Embracing Natural Hair

Black students at Bryn Mawr discuss their natural hair journeys

By Khari Bowman

In Bryn Mawr’s Erdman dining hall on a Friday night, at least 100 black students sat dispersed at tables eating and chatting with each other during the African-Caribbean week dinner celebration. Interestingly, most of them had their hair in afro puffs, curls, braids, and twists. It was evidence that many of them were a part of the natural hair movement.

Within the last decade, the natural hair movement has reached new heights within the black community. Women are ditching relaxers and opting for healthy black hair products that don’t contain ingredients like silicones and sulfates. According to an article on Mintel, a web-based marketing site, relaxer sales have continued to decline, dropping to 36.6% between 2012 and 2017.

Black women are now using styling products that allow their curly, coily hair to freely flow. They are also embracing the protective styles, like braids and twists, that make it easier to maintain their natural hair.  Black college students nationwide are navigating their natural hair journeys away from home through wearing their afros and protective braided styles.

Black Student at Bryn Mawr

 

Bryn Mawr has students on varying parts of their natural hair journeys, from those who have had natural hair all their life to those who just recently have gone natural within the last few years.

“I’ve always been natural because I grew up in Ethiopia, and it’s a country where everyone is mostly black”, said sophomore student Rihana Oumer, “It’s a very homogenous country so it was normal seeing people wearing their natural hair.”

Oumer admitted to wanting to style her hair into marley twists for her performance in an upcoming culture show hosted by Bryn Mawr’s African and Caribbean Students Organization (BaCaSo).

“It’s just easier to maintain that way and one less thing I have to worry about during that busy time,” she explained.

For another student, Bryn Mawr junior Kameice Francis, braided protective-styles served as a transition into her natural hair journey. Continue reading

In the Lab as an Undergrad

Students aren’t waiting for grad school to do hands-on research

By Stephanie Widzowski

Emma Bullock, a Haverford senior, has a full plate. She takes physics, advanced German, and multiple high-level chemistry courses at a time. She gets up early to run and sings in an a cappella group of which she’s been a member since freshman year. She spends long evenings in the lab, but it’s not for classes. Bullock does research, a chance many undergraduates get to solve intriguing questions or help them get into graduate school.

Emma Bullock does research on bees

The number of Americans going to college, including grad school, has increased steadily over the past few decades, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

With higher enrollment comes opportunities for STEM undergrads at four-year schools to do research. Often all it takes to get involved is asking a professor if they need help with a project.

Bullock studies the health of honeybees and whether chemicals in their bodies can show disease. She hopes to find a cheap, easy way for beekeepers to check on their hives. She started as a sophomore on a senior’s project and has made it her own.

“So, what I did was I took the methods that I worked with her to develop, and just worked individually my junior year to do them,” said Bullock. Her adviser Helen White steps in if something is confusing, but otherwise, Bullock adds, “You’re on your own.”

This might sound scary, but it seems to foster independence.
Junior Lily Bennett studies conifers with biology professor Jon Wilson, and senior Divesh Otwani develops new ways to write computer programs with a professor at Bryn Mawr. Both attest to the freedom and confidence their work gives them.

Research is also a chance to get to know a professor on a deep level. Mentors can also help students get more out of the learning process.

“[Jon] helps me analyze my data and suggests readings for me,” Bennett wrote. “I honestly can’t speak highly enough of Jon, though. He’s really the best.”

Haverford Student Lily Bennett

These three students do research on top of their coursework. How do they balance it all?

“So it can be tough, but Jon is flexible with when I get things done, so long as I get the work done,” Bennett wrote.

Bullock just laughed. “I had no choice,” she said. Continue reading

Please Pass the Pickled Pepper

On the forefront of fermentation in Philadelphia

 

By Sasha Rogelberg

At Martha, a bar and restaurant in Fishtown, Philadelphia, a pickle is more than just a cucumber wading in a salty brine.

The winner of Philadelphia Magazine’s Best Pickle last year, Martha has lots of fermented fare, including olives marinated in pickled peppers and preserved lemons, local cheese plates and charcuteries, and pickle boats with whatever vegetables are in season, from beans to broccoli to radishes. They even have a sandwich made up of almost entirely fermented foods called the “Vegan Jawn,” which is filled with a carrot terrine, consisting of fermented, pureed, and cooked carrots set with agar that gives it the consistency of a deli meat, fermented radish, and dried, miso-cured eggplant.

