Week 10: I Never Make The Same Thing Twice

Last Saturday, I realised I had a little bit of linguine, whipping cream and parmesan cheese left. So I made pasta!

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This pasta is called Math Homework. Because I was supposed to be doing Math homework. But I made this instead.

I’m not the best cook. In fact, I’m not a very good cook at all. I just make things I like to the point they’re good enough for me to eat. I would probably get endless heart palpitations if I were to cook for a dinner party or something like that because (so far in my life, anyway) cooking has just always been something I do just for myself, just for fun.

With that said though, I love it. I love cooking and cleaning. I feel so alive, so at ease and so myself when I’m doing it. I still don’t know if the way I chop onions is the right way to do it or not. I don’t know if the amount of heat I use to make my omelettes is correct or not (actually, I know that it’s probably not, because 3 out of 5 times, they’re slightly burnt and/or undercooked). I still don’t know if I’m cutting the chicken properly..

But cooking makes me feel so many things. Firstly, it invites me to believe, once in a while, that I have what it takes to take care of myself and to be self-sufficient. Even if the food I make isn’t amazing, I know how to feed myself healthy wholesome meals. Even if it’s just one thing in my life I can do, it’s the one thing that truly makes me believe I will be okay.

The best part is feeling like I can just wing it. Like I said, I never really know what I’m doing–I have no recipes and I barely follow the ones I find because winging it is so much fun. I like learning that I can get by knowing the core principles of how something works and I enjoy the process of getting comfortable with improvising without making everything perfect. A lot of times in life, I try to control as much of a situation as possible and come up with plans and backup plans and more backup plans so that I get the outcome I want. Cooking kinda just teaches me to let go of that. Sure, nothing I cook is really consistent or life-changing but I still enjoy everything I make because I experimented, I gave it my best and it’s unique and special.

IT’S JUST LIKE LIFE, YOU GUYS. (I love metaphors so much that I can make scrambled eggs and turn it into a life lesson.)

Also, it’s such a great way to unwind. I find it really easy to be present when I’m cooking. Like for example, in class, it’s so easy for my mind to drift off and start thinking about the other 5 billion things we Penn kids worry and stress out about because nothing happens when you do that, the professor will just go on talking, the class doesn’t fall to pieces because you aren’t paying attention. But with cooking, I am forced to be there and I feel super ~in the moment~ because if I let my mind drift away or whatever, there goes my food..

Ok this is probably the cheesiest thing I’ve ever put on here (and not just because that pasta I made had like 2 fistfuls of cheese in it) and I can’t believe I dedicated like, 600 words to talking about my pasta-cooking thoughts.. but I just felt so happy cooking last weekend that it made me want to share this, haha.

It’s a Tuesday night as I write this and I’m chilling on my couch with Hanna after having dinner; she just braided my hair like my sisters usually do.

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Hanna was a junior at Penn when I was a freshman and she really made me feel welcomed here. It’s crazy to think that I’m now a junior and the freshmen I know now are to me like I once was to her. Right now she’s working at this radiation oncology lab here so it’s really nice how even though she graduated last year, I still get to see her from time to time. She’s such a lovely person and she always seems genuinely happy to see how I’ve grown throughout my few years here and honestly, she has been such a huge part of it because of how supportive she is. Hanna makes me feel like I have family here and I’m so grateful for that.

Anyway, it’s a busy week and I just typed this in like 10 minutes so I apologise for typos or grammatical errors because I didn’t proof read this *closed-eyed monkey emoji* and I’m back to work now!

Talk to you guys again next week 🙂

Week 9: Don’t Trust Everything You See Online / My Girlfriends Are Made of Magic

Today's Chai Chat!

Today’s Chai Chat!

Today, I went to a Chai Chat (they’re monthly dialogues on issues socially relevant to students, basically, and they’re called Chai Chats because there is free chai!). It was a collaborative discussion on the way social media affects our perception of our peers and ourselves. I think it’s a really important dialogue to have because so much of the pressure we put on ourselves is derived from what we think everyone else is doing and the standards we feel we should hold ourselves to because of it. And let’s face it.. Facebook and whatnot, they all kinda make you feel like everyone else is doing a lot better than they usually are.

I mean, I love Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat. I think, to some extent, I like seeing what everyone else is up to because it gives me inspiration and ideas–a type of fashion style I could try out, a new restaurant I could visit, a good band I might want to check out. This is great. Seriously. I love it. Most of the time I’d say that in the moment, it makes me feel connected and happy or whatever. Plus, I like knowing what my friends and family back home or in other countries are up to! I miss them so much and being able to see bits and pieces from their “mundane” daily lives make me feel close and connected. I like seeing people having fun and being happy–it makes me happy. It really does!

