SASHP SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: CRYSTAL LAM

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My Take on My Improv Dance Byrnes Seminar!

If I’m being completely honest, taking a Byrnes Seminar was just crossing a requirement off the Honors Program checklist for me. But when I was doing my schedule planning last semester in preparation for this one, I decided to opt for one of the seminars which wasn’t related to my major. (Just as a side note: I am a Journalism and Media Studies major and as I was looking through the seminars, I noticed a lot of them were more science related, especially the ones that were left by the time I got to choose classes.)

I am taking a lot of writing courses this semester and I wasn’t particularly interested in taking a more technical seminar so I decided to take Dance Improv! I’ve always loved dancing and have taken classical Indian dance classes for most of my life, basically until I came to college. I have thought about taking a dance class here at Rutgers but I didn’t want to feel too much pressure or put too much pressure on my body, as I have had two pretty serious knee injuries in the past.

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Taking this seminar seemed like the perfect match, but I was a little nervous as it was improv which I’ve never even attempted. I am helplessly attached to choreography and way too comfortable knowing exactly what’s going to happen next (in every part of my life). But taking this class allowed me to challenge myself and it was totally worth it. The class was more focused on movement and the properties that create improv than actually dancing, so not much prior experience was required. We learned about the history of improv, certain techniques which we later put into practice, and the social movement “Don’t You Feel It Too?”, which uses dance as a social justice tool. Also, we got to go to the Joyce Theatre for free and see an amazing performance titled “To Create a World” (and it was my first time seeing contemporary dance live!)

Even though I’m taking 14 credits this semester, which is relatively light, I felt like this class was a much-needed break from all the writing and reading I do every day. I also really enjoyed dancing with all the people in my class and venturing out of my comfort zone.

I completely recommend taking this course, or another Byrnes Seminar. It was low pressure and fun. I’m definitely going to miss it for the rest of the semester! :’)

FILM REVIEW: Jordan Peele’s “Us” is a return to classic horror that demands a second watch – but is it better than “Get Out?”

If you thought Jordan Peele’s 2015 thriller “Get Out” left you with a plethora of theories, his latest feature “Us” (released March 22, 2019) will make for a particularly mind-bending car ride on the way home from the theater. Director and writer Jordan Peele, funny-man turned modern-day Hitchcock, has a lot of weight on his shoulders after his directorial debut “Get Out” was nominated for arguably the most prestigious of film awards (the Academy Award for “Best Picture”) in 2018 and even took home an Oscar for Peele’s original screenplay. But regardless of misinterpretation or even utter confusion at the close of his 2019 follow-up, “Us” is undoubtedly a good film and rightfully warrants the seemingly inevitable flood of comparisons to its predecessor.

Lupita Nyong’o leads as Adelaide, mother of an all-American family (Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright-Joseph, Evan Alex) whose trip to the beach is put through a frightening mirror when a figure of her childhood trauma returns to wreak havoc, bringing along with her a family which bears a striking resemblance to that of Adelaide’s. Nyong’o hands in a equally-powerful dual performance as both Adelaide and Red, whose raspy voice evoked squeals from most theater-goers. Winston Duke’s Gabe is the source of most of the comedy, which is a return-to-form for “Comedy Central” alum Jordan Peele and surprisingly viewers grounded in reality in an otherwise supernatural tale.

Upon a first watch, editing and score are a stand-out. Editor Nicholas Monsour weaves seamlessly between the two families, preventing any reminder to audiences that while there are eight characters in a scene at most times, there are really only four actors, each additionally performing as a darker, soulless version of their characters. After “Get Out,” Michael Abels delivers yet another chilling score, chock-full of plucky violin and orchestral horror moans without straying from originality. Child acting is always a concern in horror movies; not every kid can pull off the horrified expressions of “The Shining” Danny Torrance, but Shahadi Wright-Joseph (Zora/Umbrae) and Evan Alex (Jason/Pluto) never fail to keep viewers captivated, and they do competent work as their “tethered” counterparts.

Amongst its strengths, the film’s ability to jump right into the action may have also been part of its biggest flaw; “Us” is littered with easter eggs and leaves audiences with an absurd number of questions. It is certainly deserving of a second watch, which will draw viewers to attend to the film’s tightly-woven script and glimmering clues tucked away in wide shots and in early quips. Its nature of being open to interpretation may scare away some viewers from asking the bigger questions and thus lose a great portion of audiences, but nonetheless the ambiguity will stir up some great debates amongst film buffs in the future.

It’s rare to see pure originality in Hollywood, which is why regardless of technical opinions, “Us” is an unsettling delight. Despite some late lingering questions that blur the line between hard realism and David Lynch-style absurdity, Jordan Peele’s second (and hopefully not final) film is a blast, and it delivers a surprising message about modern-day society which may actually be an eye-opener to some.

 

3 Reasons Dogs are the Best Pets Ever

Hey everyone,

Glad to be back on the dance floor of writing, ready to show my new moves. As promised, this post is going to be lighthearted, and I thought dedicating it to why dogs are the best pets to have fits perfectly!

