It fit like a glove.

My 11 months in Washington, D.C. was nothing short of magical.

IMG_2281

I love the rows of houses in this city.

It started in September. Hanna picked me up in Philadelphia bright and early with a trunk full of the boxes I stored at her house over the summer. I had that first-day-of-school feeling. I kept joking that it felt like she was dropping me off at sleep away camp. I didn’t have a lot of things and I pretty much finished unpacking by the time she arrived back in Philly. 

I didn’t start working until a week after I got there so that first week was mostly me watching Netflix in bed and eating maggi. I was too jet lagged to do anything most of the time. But I had google mapped 14th St long before I got to D.C., and was itching to see it for real so one morning, I decided to get out of the apartment and walk 10 mins down to Trader Joe’s to start stocking up my empty kitchen cabinets. There’s something about using the keys to your own apartment for the first time that feels like staking a claim. And there’s something special about walking down your street for the first time that feels like a ribbon cutting ceremony in the privacy your own mind. It was hot, but not too. It was a moment. I had a bit of a strut in my step. I felt good. Instantly. 

It was never like that in Philly. There, I took many timid steps and tentative trips for years. I resisted making it feel like home somehow. But in my senior year, I don’t know, something changed. I think I’ve said that on here before. I just felt like whatever anchor I was dragging for a long time was cut loose. I regretted not loving it there more, or not trying harder to love it. When I was just about to graduate college, I desperately felt like I wanted a bit more time. A bit of a do-over.

And that was partly why I could jump in so wholeheartedly into life in D.C. It was like my second chance. Even back in October I had gotten that sense… it was like I came back to the U.S. after spending the summer after senior year in Malaysia with a voice in my head that said “okay, go again, and love it this time.” And I did.

And nothing has ever fit like a glove the way Washington, D.C. did.

I learned which route on the Metro I liked taking best. I frequented old and new favourite coffee shops around this new city (to me, it was a sign of Mercy that La Colombe—a Philly fav of mine—on Florida Ave was only a 5 min walk from my apartment). I started going to restaurants and ice cream shops with the wonderful people in my intern class. I went through the annoying process of getting health insurance on the D.C. exchange and paying for it myself every month. I learned the roads, the rivers, the suburbs. There was always a wholesome activity to do, whether it was the museums or walking in Rock Creek Park, kayaking on the Potomac, watching movies with MoviePass, or watching The Moth or a comedy show. With the help of my former NPR colleagues, I advocated for myself for a job at D.C.’s NPR member station, WAMU, when my NPR internship ended.

IMG_4209.JPG

And that was other thing. Both of my jobs were a huge part of why D.C. was so special. Back in April, when I found out I got a summer internship with How I Built This, I realised there was a little bit of a wrinkle in my plan. I knew I would have to apply for a post-college work visa. I didn’t realise when I applied that it wouldn’t come through in time for the internship (if it came through at all). So I had to call my would-be supervisor, Jeff, to tell him about my sticky little situation. He had every right to just revoke the opportunity from me, or tell me to reapply. But instead, he deferred me to the Fall internship, which ended up working better for me because I was then able to spend raya at home—it was going to be my sister Aida’s last raya at home in Malaysia for a while, so that was a big deal. In the end if the visa situation wasn’t an issue and I didn’t get deferred, I would’ve had to go 17 months without going back to Malaysia. I would’ve had to spend raya in D.C. before I really got to form any roots. I wouldn’t have gotten to work with Benjamin, who has been one of the biggest joys from the past year. In hindsight, it feels like a pure act of divine intervention. A miracle.