But no one is really representing an accurate picture of what their life is like, you know? Most people try to put their best selves out there, and that’s fine. We’re always taught to behave nicely and appropriate around people, and so I can understand how it’s somewhat natural to “curate” a social media presence. I’m not saying it’s bad or that they shouldn’t, just that it might be difficult for us to remember, and so sometimes, when it’s 2 a.m. and, I don’t know, maybe I’m writing a paper that feels completely unwriteable or studying for a midterm that seems to have bottomless material to cover, pictures of people going out and having fun just slowly tip toes into my mind. It happens. And like a big fat caramel cupcake to my hungry eyes, it tempts me to think, “how do they do so much outside of school and still take 6 classes and do really well in all of them?”

We’re always comparing our blooper reels to our peers’ highlight reels and that’s not fair. But I get it. It’s hard. I know. I subconsciously do it a lot. Yet, I’m also guilty of putting my best self up. I try to make conscious efforts to be genuine and honest–I’ve been frank about downright crappy weeks and feeling stressed and helpless and lost. I guess those things just tend to be more “quiet”? I don’t know. Like I said, it’s kinda ingrained in me to treat social media interactions like I would real life ones, which means to lead a good example and what not, be collected and friendly, but also just a little bit open and frank about the not-so-great stuff.

I also personally don’t know if I would say I never want to compare myself with others, because a bit of awareness is useful I think.. but I guess all I wanna say is it’s never a complete picture. Everyone is going through something. For me, it really helps to remind myself that happiness isn’t a zero-sum thing; someone else’s success and happiness doesn’t stop me from having mine and likewise for you. We have different lives, starting points, priorities, personalities and different lessons to learn. Jealousy costs way more than its worth, and to quote the realm of adolescent wisdom (*cough* Tumblr *cough*), trust the journey of your life.

[Haha so thanks for bearing with me ’til the end of that whole spiel.. I am now going to ~*seamlessly transition*~ into talking about the rest of my week.. lol.]

This past week, I had my first session of Write On, which is the volunteer creative writing thing we do with kids from Lea Elementary. I missed being around these kids and seeing the clever things they come up with. The new coaches this year also seem really great at coaching the kids, so that made me really happy.

Working on collage poetry in small groups.

Working on collage poetry in small groups.

The kids performing their poems in front of everyone.

The kids performing their poems in front of everyone.

Besides that, this past week I was just constantly constantly constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have the friends that I do. I wouldn’t change a thing about them–they are smart, ambitious, hardworking, sensitive, kind and hilarious. Thank you thank you thank you thank you for friends.

Cristina walks 8 blocks with me to help me satisfy my cravings. Shahirah and May May lent me some of their clothes to wear and helped me pick out clothes and for hours even though they had a lot of work to do. Sofia is always there to crack me up with her random dance moves. Busra has my back and has real talk with me. Hui Jie is my pilates/gym bud who also goes on bubble tea runs with me and keeps me in check by reminding me not to procrastinate. I don’t even know if any of them read this but thanks for making me feel safe and loved all the time.

Cristina at lunch with me today.

Cristina at lunch with me today.

Some of the clothes Shahirah and May May lent me/weighed in on.

Some of the clothes Shahirah and May May lent me/weighed in on.

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At Sofia’s birthday last week.

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With Busra before we started contemplating life and why we’re in college and all that.

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Hui Jie sends me encouragement snaps when I have lots of work because she’s great.

Golden stars to all my girlz and everyone reading this. As we speak, I’m doing the thing where I spend an hour trying to pick a movie to watch and end up just watching 50 movie trailers and then decide not to watch a movie because I just wasted so much time trying to pick one. Haha, have a fantastic weekend! 🙂

Week 8: Sometimes Small Hurdles are Big Hurdles

Here we are. Week 8. I am at the midpoint of the semester, otherwise known as the time my to-do list reached puberty and went through a growth spurt.

Midterm next week and 200 pages of reading to do, remember to email the TA about setting up an appointment to ask clarifying questions, review material so that I know what questions to ask to begin with, email student groups about collaboration on event, go to Lea elementary for advertising 3 times this week, remember to print out flyers before you go, text Casey to coordinate where we’ll meet, email the homeroom teacher to tell her we’re coming, remember you have an appointment at Career Services at 1.30pm to talk about how to take control of finding a job, submit your resume and cover letters for criticism, follow up on advisor about transcript problem, cook lunch/dinner at 7 a.m. because you won’t have enough time to do it otherwise, call SHS to see if my appointment was schedule correctly online, make a dental appointment, see if I can squeeze in an extra gym session on Wednesday morning, drop by Marcus’ office hours to collect my midterm exam and assignments, see Professor Epstein to discuss the stuff I didn’t understand about his lecture on perception, remember to ask Mama about her medical appointment, email sponsors my transcript (!!!), make sure you’re drinking enough water, oh and water your plants check to see they haven’t completely died, do the dishes from yesterday morning please, oh and you really need to do laundry if not you’ll have nothing to wear to the gym tomorrow, also pick out classes for the Spring semester and make a mock schedule, which means you have to see Professor Connolly to approve some of your course selections, also see an ECON advisor to help figure out if you want to continue with that major, and see a PSCI advisor to see if you could accidentally get a minor in political science, and remember to write a blog post about your week in time.*

