The First Snow

The First Snow

Coming from Malaysia, I haven’t experienced seasons like the four here in the United States. In fact, we don’t have fluctuating times for the sun to rise and set. Back where I’m from, the sun rises at seven in the morning and regularly sets around seven or eight at night. So when the sun set at five in the evening yesterday, I was shocked. When I’d originally come in August, the sun was still shining at nine at night!

To add to the strange weather that I’m trying to get used to, we had the first snow today! It was magical, there was no other word for it!

The First Night Snow!

The cast of Iphigenia came out of our performance and were shocked to discover that while we’d been in the David Thayer Theater, it had started snowing! Some of us were upset about the snow; snow equals cold. But some of us, including myself and one of the other soldiers, Jose, were extremely excited! We even ran out into the snow wearing nothing but our costumes: a T-shirt, cargo pants with holes on the sides and a loose button-up shirt! Jose was barefoot and I was wearing loose slippers that provided less warmth than socks!

I wish had a photo of me and Jose in the snow in our costumes, but no one had our phones or cameras immediately after the show.

For the next ten minutes, I was as giddy as a five-year-old about the snow. Before we left the Theater Building, some of us cast members ran outside in the snow and threw small bits of snow that we gathered off benches and dustbins at each other. The mock mini snowball fight was the first I’d had in six years! Jose had never even seen snow before! We were so excited, we definitely looked and sounded NUTS.

Me and Jose in the snow!

On the walk back to my residence hall, I kept stopping to take pictures. Part of the thrill of being in Iowa is the changing seasons; I’m so excited that it’s actually snowing in November! I can’t wait till the snow sticks and we can have a proper snowball fight. It’s thrilling that for the next four years at least, snow will be a regular part of my life. Even though other Iowa residents seem to have become accustomed to and even bored or annoyed the snow, I don’t think I ever will be. Snow is magical…like our Nutcracker Snow piece that my Ballet Pointe class will perform at the end of the semester. ;D

Shayna and me during Halloween dressed as an M&M and Snow at the end of our Ballet Pointe class where we’re gonna perform the exhausting Nutcracker Snow!!!

Christmas is coming…and I’m gonna build a snowman! Wanna join me?

Three of my Major Ballet 1 classmates (from front to back), Jensen, Elizabeth and Emma, on the morning of the first snow fall!!!
The First Day Snow!!!

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…. Premature because Thanksgiving has yet to come, I know!

Happy holidays!




Since coming to Iowa City, I have discovered how exciting the arts scene is here. If you’ve had the good fortune of having read my previous blog posts (hint, hint), you might be aware that in the three short months that I have been here, I attended over ten live readings at Prairie Lights Bookstore, watched several performances and productions, both hosted by and in collaboration with the University of Iowa and watched at least six events hosted by the Englert Theatre thanks to participating in the Honors: The Green Room course.

Just this weekend, I have been extremely lucky to participate in two free dance workshops and to have watched an amazing dance performance by the Ailey II dance company that stopped in Iowa City for about 24 hours before continuing with their tour. All of that was free! And AMAZING!!!

My free comp ticket!!!

The first workshop was a contact improvisation masterclass led by Heidi Henderson, the artistic director of elephant JANE dance. Seven dancers, a combination of undergraduate and graduate students, attended and it was so much fun just letting loose and trying to dance the most ridiculous duets we could ever create. Seeing as dance is so much about perfection and looking our best all the time, it was wonderful to be able to dance without caring about being picture perfect all the time.

Two of us (me and Allie) who attended both workshops!  

Three of the Ailey II dance company members, Corrin, Amarachi and Leo, taught us the second masterclass, on the same day as their performance at the Englert Theatre. I was one of the nine dancers there; two of them were even from a neighbouring university! The coolest part about the workshop was that we learned parts of the repertoire choreography, both those included in the live show and some “retired” ones. We even got to put together parts of their choreography in our own pieces that we performed in front of one another; it was very fun to show our individualism in the set choreography.

