Favorite Things about Iowa City (excluding the university buildings)

As a sophomore at the University of Iowa, I have had roughly one year to get acclimated to Iowa City. Throughout this year, with my friends, I have explored various places and had many adventures. So without further ado…here is my list of favourite things about Iowa City. 

  1. The Iowa City Public Library. I love the library! Not only does the library lend member unlimited physical books for three weeks with the option of renewing them online, but we also have access to online ebooks without ever having to go to the library! 
E-Books from the Iowa City Public Library!
  1. Prairie Lights Bookstore. As a booklover and addict, I love Prairie Lights. When I first got here, it was one of the first places that I went to; I regularly go there to attend readings and admire the aesthetics, even if I can’t afford to buy books! I even bought JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith’s latest novel, Lethal White, from Prairie Lights the day it was released in the U.S.! Best of all, I got to read my own short story there during the launch of the Ink Lit Magazine Fall 2018 because I was published in the magazine! 
Me reading my short story during Live from Prairie Lights!
  1. Blaze Pizza. As the first place that I ate at when I arrived in Iowa City, I have a huge fondness for Blaze Pizza. My family and I arrived at about 8:30pm at the Iowa House Hotel and we walked downtown to Blaze and shared a white top pizza without bacon (I’m vegetarian) and a Caesar salad with lemonade. Now, I’ve discovered that there’s a Blaze Pizza app that gives members freebies when we eat there enough times and collect enough points! Yum!!!
My Blaze Pizza app!
  1. The buses. Now you might think that public transportation is a weird thing to fall in love with, but I mostly just appreciate how cheap it is. All the buses that circulate Iowa City are free and the ones that run to Coralville or Walmart just cost $1 for a trip! It’s excellent, because access to the Coral Ridge Mall means access to Barnes and Noble (obviously a fave), Hot Topic (I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan), Victoria Secret Pink (I LOVE cute sportswear for dance), this amazing pretzel place called PretzelMaker (where I consume all the calories I’ve burned in dance and then some…) and so on. Ubers are so much more expensive…needless to say that the buses are a huge bonus. 
Me and one of my best friends, Kyleigh, watching Avengers: Endgame back in May! Except you can’t really see anything but us because we’re in the dark dark dark cineplex…
  1. Pocket Points. This is a phone app that collects points for students when we lock our phones during class. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but the app takes advantage of the GPS locator on our phones and collects points while we are in academic buildings on campus, including Halsey Hall (the Dance Department building) and Space Place (where we dancers perform). These points can be used for discounts on meals, clothing and so on. Here I am, the cheapskate! ;P 
Pocket Points!!! Look how many points I’ve racked up!!!
  1. YoTopia. I just love frozen yoghurt. Doesn’t everyone? And YoTopia is one of the places that Pocket Points works at…YUM. 
Gotta love strawberries and chocolate sauce and cookie dough on top….
  1. My friends. I saved the best for last. People in Iowa City are incredibly friendly and I have yet to encounter any racial prejudice or discrimination for my non-white status. I guess friends are something that you can make anywhere, but people in general in Iowa City are extremely kind and generous. Not all of the friends that I have made are through classes and that is an indication of how welcoming the atmosphere in Iowa City it! 
Some of my dance friends and I watching the Urban Bush Women show at Hancher Auditorium!
My non-dancer friends and I enjoying late night food!!!

There are probably some things that I’ve forgotten that I love about Iowa City, but if I compile a gazillion other things, I’ll write another blog post about that. I hope you guys love these things just as much as I do! 

Officially a sophomore, 

Emily

Opportunities to get Published!

As all of you know, I’m an English and Creative Writing major; recently, I added a Publishing Track (I’m also a Dance major with honors). And obviously, as a writer, my goal is to get my work published and become a fully-fledged author in my own right. Last year, I took two major steps in that direction; I got two short stories – “Di Mana Ada Kemahuan, Di Situ Ada Jalan” (translated from Malay to mean “When there’s a will, there’s a way”) and “Kiasu-Geddon” (“kiasu” is a Hokkien word that literally translated means afraid to lose out; in slang form, it refers to not being the best) – published in Ink Lit Mag, a magazine for University of Iowa freshmen and alumni. So this year, I’m promoting all the different magazines and opportunities that we can take advantage of to get published in.

My face when I found out I’m a published author!!!

The University of Iowa has various magazines; like Ink Lit, exclusively for freshmen and alumni. Aside from that, there is Earthwords and Fools Magazine, both of which are semiannual publications. But seeing as they are more well-known, this blog post is going to be about the new magazines created by the Publishing I: Intro to Literary Publishing classes. 

