Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Eve is the Worst;How You Can Make it Better!

New Year's Eve is the worst holiday, yep, I said it. It usually sneaks up on you in the midst of your cozy winter break away from reality: one minute, you are snuggled up on your parents' couch watching the 18th episode of Law and Order in a row; next thing you know, tomorrow is NYE and you have Lousy Plan A and Lousy Plan B to choose from.

Let's talk about Lousy Plan A: Have an extra $1,095 lying around? Perfect, that will get you a table at...TGI Friday's, complete with champagne for two! Have a slightly smaller budget? No worries, here's Lousy Plan B, entrance to a pizza-and-well drinks open bar at Artichoke's Pizza will only cost you $125. Comparatively, a slice normally runs you $4.50. That's almost 28 slices of fatty delicious pizza you'd be spending on NYE alone.

The hyper-inflated prices for most parties result from the work of one company, Joonbug. The company capitalizes on everyone's need to "go out and have a good time" on holidays like Halloween and NYE by colluding with any and all venues they can find, charging insanely high entrance fees in this near monopoly. By locking down all venues from TAO to the AMC movie theater, to go out on NYE will be an expensive way to get entrance to a loud, crowded room while the party glitter haunts your hair for days to come. Expectations are usually set way too high and almost always let down. I think I'll pass.
A Steal at $175!

As I was grinching and grumbling about my hatred for NYE to my friend K via Facebook chat, she gently reminded me that NYE is a time for reflection, a time to reminisce over 2013 memories. Instead of the wild year-end blowout bash that the media has ingrained as our ideal NYE, the last day in December provides a perfect period for reflection. Instead of asking yourself the panic-inducing question: "Where did the time go?" ask yourself and your friends: "What were some of your favorite memories from 2013?" My perspective suddenly shifted as the question I asked changed.

For me, 2013 was a year of many milestones and happy memories, from a stressful 2-day trip to Paris, getting lost in the mountains outside Barcelona, to landing my first big-girl job, I'm grateful for all the opportunities and experiences. I'm thankful for the million little butterfly effects that have brought me to today. And for you, in order to jog your fuzzy memories for all of 2013, Facebook's Year in Review is super helpful!

Perhaps New Year's is not so bad after all, as long as there's plenty of noisemakers and even more champagne. Happy (almost) 2014!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What I Wish People Told me as a Fresh(wo)man!

Hey there, NYU class of 2017! It is now the end of Welcome Week, and time to begin #RealLife as a newly minted NYU freshman. To help you navigate your freshman year, I've put together a list of tips that I wish someone had told me when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshwoman, ready to tackle on big-bad-Stern and get a 4.0 GPA (Ha!).

Category: School

Take a filler class! - I know that y'all are super excited to take all major classes and graduate in three years, but the reality is, college is hard! When I was a freshman, I was busy battling the Stern curve for some A-minuses and getting some solid B-pluses instead. Trust me, once the workload piles up, you'll really wish you had one easy class to fall back on. It's always good to take a fun class to take your mind off other stress!
Plus, the added smaller booster to your GPA really makes the difference from a 3.4 to a 3.5 when it's time for junior year recruiting.

Jinna's Recommendations: Group Vocal, Individual Vocal, Intergroup Dialogue (Spring only), and Metalsmithing.

Category: Friends

"Where do I make friends?" you ask. Truthfully, freshman year is the easiest time to make friends during your time at NYU. Everyone is willing to "friend-settle" since almost no one comes in with a build-in circle of friends, and everyone is open to meeting different types of people. The question really is: "Where can I meet them?"

Dorm Floor - Many of my closest friends to this day are from my freshman year floor. (Founders what what!) If you just keep an open door, friends will literally flock in. Be nice, share your hangers, lend a hand with moving boxes. Since people spend most evenings at home, it's so easy to swing by and make casual plans, find a dinner buddy, or someone to do homework with! Make your dorm friends early so you have friends to come home to!

My first floor meeting! 

Student Clubs - The easy part: Go to Clubfest, sign up for any listserv that remotely interests you, attend a meeting here or there. The emails keep you updated on what events the clubs have planned, and you can easily unsubscribe at anytime. My freshman year, I went to Coles and collected fliers like Buddy the Elf on Christmas. I think I signed up for Chinese Mei Society, Chicken and Rice Club, Violet Circus Arts, and at least 20 other things. No matter how strange a club might seem, just show up to a meeting and give it a chance. The people are super welcoming, and there's usually free food every Thursday/Friday evenings!