Me and two of my Major Modern 1 classmates, Elizabeth and Danielle, at the Ailey II show!!! Taking advantage of the free comp tickets for students!

The Ailey II performance that night was fantastic. There were twelve dancers, all extremely muscular, lean and athletic in their dancing. The pieces that they were performing were extremely varied in choreography, emotions, partnership, costumes and so on. During the first few dances, the majority of the partnered dancing consisted of men with men or women with women. I found it very different from the norm and very liberating. The last piece consisted of more traditional partnering, but the dancing was so fast, clean and precise that it didn’t feel boring; the grins on their faces the entire time were so infectious!

Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the performers, so you can enjoy looking at the curtain instead…  🙁

Although participating in so many workshops and watching the Ailey II dance production in addition to the two Iphigenia musical shows that I had to perform put me behind on my homework, but it was definitely worth it. The theatre was crowded with the excited Iowa community, including many of my fellow dance majors at the university and professors!

The audience during one of the two intermissions! See how crowded it is? :O

And now…I gotta go and finish that homework that I neglected. I have an exam this week and two papers due… busy times.

Till next time! 🙂


Performances, Shows, Productions Galore!

Okay, here is my semi-shameless self-promotion for Iphigenia Point Blank, a film opera, and the first production that I have been cast in at the University of Iowa. But, hey, a girl has a right to celebrate, right?

Pre-Rehearsal Script-Memorizing Time!

All jokes aside, the University of Iowa is a wonderful place where hundreds of productions are performed every year. Just in the past week, I watched Dance Gala (choreographed by the Dance Department and a guest artist and performed by both Graduate and Undergraduate Dance students), Love Bird was performed (by the Theatre Department), followed by the upcoming Pastoral Play (also by the Theatre Department) and Iphigenia (by the combined efforts of Dance and Theatre). These performances are far from the last this year, there are so many more to come! The best thing is that these shows are either free or cost only $5 for University of Iowa students; as someone who loves the arts, Iowa is an incredible revenue for a wide variety of productions.

For the last month, every single day from 7pm to 10pm, sometimes 11pm, the Iphigenia Point Blank ensemble cast has been rehearsing the musical for our upcoming performances from November 1 to 11. Although it has been exhausting at times (look below for a photo of “Dead Fish” Faces of Dhari and me!) it has been a fabulous experience and a really fun time. The musicians, actors and dancers are not only incredibly talented, but are also super fun to be around. All of us have bonded; some of my new friends have driven me home after late-night rehearsals, which is extremely kind of them to do so.

Exhausted, “Dead Fish” but happy faces…

Iphigenia Point Blank is a film opera directed by Marion Schoevaert and choreographed by George de la Pena (assisted by Graduate student Jeremy Cline and the rest of us dancers); the film was created by Irina Patkanian and the music composed by Kinan Asmeh. It is a 90-minute theatrical production about the refugee crisis, seen through the eyes of the Iphigenia myth. The musical follows Iphigenia, a teenaged girl, and other women and children, tangled up in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the journeys they travelled to escape danger and the tales they carry with them.

Promotional Poster for Iphigenia!

And now, after that introduction…please come and watch the fruits of our hard work! Iphigenia is on in the David Thayer Theatre in the University of Iowa Building from November 1 to 11. Buy a $5 ticket…and bring a friend!

Hope you enjoy the show….

Let’s break a leg!

Incoming Dance Majors!

Wow, okay, disclaimer before we start this post. When I arrived in Iowa this August to start international student orientation, it was my first time being at the university in person. I know that quite a few of my readers visited or will visit Iowa before making your decision about which university to go to, but my choice was based on reviews, websites, emails with some faculty members and basically my gut.

So when I say that these dance auditions for the prospective incoming freshmen wanting to major/minor in dance next year were exciting for them, they were even more thrilling for me because I got to experience the auditions without the stress of wondering if I got in!