I hate to sound all ~oh I’m so busy~ but man.. the little things. It’s like that light rain which is more like mist, where it’s not heavy enough to warrant you staying inside, and yet an umbrella just will not protect you from it because it still gets in your face. It’s like a pile of books in my way for which I just need to figure out a system to stack them on their respective shelves. It’s like a being a waiter at those restaurant where they carry like 6 dishes on two arms (or is that not a thing?).

See, the thing is, none of those things really scare me in and of itself, and I know I can use iCal and my to-do list and reminders to help me get through all of them. But sometimes I wish someone would just give me a play-by-play of what I need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis so I would just follow instructions, as opposed to having to always re-evaluate and re-consider and improvise. It’s like how the rubic’s cube was so much more fun once I had memorised all the steps, instead of having to think my way through it and calculus only became my favourite subject once I had gotten the hang of it.

Dude, this transition into being an adult is toughhh. It’s like I’ve spent my whole life riding those tiny aeroplane rides where you pay like a dollar or something to use and it just swings you back and forth for 2 minutes while playing some fun-fair type music, and then I blinked and suddenly I am in a real aeroplane and there are buttons on the dashboard and ceiling and floor and levers that serve functions I don’t know of.

It’s times like these I really need to just take a step back and detach from the street-level view of my life and “zoom out”. Yeah, they’re like a million tiny raindrops, but it’s just rain. Soak in it, wipe it off–it will stop, you will dry off. It will be okay. Deep breaths. One thing at a time. One step, and then another, and another.

Honestly, “baby steps” is like one of the most liberating pieces of wisdom I’ve ever received, which is why it’s on my Instagram bio thing (and that is clearly where all pieces of wisdom belong).

Week 7: I Get A Break!

It was a long week, you guys. It feels like a month crammed into one week, and I think that’s partly because I don’t know how to tell you the story of my past week in a coherent post.. many things which are pretty different and somewhat unrelated happened this week.

Dropping a class
This is my 5th semester at Penn. Every semester apart from my very first one, I’ve taken 5 classes/credit units. The typical semester is about 3-5.5 credits, although a few of my friends take 6. This semester, I was enrolled in a class I absolutely wasn’t enjoying. I felt the class lacked a good sense of structure/direction, and that the professor was not very organised. It didn’t fulfil any requirements for me–it was something I’d registered in just for fun. Except, it wasn’t fun at all. But because I had waited so long to realise how much I couldn’t stand the class, it was too late to add another class to replace it if I dropped this one. So I hung on because the idea of taking only 4 classes made me feel like I would be slacking, like I would’ve wasted the opportunity to be in another class. I felt so ashamed because it made me feel like I would be such an underachiever. Luckily, I accepted the fact that those were awful reasons to be doing something I don’t even like, and so I let it go; what felt like a shameful idea now feels like a triumph against my ego or whatever.

The safety threat
Last Sunday, the entire Penn community (and the communities of many other colleges around Philadelphia) was notified of a vague “safety threat” made on social media. Colleges were alerted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI about a threat of violence against a university which mentioned the time and date of 2 p.m. on October 5th (you can read about it here). The university ensured us that they were taking this seriously–and they did. On Monday, there was a noticeably heavy presence of police and other security officers on campus. People cut class to stay home, and everyone was in some kind of subtle panic. It was a weird feeling. Everyone walked quickly. It seemed quiet and tense. Classes were cancelled. I was scared, too. Shahirah, Hui Jie and I stayed home studying and eating takeout, trying not to check the time. Nothing happened that day, alhamdulillah, I am so thankful. Everyone was relieved, but I think we all were also perplexed? intrigued? at how such a vague threat had such a huge effect. We all learned how little control of our lives we have.