IMG_6853.JPG

When my stint at NPR was coming to an end in January, I was mired with quite a bit of apprehension about being unemployed. On my visa, you’re not allowed to be unemployed for a certain amount of time and I really didn’t want to eat into that time. And it’s kinda hard to get a job in radio/media. I wasn’t restricting myself to that necessarily, but it was definitely difficult to find a job at all. My time at NPR was ending on the 26th of January. I was introduced to someone at WAMU just one or two weeks before that and just happened to have someone on their team leaving on the 26th. The timing worked perfectly. It was for a job on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a daily talk-show about local goings-on—in politics, health, culture, transportation, the schools, the environment. It was very intimidating because everything about it was both difficult and unfamiliar for me. I didn’t know D.C. very well (other than where my favourite restaurants and spots were) and I had no experience producing a daily show that was live.

It took me quite some time to settle into a rhythm there but once I did, it just made me love the city 50 times more. When I started learning about the graduation rates, new healthcare policies, elections and the history of the city for the job, I just felt so much more acquainted with it and so much more connected to where I lived. I could walk around with an awareness of what was going on in the neighbourhoods and spheres that I had no personal stake in. I felt integrated and involved, like a real adult who lived in this real city. I loved getting into a Lyft in D.C. and hearing people listen to WAMU—once I even got in and someone was listening to a show I produced! And because Kojo is a local show, people have a much stronger connection to it. I was proud and happy that I was helping people get their stories told and I got a deeper appreciation for local journalism that I had never really thought about before.

IMG_0345.jpg

Our studio at WAMU.

IMG_1149.JPG

Me ~on the job~

So, living in D.C. wasn’t just fun because it was fun. It was fun because I felt like I grew up here. I was invested. I had to swim or I might’ve sunk.

But that isn’t to say that living in D.C. wasn’t fun. It was so, so, so much fun. It’s a great place to be in your early 20s. I loved where I lived. The apartment was so lovely. It’s a little intimidating to move into an apartment with someone you found on Craigslist and only spoke to over Google Hangouts for like 15 minutes. But I really enjoyed living with my roommate so much—a bonus was that she was pescatarian (!) and didn’t eat meat so I never had to worry about bacon/pork/sharing pots etc, haha.

399673DA-BE9F-4325-BE20-F72D8A32C759.JPG

Me and my roommate, Sally.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 19.42.02.png

My fav corner of the apartment.

Plus, I loved the friends I made. They are some of the most amazing people I know. A lot of people move to a new city and have trouble growing roots but coming into D.C. with an intern class of 50-60 people was so much fun. Having a group of Malaysians in D.C. to have home-cooked dinner with every few weeks really made me feel comforted. And when my friend Clare who I knew from Penn moved to D.C., it just kept getting better. It was also nice to have people who I could say to people in D.C., “I knew them from before.” (I also liked that in D.C., I had a “before.” I came from somewhere in the U.S., and I had a history.) Plus, people were always visiting D.C. and I loved getting to see my friends like Busra, Jamie and Cristina as they passed through town.

ED2D4B4E-8FDC-444E-8912-D894914031DD.JPG

IMG_0844.jpg

IMG_4208.jpg

Most of the Tania dinner club crew.

IMG_1548.jpg

Nadia & Jin getting the shot for the ‘gram at Tania’s.

D5A3F9FA-FDB0-4762-B5AF-36CE812E4D02.JPG

Swee Ee’s tong yuen + bananagrams.

7B125CA8-EA06-441E-8949-CF7A1A0786AF.JPG

And the neighbourhoods are so wonderful. I can’t even fully say how much. D.C. is so small and so dense but it is built of so many distinct neighbourhoods. With a 30 min walk within D.C., you can feel like you’re in a whole other city because each area is so different. And the neighbourhoods all push against each other and they’re always changing and growing. Something is always happening. There is always something to discover and rediscover.

IMG_0407.jpg

CA9229C0-F90F-42F0-89FF-895E6EBA3EC6.JPG

I also love that most tourists come for the weekend and they don’t see much other than the Mall and the monuments. And maybe they go downtown. Or they venture to U Street. But not everyone knows the amazing scrappy little restaurants in Columbia Heights or Petworth. Or the more sterile Tenleytown. Or historic Shaw. It’s like there’s D.C. the government city, the capital. And then there’s a little Narnia cupboard that you walk through if you live here and it’s D.C., a real, vibrant city.