The harder part: You should also apply for "E-board" positions ("E" stands for Executive) for a club you are interested in. As a part of the E-board, you go to weekly meetings and work with 10-15 people to make the events happen. I've found that it's a great way to get involved, and meet upperclassmen who really take you under their wing. I found my first club family at NYU by interviewing for a freshman rep position. Although the idea of an interview might be scary or seem unnecessary, it is really well worth the investment. Great to put on your resume!

School doesn't have to be the only place to meet people either. Get involved in some outside organizations either through a church group, find some odd jobs on Wasserman, or volunteer! Small opportunities will eventually lead to bigger ones and you find lots of amazing people along the way. It's super important to meet people in different schools and different communities, it will keep you sane and grounded as you get sucked into the inevitable quarter-life crisis. If you're in Stern, make some Tisch and Gallatin friends! If you are in Steinhardt, meet someone in nursing!

Category: Partying

I remember coming into freshman year all ready to parrrr-tay! And then I was like: "Oh wait, I have to be over 21?!" Instant bummer. Although 18+ parties exist, they are usually just a watered-down, overly-crowded version of what an NYC club should be like (save your $20 dollar cover charge and skip them, and avoid this promoter Amanda Sarah at all costs).

At times and especially on the weekends, it did seem like there was segregation between those with fake IDs, and those without. It is easy to feel left out when you are not one of the privileged few with a look-alike and understanding older sibling (or IDChief). But as a senior, when I compare my freshman experiences with new friends, it seemed that with or without an "over 21" ID, we all found different ways to thoroughly enjoy our freshman year - from shooting pool at Rubin, getting busted playing dorm room beer pong, schmoozing our way into Avenue, or making 2am halal runs. So really, don't feel like you are missing out on much. And if you wanted to order IDs, do it early on.*

Here is a list of fun things I would rally people to do:

-Eating trip in Flushing (another Chinatown in Queens)
-Camp out for Saturday Night Live
-Plan a dessert trip (Chikalicious, Big Gay Ice Cream, Butter Lane, Magnolia, Georgetown Cupcakes)
-Take advantage of discounted tickets at Ticket Central! Save $$$ and go buy nice stuff.

What you DON'T have to do:

DON'T smuggle dozens of cookies back from the dining halls, unless you think the freshman 15 looks good on you.

You DON'T have to come in knowing what investment banking is (everyone calls it "banking," but it is NOT the people you see at Chase counting money). Google it.

You DON'T have to read all the books in your Texts and Ideas or liberal arts classes, choose excerpts and know those excerpts well. Then cite those passages to support your thesis.

DON'T even buy all the books! At least a few people on your floor will have the same books, borrow and read a few excerpts (see above).

DON'T get stuck in high school drama, even over the internet. It could be such a time and energy suck! Shake it off and do your own thing.

DON'T feel like you are doing something wrong if you aren't having the time of your life. College is hard, meeting new people could be exhausting, and so is managing your own schedule. Cut yourself some slack.

With that, have a super freshman year! Upperclassmen friends, do you have any cool tips for freshies? Leave a comment below!

*This blog does not support the use of fake IDs, since they are illegal you know. That being said, the earlier you order, the more value you get out of them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's Good to be Home: Happy Holidays!

Sitting in the backseat as my dad's Toyota 4Runner pulled into our driveway, I couldn't help but smile upon seeing our little suburban house all aglow  in Christmas lights, decked out in a mish-mash of tinsel, window stickers, and yard decorations that could very well be considered as antiques by now.

It's amazing how Christmas decorations survive throughout the years - I spot a cartoon deer plank sticking out of the front lawn, the very same one I picked out by hand when I was ten years old. A snowman that I made in arts-and-crafts lives on, next to a bundle of mismatched Christmas lights on the shrubbery.

It's good to be home.

I hadn't even realized how homesick I was until I arrived. The stress of the city melts away bit by bit as I reacquaint myself with my parent's house. The amenities are fabulous: the long, cozy couch, a fully stocked fridge, cable TV, a platter of fruit right in the middle of the dining room table, really accentuating the differences between an actual home and a college student's apartment.