Though unique in their ingenuity for the uses of fermentation and pickling, Martha is not the only Philadelphia establishment with a fiending for fermentation.  Local breweries like Fermentary Form, bakeries like Mighty Bread Company, and small distilleries across the city, are all fermenting foods and drinks for the public.

In fact, the process of fermentation — or the growth of healthy bacteria on foods to preserve and give them their funky, sour notes — has grown in popularity all over the country, mostly thanks for the slow food or “locavore” movement putting an emphasis on eating local foods, instead of buying from huge industrial companies.

Mike Landers, who does much of Martha’s fermentation, explained that people ferment and eat fermented foods for reasons ranging from the food being healthier, easier to store, and just as a way of using up food that would have gone to waste.

“Cooking makes things more digestible, but fermenting make food digestible and keeps more nutrients,” he said.

Landers, however, said that food becoming healthier through the pickling process was just a “happy accident.”  He enjoys fermented foods because the process of developing bacteria on the outsides of vegetables and cheeses extracts deep and complex flavors that can’t be created with other cooking techniques.

Despite now being popular and more common in restaurants and small-batch breweries, fermentation is nothing new.  Rather, it’s an activity that’s very old, but one that big corporations have lost interest in, as it takes time and resources that may only be available seasonally.

Ethan Tripp, the founder of Fermentary Form, started his business trying to resurrect an art he believes is now scarce.

The crowd at Fermentary Form

Tripp explained that back in the 1700s before people understood that there were multiple microbes, or the bacteria that is responsible for foods fermenting, or a “microbial world,” people would replicate the food preparation practices that worked for them.

This was how beer and wine were created, and after people realized one could consume spoiled beer and wine in the form of vinegar, this is how vinegar was created and popularized as well. Continue reading

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

How Rom-Coms made a Com-back on Netflix summer 

By Amana Abdurrezak

“As you wish.” – Westley, The Princess Bride

And don’t forget…I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” – Anna Scott, Notting Hill

Whether your favorite line from a romantic comedy came from 1987’s The Princess Bride or 1999’s Notting Hill, there’s no denying that the heyday of romantic comedies has passed. Behemoths like Marvel and Disney have figured out the formula to dominate every month of the year, leaving little room for romantic comedies to make a splash at the box office.

And that’s where Netflix comes in.

Netflix, the streaming service with approximately 137 million worldwide subscribers, hoped to expand its collection of original movies in 2018 with the “Summer of Love”, its initiative to revive the rom-com genre. Subscribers were treated to movies like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Set it Up”, a story about two twenty-somethings in New York City trying to trick their bosses into falling in love.

All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

 

Of the six original movies that were released throughout the summer, “Set it Up” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” quickly became fan favorites. At Bryn Mawr College, a women’s college in the suburbs of Philadelphia, many students heard about Netflix’s newer rom-coms through word of mouth.

“A friend of mine told me about ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ during the summer,” said junior Valeria Aguilera.

In the movie adapted from Jenny Han’s book with the same title, the story follows high schooler Lara Jean Covey after five of her love letters are accidentally mailed to her past and present crushes.

After hearing about the plot, Aguilera was hooked and searched for it on Netflix. “It hadn’t been released yet, but I always had it in the back of my mind,” she said, “When some people on Facebook mentioned that it was finally released, I watched it.”

Though many heard about Netflix’s Summer of Love lineup when meeting up with friends, more heard about it online.

“Netflix sent notifications, but I also saw those movies on the ‘Movies that Are Trending Now’ list on Netflix,” said senior Ana Meta, “Everyone kept talking about it on Buzzfeed too.”

Much of the praise that “Set it Up” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” received from the media and students at Bryn Mawr stemmed from how the topic of love was tackled.

For Meta, movies like “Set it Up” weren’t revolutionary, but they were less problematic. “They still have a lot of the old elements and tropes…they’ve kept some of the old fuzzy feelings.” said Meta.

