OCTOBER RECAP

I just got back to my apartment after a good dinner with some fellow Malaysians. It’s been raining in DC all day and it was so good to cosy up with some asian food and speak Manglish about like, places to eat in Damansara or whatever. Now I’m curled up in a chair while X Factor UK is on—my roommate absolutely loves this show and she’s so animated that I feel like part of the fun of watching TV with her is just watching her reactions.

Anyway! Guys! October is coming to a close and it’s been such a fun month so I figured I’d just go through some highlights that I’ve been meaning to write about BUT I’M SO BEHIND, I KNOW. So let’s catch up:

Lunch with Guy

In the beginning of October, Guy (the host of the show I work on) had a couple of hours suddenly free up in his calendar so he asked Benjamin and I, his two interns, out to lunch. First of all, we went to Indigo, which is this amazing indian restaurant 10 minutes away from the office. When I first moved to DC, I was totally aching to find good east asian and indian food so I was thrilled to find one so close to the office! He gave us some advice: don’t wait for permission, everyone sucks when they start out at something. Talked about how things are going for us, our families, what we studied in school etc. It was just a nice time. He’s SUCH a busy person that I’m so grateful he chose to spend a whole hour of his time with me and Benjamin.

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John Green

This is a little nerdy but I’ve been watching John and Hank Green on their Vlogbrothers YouTube channel for a really long time (here’s one of my favs) on and off and I’ve read all of John Green’s books. I still remember reading “Looking for Alaska” for the first time with my friend Nabilah and totally loving it. I think the best thing about them is that they created a corner of the internet where it was cool to care about your grades, to like poetry/science… and when there were a lot of articles online about how silly teenage girls are for liking Twilight (and even still today… all those disparaging articles about millennials!) or whatever, John and Hank Green always stood by young girls and young people and I think that’s really cool. They also created CrashCourse and SciShow and all these things on the internet that encourages kids to learn about science and economics and health care and history! Ok, you get it. I think they’re super cool.

So yeah. John Green is an author and he just came out with his newest young adult book, “Turtles All The Way Down” and at the center of the story is this girl who deals with her mental health. The book explores themes of what it means to be and still manages to keep it relatively light. Overall, it made me realize I’m definitely not in the demographic of “young adult books” anymore. It felt a bit too young for me for sure (plot lines were not airtight and dialogue was quite annoying) but I still enjoyed it. “Turtles” was very John Green in that it is chock-full of Tumblr-esque metaphors and spot on descriptions of emotions.

Anyway! So, John went on a book tour with his brother Hank and I was so pleased that DC was one of their stops. Philly was not! So this is just another reason that DC is an upgrade from Philly haha. He did a reading, Hank (dressed in a Turtle suit) gave a presentation on some animals lol and they performed some songs (one of which was about quarks! told you: nerdy!) together. My favourite part of the night was when John read a letter dedicated to his late mentor and friend, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who died earlier this year. In the letter, he talked about how Amy told him about British soldiers in World War 1 who sang “we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne before the Battle of the Somme. And after the letter, he had us all sing that together and it was such a beautiful moment of togetherness. It was just such a good night, full of wholesome fun.

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Improv night

All the NPR interns this semester are on this group chat and it’s like a good way to get people together for events and stuff. Last Tuesday, (actually maybe it was the Tuesday before that?) the Washington Improv Theatre has free performances and a bunch of people were planning to go. I don’t usually hang out with the other interns just because… I like to just come home and cook after work lol but the Invisibilia intern was coincidentally performing that night so I decided to come out! I’m pretty glad I did, because it was a lot of fun. The show wasn’t the best improv I’ve seen, but it’s always fun to see someone you know perform live. After the show, I went to get ice cream with some of the girls and I really liked getting to know them better. It made me realize that before this, I feel as if I wasn’t really “living” in America, and then now I am… which is interesting. Ice cream was really good too!! I got lavender and coffee from Jeni’s and I think it’s definitely worth the hype.