My exam
On Wednesday, campus was back to normal, and I had my political science exam. I’ve mentioned this before, but this is the first PSCI class I’ve taken and so I was a little stressed out because (a) I didn’t know what to expect or how to prepare for it and (b) I love this class (like LOVE IT so much that I question if I am in the right major) and so I really wanted to do well. I prepared for it sufficiently, and so I am not too worried about how it turns out, nor do I care as much because at least I know I did what I could. It was 50 minutes of frantically writing a 4-5 page essay? I can hardly remember, but it caused my arm much pain. By the time the proctors called for pens down, the way my arm felt tired gave me a flash of what it was like to be in school in Malaysia, sitting at our tiny wooden desks spaced out evenly for exams in our tiny cement-floored classrooms, writing on our kertas kajang (foolscap paper), tying them together with strings when we were done. I thought it was cool how the way my muscles felt could bring back memories of things I haven’t thought of in years. But the end of that exam also marked the start of Fall Break 🙂 (!!!!!!!)

Studying for my poli sci exam.

Studying for my poli sci exam.

Half of my poli sci cheat sheet!

Half of my poli sci cheat sheet.

Awful out-of-focus picture of my friends having coffee on the rooftop after dinner and dessert to celebrate fall break!

Awful out-of-focus picture of my friends having coffee on the rooftop after dinner and dessert to celebrate fall break!

Fall break
I don’t know how many of you follow me on Instagram, but I have been documenting (overdocumenting, possibly) my four day weekend on it. On Thursday, I went to King of Prussia to go hunting for a new pair of boots and it was really fun.

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My new babies hehe.

My new babies hehe.

I spent Friday in New York City. Honestly, New York is electric. I think this was my 5th or 6th trip up there and every time, I appreciate it a little bit more. People talk about the energy, but honestly, I don’t care much for that. What I like about New York is looking at the diversity–there are all sorts of people there, all sorts of stores, cuisines. Everything is cutting edge. There is always more to discover and so much inspiration to get from that city. I know this is what everyone says.. and I’m annoying myself for saying it because I know I’m blurting a bunch of clichés and am not really giving you a great description of what NYC is like.. but I hope someday you get to experience it for yourself!

First stop in NYC: coffee.

First stop in NYC: coffee.

Flat whites make my morning.

Flat whites make my morning.

My first time seeing Central Park in non-jacket-wearing weather, and what a difference it makes.

My first time seeing Central Park in non-jacket-wearing weather, and what a difference it makes.

The Mall.

The Mall.

Awkward unintentional handbag-modelling (?)

Awkward unintentional handbag-modelling (?)

Shahirah trusted me with rowing, and I trusted her to take pictures of me. Talk about trust exercises..

Shahirah trusted me with rowing, and I trusted her to take pictures of me. Talk about trust exercises..

Just one of the many boats I almost hit. And oh yeah, the view.

Just one of the many boats I almost hit. And oh yeah, a great view.

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The picture I always take when I get this ice cream.. because I'm original and creative.

The picture I always take when I get this ice cream.. because I’m original and creative.

Subway stations.

Subway stations.

Cute decorations in cute Japanese stores.

Cute decorations in cute Japanese stores.

A crappy attempt at a panorama at Times Square.

A crappy attempt at a panorama at Times Square.

We walked so much yesterday and it was a little tiring, so today I took it easy and just did groceries, watched TV, read and stayed home.

Me, pushing my basket through Trader Joes' check out line because it was too heavy to carry.

Me, pushing my basket through Trader Joes’ check out line because it was too heavy to carry.

It’s back to the grind on Monday (boo) so I’m really going to enjoy my last day off tomorrow. For now, I’m gonna end with this picture of my cousin’s adorable baby when he was at my house in Malaysia last week because he is the cutest and I miss him. Bye!

MISS YOU, AYDEN!!

MISS YOU, AYDEN!!

Week 6: The Less I Know, The More I Learn

The last time I wrote a blog post, it was approximately 5 a.m. and I was cozied up in bed with a fever and couldn’t fall asleep (update: I’m all better now). Today, it’s about 5 p.m. and I just spent the last 30-or-so minutes in bed trying to fall asleep but feeling haunted by the lingering image of the monster that is my to-do list. It feels like all those times I just couldn’t reach for the extra cookie because I knew I didn’t go to the gym that week. Thankful for this discipline but boy is it frustrating sometimes..

Studying for my neuroscience exam.

Studying for my neuroscience exam.

I had two exams this week and have a paper due on Friday, which I need to start like, now. I told myself that if I finish writing my paper by 12 p.m. on Friday, I will buy myself a fruit smoothie and I really really really want that smoothie. The exams went well though, alhamdulillah. I have another exam next week which I’m quite nervous about because I’ve never taken a political science class or write an essay on the kinds of things we learn in that class. But as I was thinking about that today, I suddenly recalled feeling the same way for the literature class I took last semester. English literature is so not the kind of class I usually take, and it was not something I had much expertise in. I mean, we only read abridged versions of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Phantom of the Opera” throughout the 3 years we prepared for PMR, and then suddenly I had to read 9 whole books and a whole bunch of other supplementary reading in 15 weeks. I was really scared to write an essay for that exam but I did alright–definitely was not an amazing grade, but I was proud of myself for trying something new and interesting and not being ashamed to struggle for it. I guess all of this kind of gave me peace of mind, because I know I have surprised myself with scary oh-my-god-how-am-I-ever-gonna-get-past-this challenges before and loved it, so I know I can do it again (guys, it’s been a while since I’ve had faith in myself like this, it’s so rare and I’m rather pleased).

