5 Things Every Student Must Do In 2018

*This is a Liberty Living competition entry.

1. Sponsor a dog!

…because 2018 is the Year of the Dog! That’s right – on Friday, February 16th, the vibrant festivities of Chinese New Year commences. Regardless whether you celebrate this momentous occasion or not, sponsoring a dog will brighten up a furry friend’s day as well as yours. A quick Google search will give you hundreds of hits: Blue Cross for Pets, Support Dogs, Oldies Club… and that’s just to name a few of these wonderful shelters.

Processed with MOLDIV
Currently lots of “Year of the Dog” merch on sale…
2. Read a book – no, textbooks don’t count

Tell me: when was the last time you’ve read a book for leisure? When you’ve properly indulged in the pages of a beguiling novel until 3am because you keep telling yourself, “Just until the end of this chapter!” and you become overly attached to fictional characters? Yep – ages ago, right? No more I Don’t Have Time’s and I Have So Much Other Academic Stuff To Read’s, because let’s face it: you probably could use that 20 minutes of mindless scrolling through Instagram’s discover page for reading instead.

3. Vlog; filmmaker status not required

Because despite the constant dilemma of being broke, university life is too invaluable to forget – and no, you don’t need to start marketing a YouTube channel brand and do obscure MacBook giveaways for subscribers (do people actually even receive them?). It is integral you do this for the right reasons, though. The very definition of being an entertainer has radically fluctuated in the past couple years – with some ex-Viners attempting to continue their careers on YouTube as ‘influencers’ and prank videos being entirely staged or highly disrespectful in some aspect, it’s easy to feel like you must live by the stats. However, that being said, there are definitely some incredible YouTubers out there who possess no ulterior motive; they simply create videos, because they like creating videos. And as a university student, this is an integral mindset to have – pursue something, because you want to. 

So, even if it’s creating ridiculous, badly-edited iPhone filmed videos (an example of my terrible iMovie skills below) to share with friends & family, you’ll thank yourself later; seeing how you’ve changed over the course of your degree will possibly be one of the most dramatic transformations in your life.

4. Write letters

Because surprisingly, Snapchat isn’t enough. The hindrance for most is, “Ugh, but I have get a stamp and posting it costs money!”; but, trust me – it’s much less of a hassle once you’ve done it once. Taking a little time out of your day to handwrite a letter to your friends in another city, or a whole other country, is simultaneously nostalgic and exciting; I cannot describe the feelings of delight when you receive an envelope from an unfamiliar country written in very familiar handwriting.

5. Start a campaign or a charity

We are millennials. The generation who downright exploited that shirtless scene in “The Last Jedi” resulting in numerous Facebook notifications of being tagged in yet another Ben Swolo meme. The generation who made the panoramic way of seasoning steaks with salt absurdly viral, catapulting Nusr-Et Steakhouse’s Turkish butcher sensation Nusret Gökçe, known more colloquially as #saltbae, into Instagram fame (he has close to 11 million Instagram followers – no, that is not a joke). And we are the cheeky generation who, in response to Twitter user Makenna posting a photo of herself cleaning President Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star under the caption “Nothing but respect for MY president #RaisedRight”, didn’t choose the lazier route by responding with some variation of “You support a racist” or “That’s so dumb” which would’ve done little but further exacerbate the exact polarised hatred we’re trying to back-pedal from, but instead, showcased millennial ingenuity at its finest: taking a blatant patriotic claim like Makenna’s tweet, and memifying it to reveal its inherent absurdity – because Shrek for President, anyone? Britney Spears? You name it.

Yes, we are millennials. We’re an erratic bunch who are seen as politically disengaged, more focused on materialistic values, and less concerned about helping the larger community. People may see self-entered, but I see individualism. Perhaps we’re oddballs fuelled by ridiculous memes, but it isn’t mutually exclusive with intellect; we’re more open-minded, more liberal, and more receptive to new ways of living. It’s those who make the news in stunningly stupid manners that people will grasp onto and project the assumed negative stereotype on the rest of us.

Millennials are doing selfless, incredible things every-day, including revolutionising charitable giving. We’ve drifted slightly from institutional giving to philanthropic organisations, towards positioning ourselves as part of the solution instead through volunteering and lending our own social networks to a cause we believe in. See Tom Holland and his brothers, for instance – they launched their own charity, “The Brother Trust” in July last year.

