Goodbye blog posts and first semester sophomore year!

This is my last blog post for Writing 220, and my very last homework assignment for my first semester of sophomore year … and for 2019! Wow. Finally. It felt like this finals week lasted an entire month.

Since I don’t have many updates, this post will mostly just be me expressing my gratitude for an exhausting, overwhelming, incredible semester. There have been new people and things that have entered my life that I’m eternally grateful for. So, I’d like to say thank you.

Thank you Owen, my cooperative house, for giving me new friends, new perspectives and a leadership position that has taught me so much about communication and kindness.

Thank you Ray for pushing me this semester to produce something I’m so proud to share. You challenged my ideas until I created something truly original and unique to my own experience. This accomplishment is a feeling I’ll remember, and something I’ll strive for in everything I do.

Thank you to my roommate, Lara, who has the gentlest soul and is always there to comfort me when I need it. She’s been one of my biggest supporters since freshman year, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

Thank you to my boyfriend, Leo, for being so patient and loving.

And, of course, thank you to my parents, for supporting me in every aspect of my existence. I love you both so much.

Auf Wiedersehen!

This Semester

At long last this semester has come to an end. Last year, I decided I would push myself to new limits this semester. Throughout my experience at college, I have found that I lack a certain amount of discipline and mental fortitude — I always gave up too easily. So I put myself in a situation in which I could not give up; I took twenty credits including two upper level writing classes and worked two different jobs. With my obsession with grades, I was trapped and was forced to work harder than I have ever done in the past.  

I am never going to do something like that ever again, but I am extremely glad that I did do it this semester. I broke a lot of bad habits. For one, I could not afford to procrastinate at all. Because of this,  by the end of the semester, even if I had time, I did not want to procrastinate; I knew how good it felt to finish all of my work and to have it completely out of mind while relaxing… I just hope the habit won’t come back when my workload lessons. On top of breaking bad habits I also improved upon many things. My discipline and mental fortitude, the things I hoped to improve, did increase significantly and along with those, the part of my brain which wanted to give up became smaller and smaller. Without the option to give up, I eventually stopped even thinking about the possibility of taking things easier.  

I am taking a significantly easier course load next semester, but I will be working hard on other areas in my life. This semester has taught me how to work harder, to complain less, and to do more. It sucked but I’m happy I did it.

Finished – What Next?

Creating a video on learning something has been an idea I have been mulling over for a long time and this class allowed me to act on that idea. Through experimenting with video on experiment two and the final project, I learned that I really enjoy it. Mainly because of all the new factors that are at my disposal in creating a narrative or story that I haven’t experienced before. Also I really enjoy photography so videography seems like a place I would branch into eventually, anyways. 

Although I ran into many problems while creating my final video — missing clips, bad audio, noisy footage, I had a lot of fun making it. I solved many of the issues I ran into in post; the narrative was still coherent even though I missed some key moments, the audio was easily adjusted, and videos weren’t actually all that noisy. I found myself taking breaks from my other classes by spending time editing the video; it was strangely relaxing. In the end, there are still some parts I would like to put a little more time into(I assume no matter what the video looks like there will be parts I still want to change), but overall I am really happy with what I have created and what I’ve learned over this semester. After this entire experience, I can confidently say, I will be creating more videos in the future–whether they will be public or not is a different story.

What to do better next time

While making and editing my video, I ran into a number of problems which could easily have been avoided. Hopefully, the next time I decide to make a video, these problems won’t be the ones I face. 

  1. I was really bad at checking over my footage. I discussed in a previous blog post. I’m used to photography, in which checking an image on a camera is relatively sufficient; you can zoom into the image to check for sharpness, and you can see data on white balance. For film, at least on the camera I was using, these options were not available. Thus, I ended up with a lot of grainy footage. This would have easily been fixed by transferring the clip onto my computer and looking at it.
  2. My audio was very lackluster. A dedicated mic would make the audio significantly better. In this video, the sounds of the camera lens focusing are very jarring, and the audio is very piercing in general. I had to do a lot of work in post adjusting levels to make the focusing sound more bearable; in other situations, I just cut out the focusing sound completely. In the next video I make, I will have mic. 
  3. Shoot in more locations. This was something I found in my genre analysis for project 2 and 3 but I did not execute it to a high standard for my own video. There are a few location changes, but more would have increased the engagement factor of the video. I was lazy and didn’t do this. Next time I will
  4. Finally, make sure the camera is actually recording.