In this Fall 2019 semester, there are three Publishing I classes, one run by Bryn Lovitt, one by Julia Lucas and one by Julia Conrad. All three classes are producing and creating our own magazines from scratch! So that means…three more opportunities for University of Iowa students to get published! 

                          Publishing I Course Description!

Each fall semester, there are two to three Publishing I classes and each class publishes a magazine. In the spring, students who have already taken Publishing I, take Publishing II, which is a necessary course for students on the Publishing Track. Publishing II students produce a 200-page anthology from the best new work from young writers around the state of Iowa.

Anyway, back to the magazines created by the Publishing I classes. The one that is being published by my class is called Metal Magazine and it’s open for submissions until October 11th! This might sound like a shameless self-promotion, but in actuality, it’s an awesome opportunity for University of Iowa students to get published! To top it off, this magazine is brand new, so you would get to be published in a debut magazine! How cool is that???!!! (…And it is still a shameless self-promotion. Sorry, couldn’t resist :P) 

Metal Magazine’s Promotional Poster!

Now, get cracking on writing fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry; making artwork, including comics and taking photographs; composing music and so on. Good luck to all of you and happy submissions! 

Metal Magazine’s Editorial Team aka my Publishing I class!!!

Managing Editor of Metal Magazine,

Emily

 

What to do during summer vacation? 

What to do during summer vacation? 

Hi, Hawkeyes, I’m back! I started off sophomore year with a bang as an International Student Small Group Leader for international student orientation. I’m not beginning rehearsal for Dancers in Company, the touring dance company of the University of Iowa Department of Dance. You can definitely say that I’ve been really busy, which is why my first blog is coming out a week after we’ve been back in session… sorry for the delay! But now that I’m back, let’s get into the video.

The international students whom I was leading for orientation!!!
Some of the dancers in Dancers in Company 2019-2020 in rehearsal!

So, to get into the point of this blog post… what should we do during summer vacation? 

Summer vacation is great. Three months off from university to do whatever we want. But three months is actually a really long time and if we don’t do something useful or at least find a method of occupying our time. It can get boring really fast. So here are some options that will help during your next summer vacation… or maybe even winter break! 

  1. Take summer courses! 
    Okay, so I get that summer courses don’t sound extremely appealing. After 15 weeks of university, with one random public holiday thrown in the mix (Malaysia has tons more; that’s one thing that I miss about my home country), taking a summer course sounds like the least fun option ever. But there are many great things about summer semester courses. If they are online courses, we can do them at our own pace (even though there are still deadlines to make). If they are in-person, well, the classes tend to be smaller and we get more individualized attention to focus on excelling in these courses. Some classes, like the one I took in Summer 2019, Dance and Society in Global Contexts, was not offered in Spring 2019, although it will be offered in Spring 2020. But because it’s a prerequisite to Dance History, I’ll be ahead and be able to take Dance History in Spring 2020 while all of my fellow sophomores will be taking Dance and Society instead. 

    Some of the students in Dance and Society in Global Contexts also taking the summer dance intensive at the University of Iowa with Threads Dance Project!
  2. Get a summer job!
    Again, working over the summer doesn’t sound like a vacation. I mean, who wants to stand behind a counter in Starbucks and make coffee for people who give complicated orders like “a creme frappuccino base with 3 pumps of caramel syrup and 3 pumps of toffee nut syrup topped with caramel drizzle with almond milk instead of whole milk” (That’s the recipe for a Starbucks version of a Harry Potter Butterbeer). But working gives you the opportunity to make money and you can contribute it towards activities or holidays that you want to participate in. For example, I taught ballet at the University of Iowa Youth Ballet during Spring 2019 for both the experience and to save up money to pay for my ballet intensive at Nolte Dance Academy. Working definitely has its benefits…and since you likely wouldn’t be working from 9-5, you’d still have plenty of time to relax. 

    Me dancing in Ballet Week I intensive at Nolte Dance Academy, paid through my working money.
  3. Go on vacation!
    Now I know that some of you are probably thinking, Emily, are you crazy? Holidays are super expensive! And they are, don’t get me wrong. But holidays are also a great way to spend time with family or friends and relax. And the holidays don’t have to be someplace exotic and wildly expensive like Greece or Thailand or Egypt. Going to the beach for a day constitutes as a break. Going to a rural farmhouse with your family and staying off the internet counts as a holiday. Take some time during your summer break to really relax and recuperate before the fall semester starts again.

    Me and my family outside Westminster Abbey!!!
  4. Learn something new!
    Now that sounds super vague, but what I really mean is take up a new hobby. It can be anything from learning how to swim to taking cooking classes to learning how to knit. For example, I picked up a new dance style over my summer break – I learned tap! It was challenging, but super fun. As university students, the long summer breaks we have are numbered. Treasure them while you still have them! 