Members of the undergraduate dance organization, led by Alyssa Simpson and assisted by Erin Evans, were in charge of running the undergraduate auditions, making sure that the day ran smoothly. (The professors were the ones judging the applicants, but UDO was responsible for ensuring that the auditions progressed as they should). Our jobs varied from setting up the registration desk to checking in the auditionees in the morning, calling out numbers for the solo auditions, managing music, filming dances, selling dance department merchandise and answering questions from interested parents. I ended up helping with registration and desk duty, in between dance and academic classes that day; I can say with conviction that that Wednesday was the busiest day I’ve had in Iowa yet!


Alyssa, me, Professor Charlotte Adams and Sonia at early morning registration!

The auditionees were divided into two groups, one consisting of the BFAs and one consisting of the BAs and Minors. One group did the Modern Dance portion of the auditions first while the other did the Ballet. After that, most of the auditionees had a break while those attempting to get the ICA Scholarship performed their solos in the Gym. Then everyone had an hour off for lunch, followed by a Q&A session for both parents and prospective students. The students had the next half-an-hour devoted to a written examination and finally finished the day with an improvisation session that ended at 3:30pm. (Wow! Long day….)

Danica displaying the Auditions Sign! Exciting times…

I got there at 8:40am to help with registration. Several other UDO members were already there, having set up the table already. It was super exciting ticking everyone’s names on the list and telling them which studio to go to. Some of those auditioning were already students at the university, but not in the dance major program or were minors. I recognized three University of Iowa students, but the coolest thing was that one of the applicants was the sister of our UDO president and our president was with her to help her register! (Lowkey made me miss my family but it was super sweet of Kira to come with her sis…).

Sonia behind the registration desk…. Go VP!!!

The auditions were extremely thrilling. Even though I didn’t get to see any of the auditions, it was really fun to help out behind the scenes and appreciate how far I’ve come in a year since my auditions last year.

Summer preparing to video the ICA solo scholarship applicants! Good luck….

Helping out at the auditions made me realize yet again how lucky I am to be here. Even on a hard day, there are always friends and family who have helped me get here. I really enjoyed talking to my fellow UDO members, learning more about the auditions process and generally having a good time as a UDO rookie and Dance major newbie.

I hope this blog post helps some of you prospective Dance BFA/Major/Minor auditionees out there…and feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the process! As an International Student Ambassador as well, I can totally help with any queries or just in general talking about the university….

Till next time!

Tons of smiley faces,



Books, Books and More Books

Seeing as Iowa is a UNESCO City of Literature, it’s hardly surprising that I see books at every turn. As I love reading, that’s just another bonus of the University of Iowa.

When I left Malaysia, my book collection was one of the things I most regretted leaving behind; I miss my books more than anything aside from my family and friends. When I went to Kuala Lumpur for two years to study my International Baccalaureate, I transported two whole bookshelves of books from my hometown, Kuching, over the course of the two years, requiring more than five trips to bring all of them (including new ones accumulated in the meantime) back. But when I came to Iowa, I couldn’t bring any of my books with me. They are something that I am definitely homesick for!

Two out of my four bookshelves at home in Kuching! Not counting our library in the living room.

However, in the six weeks that I have been in Iowa, I have already bought nine books. In my defence, seven of them were for class…but then again, the entire Harry Potter series is so much more than textbooks for me!

Since J.K.Rowling’s latest book in the Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White, came out on September 18, I have been desperate to read it. To my excitement, the novel appeared in Prairie Lights (one of Iowa’s bookshops) the day of its release! Only downside…it isn’t autographed (Grrrrr….). Although if it had been autographed, I wonder if it would say “Robert Galbraith” or “J.K.Rowling”!

Me with Lethal White on the day of its release!

Since I am a student of the Literary Readings course in which the students are supposed to attend readings all around the city, I have been to Prairie Lights many times in the past few weeks; I appreciate its beauty. But one day, I took the opportunity to explore it, as opposed to just sitting down and listening to a reader and really got to relish how books make me feel like I’m at home.