So, if you feel strongly about something a cause, take it on yourself to begin a campaign or a charity; it’ll easily be one of the most humbling, insightful experiences. Especially as college students constantly under stress and pressure, you’ll be incredibly grateful to give back, when perhaps you felt you had nothing to give at all.

©TMK

 

Blogger Recognition Award!

Thank you to the beautiful Amy for nominating me – I’m currently giving you a virtual bearhug. She writes about empowerment, inspiration and change; blooming with resilience, check out her blog here for some real talk. God bless you, Amy!

The Origin Story of “That Med Kid”

I like writing. In fact, I like writing so much, I wrote a 80,000 word novel in middle school. It begins with an obscure legend that has it said a girl touched a stone that was the colour of a million dimensions, causing the destruction of Atlantis in one day and one night. In present day, the story follows the protagonist who possesses a beautiful jade necklace, and secrets begin to unravel when she moves to Canary Islands. Needless to say, it was *this* close to potential publication, but crippling self-doubt, irritating perfectionism and losing updated drafts, hindered that from ever happening.

It was in middle school where I discovered my best writing pieces came out of being in an extraordinarily dark headspace. Thus, I always went hardcore on creative writing assignments in school – murder, self-harm, teen pregnancy, depression, and so on. Fun fact: my submission for the school writing magazine got rejected because it was “too dark and intense”. 

So, I began a blog back in middle school (which is now very hidden) – it was a bit of a diary where I could lay down unedited, imperfect thoughts without having to double-space or set to font type Arial size 12. No obligations, no outside standards; great. But like any other New Year hype, I eventually let academics override and blogging dormancy settled in. This isn’t to say I stopped writing, because I didn’t.

And guess what? In the summer of 2016, I tutored Mathematics and Chemistry like crazy, scraped every last bit of money I could, and used it to self-publish my very own book, titled “The Danger Of Not Trying”. The little blurb is below:

In the past few years, I realized: we are all actors. We rehearse who we want to be, we perform who we want to be, and hope it is convincing enough for everybody else to believe. We cannot stop being actors, and that’s fine. What isn’t, is if you try not to be – the danger lies here, because genuine happiness doesn’t come from a scripted truth. 

The book explores this thinking throughout a compilation of quotes; each one holds a backstory, whether it be fictitious, anecdotal, or both. The lessons underlying them are all very real and I hope they can help you get through life like it did for me. 

No, I didn’t have an editor; no, I didn’t have a cover designer; no, the only application I used was Microsoft Word. It was a creatively exhausting process, both very primitive and very organic, that I can wholeheartedly say is one of my proudest achievements in life. I donated all the profits to Rejoice Foundation, a HIV Foundation in Northern Thailand, where I did work experience for one summer – they continuously stun me with how dedicated they are to the duty of care they voluntary committed their life to, and are one of the reasons why I want to become a doctor. And thus, I am so incredibly humbled by everybody who supported the book, because all I did was put the inspirational words of people on page. It’s a book I wrote as a homage to everybody in my life. 

Anyway, let’s fast-forward a few months to the first frigid night of December when I was listening to the “Life of Pi” soundtrack. It was a Thursday, and mindlessly scrolling through my iPhone Notes app, I found random ‘poems’ I wrote. On a whim, I created this blog, and that was the day of my first post. And why “That Med Kid”? Because it embodies exactly how I perceive myself. Just another no-name, anonymous “Ah, she’s just this random med kid” person. Just like my first ever blog in middle school, this is a bit of a diary for me – thus, I was very hesitant to share this blog until, gosh, five months in?

Goodness me, I apologise for the long-winded writing biography. Hardly Marvel Hero origin story standard, but there you go. I’ve never written this much information about myself before, so this is probably the most personal post I’ve written by far. Don’t worry, this doesn’t happen often.

To sum up, I like writing, but I’m not a writer. I hardly have any knowledge about anything, but if there’s one thing I can do, it is being honest. So if you’ve read my blog, be it one post or one word, thank you so much – the gratitude I have is indescribable.

Advice For New Bloggers

  1. Write, not “create content”. By “content”, I mean the one that gets Reddit users all irked, and what ex-Viners do in desperate need for a career on YouTube (there are exceptions, of course). Don’t try creating this commodity of value as a superficial distraction from reality, but simply write about reality. Did that make any sense to you? Yeah, me neither.
  2. You probably expect me to say consistency, but I’m a big fan of spontaneity. Blogging is time-consuming, difficult and can drain into this sewage of obligation. And if it ever gets that far, perhaps rethink your priorities with a blog. Am I just saying that because of my inconsistency and recent hiatus of three odd weeks? Maybe. But would I ever want you to stick two fingers in and painfully force content out just for the quota of “New post every Thursday!”? Absolutely not. The Quality > Quantity phrase is very applicable.