    My new tap shoes…which had to be glued together after three days!!! I guess I practised a LOT!!!
  5. Spend time with your friends and family!
    While some of us have family living virtually next to Iowa City, some of us live super far away (myself included since it takes a total of 48 hours to travel from Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia to Iowa City, Iowa). Summer break is a great time to rekindle old friendships and to catch up on everything that you missed while you were away from your family. I loved having roughly two months (only two because I spent the first five weeks of summer break still in Iowa City) to spend with all my family and friends back in Malaysia. It made coming back here for my second year so much better because I was able to catch up with my family and friends back home. While I have friends here, it is extremely comforting being able to reunite with people who have known me forever. I’m sure that the same can be said for all of you.
Me and my family at Loch Lomond!

While I loved my summer vacation, I’m super happy to be back and I’m sure all of you are too. Summer is a wonderful time to chill and relax, but here at the University of Iowa, I get to dance every day, take the most amazing writing classes, interact with people who love the same things that I do…the possibilities are endless. If you’re new, welcome to Iowa City and if you’re a returning student like me, welcome back!!! 

  • Reunion with some of my Iowa City friends the day before classes started! (And also my birthday HAHA).

Go Hawks!!!

My Year in Review

My Year in Review

It’s surreal to think that my freshman year has just ended. Although I have summer school and am taking 12 s.h. over the summer (3 general education online courses, one of which is also a required Dance Major course and one in-person Dance Major course), it’s crazy to think that I have spent approximately 10 months here in Iowa City and taken 50 s.h. since university started. (I am well aware that over the course of two semesters, the norm and typical max number of s.h. is 36). I feel in awe of the fact that I have come so far in my freshman year, made so many friends, performed in so many dance productions and recieved good grades.

And yet, even though I can barely believe it, I know that it is true. Even starting spring semester felt like a such a change from the fall; I felt so much more comfortable around my classmates, in the dorms, in the library, with my friends. This year has been monumental for my growth and independence and I truly feel as though this year is one for the records.

Where to start….

I would have to say that my biggest highlight of the year was getting to do the things that I love, day in and day out. During both semesters, I was fortunate enough to have both ballet and modern dance every single day and Creative Writing and/or english classes every two to three days as well. During Fall semester, I had a Harry Potter class and during the Spring semester, I had both a Creative Writing course and a Neo-Victorian one that included detective works that completely satisfied my love for mystery. Although I had to put in a lot of effort and time to do well in my classes, I love what I’m doing so much that it doesn’t feel like hard work; it is the most fun I’ve had learning ever!

Forgive the blurriness of this photo of my Neo-Victorian Lit class…
Improvisation I’s last day of class…gonna miss the leaving people, especially Prof Jess!!!

The second biggest highlight would probably be getting to meet new people who love the same things that I do and people whose interests are completely unrelated to mine! It’s amazing to dance in the same room as people who want to dance every day and to spend some of my weekend free time with people who I befriended at during International Student Orientation!!! Friends are incredibly important in ensuring that we feel safe and secure; friends are my home away from my home. Just knowing that I have people whom I can count on really bolsters me when I am feeling down.

Last day with Major Modern I…don’t we look like happy, SWEATY dancers??!!
End of freshmen year with some of my best friends…

Thirdly is all the performances I’ve been in and had the opportunity to watch. Since coming to the University of Iowa, I have participated in Iphigenia Point Blank (the film opera), Collaborative Performance, the Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz concert (in collaboration with the School of Music), Crash Dance Production (in conjunction with the School of Engineering), the MFA Dance Concert and one of the Choreography IV pieces on pointe. I was even cast in Dancers in Company, the University of Iowa’s travelling tour company for the upcoming year of 2019-2020. I am extremely excited for future performances and can’t wait to see what opportunities come my way!

Jeremy’s MFA Project
Julia’s MFA Qualifying Project

In regard to the performances that I was able to watch, I’m beyond thrilled to declare that I was able to what the American Ballet Theatre performing Whipped Cream at Hancher, Ailey II dancing at the Englert Theatre and so on. I even have the opportunity to dance with Threads Dance Performance during the Iowa Arts Festival next month! The possibilities are endless and worthy of a thousand heart-eye emojis….

Me at Hancher Auditorium, about to watch the American Ballet Theatre perform Whipped Cream…

I also love the bookish events that I have been going to. I got published twice in both the Fall and Spring editions of Ink Lit Magazine as well as being on the editorial team, starting the fulfilment of my dream to be a published author. Aside from this, I went to many live readings at Prairie Lights, the Dey House and Barnes & Noble in Coralville, where I met authors whom I love, including Brittany Cavallaro, writer of the Charlotte Holmes series! Iowa City is really the UNESCO City of Literature and I can’t wait to continue to grow and advance in these areas.