Highlight of the week: other than making it out of my exams more-than-alive, I am now the proud owner of two plants! I’ve been planning to get a plant for about a year now, but today, between classes, I walked past the farmers market, saw a really lovely selection of cute little potted plants, and in the spur of the moment, made my one-year-dream come true. It’s only been a brief 3 hours with my babies, but I love having a living thing around that doesn’t talk or make voluntary movements, you know? Is that weird? Oh well, it’s true.

The succulents at the farmers' market.

The succulents at the farmers’ market, arranged nicely.

My yet-to-be named plants!

My yet-to-be named plants sitting quietly on my window sill beside me.

Today, I still have to attend a meeting, read 2 chapters for a class, outline my 6-page paper and cook…. and there’s only about 6 hours left to the day. It’s really annoying to always feel like I must do everything (and do it well), but I think this is what it feels like to be pushing myself healthily and I’m just going to confront this discomfort by going through it. *cringe* Baby steps! The next time you hear from me insha-Allah it will be ~fall break~, all I’m currently worried about will be behind me, it will be amazing and I can’t wait.

Week 5: I Used a Disposable Thermometer for the First Time

My MSA friends praying in Hustman Hall. I wasn't there because I was sick :(

My MSA friends praying in Hustman Hall. I wasn’t there because I was sick 😦

Hey friends! Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha, Eid al-Adha Mubarak 🙂 I’m done with about a third of my junior fall semester alhamdulillah. I think I’m still doing pretty well, and I’m still on track, and I’ve learned now that I need to pat myself on the back when I am doing good. However, I’m experiencing a little itsy bitsy minor hiccup as we speak because I’ve fallen sick 😦 I think it’s just a normal cold/headache/fever thing, and the doctor said it could be due to stress. I had the same headache for 3 days and yesterday Panadol didn’t even work on me so I was very worried and went to Student Health Services (SHS). They gave me a painkiller shot which should make me better soon, but I’m also eating lots of fruits and drinking warm milk with honey so insya Allah (god willing!) I will be up to my normal level again in no time. I’m writing this as I’m cozied in bed with a body temperature of 39 degrees C, at 5 a.m. on a Thursday morning because I’m supposed to “take a break” but I can’t sleep.

I'm usually not one to wear socks indoors, but this sure feels niceee.

I’m usually not one to wear socks indoors, but this sure feels niceee.

Interesting things that happened this week? I had my first exam for the semester and it was on Evolutionary Psychology. It went okay, I suppose. I did my best and I think I did everything I could to prepare so I’ll be fine with however it turns out.

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I went to my friend Ken’s house for the first time for his housewarming party. His roommates Lian Han and Shaun were very nice and hospitable. They had longan and lots of my childhood snacks, which really made my day.

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My friend Cristina had a simple presentation on the history of Palestine, and I went to support her. I think she was quite nervous because as she said, it was her first time “taking on more of a role”. But she did really well and I’m proud of her! I love being around people who are passionate about great causes.

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The most exciting thing that happened to me this week actually didn’t really happen to me. My sister started university! She’s now a first-year medical student at Barts in London! I’m super proud of her, because it has always been her dream to study medicine. She has known what she wants for the longest time and worked consistently towards it for years and years. I know many of you who are reading this know her personally, so you know what a hardworking person she is and has always been.

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Earlier this week, she texted Julia and I saying she feels like an ant in a sea of elephants. My heart kinda sank a little, because I remember that’s how I felt throughout my freshman year at Penn and it sucked. I never felt like it was okay to not be working because I needed to catch up, to measure up to all the other kids. I always felt like I needed to be doing 5 more things than I knew I could handle. I would turn to the mirror, confused, when people called me “capable” or “smart”, because I was aching to see that in my own self. I can’t say I’ve completely stopped feeling that way, but it has gotten a lot better as I’ve gone through a couple of years here, and I’ve mellowed down a lot.

Of course, it takes a lot to learn to shake that feeling off. Too often, people say “just be confident” or “nah, you can do it” or even “I believe in you” to remedy that. I understand that they’re well-intentioned, but these phrases never did anything for me other than frustrate me because they failed to recognise how far I felt I needed to go to feel confident. I thought I couldn’t “just be confident” because if it were really that easy, I would’ve done it a long time ago. I remember always mentally retaliating, “Well, tell me how! Somebody tell me how.

