makes it all the more wonderful. So excuse me while I revel in this.