Not a great photo, but one of me doing a live reading at the Dey House for the publication of Ink Lit Mag edition 16!!!
Me with Brittany Cavallaro, author of the Charlotte Holmes series at Barnes & Noble in Coralville!!!

The best thing about the University of Iowa is that it has opened up these incredible possibilities for me. As much as I love Malaysia and all the opportunities back home, there is no way that I could have experienced half of the things that I have enjoyed here this past year. Coming to the university has been a dream come reality and I cannot wait to see what my next three years have in store.

Learn More about the University of Iowa

Now there have been plenty of visit days for prospective University of Iowa students, but not all of them are accessible to students, particularly international ones, who cannot afford to fly to the United States to visit one out of many universities that they are applying to. In light of it approaching acceptance time to university, this blog post is going to highlight what happened during one of the visit days and what you missed out on.

International Student Panel + Mr Parker!!!

On April 12th, the University of Iowa had another visit day and this one had a special side-event specifically for international students, one in which the International Student Ambassadors, myself included, participated in. This visit day included a student panel discussion, campus tours, residence hall tours, an exploring majors fair and, specifically for the international students, and a talk from International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

Go us!!!

Due to having a full day of classes and a performance that evening, I was only able to take part in the morning event, the Student Panel Discussion. Five of the other International Student Ambassadors, including my friends Mishma and Ayushi, participated in the Student Panel Discussion. We answered questions asked by our supervising leader, Mr Adam Parker. These questions ranged from advice for students, our experiences in the residence halls, clubs and activities outside of our majors and our favorite memory since coming to the University of Iowa.

Half the International Student Panel: Mia, Mishma and I! 😊

While this blog post isn’t an interview, I do recall certain responses given by my fellow ambassadors and I. Below I’m noting the most memorable and important information that we dished out:

  1. Advice: Take advantage of all the opportunities that the university has to offer. We can take part in general education courses and organizations outside of our major. These are great opportunities to try new things; Mishma changed her major due to a new interest in cinematography that she developed after taking a gen ed cinema course in her first semester.
  2. Residence halls: The residence halls are extremely successful. Three of us, who currently live in the residence halls – Mishma, Ayushi and I – are going to live in neighboring residence hall rooms for the academic year of 2019-2020. Another ambassador, Mia, has been a resident assistant from 2018-present and she is excited that she gets to live in different residence halls each year and get to know more people.
  3. Clubs and activities: Again, try new things. Another ambassador, Aviral, joined the University of Iowa Breakers Club and this interested him in dance so much that he considered becoming a dance minor. He even had the opportunity to dance in Times Square in New York City through the business club that he is part of. This was an amazing opportunity that I as a dance major did not get! Clubs and activities are a great way to partake in interests that do not become our majors.
  4. Favorite memory: Mine include the performances I’ve been in, the friends I’ve made, my classes, all of which I adore. Others have more specific memories, such as birthday celebrations, specific courses and club events. Mishma’s would undoubtedly include Taste of Asia, which she was working on as long as I was rehearsing for Crash Dance…basically since I came here back in August!
Crash Dance Cast!!! Choreographed by Professor Christopher-Rasheem McMillan!!!

While the visit days are a great way to get to know the university, I know that not everyone is able to attend them, particularly the international students. In light of this, the International Student and Scholar Services is hosting a series of pre-arrival webinars to introduce important information to the international students. Last year, I was listening to them and asking questions. This year, I’m going to be one of the students giving advice to prospective students! Both Mishma and Mia will be joining me, along with some other students and Lee Seedorff, the Senior Associate Director of ISSS. So if you have any more questions, feel free to join in the webinar and hear us speak in person!

That is not the end of my international student ambassador duties. In August, both Mishma and I will be assisting in the international student orientation as small group leaders. It’s going to be a fabulous time being on the delivering end instead of the receiving one!

Me and Mishma back during Spring Break with some SERIOUS ICE-CREAM

With that said, I can hardly believe that it’s been almost a whole year since my arrival at the University of Iowa. It’s been a fabulous time; I’ve had a ton of ups and a few downs, but mostly ups. And I wouldn’t trade this experience for any other university life. I’m really looking forward to starting my sophomore year in August. But first…summer!!!