IMG_1485.jpg

My life in D.C. is hard to walk away from. I wouldn’t have made that choice had I had a choice. It’s funny how something can fit easily like a glove but can difficult to remove.

F8D7EE2B-225E-461C-8A37-2ABC82EDCC4B.JPG

As I write this, I’m at the Doha airport and I don’t know how many more of these 24-hour journeys are ahead of me, but by the time you read this, I would probably have braved the entirety of my day-long journey. I will probably be home in my childhood bedroom, with its lavender walls, zoo-animal-themed ceiling light and finger-painted bathroom door. I have absolutely no idea what’s ahead of me, and I know I must resist the urge to keep looking back. But the one thing I know for sure at this point is that that when I do glance backwards, the image in the rear view mirror will be full of magic.

Ok can we skip to the part where we become BFFs already?

I’ve been in DC for over 2 months now and in some ways, it just keeps getting better. I know neighbourhoods, grocery stores I like, bus routes and coffee places I prefer. I no longer struggle to wriggle my keys into and out of my apartment door. I no longer have to read the signs when I’m changing lines on the Metro on my daily commutes and I figured out the best places to consistently keep my work ID and Metro card. These kinds of things make me really happy.

But I miss the depth of my life in Philly. I don’t consider myself a person who gets lonely much. I rarely feel like I need people, or a certain person to be around me. But maybe that’s what I’m feeling right now? As in, I miss making extra pancakes for my friends. I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast on Saturday and was like… these would be great to share but guess I’ll just make them for myself?? I miss texting my friends when I have baked goods and have them just walk over quickly. I miss how those quick visits sometimes turn into late nights on the couch talking about every and anything.

I have a birthday coming up and as much as I have enjoyed the company of my new friends (I honestly cannot stress this enough—some of the people I’ve met these past few months are the nicest, most talented people I have ever met) I just want to be with the people who already know me really well.

I don’t really feeling like throwing a party with “nice to meet you” and “what do you do?” and “I just moved here from Houston in September”. I want “I was at Hubbub and I moved seats twice to move closer to my usual spot with the power outlet”. I want “this wedding photographer just requested to follow me on Instagram for the fourth time”. I want granularity. I want inside jokes. I want people who know where Damansara is and what cendol is. I want 2 a.m. conversations in Manglish.

I think that the kinds of friends I miss are the ones with a shared history. And I know that a shared history can be developed over time, but I guess right now I feel a little impatient. I also know I have my all my friends at my fingertips. I text May May and Sha all the time. But they’re not here.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t mean to suggest that I’m making no headway or that I don’t have fun because I do! I love it here and I absolutely adore the friends I’ve made in DC (though I’d appreciate it if we could become BFFs quicker because I’m bored, y’know?). Last night I made nasi lemak and invited Ken’s friend Vera over for dinner. I met Vera during Thanksgiving a couple of years ago while she was visiting Ken in Philly and we reconnected during Ken’s recent visits to DC. I totally knew we would get along, and I was right. We hung out just the two of us for the first time last night and I had such a nice time.

I could’ve talked to her all night, but I also wanted to go to Claire’s birthday thing the same night so I decided to bring Vera with me, and I’m glad I did! Vera is so good with new people and it was so much more fun having her with me. It’s also nice to hang out with work people like Claire, Benjamin and Rachel outside of the office. Claire is a huge denim enthusiast so she had a denim theme and I have to say, it’s such a good one because people always have so many opinions about colours and not everyone has polka dots or whatever. So props to Claire for picking a pretty accessible and fun theme haha. I also met a couple of people who did Fulbright in Malaysia in the past and it was SO EXCITING. We bonded over laksa and char kuey teow and it brought out all the –lahs in me instantly.