For sure, it's been a tough semester. Between classes, networking, case-competitions, recruiting, job interviews, finals, it felt like I've barely had a moment to breathe. The days blurred together as stress wore off the smiles of even the most good natured persons. But that's over, at least for now. I am beyond thankful to have this sanctuary to come home to, and parents who are so glad to see me, doting on me the way Asian parents know best, with piles and piles of delicious home-cooking. It's really good to be home.

As much as New York City has stolen my heart, driving is something I will always miss about living in the 'burbs. Tomorrow, I will be out on the road first thing in the morning, picking up bagels and visiting friends. Oh it is so good to be home.

Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I'm turning twenty!

Which means...I will no longer be a teenager. (Cue the melodramatic music)

My friends will be the first to tell you I've been more than agitating about it all-with the constant: "I'm not ready to grow up!" and "OMG I can't believe I'm gonna be so OLD!" I could not wrap my head around the fact that I will be twenty, and no longer nineTEEN. I will have lived through two decades, and will be starting a third. Craziness!

But even though it's been really difficult coming to terms with no longer being a !teenager, I am really thankful to have had the typical high school experience/ typical teenage experience- driving around aimlessly at night in a car over crowded with friends, late night Taco Bell runs, pep rallies and catching a ride to a diner after, chicken fingers and root beer floats, foot ball games on Sundays decked out in green and white,grabbing a towel and heading straight to the beach in the summer...meeting new people who never fail to impress me in college, catching a moment of peace in Washington Square Park, dancing my heart out at Meatpacking/amidst a flash mob/in my room all with my amazing roommate...and NYU Shanghai was definitely the craziest semester of all! As amazing as it all was, the sheer awesomeness of my teenage years will exist better in my memories, as I step into another stage of life, and the twenties are awesome, or so I heard! cheesy as it sounds, Katy Perry speaks my soul: "No regrets, just love/We can dance, until we die/You and I, will be young forever."

Peace out teens! I will welcome my twenties with open arms :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hi friends! It’s been quite a while. Amidst the absolute madness of my time in Shanghai, the spontaneous adventures, the wild parties, amazing spring breaks (one of which involves a very nasty sunburn-see below), playing impromptu games of volleyball, hosting the NYU variety show, or simply sitting on the campus quad enjoying the sunlight, wasting my time in a way that time does not feel like it’s being wasted, I have not found the time to update my blog! And I feel very, very guilty about it right now.

I absolutely wish that I had kept closer tabs on my time here, and, as we get closer to the end of the semester, time has taken on the quality of a fistful of sand: the more we desperately try to hang on to it and grasp it, the faster it slips away in our fingers. My time spent in Shanghai, the good times, and the bad times, shall be kept in a special box in the back of my mind, to be visited when I’m back in the hustle-and-bustle of New York, drowning in the stress of junior year recruiting.

You might be wondering to yourself: “Why is Jinna going so sentimental on us? What is up with that?” Well, my mood has been strangely nostalgic lately. I am about to hit a big milestone in life right now, in exactly 34 days, I will no longer be able to call myself a teenager. Twenty…the big 20…I will be two DECADES old! DECADES!

I guess what scares me is the inevitability of aging. No matter what I do, or how much I want to stay young, the day that I turn 20 is fast approaching, and there is nothing I can do to even slow the passage of time. Being twenty seems to come with a dose of responsibility that I'm not so sure I am ready to take. 

In the last month of my teens, I am committing myself to documenting each and every day. Written diaries were never my thing, so I am starting a photo diary. I will actually lug my DSLR everywhere I go, taking photos of every scene in my life, the crazy as well as the mundane. I am announcing it here, on my blog, in an effort to hold myself to my promise. I will do it guys! Keep updated on my photo diary, going up on Facebook very soon!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

As promised, here is a post about some phrases you might be dying to know in China, but just can't seem to find in any guidebook.

First up, directions. Specifically, taxi cab directions. I've felt that same helplessness you feel the moment you get into a taxi cab, say the memorized address for school or your internship or whatever, and just hope to God that the address you gave won't be misinterpreted and that the taxi driver won't loop around some back alleyways to charge you extra money and waste your time.

     The Basics:         左转 zhuǒ zhuǎn  Turn left
                                  右转  yòu zhuǎn  Turn right
                                  直行  zhí xíng      Go straight
                                  在这靠边  zài zhè kào biān Pull over right here

     The Harder Stuff:  不要绕弯  bú yào rào wān   Don't loop! (my attempt at translating)
                                  要不然举报你yào bù rán jǔ bào nǐ  Or else I will report you!