Bye for now,

Emily

Advice for Incoming Students

Advice for Incoming Students

As the new freshmen and transfers get admitted into the University of Iowa and begin deciding which university they want to attend for the next few years, I realized a year ago, that was me. I was the one choosing which university I wanted to attend and preparing for the humongous leap of moving halfway across the world. Now granted, a lot of students attending the University of Iowa don’t have that massive step with a 13 hour time difference, but it’s still a huge and momentous transition for a lot of people. With the new and possibly afraid freshmen coming in, I’m writing this blog post to give advice to everyone coming to the University of Iowa next year.

My dad and I checking into the Iowa House Hotel upon our arrival in Iowa City!

Whether or not you’re coming to the University of Iowa from across town or the other end of the world, transition and change is always hard. The next advice I have (I seem to be doing that a lot lately…) will help everyone with their transition process.

Now, listen up, and listen good. (Joking…but I honestly think this advice will help).

  • Try to connect with classmates online. Social media has its drawbacks, but one of the amazing benefits I found is that I can find my University Class Facebook page and connect with people via Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat and so on. In fact, I made some of my closest friends online and met them in person before international student orientation even began! This made me much more confident going into the university knowing that I had a couple of friends.
Me and four of the international students whom I had befriended online.
  • Reach out to some faculty. If you know faculty teaching your major, that can help. Then you might not feel as though you’re going in blind. This was particularly beneficial for me in my dance major; the Dance Department is smaller in comparison with some of the other majors at the University of Iowa. By knowing one or two of the professors who would be teaching me, I felt much more comfortable dancing in front of them for the first time.
  • Try to befriend someone and have a roommate you know as opposed to being randomly matched up. Now this might not be easy and it might not work; you might think that you are initially compatible and this could backfire. But if you have at least interact a little with your roommate before meeting them, your room will feel much more like home than if you’re living with a stranger. Trust me, I know.

    Me and my roommate Evie meeting after talking online for almost four months!
  • Be open to things being new and challenging and making mistakes at times. It’s not easy going to a new place, but remember, every other freshmen at the university is feeling as lost and confused as you are. People are here to help. Asking a random stranger on the street where the Englert Theatre is helps. Even if you have to ask three different people to get an answer. (That’s me with my horrible sense of direction in my third week in Iowa City).
Me, Allie and Dhari at a Wilson’s Apple Orchard Dance Event! I had no idea then that these two young women would become two of my best and closest friends!!!
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. I have a feeling that I’ve mentioned this before, but even going to listen to a talk about a club that you might possibly be interested in is a momentous step. More often than not, good friends come from people whom you have hobbies in common with. Most of my friends have similar interests with me. The worst thing that can happen is that you decide not to join the club or you don’t make any friends. Hey, at least you tried!
Me about to attend one of the UI Breakers and Iowa Andhi events during On Iowa! Even though I don’t know ANYTHING about breakdancing and very little about Indian traditional dance….
  • Don’t get stuck on things in the past. Definitely connect with your friends and family back home, but don’t be tied down with them either. You need to live in the here and now. Skyping with friends and family back home is obviously essential and something that I love, but you shouldn’t do it every single night. You’ll miss out on so many of the opportunities that the university has to offer if you try to hold on tight to your roots. You might as well return to your house every night if you’re going to cling so closely to your old life.

I think that transition and change is one of the most daunting challenges to undergo. Especially if you’re coming from a really small town or the same school of 13 years or the opposite end of the world. Regardless, I think that there are many ways of making your life easier than you initially realize.

I’m excited for the new batch of freshmen to come to the University of Iowa and for me not to be one of the newbies anymore! In addition to being an international student ambassador and an admissions blogger, I am one of the international student small group leaders for their orientation in August…. Roll in the incoming University of Iowa Class of 2023!!! Go Hawks!!!

I think I’ve used this photo a million times, but oh well…I still love it. HAHA.

Cheerio from Emily, a freshman who is loving her freshman year and is even more excited for her sophomore one!!!

Second Semester Myths, Better or Worse than the First?

Second Semester Myths, Better or Worse than the First?

The second semester at a new place can be both better and worse than the first semester. To begin with, the second semester is supposed to be the Spring semester, but for the first 9 weeks, we endured months of bad weather in Iowa City, the first University snow day in over a decade and wind strong enough to blow my umbrella inside out. I returned from Christmas vacation with my amazing aunt and uncle in sunny California to the worst weather I have ever lived through. (Although, coming from Malaysia, that is not saying much, haha).

Sunny Mandalay Beach during Christmas Vacay!!!

In addition to the almost-apocalyptic weather, it had been more than 6 months since I had seen my family back in Malaysia. In fact, as I am writing this post, it’s been more than 8 months! Homesickness comes more easily, especially when my friends have their families coming to watch their dance performances or go home at weekends. But I still have Skype.