IMG_6615.JPG

BIRTHDAY GIRL

IMG_6610

Vera and Benjamin turn parties into French lessons.

I’ve also been reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in ages. Yesterday, I saw Bu for coffee. I know Bu from following my dad to work when he was training BNM’s fresh grads. I’ve kept in touch with a number of the people I met there, and Bu is one of them. He’s living in DC now and we talked for like two hours. It’s sometimes nice to see someone who has a lot of mutual friends with you, especially when you’re in a new city. The familiarity is lovely. He also has been here for a bit longer than I have so he gave me advice about the city and you know, working and life and all that.

IMG_6596

Today, I had lunch with Alya. She’s my parents’ friends’ daughter and she was probably my first friend ever in my whole life? Or at least, the first friend I remember having. We have quite a few pictures together of us as kids. But I haven’t seen her since… we couldn’t even remember when. More than 10 years, for sure. It was cool to catch up now that we’re both living in the same city! We had veggie ramen at this cute place in Adams Morgan (I love that neighbourhood) and it was amazing.

IMG_6618

So yeah. It’s all good. In fact, it’s great. It’s just not home, but that’s ok. We did it once and we can do it again (did I ever tell you that when I talk to myself, I refer to myself as “we”? It’s like the me who’s speaking is different than the me I’m speaking to).

Until next time 🙂

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.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.39.50.png

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.

FullSizeRender 4.jpg

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.39.37.png

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.

IMG_6120.JPG

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.39.04.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.29.56.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.28.52.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.29.08.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.26.23.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.27.10.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.27.29.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 22.27.40.png

Fun weekend!

Hello!

I’m writing to you as I wrap up a really good weekend, and the first cold-ish weekend too. I just finished watching Season 1 of Broadchurch and I just can’t get over how good it was. A while ago, I went on this whole thing about how much I loved “The Missing” and this is so, so similar to that: a small British town mystery and a lot of drama. Every time I watch a new British mystery drama I’m like… ok… I know how this is gonna go… but I never ever do, so it’s always a pleasant surprise.

Anyway! The highlight of my weekend was, without a doubt, getting to see Ken. He was in DC for a conference event type thing and we got some decently yummy but very spicy thai food last night. I absolutely loved catching up and cracking up over the silly things that tend to happen when we’re together.

For example, when I arrived at the restaurant, he told me that he initially walked into the wrong restaurant!! So, let’s back up a little: I had never been to this place before—my roommate has like newspaper/magazine clippings of restaurant recs on the fridge and this was one of them so I was told to pick a place so I was like ok sure! I told him we were going to Baan Thai but forgot to tell him that it was on the second floor. I swear there aren’t that many thai restaurants in D.C. but it just so happened, there was another completely different thai restaurant right below the restaurant I picked and he walked into that one by mistake. He had apparently already been seated when he saw that the menu said Thaitanic, hahahaha. When he asked the waitress if this was Baan Thai, he said she rolled her eyes and took the menu away from him, LOL. It didn’t help that Thaitanic was pretty much completely empty and Baan Thai had a line!

Dinner was good! We both got papaya curry, I learned about his life at Columbia (have I mentioned that he’s at Columbia getting his PhD??? I’m SO proud of him!) and told him about work. Mandy joined us for dinner because she was also in town, so that was nice. She’s still a junior at Penn, so it was kinda nice to be regaled with tales of awful management classes and all of that again for a bit.