So I’m not gonna say that to my sister. What I would say though, is to implement “circuit breakers”. Something that you know will help you when you feel that way. It’ll take time, naturally, to figure out what that is for her. For me, it meant keeping a note, and I mean like a physical piece of paper that lists a bunch of things I know will comfort me. There’s something to remind myself that the sincere and true effort of trying to get where I wanna be is worth so much more than actually getting there, because at the end of the day God knows what’s best for us. I remind myself not to compare my progress to how other people are doing because we’re just different. I write a favourite doa (prayer) asking for patience and strength. I try to tell myself that if I had what it takes to get here, I can make it another mile, and another mile, and another mile–one step at a time until I’m done. And so can she. I have so much faith in my sister, and I think she’s gonna do just fine.

So I’m gonna sign off now, get some rest and focus on getting better. The pope is coming to Philadelphia this weekend so we have Friday off (yay for long weekends) and that gives me some time to prepare for the craziness that is next week (I have 2 exams and an 8-page paper to write, eep!). But autumn has officially started and I can smell fall break around the corner, so that’s some light at the end of the short-term tunnel to look forward to 🙂

Week 4: I Invite You To Walk A Week In My Shoes

The past two summers I’ve been back, I’ve often found that it’s been difficult to answer simple questions like “how do you like your university?” or “what is Penn like?”. It’s hard to do justice to questions that require you to somehow summarise your entire year in a relatively unfamiliar place. It’s hard to share with people this experience if I’m not having proper conversations with all of them regularly–something very difficult to do because of time constraints and time differences. Being really close to my family and friends, I like being able to share my experiences with them. Not being able to tell them about my life abroad just, well, sucked, because it’s currently a huge chunk of my life. This is why I decided to write about my week in detail, as much as I can remember and think is significant. It’s a far-from-perfect representation of my entire year at Penn, especially given the fact that exams haven’t started, but maybe it’ll be a good jumping-off point. So, here it is.


Sunday

Didn’t get out of bed until 11 a.m. because Hui Jie and I stayed up watching Running Man and talking while being slumped in my couch until late at night the night before. Later in the afternoon, I had lunch with my friend Adriel who’s from Singapore. I was so lazy to do any walking that I asked him to meet me at the Thai restaurant in my apartment building.

At night, my friend Fahmida organised a pot-luck type thing in her room for the MSA girls. It was really nice to meet the freshmen who all seem to be great girls. We pretty much just ate briyani, danced to desi/arab music and made a lot of noise. Honestly, it’s the closest thing I have here to spending time with my cousins at home.


Monday

It was labour day, so we didn’t have classes. I stayed in for most of the day. I cooked the chicken (the breaded chicken tenders from my last post!) and watched a lot of The Big Bang Theory. I did about 50 pages of reading for my classes, which honestly, was not as much as I could/should have done.

This has nothing to do with the day's events, I just wanted a picture to be here.

Monday is also the day I have club meetings. One of the clubs I’m in is Penn Sangam–we organise dialogue events once a month where we moderate a discussion on a specific topic within the context of the Asian community. After the Sangam meeting, I had to go to the Malaysians@Penn (M@P) elections. I brought poppadoms. I also got re-elected as External Affairs chair. It probably sounds like a bigger deal than it is, because M@P doesn’t even have 30 members.


Tuesday

View from class.

View from class.

As on most days, I cook eggs in the morning. My earliest class is on a Tuesday–I have Ideas in Mathematics at 9.30 a.m. at the opposite end of campus. Then, I have Evolutionary Psychology right after. It’s 5 blocks down from the Math building, and I’m always late because I can never make it there in the 10 minutes I get between classes. I have a 1-hour break after this, and I usually go home for breaks to eat, pray and sometimes even nap.

Then, I have a Sociology class which is Educational Inequality. We learn about how educational opportunities intersects with class, race, politics and stuff like that. Tuesdays are also my longest days so I have one more class after this, and it’s Cognitive Neuroscience. Yeah, you can tell how scary it is from the name. So far we’re learning about neurons and the brain–things I haven’t thought of since I finished SPM almost 5 years ago.

After my last class, the day is still far from over, much to my dismay. I went home to cook dinner and do some reading for class for a while before I have to head out again. I’m a coordinator in a volunteering group called Write On! that mentors middle school children and teaches them creative writing. Because it’s the new school year, we’re looking for new students to join the group. We had an event last Tuesday where we pitch it to a bunch of people who’re interested and encourage them to apply to join. There is also free pizza.

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The other coordinators at the Write On! meeting.