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Jamie’s visit

My super good friend Jamie was in town last weekend and it made me so happy to have her around! I missed having the kinds of conversations you have with people who know you really well. I mean, I love all the people I work with now but I’ve still just met them. So it was nice to kind of “let loose” a little bit? She was only here for the night, though. I picked her up from Union Station, we went to the Mac there for a bit and then went to dinner in my neighbourhood at this Laotian restaurant called Thip Khao. I kid you not, it was the best asian food I’ve ever had in the US. It really reminded me of traditional Malay food while being really distinct at the same time.

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My fav pic of Jamie!!

Then, later that night, we went back out again for ice cream and walked around 14th St, which is probably my favourite part of DC. The next morning, we took a nice stroll down 14th St and got brunch. We walked all the way down to Mt Vernon Square, and had coffee and at A Baked Joint. I had the most delicious rosemary and goat cheese biscuit with an egg and some hot sauce. It was AMAZING. And after walking around a bit more, we came back to my apartment in the afternoon and… took a nap LOL. Jamie had an event at the Singaporean embassy that evening so she left after getting some rest. She said she felt like she has completely rediscovered DC and Jamie can be tough to impress so I take that as a job well done for me as a newly-minted DC host!! Hehe.

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Instagram takeover

One of the ways I learned about life as an NPR intern before I even applied was by following the NPR interns’ Instagram account, @nprinterns. It was so cool to see all these people go to Tiny Desk concerts and make new friends and discover DC together and this past week, I got to do a “takeover” myself!!! It felt like… getting your own star on the Walk of Fame hahaha L O L. Here are some of the things I posted, including HIBT’s guac-off! We had a guacamole competition last week, and it was amazing.

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I finally ran out of ideas for titles.

Good morning! I’ve just done something really silly. I was making a cheese quiche for lunch later while I was drinking some tea. I grabbed some pepper to put in the quiche batter and I think you know where this is going… I put it in my tea instead, haha. It’s actually not bad. I ended up drinking it in the end. I’m now coughing a little but it’s okay!

Haha, anyway… I had such a good week. The first few days of it were rough. Two words: astronomy midterm. Let me put this into perspective for you. The first astronomy midterm (which I tanked) covered only chapters 1-5. This exam covered up to chapter 14 so there was a lot more material and it was less calculation and more facts/memorisation which is good because I’m better at memorizing than calculation, honestly, but it was also not good because it just takes so much more time to study for. So yeah, I spent a huge majority of my waking hours studying for this exam. It went ok I think! And that was my last midterm ever—I have no exams left until my final finals!

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Studying for astronomy with my bowl of quinoa goreng (i.e. nasi goreng but with quinoa because I had no beras lol)

(By the way, last week I got a comment about how I only ever talk about Astronomy with regards to my classes and I laughed so hard at that because I realised that too and didn’t think anyone would pick up on it. It’s true though! I do talk about Astronomy more than anything else because I’m only taking 3 classes this semester and the other two are so so so chill that Astronomy is just proportionally huge lol.)

I also got to go to some cool events!! I love that I’ve been having more time to go to events this semester because I’m not taking so many classes. I think at Penn, everyone is so busy organising their own events that they don’t really get to attend any other events which is such a shame; it’s like everyone’s talking and no one’s listening.

There was an event last Thursday, it was “an engaging conversation” between our university president, Amy Gutmann and former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is spending his post-political career at Penn at the brand new Penn Biden Center of Diplomacy and Global Engagement. He talked about reaching across the aisle, his faith in the American people, etc. It was kinda cool to see him live in person! Tickets were free but you had to register really quickly in order to get one and I was the only person I knew who had tickets so I went alone. The funny thing is (!) I ended up sitting next to someone else who also went alone and was also about to take the same Astronomy midterm later that day! Haha. While we waited for Biden, we were both talking about Mercury’s lack of atmosphere. Very nerdy, I know.