And on the bright (maybe literally bright!) side of the second semester…

1. I made friends from the get-go this semester and plenty of them to hang out with on weekends, during dance rehearsals, during Spring Break…. It’s not as lonely as the first semester because I am adding on to my friend group as opposed to making new ones entirely.

Me, Dhari and Kyleigh after our last dance class before Spring Break!!! Yes, we look that wild and sweaty and elated at the prospect of vacation….

2. The weather is lightening up. Although it depressingly started snowing again just last night, in mid-March, earlier in the week, it was warm enough for me to just wear a hoodie out over my T-shirt. Soon, we can finally wear T-shirts, shorts and dresses again! I can’t wait….

Is ice-cream better in the cold or the warmth? I like it under both conditions….

3. More General Education classes have been completed and we get to take major-specific ones. Although this does not really apply to me, seeing as I didn’t take many gen eds last semester (I fulfilled many through International Baccalaureate transfer credits and will fulfill more as Dance Major requirements in future semesters) I am finally able to take Creative Writing and English courses this semester. Last semester, they were all full because, as an international student, I had one of the last registration times. I am so happy to be able to take even more classes that I love!

Me, Noah and Nathan at Prairie Lights for our extra credit assignment for our Foundations of Creative Writing class!

4. There are more performances to watch and audition for than in the fall! Back in the fall, there were only four performances staged by the Dance Department, now in the spring semester, I have already attended three, the Faculty/Graduate Concert, Dancers in Company and an MFA Thesis Concert, and performed in one, the Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz Concert, in conjunction with the School of Music and two external professional artists. In the upcoming months, there will be at least two more MFA Thesis Concerts, the BFA Concert and the Undergraduate Event, not counting the two that I am performing in: Crash Dance Production and the MFA Concert. Opportunities to both watch and participate are through the roof and I don’t feel like such a rookie anymore! It’s fabulous!

During my Instagram Takeover of the University of Iowa Admissions Account, I attended Dancers in Company concert with my friend Kyleigh!!! 
  1. I’ve learned more about the clubs and organizations at the university and am able to participate in more and move up the ranks in others. Last semester, I had a short story published in the Ink Lit Mag, one of the University of Iowa’s publications; this semester, in addition to getting another short story published, I am one of the drama editors! (There was no bias involved seeing as all submissions are anonymous, I was on the drama team and my submission was for the fiction category).
Me and my roommate Evie upon discovery that we are both to be published in Ink Lit Mag Spring 2019 Edition!!!

As someone who has experiences at the University of Iowa, they have just been getting better and better, I am excited to see what the future has in store. I’m not just saying that because this is a blog post going on the official university website! I’m saying that because it’s true. The friendships I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, the courses I’m taking have been so much fun that I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve experienced since coming to the University of Iowa (except perhaps the weather)…. I’m extremely excited to see what the future has in store. Here’s to more great semesters…hopefully with warmer weather!!!

Hoping for the sun and the warmth,

Emily

Spring Semester (Not!)

Spring Semester (Not!)

So even though the spring semester is called the “spring semester”, it really should be called the “WINTER semester”. This term has consisted of more snow than I have ever seen in my entire life…which is not saying much because I’ve only experienced snow three times before coming to Iowa City….

Snowy view from one of the Lounges in Catlett Residence Hall!

What with the cold weather, dreary skies and seemingly-endless snow, it’s not surprising if you feel homesick, unmotivated, cold and just wanting to hibernate until the real spring comes. I know that I sometimes do! But the important thing to remember: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Book 3 of my absolute favourite series of all time….) Huge Harry Potter fan, woot, woot!!!

My first attempt at a Bookstagram-style Harry Potter photo!!!

Anyway, here are my top tips for staying motivated:

1. Enjoy the sun when you can. I know that this isn’t easy, especially if you’re like me and have five classes a day, a rehearsal or work every night, meetings or performances or organizations on the weekends…. I could continue with this list until next winter (haha, joking) but the key point is to appreciate the sun and the warmth in those rare snippets that there isn’t any snow falling and the sky is not dark.

2. Find a good group of friends. Friends are basically my family when I’m here at the University of Iowa; I suspect it’s the same for everyone since hardly anyone stays with their family, although they may have the opportunity to go home on weekends. At any rate, good friends can be great motivators, emotionally, physically, mentally and even productivity! (Productivity in terms of studying because we’re still at university….)

Happy Valentine’s Day from Major Ballet 1!!! ❤️

3. Skype (or Facetime) your family back home! As an international student, I don’t get to see my family until summer comes around. But I know that my family is always here for me, even if we don’t have a lot of time to chat every day. I WhatsApp them every day and try to Skype at the weekends as much as possible. A simple message to or from your family can make you feel so much happier, I promise!