Afterwards, I go home and do laundry while watching some TV. At this point, I was very worried about how I will handle all my classes because I’m going through my readings very slowly (they’re so hard for me to understand, honestly) and I find it so difficult to keep up with taking notes in my Neuroscience class.

Waiting for my laundry.

Waiting for my laundry.


Wednesday

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I wake up extra early today to go to my favourite coffee shop to finish my readings (which were due to be read by 2 p.m. that same day). After I’m done, I go to relax outside because the weather was amazing. As I’m lazing at College Green, I remember I don’t have time to be chilling because I needed to see my faculty advisor about questions I had on my Psychology research requirement. So, I run a few blocks to his office so that I have time to see him before class. I was quite worried about it so he gave me some advice about how to start and said I’m on track time wise, so that made me feel better. Then I have to rush to Math class but I make it in good time. Despite all that physical activity, I was so sleepy in class.

Reading at College Green.

Reading at College Green before I panic.

Then, I got lunch at the halal food truck because I didn’t feel like cooking. On Wednesdays after lunch, I have a Political Science class called Political Change in the Third World (this is the class I was rushing my readings for, lol). It’s very interesting and Hui Jie is also in the class with me! The professor talks a lot so my hands are always tired after 50 minutes of speedily taking notes. Right after this lecture, I have recitation for this class. Recitation is kinda like tutorials in Malaysia and even the UK, I think. We have to discuss the assigned readings.

Discussion-based classes make me feel so nervous. Sometimes, when I think of something to say, I can’t say it because I’m so nervous I can hear my heart beat in my ear. I used to be so scared to say anything in class because I was scared my heart beat would be louder than my own voice and I won’t know what I’m talking about. Things have gotten better, but I can’t believe I’m in Junior year (third year) of college and I’m still nervous about talking in class..

Sangam board at the PAACH open house.

Sangam board at the PAACH open house.

Right after class, I have to go to PAACH — the Pan-Asian American Community House. PAACH is a cultural center for Asians; a space for us to chill, get together and reach out to staff for help/support. As a representative of Penn Sangam, I have to go to their open house to talk about PAACH, what it does and also about the club I’m representing. It was a little tiring because it was a lot of smiling and high-energy talking, but it was fun I guess. After the open house, I stopped by at Houston Hall to see my friend Ken. He was presenting his summer research project, and I wanted to support him!  And then I went home, completely pooped out.

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Thursday

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I woke up early and made eggs for breakfast again as usual. Then I went to the coffee shop downstairs to do some readings and revision–going over my notes, watching some videos of stuff I didn’t quite understand. I had my first class at 10.30 a.m. and we learned about kin recognition. After class, I had to go to the Netter Center to get my security clearances done. I guess it’s kinda like a background check? It’s for my Sociology class–there is a volunteering aspect to the course which means we get to go to a school in South Philadelphia once or twice a week to understand the schooling system through a hands-on perspective.

Then, after lunch, we went to visit the school. It’s about a 25-minute train ride away from campus. It was really interesting to see the condition of the school. Public schools are largely under-funded in Philadelphia, and so they’re getting a lot of help from universities and other institutions like Penn which is partly why we’re there. Everyone at the school was great. The staff were all really nice and the kids are adorable! After a 30-minute tour of the school, I had to rush back to campus for class. A few of us took the cab because it was raining and we were short on time. I was a little bit soaked when I got to class so I felt really gross and found it difficult to concentrate.

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After class, I went back home to get changed into my gym clothes. Hui Jie and I went for a gym class called Barre Fit. It’s a lot of slow, controlled movements with lots of reps. Think ballet foot work + weights. It was so painful, and by the end of it my legs were jelly but I LOVED IT. Because I was soaked once with rain and then twice with sweat, I went home to take a good long shower. I made prawns with thai chilli sauce and peppers and onions like my mom makes sometimes for dinner. Then I went to the Muslim Students Associations (MSA) gathering for a while to see my friends.

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It was still raining when we left, but Shahirah and I wanted to go to Trader Joes (best grocery shop I’ve ever been to). I got my usuals: salmon, eggs, cheese, yogurt, soy milk and apples (which are the bulk of my diet, really). Then we were stuck at the shop for a while because the rain was so heavy. We ended up taking a Lyft back and the driver was really nice.

Realizing we were both somewhat-matching as we were waiting outside Trader Joes for the Lyft car.

Realizing we were both somewhat-matching as we were waiting outside Trader Joes for the Lyft car.

Once we got home, I was so tired but because I’m one of the coordinators for Write On!, I had to read through the applications we received for potential volunteers and rate them. I can’t imagine what it must be like to read college applications. I read just over 50 short club applications and already found it so difficult to pick my favs. It was difficult because everyone was so accomplished and also, to be honest, sounded the same.