Those are the main things that came up while filming the video, but there are many other small problems I ran into as well.

Working in Adobe


Editing in the project done using the adobe suite, specifically Adobe Premiere Pro, and Adobe After Effects. I barely used aftereffects for this project (aftereffects is a visual effects program in the Adobe Suite). Most of my editing was done in Premiere, another adobe application used for basic video editing (sound modification, cutting clips, color correction, etc.). I found that Premiere had a much lower skill ceiling than aftereffects. By the end of the editing process, I became well oriented with the workflow on Premiere even though there is still a lot of things to learn. I believe by the end of the project, I had achieved a basic understanding of what Premiere has to offer. 

Aftereffects, on the other hand, is still almost a complete mystery to me. I can confidently say aftereffects has a lot of depth — more depth than premiere pro. I barely scratched the surface of what is possible in Aftereffects. Although, my perception of aftereffects may just come from the fact I didn’t use it all that much for this project. Then again, there are things I have seen people do in aftereffects that I have no idea how to accomplish; on the other hand, at this point I can pick out what people are doing in an editing software like Premiere, so there probably is a great deal more depth in aftereffects than Premiere. This brings me to another point; after spending time editing this video, I am much more cognizant of what other people are doing in the editing process now; it is no longer such a mystery to me.

Russia Does It Again

In my project, I discussed performance enhancing drugs in a fair amount of detail. I talked about a few examples throughout, but I didn’t elaborate too much on Russia’s history of systematic cheating. For one of my earlier experiments, I outlined a podcast series in which one of the episodes (but not the one I wrote a script for in the sample excerpt) was designed to talk about the country’s history with state-sponsored doping and cover-up evidence of PED use by Russian athletes. Some of you may remember that IOC sanctioned Russia for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Russian athletes that were determined to be unaffiliated with the scandal were specially cleared and allowed to compete under the designation “OAR”, or Olympic Athlete from Russia. The country of Russia was officially not allowed to participate, and athletes could not fly the Russian flag.

However, there was an agreement reached that, if RUSADA (Russia’s anti-doping program) could prove it had turned a new leaf, Russia would be permitted to enter in the upcoming Olympics and other world championships. However, recent WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) investigations revealed that Russia was still not in compliance with its standards and placed further sanctions on the national athletic programs. This time, the ban on international sport is for four years, which means that Russia will not be able to officially compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 or 2022, as well as the 2022 World Cup and many other sports’ world championships. Russia has announced that they are appealing the ban, but their history and current proceedings indicate that the appeal will not be successful.

Here’s a link for a brief overview

It is important to note, however, that this ban on Russian participation is not, in fact, a full ban on Russian participation. The sanctions are meaningful—they can’t host international competitions, such as the planned 2022 Wrestling World Championships, and Russian athletes may be likewise prevented from competing in international competition. However, in an attempt to dissociate the state’s transgressions from individuals who may not be involved, WADA will allow athletes who can prove they have not been implicated or affected by the state programs that initiated the ban to compete under a neutral flag, as in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. So in reality, although Russia is officially banned from international competition, many of its athletes will still be permitted to compete over the next four years, just not under a Russian flag. As a result, the sanctions are regarded by some as more of a slap on the wrist than anything, and not actually doing much, if anything, to punish Russia or compel them to start complying with WADA rules. It will be interesting to see what percentage of Russia’s athletes make the cut to compete under the neutral flag for upcoming events, and whether we will ever see a RUSADA that fully embraces WADA’s requirements or if they will continue the pattern of organized deception that has plagued their reputation for years now.

Nice Guys Finish Last

Having the last final of all your friends is tough. Finals aren’t easy for anyone, but when you have to go home to a house that gets emptier every passing day, and one by one lose study companions until it’s just you and you alone, well, that’s lonely. I live in a house with seven other guys, and needless to say there is always somebody making noise somewhere. That is, until now.