4. Join a new organization, club or activity. So if you’re already as busy as I am, it might not be wise to add another activity to your schedule, but I recommend adding something you really love and/or something new that you are really keen to try. If you want to do something, you’ll get out and do it, even if you’re feeling really lethargic and not in the working mood. Plus, meeting new people is always a fun bonus!

5. Don’t fall sick. Okay, okay, I know that one is so much easier said than done. So many of my friends have fallen ill over the last six weeks, myself included. But eat healthily, take vitamins, try to sleep as much as possible, get your homework done…and you’ll be as safe as you can get from winter bugs….

6. Take a break. From personal experience, even the shortest break can do wonders for your motivation. Five minutes to half a day; that period of relaxing your mind and body for the briefest of times can do wonders for your mental psyche.

CHILLAXING!!!

7. Give yourself a massage. Okay, that one might sound weird, but I promise, it’s not as strange as it sounds. In my Major Modern 1 class with Professor Jess Anthony, we had a massage day once this semester. We partnered up and just massaged all the muscle pains in our friend’s body. Even if you’re not extremely physically active, a massage can feel incredibly good. Massages are great for relieving tension, which you might not even realize you have in your body until it’s going, going, gone!

8. Take a hot shower. I recognize that not everyone enjoys showers, but we don’t have bathtubs here in the residence halls. So bath bombs are out of the question…but don’t worry! Hot showers can be fabulous too. Don’t forget to sing in it…

That’s all the advice that I can come up with at the moment. Keep your chins up, smile and don’t forget that there’s “Nowhere to Go, But Up!” (Mary Poppins Returns!!!)

I didn’t have a photo with an umbrella, but seeing as the ending scene had TONS of balloons and them flying, a reindeer balloon works too…

Go Emily Blunt!!! Hey, she shares my name….

Anyway, until next time!

Emily (not Blunt)

International Celebration Traditions

Although I am a little early for Chinese New Year (it’s in February), I couldn’t resist writing about the university’s amazing international celebrations and the decorations that they put up.

Catlett Dining Hall
Back in August
With no decorations

Last semester, I wasn’t surprised to see decorations for Halloween and Christmas; we are in the U.S. after all. But when we returned after Christmas and they changed the decorations to Chinese New Year ones, I felt so nostalgic!

CNY Deco in Catlett Dining Hall…No Housing and Dining people cuz I need to ask official people for permission to take their photos…If I manage to get one, it’ll come up for sure!

I wasn’t expecting there to be decorations for the Lunar New Year. Maybe because it’s not a holiday celebrated in America, although it is celebrated in Malaysia (school students get a week off and working adults tend to get two to three days depending on proximity to the weekend). Therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised to see Chinese New Year decorations in the dining hall. Although perhaps I should have guessed that they would have them, due to there having been Diwali decorations during the Hindu celebration last November.

The dining hall isn’t the only place that has decorations for international holidays not necessarily celebrated in the U.S.; different clubs and groups of people have their own ways of celebrating the holidays. Last semester, for example, the Indian Student Alliance hosted a Diwali celebration of their own and this semester, the Malaysian Student Society is combining an introductory meeting for the incoming Malaysian students and a Chinese New Year celebration at the Iowa Memorial Reunion, followed by ice skating rink at the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville.

Malaysian Student Society CNY Party!!!

Aside from the cultural organizations, I really appreciate how the majority of the university tries to celebrate the international holidays. For example, last November, the International Student Ambassadors had our own Diwali celebration at India Cafe downtown.

India Cafe…not with the Ambassadors, but with two of them before Christmas break!!! 😀

This is part of what makes the University of Iowa feel like home, even when we can’t be with our own families to celebrate these holidays. Although I will miss the tea ceremony with my parents and grandparents and friends, miss the family reunion on Chinese New Year Eve, miss decorating the pussy-willow tree, miss all the traditional food, ranging from braised mushroom with black fungus (fatt choy), spring rolls (chut tai), popiah (homemade!), seaweed jelly (agar agar), sago pudding with gula Melaka (a special brown sugar)…. I feel hungry just thinking of all the food! (Even though I am not the biggest eater of Chinese cuisine…).

Family!!! ❤️
Friends!!! And sis, of course! ❤️
My sister and me decorating the pussy-willow tree with homemade origami cranes!
Me giving my maternal grandparents tea in exchange for angpaus during the traditional Tea Ceremony!

Aside from Skyping my family during their Chinese New Year celebrations, the way I did at Christmas, I am happy that I will be able to celebrate it here at the University of Iowa.