IMG_5846.JPG

After dinner, we went to Momofuku Milk Bar, which was so awesome because their cereal milk soft serve is one of my favourite things ever and I didn’t even know they had a store in DC until I was browsing Google Maps for places to eat. I feel like I should probably be bored of this ice cream by now but… I’m really not. It was still so good. Ken had some and he was like “hmm it tastes like something I used to eat in the morning” HAHA. We ended up standing around in the small, crowded store for an hour before I went home. (I’m so happy I get to write about hanging out with my school friends again!! when we were walking around, it really felt like we were in Center City like the old days lol)

 

 

Also noteworthy, today I decided to venture into Georgetown. It’s a bit of a hassle to get to but I didn’t have anything else planned for the day and it was too beautiful a day to waste indoors. I’ve been to Georgetown before, once, with Shahirah. We visited DC for fall break our sophomore year. I completely forgot how beautiful it is. The flowers, the buildings… the variety of shops! It’s like better than any British high street could ever be, to tell you the truth. I really just liked walking around and taking in the sights of the pink flowers on the lamp post against the blue sky.

FullSizeRender.jpg

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

So yeah, it’s been a great weekend, alhamdulillah. I’m just about to prepare myself for the work week ahead. Work’s been picking up! I’ve been getting to do some more new things and I know I haven’t hit like a… “responsibility plateau” yet so things will still be picking up for a bit more which will be interesting. I haven’t felt totally overwhelmed yet, but that’s not to say that I’m underwhelmed either, because I’m definitely not. I’m just very perfectly whelmed (this is a Clueless reference). I feel like I’m learning a lot because I’m constantly being pushed to try new things and take on more tasks, but I also feel like it’s not totally clear to me what I’m learning or how I’ll use these lessons in the future (what I mean is sometimes you don’t know what you’re learning until you get to apply that knowledge).

I mostly love that I don’t yearn for the weekend, I don’t count the hours until I get to leave the office and I don’t dread Mondays. I’m not particularly excited about commuting back and forth every day either but I definitely don’t mind it because spending so much time helping to make podcasts mean that my commutes are when I get to actually listen to them.

That’ll be all from me this week, I think. Until next week!

P.S. My name was featured in the credits of the show for the first time last week! Go give it a listen here!

FIRST WEEK AT NPR!

Ok, I’m sorry this is late. I can feel the watchful eyes of Hui Jie and my dad, wondering why I flaked last week.

The truth is, I’ve just been at a loss for words, and I mean that in the best way possible. I honestly am so grateful for this past week that I don’t even know how to write about it in a balanced way. I feel like I usually write about being at least a bit busy and tired even on my best weeks, so I just wasn’t sure how to open up a blank page and be like “everything is great!!!”

But everything has been… pretty damn great.

I had quite a bit of trouble falling asleep the night before last Monday. I guess I was a bit more nervous that I realised? But the morning finally came and I wore the clothes I laid out for myself the night before, just like I used to do when I was like, seven or something.

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 22.26.50.png

My first week at NPR started off with a day of orientation. I walked in for the first time grinning so hard like someone had stuffed a hanger in my mouth. Coincidentally, the very first person I met was another Penn grad in my year. I recognised her because I saw her perform at a stand-up comedy show last spring. There are about 50+ interns this semester and that meant a lot of introductions and so very much small talk. Pros: meeting so many new people from all over the country. Cons: I never know if I’m being weird or awkward or saying something that doesn’t make sense.

We went on a tour around the building and I was like, awestruck the whole time. During our tour, we passed by NPR Politics host Scott Detrow in the hallway, I saw Code Switch co-host Gene Demby’s desk and got to see all the studios they record in. Needless to say, it felt like one of the best days of my life. Also, we had free pizza for lunch that first day. Having just graduated from college, I expected that basic boxed pizza we used to get from Allegro’s or Axis but wow did they exceed my expectations (note to self: ask HR about where that pizza came from).

The rest of the day was mostly boring first-day stuff like handling paperwork, hearing from a senior exec, learning about workplace conduct and all of that good stuff. Not gonna lie, I zoned out a few times that day, but always because I just couldn’t believe where I was.

