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,


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.


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.


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).


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…


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!)