To all those homesick students out there…I feel you, but know that the University of Iowa is just as much your home as your actual one (at least it feels that way to me!). And, to everyone, particularly the Chinese students and staff, happy Chinese New Year and enjoy the Year of the Pig!

That means we can be greedy, right…? HAHA.

NOMNOMNOM

Oink, oink!

Home for the Holidays!!!

Home for the Holidays!!!

December is always a fun month. How could it not be, with Christmas approaching? Family, friends, food, fun (the 4Fs), holidays and presents…. The list goes on and on. But, of course, with the 4 nice Fs, comes the one nasty one…FINALS.

Finals are no fun. Who wants to stay up late at night studying algorithms or memorizing the Greek alphabet? (Fun fact, I don’t have to do either of those things, but they sound like the most terrible things to have on an exam, so that’s why I mentioned them).

My textbooks for my Harry Potter course! I’m serious by the way…these really are my textbooks! 😀

But in order to have holidays, we have to suffer through exam week first…and that is a sad essential in our university lives.

Seeing as holidays are much much much more fun to think about than finals, I chose to write today’s blog post about packing for the holidays instead of discussing finals. I mean…everyone needs some assistance when you’re planning on going home, whether its five minutes away by car or 48 hours away by plane (that’s how far my home is, but I’m not going back to Malaysia this Christmas).

Bagssssssss

One of the problems about packing is the fact that the majority of us are not going to be back in Iowa for a month. Not only must we pack everything we need, but we also need to make sure that our belongings left behind are not covered in dust when we return! (Ewwww….)

Now I recognize that packing lists change for everyone, especially being different for long-distance travellers as opposed to short-distance ones. Also, if you’re going to stay with your parents, you probably already have a toothbrush at home that you can use as opposed to staying with family friends, where you would probably have to bring your own toothbrush or buy a new one. So this packing list won’t be applicable to everyone, but I think everyone knows that they have to bring clothes. (Lame, I know, sorry…it sounds more funny out loud, I promise…).

Emily’s Packing List for Christmas Break 2018

  1. Clothes. (Duh!)
    But pick clothes based on the location that you’re going to. So if you’re going to sunny Malaysia or something, bring shorts and T-shirts. Bring one pair of winter clothes for coming back, but pack based on the weather that you’re going into!If you’re going home, you probably don’t need that many clothes. So just bring along your favourites. But if you’re going some place else on vacation, then you should pack more. It also depends on laundry. If you have a chance to do laundry, great! You can pack less. Also remember that you want to bring stuff back, which means that you should leave some space in your luggage for those Christmas presents and souvenirs….
  2. Makeup and jewellery. (For girls, mostly!)
    Okay, so we’re going into the Christmas season! Tons of parties, hangouts, celebrations etc. Everyone wants to look their best! Pick your favourites and go from there. Remember, you don’t want to make your bag too heavy, so be sparse with your choices.
  3. Books
    Not everyone is an avid a reader as I am, so books may not be placed in a very high priority on your list. But my book list isn’t only my fun-reading novels, but also schoolbooks for next semester. (Now I just sound like a nerd. I’m not! Honest!). You might want to get a head-start on all those readings. But then again, if you aren’t sure whether your professor really wants you to use all those books, maybe you should refrain from ordering them too early. Your choice…
  4. Hobby Stuff
    Everyone has different hobbies and passions. For me, because I’ll be taking dance classes at a ballet studio near my aunt’s house, I had to pack my leotards, tights, dance shoes and hair stuff. For people who want to do sports over break, they should bring their sneakers and sports clothes and so on. You know best for your own activities…I can’t give advice to a football player…I’ve never played football. Soccer yes, football no. (Those different American words are really tripping me up…)
  5. Hygiene Stuff
    Again this is dependent on whether or not you’re going home home, but everyone needs their deodorant, perfume, toothbrush and paste, razor etc. Just make sure you have them wherever you’re going and you’re good to go!
The open-air closet…. You can see the problems I went through having to protect everything from the dust….

Now one of the more frustrating things about leaving was the things I left behind. I’m sure everyone has a whole ton of stuff in their dorm rooms, but because no one is going to be in their dorms for a month, dust collects. Seeing as all our clothes spaces are open-air, I had to put them all in plastic bags to prevent clothes from becoming dusty. I also took down all the clothes that I had hung up, put them on my bed and spread a towel over them. I put as much of my belongings into the drawers in the desk; those that could not fit ended up covered in another towel on my desk.

Piece of advice: buy plastic covers at Target or Walmart.

This blog post seems to be getting longer and longer, but I should really stop here. I’m sure my ramblings are not exactly what you are interested on reading when Christmas is almost upon us! But for those of you who still have exams, good luck and all the best!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Merry Christmas!!!

Ho, ho, ho…

Emily