On Tuesday, I finally got to meet my team!! I don’t think I’ve ever actually said on here what I’m doing at NPR, but I’m the intern for NPR’s How I Built This, which is a podcast about entrepreneurs, and I’ve been listening to it since it’s early days… and by early days I mean last September. Which brings me to the highlight of my first “real” day on the job: ice cream! The first day I met my team was coincidentally also the one year anniversary of the show and we had some really good ice cream to celebrate.

IMG_5566

Hastily-taken picture, meant to just be Whatsapp-ed to my family groupchat. Ice cream served by Guy and tastes way better than it looks. Also, I love me some caramel and whipped cream.

I remember the first time I listened to HIBT. I was on a flight back from Boston after a crappy job interview, fighting the temptation to feel like the biggest failure ever. I remember listening to their episodes on Vice and Spanx, and feeling instantly inspired… like I will be okay, and that I can still make something out of myself. I came back to Philly and I wrote a blog post titled Five, in which I write that “I am not meant for more, not meant for less, just meant for different” and that “perspective is powerful”. I got that by listening to this show. So HIBT is really, really special to me and I am so honoured to be a part of it.

Everyone on the team has been so kind and welcoming, which has just made this whole new beginning so much more (forgive me for being this cheesy!) magical. It was kinda wild to hear Guy Raz speaking directly to me, because I have been listening to his voice on podcasts for so long. It was also a little bizarre to be introduced to people when you’ve actually already memorised their full names from listening to them being said on the credits of the show so many times, haha.

They’ve all been so helpful to me as I learn the ropes. I’m helping run the show’s social media accounts and prep the show’s host for interviews and stuff. Soon, I’ll also be getting more hands-on production experience by helping to produce a 3-5 minute featurette at the end of every episode but we haven’t gotten to that point yet. Still, I constantly find myself needing to run over to people for small questions and they’ve all just been so patient, which I obviously really appreciate.

FullSizeRender.jpg

My desk, decorated with some Malaysia postcards.

Apart from my duties with the team, all the interns have been having a series of seminar-style training sessions from all over the company. We got to hear from Nell Greenfieldboyce about journalism fundamentals, from Lori Todd about social media management, from Mark Memmott about ethics, from so many others about how to find our way around the building, book the studios, borrow equipment and use the internal software. I really like that there’s this sense of structure to the program, plus it gives all the interns a chance to get together a few times a week and get to know each other.

The highlight of last week for me however, was, not gonna lie, meeting Paramore. They were such an integral part of my music interests back in secondary school… I remember listening to “brand new eyes” during form 5 while studying for SPM and like wow, 16-17 year old me would NOT believe this could’ve been possible. They were there to perform a Tiny Desk concert, which is a signature series that comes out of NPR Music. Artists usually play acoustic versions of 3 of their songs. John Legend, Adele, Yusuf Islam, Chvrches, Hozier and SO many more have performed there. The set is decorated by all sorts of relics left behind by some of these artists. Anyway. Paramore played Hard Times26 and Fake Happy. Hayley Williams was so sweet and so good live and I still can’t believe any of that happened.

IMG_5551.JPG

The Tiny Desk

IMG_5587.JPG

Paramore performing

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 22.30.15.png

Me with the band!!

Outside of work, I’ve been meeting a lot of friends. I’m quite glad there are a good number of people I kinda-sorta-know here because it’s like making new friends but not entirely. There are some people I know because of Penn, some people I know from home and some people I made friends with almost purely by virtue of also being Malaysian. So that’s nice. It gives me a chance to have some form of social life without being overwhelmed at all. My new roommate is also amazing, and so is the apartment I’m staying in. So yeah, things are on the up.

IMG_5662.JPG

I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures with people because they’re “new” friends, but this is me with Taylor and Angie who also graduated from Penn this past May 🙂

IMG_5635.JPG

My fav corner of the apartment

Again, like I said, I’m just so thankful for the chance to be here. 🙂 I’ll write more soon when I fully settle into this new life. For now, the dryer is done and I have (sigh) a lot of laundry to fold.