Blogger Recognition Award: Rules of Acceptance

• Take the time to thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
• Write a post to show your award
• Give a brief story how your blog started
• Give pieces of advice to new bloggers
• Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to
• Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them, provide the link to the post you created

***

I still yet have to finalise Part 2: Science of Superfoods of “The Dirt On Clean Eating” series I began (Part 1 here!) – apologies for the incredibly long delay. Med school life has begun, and there is much I have to update you all on, but let’s save that for another post. Hope you are all doing incredible. Stay motivated, pals. 

©TMK

 

Microaggressions: You’ve Been Victimised

“Ni hao!” says the random white, middle-aged man, grinning profusely as he leans in much too closely for your liking whilst you’re walking down the street. Sigh.

Hands up if this has ever happened to you.

This scenario has happened to me multiple times whilst I was abroad – I can guarantee you, every Asian friend you have has probably experienced this if not once, but more than they can count. I mean, wow! What a great way to mark you as an ignorant, presumptuous jerk, right? Blurting out the first Asian-language phrase you think of just because we look vaguely East Asian; I honestly have always wanted to know, do you really think we’re going to be impressed by your poorly pronounced two syllables? Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Mandarin or the people who speak it, and I’d be totally cool with it if it happened to me somewhere where Mandarin is actually the official language. But every single time, it’s always been in a Western city. If you wanted to be friendly, a simple “hi” would’ve been more than enough. I’m always down for a conversation, but not when you’re randomly throwing around “ni hao” to every Asian you see – it’s quite extraordinary, and quite peculiar, to speculate what goes through their sad little minds.

It was only until I attended a Discrimination & Harassment Workshop on May 7th that I finally could put a word to what I had experienced: microaggression. The term was coined by psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce in the 1970s, and Columbia professor Dr. Derald Wing Sue1 borrowed the term, referring to it as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment”2.

Some examples3 of microaggression would be asking the Asian guy how to solve a difficult mathematical problem, asking a black person if you can touch their hair, or the “ni hao” situation above. I’ve had my fair share of microaggressions, being told “You act different from other Asians, y’know?”, friends being in disbelief I dislike playing classical music on the piano, or people bluntly assuming my parents forced me to study medicine. I’ve moved around my entire life from a very young age, so I’m used to these types of interactions – I don’t feel threated, I don’t feel intimidated, and I definitely don’t feel relegated to an inferior status. Instead of taking extreme offense from somebody remarking “Your English is so good for somebody from Thailand!”, I take it as a sort of educating moment, and I somewhat enjoy it, because chances are, most people don’t have malicious intentions behind their words. I don’t believe they’re trying to “aggress” me in any way, and it’s just a sincere comment from somebody who maybe doesn’t mingle much with Asians. It sprouts from their upbringing; perhaps they’ve lived in only one place their entire lives. I once asked a lecturer a question about their presentation, only for her to slowly repeat the exact same phrase she used in her lecture, when it was the specific meaning behind it I was interested in. The issue here was she spontaneously assumed this Asian student couldn’t understand her British accent during the lecture, rather than wanting to delve into the science – but this lady is not a racist at all, and I felt completely fine. I didn’t see that encounter as a microaggression until I discovered the concept itself. Plus, who’s to say it doesn’t go the other way around? I’ve definitely displayed my fair share of microaggressions (e.g. saying to my Asian friends “That’s such a White thing to do” or even asking “But where are your parents from? Where are you ethnically from?”). Leave a comment down below of what microaggressions you’ve ever faced or dished out yourself without knowing – this is a non-judgemental zone (I’ll make sure of it)!

So during the workshop I attended, when the presenter introduced this whole microaggression concept, I thought, Man! This is incredibly relatable, preach!” But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered, where does one draw the line? Am I supposed to be more offended? When does this sort of “oh, poor me” stuff stop? Because given the nature of microaggressions – subtle messages slipped into casual conversation – I don’t believe they will ever cease to exist completely. But there is definitely benefit to fostering this awareness surrounding microaggressions; the change is evident. In fact, during my first year of university, I spent more time correcting people saying I was actually from Thailand when they assumed I was from America or Canada. This evolution in assumption is a tell-tale sign we’re at least on our way to eradicating the binary name-calling and formal exclusion (i.e. Asian people are solely from Asia! White people cannot be from Asia!). And on the other end of the stick, I know people aren’t asking about my nationality in order to oppress me, but out of genuine curiosity – diversity is fascinating, and when something’s fascinating, we speak the unintentional dialect of awe.