“But they’ve incorporated new faces. You tell that it’s 2018,” emphasized Meta.

In “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”, Aguilera appreciated the diversity of the cast and the presentation of a different kind of family. The movie showcases a Korean-American family where the three sisters are half Korean and half white. Continue reading

Where Vegetables Rule

The couple behind Vedge create a new culinary world – with vegetables

By Sasha Rogelberg

Instead of the carved and notoriously dry turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and soggy green beans that don the tables of many American Thanksgiving tables, chef Rich Landau serves heaps of colorful vegetables—nine-to-12 different dishes-worth—at his holiday dinner.  They range from roasted and sweet purple, white, and orange carrots to shaved Brussel sprouts grilled on a sizzling plancha, or flattop griddle, topped with a smoked mustard dressing.  One year he served a centerpiece roasted Italian squash: plump and stuffed with braised red cabbage.

Landau strives to bring vegetables to the foreground of every meal at his own table. He carries over the same philosophy to Vedge, V Street and Wizkid: the three vegetable restaurants he runs in Philadelphia with his wife and pastry chef Kate Jacoby.

At 3 p.m. on a Thursday, Vedge is closed to the public, but it is anything but empty.  Men layered in khaki and gray shirts are mending the beer line in the front of the “house,” the part of the restaurant where customers eat and sip drinks at the bar.

In the next room, the house bleeds into the kitchen. There, several line cooks are chopping peppers for a romesco, a Spanish red pepper sauce, coating a stout beer, peanut butter and chocolate cake with crumbled pretzels, and blending and seasoning a root vegetable soup-to-be.

Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau

Despite the bustling environment, Landau seems comfortable there.  The line cooks address him as “chef,” but he pointed at the different dishes and talks to his staff without pretension.

He found a quiet table, tucked in a small room next to the bar, to sit down in with me.  He said that the tables in the restaurant were new.  Landau marveled at them when Jacoby joined us briefly and reminded Landau of the upcoming appointment they had right after my interview with him.

But Landau and Jacoby did not always have beveled and stained wood tables in a downtown brownstone Philadelphia restaurant.  Landau began his professional cooking career when he opened up a vegetarian lunch counter in a strip mall in suburban Philadelphia.

Landau became a vegetarian when he was a teenager.  He found the slaughtering of meat barbaric and unethical, despite being “a carnivore at heart.”

He was self-taught cook, and in the 1990s, there wasn’t really much to eat as a vegetarian.  As a lover of bacon cheeseburgers, club sandwiches and chicken nuggets, Landau wasn’t pleased with the few vegetarian options he had at the time: “It was all, like, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and carob powder, whatever that was.”

The little lunch counter was not intended to be like other health food restaurants at the time. Continue reading

Conquering Stress

One Haverford student uses what’s called cognitive reappraisal

 By Ryan Dukarm

Heather Robinson may be stressed, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at her.

The easy going and energetic Haverford College senior from the Boston area has dealt with her fair share of stress as a college student. However, she credits a new technique she learned in her Stress and Coping class to helping alleviate some of her worry in her final year at Haverford.

“It’s called cognitive reappraisal. It’s part of cognitive behavioral therapy” said Robinson, a Psychology major and Neuroscience and Dance double minor, “but it’s more of an easier everyday technique that you can do.”

“I had a little journal and whenever I had these negative thoughts I would write down the situation and what was happening when I had this thought, my mood during it, the thought itself and then whether or not the thought was helpful or accurate.”

Many of Robinson’s stressors were about the amount of responsibilities she balanced, both academically and other wise. When she would go through her responsibilities for

Heather Robinson

the day, things that she enjoyed and loved began to feel like chores among all the other obligations she had. That led to negative feelings around things she enjoyed.

“Say, I have Bounce rehearsal later today” Robinson said, giving an example of a potential area for cognitive reappraisal by referring to her hip hop dance group Bounce, a group Robinson has been in all four years of college, “I really don’t want to go, I’m so tired, I’m so exhausted, I just want to go back to bed. But thinking about it like that meant that I was dreading it instead of looking forward to seeing my friends.”