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He couldn’t talk for long while sitting down haha

On Friday, Hui Jie and I went to the Fels Institute of Government’s event, a conversation on media and politics with NPR reporters, Scott Detrow and Sam Sanders. They were so cool, I loved the stories they told. Scott talked about how one of his favourite stories he did was about these Northern Pennsylvanian rattlesnake wranglers. Sam talked about how he got pretty close to Bernie Sanders after covering him through the campaign trail and how he learned that Bernie really loves crowds. They were at one point both hosts of the NPR Politics podcast (Sam has now left), so they also talked about how people tend to expect them to always talk about politics and to have an opinion about everything in politics. They said that they always get flak on Twitter if they tweet about something non-political. Sam said “people want us to be more than we can be for them because they like us and they feel like they know us.” It was really interesting. I mostly love how clear it was that they loved their jobs. Ahhh. It was so, so, so cool.

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The mic stand kinda ruins the picture but whatever.

I also went out for brunch with my friend Cristina in the city Friday morning. It has been a while I think since I last went out for a good sweet brunch. We went to Green Eggs, which is this really popular spot in the city. It was raining and a weekday morning so we thought it would’ve been fine but I still had to wait in line outside in the rain for over 20 minutes before getting a table! But wow, was it worth it. I hadn’t been there since early on in junior year and I forgot how good the food is there. I had pecan french toast and Cristi got raspberry french toast. I could hardly eat for the rest of the day because I was so full but so satisfied.

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Later that night, my friend May May and I went to see the Onda Latina show. It’s a salsa fusion dance group and Cristina is in it!! I also know a couple of other people in it and it’s always just so much fun to see how talented my fellow Penn students are. I’ve said this before I think, but I just love putting aside all feelings of competitiveness and just supporting and admiring how amazing everyone here is.

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ok I know it’s crappy quality but there’s my friend!

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With Cristina after the show!

So yeah, it was a great week! It ended with me spending a nice long day in my apartment. I binge-watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix which just came out this week and for the first time ever, I felt really old watching a high school movie haha. The premise of the show is this girl kills herself (uh, yeah, it’s a little dark…) and she leaves this elaborate “list” of 13 reasons why and each one is a person, detailing how someone at school abused, took advantage of or just hurt her. It has a very very strong “moral of the story” vibe which at times seems a bit overdone. I’m not saying I don’t think the message should be weaker because I love, love, love the way this movie sheds light on the ways in which bullying is not so much a matter of direct action, and more a product of culture (guys not wanting to seem “weak” in front of other guys, people being worried about what other people might think etc) but at times it seemed too forced. With that said though, it was still a good show. I loved the subtle ways in which it highlighted how as a culture, we idolise people for their athletic/academic achievements even though they may be… mean, narcissistic, manipulative people. I also loved the diversity of the cast. For most actors, this was their first “real” job. The popular girl was black. There was a queer Asian girl. There were multi-racial couples and friend groups. The show passed the Bechdel test (do two women talk to each other about something other than a boy?—very few films pass this test). Characters were multi-dimensional. Dialogue sounded true to life. I was very happy with all of that and I’m so glad platforms like Netflix are creating opportunities for shows like these which have been ignored and written off by media conglomerates for so long.

So yeah, I guess that’s all for this week. I hope you’ve had a really good week as well. My quiche is done and I’m going to go dig in now 🙂 until next week, thanks for reading!

27 Hours in New York

I think I’ve just had the best weekend I can remember. And it’s only Friday night.

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Every time I tried to take a picture of the NYC skyline. This happens.

Okay, to be fair, this “weekend” of mine started on Thursday evening when I got on a Megabus to New York. I made the trip to the city because one of my favourite podcast companies, Gimlet, had an event/mixer thing for their listeners who’ve made donations (I fully believe in supporting the products etc you love, btw, which is why, when I can, I make contributions to independent content production I believe in). I had no idea who was going to be at the event, how big it was going to be or how to prepare myself but when I got the email invite, I just knew I had to go.