The top floor of Prairie Lights! Look at all the books!

(This was after hunting through the Main Library of the University of Iowa and going up and down the many flights of stairs at least four times because I couldn’t find the books that I wanted…)

The ground floor of the University of Iowa Main Library. Full even on the weekend.

Even though both the Main Library and Prairie Lights are further than I would like from my dorm room, I really appreciate them both for what they are worth. The Main Library has five floors of seemingly endless books with increasingly quiet floors the higher you get, the Food for Thought Cafe where flex meals are accepted (yay!) and comfortable tables and seats. Prairie Lights has posters signed by authors, the latest books filling three floors, tasty hot chocolate that you can drink in a cafe where Robert Frost and Sherwood Anderson once sat, drinking their favourite drinks and sharing their writing.

I’m really grateful to live in a town where books are almost as plentiful as air. And if I can’t find a book that I want (doubtful), Amazon awaits….But now I gotta go, because books awaits..

Happy reading!

Signing off,

Emily a.k.a. Hermione Jean Granger…(I wish!)

The Green Room

So now, just slightly over a month after my arrival at Iowa and three weeks into my courses, you are going to get a look at my insane schedule! Yay!!! (Note the sarcasm). Just kidding, I genuinely love my classes. But 20 semester hours per week is a bit nuts. Let’s back up and take a look at it from the beginning.

This is my schedule for this week!

My Course Schedule for the week and that’s not counting my literary readings course, the ballroom dancing course or the rehearsals I have for the Crash Dance Production or the Iphigenia Musical…(Dang, the photo quality suck, but you get the point…my schedule is pretty packed.).

I know what you’re thinking!

  1. That doesn’t look so bad! She’s got the weekends off!
  2. That’s crazy! She has 5 classes in one day! And she has dance every single day! I’m tired just thinking about it! (#voluntarydancemajor).

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love my schedule. As a matter of fact, what you’re looking at is not the complete one. The Honors course on Monday ends in October and gets swapped with a Ballroom Dancing: Foxtrot and Tango course on Wednesdays that goes from October to December. And one of my courses, Literary Readings, is not on my schedule because our student duty is to attend different literary readings around Iowa City and write a few paragraphs proving our presence there.

However, my busy schedule is abnormal. Most students have between 15-18 s.h. I had to get special permission to add the latest course (my Honors Green Room) to my schedule because it upped my hours to 20 per semester.

Which brings me to the most important part of this blog post: “The Green Room” (an Honors course).

On Monday, as part of my course, I attended a talk by Dessa, the famous rapper, singer, writer, at the Englert Theater. This coming Monday is a talk by Peter Aguero and his wife Sara Peters…organized by yours truly and her group with the assistance of two teaching assistants and our dedicated Professor David Gould.

Dessa! With a humongous attending crowd…

Now compared to events like football at Kinnick Stadium or activities that provide free food, a talk might not seem as appealing to University of Iowa students. But I’m here to tell you that there is much more to the talk than meets the eye.

I personally feel as though The Green Room course is one that is overlooked. Professor Gould invites influential and compelling speakers to participate in The Green Room course; they tell relevant and interesting stories that captivate both students and the rest of the Iowa community. These talks also promote a non-profit organization (last Monday’s was the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and this coming Monday’s is the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition) and have a musical guest ranging from semi-formal artists to preschoolers performing with one of those artists. The course as a whole offers the opportunity for the Iowa community to become more involved in the events that are going on in the University of Iowa thus bringing the city residents into the college.

This coming Monday, Peter Aguero and Sara Peters are going to combine their talents to create a compelling story for all of us to enjoy. Peter came last year (hence the picture below, donated and approved for usage by Professor David Gould) and was so popular that he’s returning again.

Peter last year…looking forward to him coming this Monday!