Next up, food. Many of my friends here have various dietary restrictions: some cannot eat beef, some cannot eat pork, and some cannot eat meat altogether. With these phrases to help, you can have crazy gastronomic adventures in China with added ease of mind.

  The Basics  
   (这个)...有猪肉吗?(zhègè)...yǒu zhūròuma? (Does this)...have pork?
   (这个)...有牛肉吗?(zhègè)...yǒu niú ròu ma? (Does this)...have beef?
   这个里面有肉吗?zhè gè lǐ miàn yǒu ròu ma? Does this have meat inside?
The Harder Stuff
          可以不放猪肉吗?ké yǐ bú fàng zhū ròu ma? Can you take out the pork?
          可以不放牛肉吗?ké yǐ bú fàng niú ròu ma? Can you take out the beef?
          可以不放肉吗? ké yǐ bú fàng ròu ma?   Can you take out the meat?
Finally, I bring you a phrase that could help with a very commonplace, and extremely irksome situation in China- line-cutting. Whether you are standing in line at either the KFC or the movie theater, people really just waltz on over and cut you in line without any sense to address you.In my experience, this occurs even more often with old ladies, who really feel so entitled to cut you in line without any apology, and here is what you should say:
 你干什么?nǐ gàn shén me? What are you doing?
这是排队的!zhè shì pái duìde! There is a line!

Well, that was all I had to offer in terms of helpful phrases. If you would like to know how to say something else, please feel free to add a comment below!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It was Friday night and I was standing in line. No, not at the hottest night club in Shanghai - I was waiting behind ~200 people for a taxi in the Suzhou train terminal.

It's strange what kind of people you see waiting in queue at midnight: three person families from the countryside carrying large produce bags with all their belongings inside, trendy guys with dyed longish hair, skinny jeans and sleek luggage, middle aged men in a flock all dressed in drab gray and black. There was a little girl, too. She was by herself. She wore a pink jacket and a cheap pink plastic headband to match. She carried a plastic cup from KFC and asked, no, charmed money out of the people waiting in line. She worked the crowd like a young Richard Dawson from the old Family Feud. To all the girls, she called them "美女," which translates roughly to something like "beautiful woman" or "sexy lady." She told all the men how handsome they are. Sometimes she sang a song. Someone slipped her a 10 dollar bill. She was very successful. She also looked no more than 6 years old.

I couldn't help but wonder what this little girl was doing. Obviously, she was making money. But she couldn't have been making money by herself - who was she working for? Was it her parents? What kind of parents would make their toddler work at this hour of the night? It was midnight, any 6-year-old should have been in bed for hours by now.

So when she came around to my side of the line and asked for money, I asked her what she needed money for. She seemed to have an answer prepared already as she pulled out some beef jerky from her front pocket and loudly exclaimed: "For snacks of course!" She was so adorable that everyone chuckled and gave her money. I did, too.

If I was a good investigative journalist I would have tracked down the people she was working for, uncovered a large-scale kidnapping ring who turn kids into street beggars, defeated this underground mafia, alerted the police, and saved the lives of countless children. But I didn't, I got in a taxi and was on my way to grandma's house. Only later, did I find out that the right(?) thing to do is to not give them any money in order to discourage adults from using children as tools to make money. The same situation occurs in many parts of China, India, and I'm sure it occurs in many developing countries as well.

So there really isn't an ending to my story. I wasn't the hero and I did not save the day. But I will leave you with a little lesson I learned traveling through China alone at night. When I got off the train in the middle of the night, I knew that all public transportation would have been shut off, so the only option in mind was to take a taxi. As soon as I stepped off the platform, a middle aged woman stopped me asking if I needed a taxi. I was just about to say yes when my gut instinct told me to walk away. Another man stopped me to offer me a taxi, then a third. These people are very aggressive! So I put on my New York face and speed walked away. Later, on the line for taxis, I asked the guy in front of me why he would rather wait for 30 minutes on this line than take those "taxi pimps" up on their offer. He said that those cars are "黑车," unlicensed and unregulated in any way. They will take you on the highway, loop for hours and overcharge you, some instances of kidnapping have even happened with these "black taxis."

So, when you've arrived somewhere in the middle of the night. Resist the convenience of "黑车," and wait for a regular taxi. Next up, some posts about survival Chinese in Shanghai!