I coaxed my friends to come with me, of course. If you know me, you know I hate going to these “networking” type events at all, much less attending them alone. Anyway, everyone said no for various reasons but I still really wanted to go no matter what. When I got to the event space in Brooklyn, I walked in all confident as if I knew what I was doing and as soon as I put my coat away, I realised I had just put myself in a room full of chic-and-adult-looking New Yorkers, who are all talking to each other….. so I did what any normal borderline-panicked person would do: go to the bathroom to text like 3 of my friends LOL. I couldn’t stay in there for too long because I didn’t want people to think I was pooping, so eventually one social anxiety overpowered the other and I just pushed myself out that bathroom door. I made awkward eye contact with someone in a circle that didn’t seem too “tight” and just worked my way from there. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

It ended up being really great; I was still a little nervous throughout (which is why I took only one picture at the entire event), but I met some cool people. Data analyst at Spotify, web developer for advertisers, freelance graphic designer, costume-makers, and of course, lots of podcast producers/Gimlet staff. I think it was a really interesting experience because, being in college in a foreign country, I don’t meet people outside of college ever. Even though I’ve “lived” here for 3+ years, it has never really felt like I really lived here, or could live here in the future. But I realise now that it’s just because I’ve been so disconnected thanks to the “Penn bubble” or whatever, and it forced me to consider the possibility that I actually do have what it takes to create friends and networks of acquaintances wherever I go, even if that might take some time and create some anxiety.

The event was also really fun because I got to meet a lot of other podcast listeners. People were recommending their favourite shows and we were all freaking out over our favourite episodes which I appreciated so much because none of my friends really listen to any of these things so whenever I listen to something that blows my mind I just kind of keep it to myself (?) Other people there shared that sentiment too—it was pretty clear that we were all glad to finally be able to be collectively enthusiastic about something. It felt so nerdy but so good.

Oh!!!! And I won’t forget to mention that I met ALEX BLUMBERG!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s the Co-Founder of Gimlet and if you remember, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been following his story of how he built Gimlet since the summer  (listen to it on the show StartUp here). I. Cannot. Belieeeeeeve it. I only got to speak to him a few minutes before he left but I spoke to his wife Nazanin (who also works at Gimlet) for quite a while and they’re just overwhelmingly nice people and because I’ve followed the development of their company through StartUp, I just felt so proud to see what they’ve built and I am so genuinely honoured to have met them. Ahhh.

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Alex, Nazanin and lil’ ol’ me!!!

Let me also just toss in the fact that at some point throughout this event, Hari Kondabolu, host of the podcast Politically Reactive and extraordinary stand-up comedian (watch one of my favs of his skits here!!!) just walks in to the room. My jaw dropped. I legitimately stuttered for a bit but ultimately managed to snag a selfie (I won’t post the selfie because I look goofy as hell but you’ll just have to take my word for it). I told him I was a big fan of his Waiting for 2042 set, that I respect how he has consistently used comedy as a means to advocate for equality for Asians, Muslims, Blacks, Natives etc. He was so nice about it even though I was tripping over myself. So trust me when I say it was an amazing night.

Anyway, so the event gave me a reason to go to New York for a night. I could have just gone back to Philly after the event but I didn’t really want to be making my way from Brooklyn all the way to the Megabus place near 12th Ave so late at night… and well, I can’t say no to a good day in New York City alone.

Ok, well, I wasn’t alone the whole time. I stayed with my friend Hannah who’s a junior at Columbia so I got to hang out with her that night. I got brunch with Angela the next morning, who is a sophomore at Columbia (I know both of these super smart people from USAPPS!). Then, I did a little bit of wandering. I did some of the touristy things I’ve only done on the surface. Like, I’ve been to The Met but only the gift store really so today I went for reals. I’ve seen Columbia from a distance but had never explored the area. I’ve passed the UN before but today I actually did the whole tour thing (which was so cool by the way, I could not contain my excitement the whole time—the tour guide appreciated me, I swear). Oh and yeah, I never go to New York without a stop at Milk Bar.

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How GRAND is this?!