Friday

Breakfast: eggs. Yes. Again. Always. Everyday. Forever. Also had mango juice, that was new. I had an earlier-than-usual Friday this week because we coordinators had to deliberate who would be part of Write On! and send out the acceptance emails. Then, I went to class. Some people don’t have class on Fridays but I think I prefer having one to keep me busy all week. After class, I went to a Career Fair for the first time! I felt so lost. I didn’t even know it was held at Sheraton, or that you needed to bring a resume, or that you get a name tag printed for you, or that there’s AN APP to help you navigate the fair, much less know what to say to recruiters. It was slightly overwhelming, but luckily I had friends to go with me and honestly, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

9 a.m. deliberation meeting.

9 a.m. deliberation meeting.

Random stuff from the career fair.

Random stuff from the career fair.

I went home for lunch, watched some TV and took a nap. Later at night, I got to catch up with two of my friends, Habeeb and Zohair. We took the Penn Transit bus (which is FREE, I never knew?!?!) and we went to the city to chill at Rittenhouse Square, which is a nice park to relax at! I love sitting on the benches and talking. It’s always a good time. I’ve always wished I could do that with my family and friends from home.

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Rittenhouse Square.


Saturday

Finally the weekend!!!! I woke up early, made breakfast and did what I was procrastinating all week: cleaned the kitchen. Specifically, there were some old rags in the kitchen I’ve been meaning to wash/throw out but was too grossed out to touch. In the end it took less than 10 minutes, and I love it when things tend to be not as scary as they seem in my head.

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Later that same morning, I went to try my first spin class! If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a cycling-ish class in the gym, where you cycle at the speed and resistance level you instructor tells you to be. There are sprints, and different “poses” like standing/sitting etc. It was really tough and I hated it and I was ~15rpm slower than she told us to be for most of the class. I’m sure it’s a great work out but I doubt I’ll be going back any time soon!

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I went home to shower and eat lunch. I was too lazy to cook, so I went for my trusty salmon salad and peaches which is really low-effort. I did more reading yet again, and then went to the city. I needed to go to Center City because I bought a sports bra in the wrong size and had to return it. But since I was there, I went to La Colombe again to get their draft latte and stayed to finish my Political Science readings for the coming week. An hour later, as I sat at a table by the window peacefully reading, someone suddenly bangs on the window in front of me. I was so taken aback I almost fell off my stool. It was my friend Adam who saw me as he was walking past. It turns out a bunch of my MSA friends were chilling in the city because Fayaaz, who graduated last year and is now working in Atlanta, was here to visit. So I ended up walking home with them because if I was alone I would’ve spent $2.25 on a bus ride home. With company though, it’s a nice walk back to campus.

Adam and Fayaaz after unintentionally surprising me.

Adam and Fayaaz after unintentionally surprising me.

With the girls on the walk back to campus.

With the girls on the walk back to campus.

I was quite tired when I got home but I still had work to do. Every time I finished a chapter or one problem set, I would reward myself with one episode of TV. And I did that until I went to sleep.


So that was a somewhat-faithful description of my week. I mean, I didn’t include a lot of things. For example, every time I walk to my math class, I’m always soaking through my t-shirt and it looks like I’m crying because sweat is just dripping down my face until my glasses get fogged up. The chicken I made last Monday tasted good after baking but the breadcrumb skin wasn’t as crispy as I wanted it to be so I had to lightly fry it. I walked into wrong classrooms multiple times. I was nominated for President of M@P but was too scared to lead anything. I had to miss a gym class on Wednesday because I forgot to buy a class pass in time.

All in all, I think my Penn experience has been great because of the variety I’m presented with: I’m currently in 4 different clubs and I have friends from all over the country and the world. But it’s also difficult in many ways: I always feel like I should be either doing more or be doing better. Even though I’m already swamped and unsure of how to balance everything on my plate, I’m always dealing with a sense of fear that I’m not doing my best, or that I’m not living up to my standards. I think wanting to do more and do better is a great attitude to have and I’m thankful I have that motivation, but I’m constantly trying to be mindful of how I channel that energy into my daily life. It’s so easy to turn this energy into a self-deprecating voice, but I really need it to be a constructive, productive force or whatever.

Admittedly, this was a really great week. I got a lot of things done, and managed to have a lot of fun too. It was a great balance. Like I said earlier though, not every week is like this. Sometimes I’m too tired to go to the gym the whole week. Sometimes I eat maggi four times a week because I’m too lazy to do groceries. Sometimes I can’t answer any questions in class because I didn’t do my readings in time.

But I’ve always dreamed of becoming superwoman. I’ve always wanted to do everything. It’s not always going to go my way, and honestly, things rarely go my way, if ever. Most of the time I don’t have this balance, but it is always great to keep trying to get there.