You don’t appreciate things like coming home to your housemates hanging out in the living room, playing FIFA or watching It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, beckoning me to join. Things like eating and studying with friends, even when you don’t talk to anyone, provide a sense of companionship and support. The short walk home from the library after a long day of studying is far longer with no one to talk about arbitrary everyday struggles and happenings.

I recognize these truths the most now, having walked alone into a silent house, after studying and eating alone. But then I also realize that someone always has to have the latest final, someone has to be the last one done. And whoever that is has to deal with the same circumstances, so maybe it’s ok that it’s me and none of my friends have to face these circumstances.

Which brings me to my final conclusion—Michigan should align the deadlines and exam dates of students with those of their friends, so we can all finish together and nobody has to finish the semester alone. I feel like we pay enough in tuition for them to hire someone to do the logistics on that, right? Until that day comes, I suppose there will always be someone left behind.

Allowing myself to fail

I failed the first experiment. I remember the moment right before submitting it, desperately crying in a hotel lobby in Tulsa, OK. I knew I could have wrote so much better than that, but I was stuck. The things I wanted to write about didn’t want to be written, and I couldn’t stand the feeling of having failed at writing. I could fail at (almost) everything, but not writing. I was mad at myself for choosing the wrong topic, but maybe there was something deeper behind my disappointment.

Maybe for the time I had so much freedom to write that I got lost. Not having a rubric and a structure to follow seem great initially, but it can be challenging if you don’t know what to do with all that freedom or how to give a structure to all your ideas.

Maybe it was my perfectionism trying to take control of my feelings again. I’ve always been the student with straight A’s, so failing has never been an option. In my other classes, I usually get good grades on my papers because I genuinely care about writing and I follow the rubric. But in that moment, I knew how to talk myself out of perfectionism: even though I fail at something, it doesn’t mean I am a failure.

If there’s something I learned by failing the first experiment is that I need to allow myself to fail. When you’re trying to do something new, it is ok to fail and make mistakes. There’s a common saying in Italy, “nessuno nasce imparato” or “nobody is born learned” (it probably doesn’t make any sense to you, but I think it can be translated in English as “nobody is born knowing it all”). We’re not born knowing how to do things, and often we learn more by making mistakes than by doing everything right.

You all rock

I tend to never get close to people in my classes. I remember during one class discussion, I brought up this point; it seems like no one in my classes want to talk to each other or work together. We’d rather just stew in silence.

For some classes, I guess that’s fine. I’ve done extremely well in many classes without learning a single person’s name or having a conversation of any depth with the person sitting next to me. It works, but what does it do in the long run?

Absolutely nothing. I don’t grow as a person, and I certainly don’t have feelings of attachment to those classes or those people.

Writing 220 has been different because even though I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room of such academically and personally diverse people, we all came together and became a team when it came to our projects and our writing. I felt a sense of comfort going to North Quad every Monday and Wednesday morning, because I knew I would be greeted with a smile from the people in the room. It was definitely a nice change from the monotony of my other classes, and something that I’ll definitely miss.

Learning about people’s projects and the process of completing them, especially considering the diverse array of topics, really emphasized the fact that everyone has a unique perspective and passion to offer the world. And learning about these special passions makes one more proud and aware of their own unique traits and skills, even things that we didn’t even know made us stand out.

Therefore, I hope each and every one of us takes this class as an initiative to step forward in the future and get to know the people around us, because endless good things can come about if we do that.

The worst thing that happens is they don’t respond, and we just move on to the next one.

Finally Done! (or am I?)

After much procrastination, random bursts of productivity, and lots of time wondering whether I’m even doing things right, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on my final project (at least, I think I have. Either way, it’s too late to go back now).

I just wanted to throw my link in here in case anyone needs something to do and wants to look through my website:

It was so nice being able to share my thoughts on two things I’m the most passionate about, public health and the arts. The workshop/teaching format of the website gave me full reign on how to present my favorite parts of combining these two topics into one. I got to really reflect on the way I tell stories through dance and hopefully inspire others to do the same through their own mediums!