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I saw this on my way to The UN headquarters and well, I had to. Heh.

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The flags, arranged from Afghanistan-Zimbabwe

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oh hi :’)

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General Assembly Hall!!!!!

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I’ll never get tired of this ice cream, I think.

Then, later in the evening, I took the Subway to Soho to visit WNYC. My friend Sarah works there on On the Media and she is beyond kind for offering to show me around the studio. I even got to bump into the CEO of WNYC and Brian Lehrer of The Brian Lehrer Show (I tried very hard to keep my cool so as to not embarrass Sarah). She basically gave me a rundown of how things work and showed me where they record, etc. It was really cool because I actually listen to WNYC shows and to see where they’re produced was amazing. It felt like visiting a movie set, but for radio.

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Sarah and me, clearly looking at our own reflections in my phone and not the camera. LOL.

After showing me around, Sarah and I got dinner together in West Village. I love that area so much and I’ve been there quite a few times now so when I’m there, I have this sense of familiarity with it that I really like having (if that makes sense? I feel like that was a poorly-worded sentence). We got food at this amazing vegan place called by CHLOE. Aida and I went when she visited me last March and it was so good, I’m glad I went back. I was pretty amazed by their chipotle aioli and beet ketchup sauce. Absolutely delicious. I’m eating some of their salad as we speak (yes, I brought it back with me on the bus).

It was so nice to meet Sarah! We’ve spoken on the phone and texted here and there so I’m familiar with her but not too much. Yet, it totally didn’t feel awkward at all when we hung out. I almost forgot we’d never met before that. Or at least, that’s how I felt. Who knows, Sarah might read this and just be like “speak for yourself” lol. She was introduced to me by my friend Hanna. Sarah goes to Princeton, she and Hanna know each other because of MSA stuff. But yeah, it also was cool to know I now have friends outside of Penn who I didn’t get to know because of a Malaysian connection, you know what I mean? It feels like I’ve grown roots! And I’m super proud of that.

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I am so thankful for such an eventful couple of days, even if it was slightly beyond my comfort zone. Even if it meant that I had super crappy sleep because I had to use my jacket as both my pillow and blanket last night (because Hannah told me she didn’t have spares and yet I didn’t want to carry a sleeping bag with me around the whole day). From my picture with Alex and Nazanin, visiting WNYC/meeting Sarah to just reading my book on the Subway… I know it wouldn’t have been possible as a freshman (even though when I was a freshman, I expected my life to be like this immediately). It wouldn’t have been possible if I had never come to Penn, etc etc. There is a string of infinite things to be grateful for.

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 ❤ ❤ ❤

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Class of 2017 Malaysians!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The whole gang at Adel and Ahsen’s place!

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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 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 16: Finals

I’m so thankful to be in such good health this finals season. Last semester, I had a wisdom tooth extraction around this time and it was awful. Also, last weekend, I had such a terrible cold. I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to study properly for finals what with being sick and all, but I’m all good now, alhamdulillah. On Friday night, I slept for like 14 hours. It was insane, even I couldn’t believe how tired and sick I was.

But my friends were so great to me while I wasn’t feeling well!! Hui Jie got me cough drops and kept me company at home. Cristina also came by with a wonderful care package consisting of flowers, honey, lemon and camomile tea.

These were such a delight to have when I was sick.

So yeah. I can hardly believe we’re at the end of the semester! There were definitely times where the semester seemed to be endless. Yet, here we are. My last day of classes for the Fall semester was yesterday, and it’s officially finals season. We have Wednesday and Thursday off for what we call “reading days”—time to prepare for final exams—and finals start on Friday.

It’s been pretty busy, I guess. Nothing really interesting has happened. Regular end of the year stuff, like for example, a lot of the club boards are turning over during this time. The board for the dialogue group I’ve mentioned before, Sangam, just ended our “term” or whatever you call it. I decided to reapply, so I’m still going to be doing that next semester 🙂 the outgoing and incoming boards got to meet last week, and we made posters for the newbies! I’m a little sad that I’ll no longer be working with the old board. Andrew was such a good president and I think he leaves big shoes to fill. However, I’m also excited to work with the new board – they all seem really wonderful and I’m genuinely excited to get to know them better over the next year.