Graduation is just around the corner, and there’s nothing like reminiscing what you love most about your life presently when the future is quickly arriving, whether it’d be having a new group of close friends, a new skill that you’ve developed that you never thought you had, or just being able to have a good time with anything that happens, which is what I try to do.

Having a dog is definitely one of the things I am most proud of. I got him when I was in the sixth grade, and it’s hard to believe he is now 10 years old. His name is Prince, and despite what people may think, he is a purebred Pomeranian. Due to their large size, these dogs are usually categorized under a standard breed called the German Spitz. They can range anywhere from 7-44 pounds and can grow up to 22 inches in height. Of course, yours may grow bigger depending on how much you give into its constant demands of doggy biscuits!

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Prince has never failed to amaze me with his presence, always keeping me company while studying and being a great source of stress relief when I am having a rough day. Basing off my own experiences, these are the top 3 reasons dogs really are the ideal pet. To those who are cat lovers, they’re adorable, but dogs are not only a man’s best friend, but also a man’s greatest admirer.

1. They’re always there!

8 AM. 3 PM. 6 PM. 3 AM. That don’t matter to dogs. They will always ensure that they make their presence known to you, especially whenever you come home or when you are about to leave. Even if they do wake up from a deep sleep, they won’t give you trouble for it, unlike your parents, your siblings, or your roommates. I’ve had nights when I come home at 2 AM and Prince is still there sitting in the window looking out at me with the same wide-eyed wonder. Every time I come back, he’s relieved that he hadn’t lost me forever, regardless of how long he’d been left alone in the house. Whatever may be going through his mind while I am gone, it can always be resolved with one simple gesture: a nice pat on the head. If only this could work on my parents…

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2. They listen to you!

“Prince, what’s your name?”

“Prince, do you know you’re a dog?”

“Prince, you know that people aren’t dogs, right?”

“Prince, photosynthesis is the process by which plants make food using the energy given off by the sun”

“Prince, why are you so cute??”

The above are actual quotes from me to my non-human friend. Regardless of what it is, he always responds with the same look.

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Although it can be argued that they only do this because it helps them see us better, or that they are only seeming to listen due to positive reinforcement (“Good boy, you’re listening! Who’s a good boy?”), it’s still nice to know that there is always a living being in your life who, no matter what you tell them, will not stop giving you the same amount of loyalty and protection from strangers as they had before just because you said something to them that they didn’t like.

3. They won’t let you down!

Sit. Paw. Down. Stand. Roll Over. High-five. These are the tricks that Prince currently knows. Although it may be too late to teach him new tricks, he still never fails to amaze me with delivering the same action that I command. It’s amazing that people really can be friends with other beings that are not people, and dogs (unless they are really tired)will always be happy to give you a high-five as long as you reward them with a crunchy treat that doesn’t cost more than a few bucks. Of course, there is still a lot of responsibility involved when taking care of any pet, but when you look at that muzzled face every day, it’s hard to believe the costs outweigh the benefits!

Hopefully, this post was a great stress relief before exams for those who are dog lovers, and even if you’re not a dog person, maybe you’re curious to know why so many people find them great pets! If there’s one thing that 2019 me would tell 2009 me, it would be to never regret the decision I made when I first brought that furry and wildly energetic four-legged creature home.

Who knows what my next post will be on?

“Prince, what should I write on??”

 

 

3 Tips to Prepare for Interviews

INTERVIEW. A word we dread. (Or at least I do.) Whether it’s for an internship, a job, a role in a club, or a graduate program–or anything else–interviews can be stressful and nerve-wracking. The most recent interview I had was just last week, and oh boy was I completely losing it beforehand. During the interview itself, I didn’t look as if I’d been pacing back and forth and in circles (for two hours) and all the things I’d been catastrophizing about–blanking out, awkward pauses, even breaking down, and more–definitely didn’t end up happening. In fact, the interview went quite smoothly and well (and I got an offer!). So, speaking from my own experience with interviewing for a variety of positions, here are three tips I can give you to prepare for interviews.

1. Do Your Research

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If you’d like an interview to go well, part of it is that you gotta know more about where you’ve applied and who you’re talking with. The easiest way to start your research about the company, organization, or program is by simply exploring their website. Websites or even social media pages have a wealth of information, ranging from an organization’s goals and values to their employees to their performance statistics. Then you can search input from secondary sources, like credible articles and reviews, to further expand your knowledge. If you have a contact who works or has worked for the company, it doesn’t hurt to email them either and learn about their experiences. I also like to know more about my interviewers before the actual interview–most of the time, their bios or short descriptions are available.

2. Frame It Differently!

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It’s your choice of how you’d like to approach your interview. You can choose to see it as this big, scary thing, or you can also choose to see it as…an interaction. This is a very helpful word of advice that a family friend gave me. It doesn’t have to be like an anxiety-provoking exam. You can frame it as an opportunity for you to interact with your interviewers because just as much as they’re trying to figure out if you’re the right fit, you’re figuring out if they’re the right fit for you. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel stressed and nervous–that’s normal. As I mentioned, it was pretty stressful for me and usually is, but keeping that mindset that interviews are interactions definitely helped ease my tension.