P.S. I just want to leave this here, from 11 months ago:

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 22.38.01Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 22.37.43

Exciting New(s)

Hello, it’s time for a quick little life update!

As I write this, I’m in bed in a new apartment in a new city for a new job. I remember from four years ago, feeling like I had to blink twice or thrice every time I looked out of a window to check that I was really in Philadelphia at an Ivy League school. It has been so long, and now I get to feel like that again.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 21.06.29.png

Even in today’s gloom, Washington DC looked so beautiful. This move has been such a long time coming. From labouring over my NPR internship applications back in March, interviews in April, struggles of obtaining work authorisation through June, to apartment searches in July… I’ve finally settled in a lovely Columbia Heights apartment and am excited to start work next week.

IMG_5527.jpg

Hanna took this. I joked that it felt like she was sending me off to sleepaway camp.

I got to the US on Sunday and had a short but very blissful 24 hours in Philly. I made the most out of my brief time there and got to see Cristina, so many of my MSA friends who were still at Penn (because Zuhaib & Armi had great timing and hosted a potluck that exact night!) and had a sleepover with Jamie.

The next morning, Hanna and I made a road trip down to DC. I will forever be deeply grateful to her for driving 5 hours and helping me move. That was just such a nice thing for her to do. We had a great half day together—car chats and an IKEA stop in the morning, moving bags and boxes into my room and a good lunch in my new neighbourhood.

IMG_5505.jpg

IKEA is so cheap????

Everything feels different. Like, even though I had an amazing summer and felt sad to leave, I also felt noticeably less dread about leaving home this time just because for once, I was actually excited about going back to the States. I arrived in Philadelphia (just because it was easier to get a round trip ticket) and though it felt weird to be back on campus, it felt good weird. Although there was still a sad echo of all the graduation madness, without the stress of school and a new semester, it was easy to enjoy the campus for the beautiful place it is. Also, the apartment I’m staying in feels nothing like a college apartment. And honestly, DC has me awestruck a little more than Philly ever has, and certainly more quickly. So alhamdulillah, I’m really thankful.

On that note, I just want to acknowledge that literally none of this would be possible if I didn’t already have all the privileges that I do. Getting work authorisation was not cheap. Plus, because I didn’t apply early enough, I had to stay in the US for a bit longer than I had planned back in May, which meant more living expenses. All of that was paid for by my parents, who literally just asked me if this is really what I want, and all I said was yes. It also helped that I was at a school where the resources were abundant and alumni network was so extensive that I had multiple people to talk to about applying to jobs in radio and working in the industry in general. I think a lot about how this same opportunity is apparently present to a lot more people than the ones who can actually take it and I’m doing my best to not take this chance for granted.

In other news, I’ve lost my phone. I don’t really want to talk about what happened anymore but I’m 99.9% confident it’s gone. To tell you the truth, it was really upsetting, especially because it happened on my first morning here. Just as I was about to feel all adult and independent about going to Target by my own volition, this happens and I had to rush back to my apartment to text my mum with my laptop to ask about what to do lol (reality check: I’m still a baby).

I managed to hold it together by reminding myself that phones are replaceable (even though some unbacked-up data in there might not be…) and better my phone than my travel documents or me getting hurt. But yeah, that’s also why I can’t really put up pictures of my apartment. I really appreciate having a phone so much more now. I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday and had to write down a list of groceries and draw a skeleton of the directions to the store. There was nothing I could do to keep myself distracted while waiting in the long line and I couldn’t even tell the time! Haha. Well, at least I’ve found some humour in this otherwise unfortunate situation.

IMG_5539.jpg

One of the few pictures of my room I took with my now-lost phone.

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I’ve had an eventful first few days here. I’ll write more to let you know how my first week of work goes but for now, I’m suffering from a strong combination of jet lag + post workout sleepiness so, until next time, thanks for reading. 🙂