Also, this time of year means people are starting to look for summer internships. Eek. I needed to write a cover letter for an application this past week and it was so difficult. I had to like… talk about what I’m good at… and why they should pick me… when I honestly don’t think I’m good at anything and don’t know why they should pick me.

It’s just really frustrating to feel like I don’t have a selling point despite being at a good university. It’s also frustrating because I’m not sure if that’s the problem or if the problem is that I don’t know how to see myself in a good light. There are definitely moments when I wonder if I’ve spent my whole life pushing myself by being too harsh, to the point that I don’t even know how to objectively evaluate myself anymore.

Sitting at the coffee shop trying to write the cover letter was kinda agonising. It made me want to change my mind and not apply at all, because why bother? But then I remembered how I’ve always believed that courage is deliberate, not the default. So I decided I’m going to go ahead with it anyway because I can’t just stick to doing things I’m already comfortable doing and I need to actively be exercising bravery.

On a lighter note, however (!) I bought a new pair of ~girlfriend~ jeans during the sales on Thanksgiving weekend and they just got in a few days ago. I absolutely love them!

I wore them today to the Tea House event. Four of the cultural groups at Penn (Malaysians at Penn, Chinese Students’ Associations, Hong Kong Student Association and South Asia Society) came together to have a tea-themed “study break” where people could stop by and take a break from studying to drink tea, meet new people etc. It was really fun because I got to meet some friends I haven’t seen in a while and lots of new people. I also met two freshman girls who are actually half Malaysian! They were really sweet and I was really happy that they stopped by–I can’t believe I hadn’t met them before today.

Meerie, one of the girls I met today, making teh tarik with our makeshift teh tarik kit, haha.

So that was my week! Largely uneventful, but still a good one. Guess I have to quit procrastinating and get started studying now 😦 bye for now until next semester!

Week 12: Time Passes, Tables Turn

I have 2 full weeks and 2 half weeks of classes left, you guys. Can you believe it? BECAUSE I CAN. I AM EXCITED.

It’s been a great semester, though. I was so weary of everything, I was trying to make sure I don’t “slip” and mess up, lose control of my workload… but I’m grateful that so far, it has not happened and I think it’s safe to say I don’t foresee it happening soon. Granted, I have the easiest workload I’ve had in like 2 years, and that’s probably 90% of the reason why. I’m enjoying it either way. College has never been more fun.

Last weekend, for example, was excellent. I got to watch a play in Philadelphia for the first time on Friday night. I watched Disgraced, written by Ayad Akhtar who won a Pulitzer Prize for it. It’s about a Pakistani American lawyer navigating his Muslim heritage in the post 9/11 world. I don’t know much about theatre, but I really enjoyed it and I’m glad my friend Adriel invited me to watch it.

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PAACH, the Pan Asian American Community House, celebrated its 15th year anniversary on Saturday. It was a really great celebration and I’m glad I was invited to attend! I got to hear Amy Gutmann (the Penn president) speak, meet some alums who came back from homecoming weekend and listen to a great keynote speech by Vijal Patel. Vijal is a Penn alum, class of ’98. He studied finance and engineering but then went into a career in comedy writing. His speech was so funny. If (or when) I get my hands on a recording, I will be sure to send it to everyone I know. He talked about how important it is to have safe spaces on campus so that students have the freedom and confidence to explore their abilities in new and interesting ways. He also talked about how he took a huge risk, declining a huge Wall Street job offer to drive across the country and move to L.A. to pursue a career in entertainment. Sigh, I wish I could tell you more but my memory of it is super spotty so just trust me, it was hilarrrrious and inspiring. I got to meet him after, and he was really nice! (You can read a little about him here!)

The PAACH anniversary celebration in Huntsman Hall.

The PAACH anniversary celebration in Huntsman Hall.