This interested me. Because when I walk up the steps in the lecture theatre to find a seat, I definitely have this feeling I can’t quite put my finger on – a sort of quiet, “Hm, is she going to sit next to me? I don’t know what to say because she’s Asian” vibe. Like I’m a bit of an outsider, because that’s what we’re programmed to think in a country dominated by white people, whether we’re conscious about it or not. And now I know it’s called microaggression, but why has it only erupted in recent years, and should I even do anything about it except recognize when it happens? Jonathan Haidt4, social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, signposted a fascinating article in September 2015 titled “Microaggression and Moral Cultures”5 published in the journal Comparative Sociology. Written by sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, the article may help explain the dynamics currently manifesting in the U.S. society and why concerns of microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in the past few years (which I think definitely applies to other countries, too). So, what exactly does it argue?

In brief, we are undergoing a second major transition in moral culture6. Prior to the 18th & 19th century, most Western societies were cultures of honour, existing where the rule of law was weak. People had to avenge offenses, insults and violation of rights on their own via self-help violence (a reputation of rapid brutality and vengeance was thus important back in the day); failure to do so resulted in loss of social respect and status. The first major transition then occurred during the 19th century as the West became cultures of dignity, in which “people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transitions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means.  There’s no more duelling”.7 All citizens were legally endowed with equal rights, practicing tolerance that resulted in much more peaceful societies than those embodying the honour culture. Basically, it was the whole “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” gist.

Campbell and Manning now describe societies currently undergoing a second major culture transition: the culture of dignity into the culture of victimhood. It hybridises both the honour culture’s quickness to respond even to the slightest unintentional offense, with the dignity culture’s appeal for the help of third parties to whom they must make the case they have been victimized, so these administrative bodies or powerful authorities can police and punish transgressions. The result? People are urged to think of themselves as weak, marginalized and oppressed; everybody seeks to become a “victim”8. Within the broader context of the highly egalitarian & diverse culture we live in due to college campuses popping up all over the place and the rise in administrative bodies & regulations, the intensity of identifying oneself as a fragile & aggrieved victim is extreme. Here, the equation triggers an explosion of microaggression.

But of course, like every piece of literature, there were holes in the research – like, for example, the basic question of how this concept of microaggression should be applied. It’d be interesting to use Sue’s list of microaggressions9 with college students and see if minority students feel offense in the same way Sue and his researchers did. Personally, I didn’t for all the Asian stuff. And of course, they failed to take into account the subjectivity of microaggression; if it is truly in the eye of the beholder, where should the blame be placed (if any) if the beholder knows nothing of the third party? There is so much scope – we could delve into white privilege, marginalized groups, and the uprising of meritocracy. With the evolving culture of victimhood, there is paralleled swiftness in reading negativity into lots of things in life, but let’s call it microaggression when we’re belittled on the basis of stereotypes or with malevolent intent.

I hope you don’t take all of this the wrong way.

Sources:

1, 2, 3, 9. Sue DW, Capodilupo CM, Torino GC, Bucceri JM, Holder A, Nadal KL, Esquilin M. Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist. 2007; 62(4): pp. 271-286.

4, 7.  Haidt, J. Where microaggressions really come from: A sociological account. [online]. 2015. [cited June 27th, 2017]. Available at: http://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/.

5. Campbell B & Manning J. Microaggression and moral cultures. Comparative Sociology. 2014; 13(6): pp. 692-726.

6, 8. Bailey, R. The Rise of the Culture of Victimhood Explained. [online]. 2015. [cited June 27th, 2017]. Available at: http://reason.com/blog/2015/09/08/the-rise-of-the-culture-of-victimhood-ex.

DeAngelis, T. Unmasking ‘racial micro aggressions’. American Psychological Association. 2009; February: p. 42.

McWhorter, J. ‘Microaggression’ Is the New Racism on Campus. [online]. 2014. [cited June 27th, 2017]. Available at: http://time.com/32618/microaggression-is-the-new-racism-on-campus/.

©TMK