3. Be Yourself

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It’s soooo important that you’re being yourself at an interview. If you’re trying to be someone else, it won’t help your cause. Most likely, the interviewers will be able to tell, too. Being yourself means being comfortable with who you are and showcasing this in your interview. Chances are, you don’t need to pretend to be someone else than yourself because you already have so many strengths!

Hopefully, keeping these tips in mind may help you to prepare for your next interview and beyond!

Need a Break from Studying? Try One of These Book Recommendations!!

It’s almost April, and unfortunately, finals week (and all of the studying that comes with it) is going to be here before we know it. If you ask me, curling up with a good book is the perfect way to relax after a long day of classes and studying!! Here are some books that I highly recommend — there’s something for everyone : )

FANTASY: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic is set in four different Londons: Red (magical), White (corrupted by magic and power), Grey (devoid of magic), and Black (evil). Kell is one of two Antari who can travel between the Londons, and he works as a smuggler. On one trip to Grey London, he meets a thief named Lila Bard, and together they have to fight to prevent evil from destroying the other Londons. This book is one of the best-written books I have ever read, and I recommend it to pretty much everyone I know.

CONTEMPORARY: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us follows Ben Alejo and Arthur Seuss as they have a meet-cute moment in a post office, lose each other, and find each other again during a summer in New York City. It’s a story about coincidences and learning to trust the universe, with a whole bunch of musical theatre references and easter eggs from the authors’ past novels mixed in. Becky Albertalli writes Arthur’s point of view, and Adam Silvera writes Ben’s, and as a fan of both of them individually, this book is the result of a perfect partnership. Fun fact: I had the incredible opportunity to read this book a few months before its release date!!

HISTORICAL FICTION: The Girl With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

The Girl With the Red Balloon is about a Jewish girl named Ellie Baum who is on a school trip to Germany against the wishes of her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor. While she’s there, she sees a floating red party balloon, and she grabs the string. She goes back in time to Berlin in the 1980s and meets Kai and Mitzi, who work as Runners. Their job is to provide people will balloons similar to Ellie’s to help them go over the Berlin wall. Ellie hopes to be able to return to her own time, but a series of rogue balloons threatens to trap her in the past. The story is told from Ellie’s and Kai’s points of view, while also including parts of Ellie’s grandfather’s story. This book has a bit of a mystery aspect, too, and I really enjoyed the story overall.

I hope you get a chance to pick up one of these books (or any other book you’d like to read) and that your exams and papers between now and the end of the semester go well!! Enjoy and best of luck 🙂

What Should I Do Over Summer?

Hey everyone! The warm weather is certainly making it feel like summer! Speaking of summer, I am sure many of you are wondering how to do something productive this summer (besides relaxing of course). Therefore, I have decided to write some ideas to help you with your brainstorming. Remember that summer is not far away. Many jobs/internships have early deadlines so definitely start looking soon!

1. Internships

Whether it is at a company, research lab, or hospital. Rutgers Career Services is a great place to start looking for an internship.

2. Job

I have never worked, so this summer I am really looking forward to gaining employment experience. Getting a job, and I mean any job, is great experience that may teach you a thing or two about time management, responsibility, and other critical skills. Again, Rutgers Career Services can help you with this. I also searched for establishments near my town with a simple Google search. Check their websites for more information. If you can’t find any job applications, then I found it very helpful to give them a quick phone call to ask whether there are open spots and how to apply if there are.

3. Teach yourself something new.

This may be simple as finally deep-cleaning your room from top to bottom or hard as learning a new language. Have you ever tended your own garden? Why don’t you learn to make your own website? How about learning how to cook your favorite recipe (no, cereal doesn’t count). Have you ever fixed a leaky faucet? There are plenty of useful things you can teach yourself. I am personally looking forward to continuing to learn sign language. I may also finally start knitting a sweater! I also want to learn origami!

4. Read.

I cannot stress enough how important of a skill reading is. Whether you like your Kindle or the sweet smell of physical books, you should spend a little bit each day (or as regularly as you can) reading. Goodreads is an amazing website I use to find books to read. I personally like to know a little bit about what the book is about before diving right in. I am looking forward to picking up a classic. I am ashamed to admit that I never read the books assigned by my middle school or even high school English teachers (except for The Jungle which I would recommend everyone to read because it is the epitome of a page-turning, hard-to-put-down book). See if you can venture into new genres that you haven’t explored before.

5. Go out.

Now, this can be going out to your backyard or traveling to a new state (or even a country). Whatever it is, consecrate some time outdoors barbequing, playing badminton, going on a drive, camping, roaming the streets of Rome, swimming in the pool, etc. Connect with nature. You know you will miss these warm days when black ice and snow cover the streets and roads. My favorite thing to do outside is just sitting and watching the fireflies glimmer in the warm, dark summer nights. It is the best feeling ever.

6. Connect with friends and family.

Over the academic year, you probably made excuses (I am guilty of this) and took a million rain checks for plans your friends and you wanted to carry out but it never really worked out. Now is the time to visit those friends. If they are too far, then call them or video call them. Spend some time with your family too. Take a family trip or go to a movie. Give time for your loved ones.

Well, I hope you have a splendid summer no matter what you do!