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He took this with his phone and texted it to me. WHAT.

Homecoming weekend was also really great because I got to see Amanda again. She was a senior last year, and one of the first few Malaysians I met from Penn. It’s always really nice to talk to people who’ve been through the whole Penn journey and know what it’s like to make it out on the other side, but it’s a bonus to talk to someone who understands the path I’m on and part of where I come from. It really means so much to me to have such supportive and understanding people in my life.

Early Sunday morning with Amanda <3

Sunday morning with Amanda ❤

This past week, I’ve also started watching The Office and, well, I don’t know why I put off watching it for so many years because it’s an amazing show and I kinda squeezed in time to watch it whenever I could. For example:

Watching it while having breakfast in bed.

Watching it while having breakfast in bed (and yeah, that’s Nestum).

Watching it while doing laundry.

Watching it while doing laundry (I am also watching it while I type this).

It has also been a great week even though it’s only Wednesday so far. There is a farmer’s market every Wednesday in front of the bookstore on campus and today I bought some good fresh bread there. Conveniently, the farmer’s market is also next to Cosi which gives free coffee on Wednesdays! So I got fresh bread and free coffee, which is, *deep breaths* wonderful.

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What I did with my bread for lunch!

What I did with my bread for lunch!

Then, today after class, I went to see Rachel who is a freshman in Write On, one of the volunteer programs I’m in at Penn. We talked about the many difficulties of freshman year and reliving them sent chills down my spine. The overwhelming feeling of lostness–physically around campus, navigating new friendships, finding an area of interest and just generally finding a enclave on campus makes you feel like you belong. It takes time, I guess, but I genuinely believe it gets better. That’s what I told Rachel.

Gratefully and certainly, it has gotten better for me. Today, for the first time, I felt the tables turning a little. I’ve had the chance to meet with 3 freshmen girls so far this semester to talk about adjusting at Penn but it just occurred to me right now that I’ve kind of transitioned into a different, um, how do I say this, position(?) here. I remember talking to my freshman hall Resident Advisor, Cat, and other upperclassmen like Petra and Hanna because they reached out to me wanting to talk to me about how I’m doing in my transition into Penn. It’s hard to believe I’m now on the other side of that conversation. It’s really weird, because 2.5 years in, I still feel like I’m transitioning into life at Penn every day so I don’t know how it’s possible that I’m giving advice or whatever. I feel that this transition is never complete and so is always ongoing but I suppose, in some sense, I can’t really say that I’m adjusting anymore because I’ve been here for a while, and no matter how much more experience I have to gain, the fact is that I have gained some experience.

A few hours ago, I was at an Asian Pacific American Heritage Week event. We invited Vidya, a YouTube star to perform at Penn. She does mashups between Hindi and American songs and she performed a bunch of them earlier. I also got to meet her earlier and speak to her a little, it was really fun.

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Vidya’s performance.

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At the meet and greet with the planning boards after the performance.

It was great to be a part of an organising group that helped make this happen. That would not have happened 2 years ago. Also, as I was at this event, I was introduced to a freshman who asked to know more about what the club I am part of does. When she left, I again found myself thinking that 2 years ago, I would’ve probably been on the other side of that conversation as well.

In fact, when I left the venue, I walked on the steps between College and Cohen halls onto Locust and recalled the time in freshman year Saffa (who was a senior at the time) walked with me there. We were walking back to our rooms after the first MSA meeting that year. She was giving me a little tour of the campus. It felt like quite a long time ago.

For the first time, it feels like I’ve actually made progress. That’s a pretty difficult thing to feel here sometimes, you know. Everyone just seems to be doing amazing things that it’s hard to see my own progress at times. But today, as I walked home, I felt proud of myself because I know I’ve progressed here as a result of my baby steps–slowly, putting myself out there and steadily putting one foot in front of the other.

I know it’s not a lot, but if I don’t start feeling a little proud of me for something, then, well I don’t know. I gotta start somewhere and this seems like a good place to start.

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 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.