I feel like it would be a shame if students didn’t attend at least one of these talks. Since coming to Iowa, I have attended five literary readings and one “less like a traditional classroom discussion and more like a TED talk” experience through the Green Room and I can honestly say that the Green Room discussion was by far one of the most captivating. Events like this are designed by students for students and the community. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain from attending a talk like this…(Now that sounds like Firenze talking about Lord Voldemort…just goes to show how hard I’ve been studying for my Harry Potter exam)

And with that, I’m signing off, so that I can do well in my exam tomorrow! Wish me luck!

XOXO Emily… (Not Gossip Girl).

The New Beginning

The New Beginning

(OMG, did I really pick that as my title? It sounds seriously cliche….)

So, welcome to my new blog! I am now posting after one week of studying in the University of Iowa. This city is not only the first place that I have stayed with any degree of permanence aside from Malaysia, but it is also the place where I have officially turned 20.

20 is such a unique number. Not only is it the first year that our age starts with a “2” instead of a “1”, but it’s also a more “grown-up” age. But for me, it was also my first birthday away from my biological family.Instead of with my Malaysian family, I got to spend it with my Iowa family.

The morning started out with my second of four dance auditions…all during the first week of school! The first one had been on Monday; it was the 2nd Round for the Dance Gala auditions. The ones on the 25th (my birthday) were for the Dance Graduate Thesis and the dance auditions for Iphigenia Point Blank the musical (Part 1 of auditions). The following day would consist of Crash Dance auditions and the singing auditions for the musical (Part 2). Phew! I feel exhausted just thinking about the auditions all over again!

Anyway, my day started out fabulously; not only were the initial auditions improvisation, but I was also dancing with my new friend, Dhari (see the picture below). The auditions were in the gym studio (see the next picture below). This is also where I have Major Ballet 1 and Major Modern 1 classes every single weekday.

Me and Dhari!!! (Love you, Dance Sis) 💖
The Gym Studio! It’s huge…

After the dance auditions, we went to the musical auditions. Since it was my birthday, I had convinced Dhari to try out for the musical, even though she had never sung for an audience before. These auditions were in the North Hall, the building next to my dorm hall, Catlett. These auditions were so different from the morning dance ones; we had to be aggressive soldiers and happy people praising the mythical gods. In both auditions, I had an amazing time learning new improvisation techniques, unique combinations and dancing with both familiar and unfamiliar dancers, and the good vibes certainly paid off because I got into the musical! (Actually, I found this out on Sunday night, not on Saturday…spoiler alert!)

Not adding the rest of the list because that’s an invasion of privacy to the others…😜 (Even though I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t mind our success being promoted on my blog…)

After the seemingly never-ending auditions, I went back, showered (thank goodness, I know) and went out with my roommate and Illinois sis, Evie; my other BFF/sis and Sri Lankan native, Mishma; her roommate, Mandi; Mandi’s boyfriend, Zion; my “son”, Abdullah a.k.a. A.B. from India (he says Mishma is his mother and I am his father because of our tendency to “look after him”); A.B.’s roommate, Mayberry; and Camellia, a Vietnamese friend who came all the way from Mayflower to wish me happy birthday!!!

We had dinner at Noodles & Co. and ice cream from YoTopia afterwards. (Look at the food below…I feel hungry all over again.) The night ended with a WhatsApp video call to my Malaysian family back home. (Aw…that’s sweet…I know.)

Mishma, me, Evie, A.B., Mayberry, Mandi and Zion…LOOK AT THE NOODLES!!!
The ice cream and the company were INCREDIBLE! Yum…😍
Hanging out in the Dorm!

My 20th birthday party might not have been with my biological family, but even though it was so different, I was not alone. My birthday was with my new family, my Iowa family, my Hawkeye family. And we might come from different backgrounds, have different interests, different passions, but we are here for one another and that is what made my 20th birthday so special…. and having my actual family here in spirit of course!