Baby Freezes and Paper Beads
As you know, this year I made the big move to college. I went from Silicon Valley to Pioneer Valley, from San Jose to Amherst, a small town (my sister says, “wait, by ‘town’ you mean one block?!” Um, yes…)
Anyway, I think second semester deserves a recap. So here goes!
Consumption and the Pursuit of Happiness: I’ve always wanted to take a class with a weird name, because how cool is it to say, “I’m studying Happiness”, right? (Last semester, my friend took a sociology course, “Drugs in History”, and kept on saying, “I’m taking Drugs”) But seriously, this was a great class, a mix of behavioral economics and psychology, with a dash of neuroscience. My professor was every bit that crazy, brilliant, forgetful type of professor, unmistakable mannerisms and all. An upperclassmen said of him, “he dresses like hippie, and grades like a Prussian”. He always taught us to think for ourselves. When I turned in a paper about the peak-end bias in medical procedures, he sent it back saying, “when you refer to it as a procedure, you’re making the assumption the author does that one way is in some way better or more accurate than the other. I don’t want to hear what the author thinks, I want to hear what you think”. I realized that during college admissions tours, the tour guides always say, “Oh, I’m taking a class with the professor who wrote the textbook”, and it’s a big deal, because you get to learn directly from the expert. What they never say is that if you learn from the professor who wrote the textbook, you would never get the learning experience I got, learning to question the author and question conventional wisdom. The drawbacks of elite colleges, especially elite research universities, is that they’re filled with experts, and if you take a class with the textbook author, you rarely learn to think for yourself, and you’re rarely encouraged to question the norm. Only from questioning the norm is innovation born. I’m grateful that I go to a college that is committed to faculty teaching in addition to research. Otherwise, we’d be failing students in creating a learning environment that encourages questioning teaching.
Racialization in the US: the Asian/Pacific/American Experience: The best kind of class not only teaches you about the world, but also teaches you about yourself. This is that kind of class. I went to a high school that was 77% Asian-American, and students joked about watching Bollywood movies or Korean dramas by saying “that’s so Asian”. Yet I never knew about the history of Asian-Americans, about the history of Chinese exclusion, or Vincent Chin, or the Postville raid, or how immigration law shaped the model minority myth. I never thought about the political or historical context of Asian-American identity, or how immigration is not just a Latino issue as the media would have you believe. This course opened my eyes to so many things, from the prison industrial complex to the relationship between race, class, and gender. If there is one class that should be required for everyone, it’s an ethnic studies class. Race is one of those things that rarely gets talked about, yet it affects so many of us.
Microeconomics: This course applied calculus to microeconomic theory and I found that I really enjoyed applied math. I’ve always been the type of person who loved problem-solving, but pure math was just never my calling. I always need to see how things I learn apply to things. My professor for this class was AWESOME, he was a great lecturer and incorporated fun stories about the history of the QWERTY keyboard and his antics in grad school into the lectures. And when my friends and I would go to office hours, not only would he be super helpful with problem set advice, he’d chat about his favorite video games and get really excited about showing us ancient stuff (floppy disks!). Most lecture classes it’s hard to feel like you have a community with your classmates, but we definitely got that with this class (well, we all suffered through ridiculously difficult problem sets together so I guess it was inevitable).
Modern China: I always wanted to learn more about Chinese history and specifically, relations between China and South Asia, China and Southeast Asia, and China and other East Asian nations. I think there is a lot of attention on US-China relations, but people are largely unaware of Chinese investment in Central and East Africa, or the history of China in the context of its relations with non-Western nations. This course allowed me to read primary source historical documents, and while through the process I learned I will never be a historian (even my final paper was more economic history than history), I’m glad I took it.
Chinese: I love the Chinese language, and it makes me so happy that it’s a language people really want to learn. I’m pretty sure I want to work in China at some point, so anything we do in this class is fun (especially watching Chinese movies). One of my best friends is going to China for the first time, and I’m SO excited for her and all the other students going.
Center for Community Engagement (CCE): This semester, I went to Durham, North Carolina for the first time when I spoke at the AshokaU Conference at Duke University, helped run the Gumball Challenge, went to a public health conference and realized how interested in the field I was, helped plan the first ever pitch night (and pitched in it too!), and expanded my design portfolio a million times. I worked on fun guerrilla marketing campaigns, and am now planning for an exciting student-teaching program and our incubator program next year. Hooray!
Reader to Reader: I’ve continued my design work for event banners and updating program brochures. For next year, I’ll be helping with re-designing the website and working on some income generation programs. I’m really really psyched, this is a great non-profit and I’m so proud to be a part of the RTR family.
ON FUN STUFF:
Dance: This semester I was fortunate enough to perform with some friends in Jamboree, a show held by the Multicultural Resource Center and International Students Association. Watch out, Sheila Ki Jawani is a really catchy song. I also attended a hip-hop workshop and learned how to do a baby freeze. Can you say best party trick ever?
Hobbies: Recently I’ve gotten into designing jewelry with handmade Ugandan recycled paper beads. They’re really fun to make, and it’s remarkable how scraps of paper that would otherwise be discarded can be reworked into something new!
Spring Break: I went to New York City with some friends over spring break. The highlight of my trip was definitely the big piano at FAO Schwarz. Yes, I am a child at heart.
ON WHAT I’VE LEARNED:
1) I still miss Chinese food.
2) Sometimes you can learn more if your professor didn’t write the textbook.
3) Non-designers really misunderstand the timeline of the design process.
And of course, I love Amherst.
SO WHAT’S NEXT? (besides this that is) WELL…
-I’ll be in the SF Bay Area in May and June. I’m always interested in meeting up with interesting people, so drop me a line if you’re interested! I’m interning at Wednesdays.com and doing some independent artsy work.
-I’ll be in Benguluru (Bangalore), India from in July and August. If by any chance you’ll be in the area or if you know someone I should meet while I’m there, let me know!