Cognitive reappraisal has helped Robinson change her outlook on things she can’t change her commitment to. She loves dancing, so keeping those negative thoughts in a notebook where she can analyze whether they are helpful or not allows her to put a more positive spin on stressors in her life and continue to enjoy her many obligations.

Robinson went on to say that as a senior her stress has developed into stress about managing her responsibilities and worrying about her future. As a first year, she was often worried “about the high school to college transition.” Continue reading

Tending to Haverfarm

Quote

Haverford College has a farm — yes, a farm — on its campus.

By Sally Pearson

Wandering between beds of produce–carrots sprouting in one bed, spinach in the next—Ellis Maxwell, my tour guide for the afternoon, identified plants as we walked. The spinach under the tarp here was recently planted and would grow quickly. The onions here would grow over the winter and could be harvested in early spring. These rows had already been harvested so the green ground cover was revitalizing the soil.

This day in late October the Haverford junior wandered in black sweatpants and a black hoodie. He was comfortable on the farm, a year-round farming and educational space on the Main Line campus.

The Lavender plants were hiding under a white cloth. Maxwell crouched down and pulled up the cloth and bent off a muted green stem to smell.

Many of his favorite plants seemed to be those with tea making potential. He said he liked trying different combinations of herbs in his tea. He taught himself to make his own. Now, he admitted, he makes it almost every day.

Outside the fence of the garden, Maxwell picked a sprig of Chocolate mint, a brown and green marbled plant growing along the ground near the outside fence and handed it to me, it could have been mistaken for a weed to a less experienced eye. It can also be used for making tea, he said. He rubbed his own stem between his fingers. “Or I just eat it” he smiled, and chewed his bit of chocolate mint.

Ellis Maxwell strikes a comic pose

Haverfarm was quiet that afternoon. It was just Maxwell, me, the Farm Fellow who was working that day, and the occasional dog walker taking a detour from Haverford College’s nature trail.

These walkers remind you of your close proximity to the rest of the world. A neighborhood was behind a few lines of trees, a road was within calling distance, and Center City Philadelphia was nine miles from the secluded community garden where we stood. Haverfarm’s existence is a bit unexpected.  Maxwell, too, is full of the unexpected. Continue reading

WELCOME TO THE SPRING 2018 edition of the English House Gazette, the official blog of Bryn Mawr College’s ART264 News and Feature Writing class where we post a sampler of the diverse stories reported and written by student journalists in the class.

 

Stories range from on-campus profiles and trends to ventures outside the bubble, all based on beats selected by the students.

This year we have a particularly interesting lineup.

Bryn Mawr’s RACHEL LIGHTSTONE clues us in on the latest trends iin tattoos on campus, including the popular pick and poke style.

YI GAO, a Bryn Mawr student, writes about the growing use of ancient and modern artifacts in the college classrooms, with an emphasis on some striking Japanese prints.

Bryn Mawr’s AZALIA SPRECHER, who made immigrants her beat, offers nuanced and often poignant tales of two Bryn Mawr students who are “Dreamers” who were born in Mexico, raised in the United States and now are among the 600,000 so-called DACA men and women facing possible deportation under President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants. Sprecher also profiles Bryn Maw sociology professor Veronica Montes, who arrived in the U.S. from her home in Mexico as a teen.

YUQI ZHA, a Bryn Mawr senior, chose the Chinese in America as a beat. One story reveals how a Bryn Mawr student from China manages to bring a suitcase full of food from home. It’s called The Smuggled Dumpling Caper into the U.S. The descriptions can make your mouth water. Zha also writes about Pangpang Lulu, a niche delivery service that delivers food to Chinese students yearning for their country’s food. Try the Chicken Feet stew.

To test the attitudes of Bryn Mawr’s growing cadre of Chinese students, Zha surveyed them all and lays out her results. It’s amazing how a bad bowl of white rice can ruin your day.

Haverford College senior SEAN WOODRUFF goes beyond the confines of campus to cover his beat on high tech. For starters, there is a bar in Fishtown that offers virtual reality headsets to its customers.  And he looks into the popular and successful Hackathon held each year by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Finally, Woodruff accompanies a group of accomplished Lower Merion students as they compete in a regional robotics competition with their robot Everest. Can he do it?

Haverford’s STEVE LEHMAN has a funny and endearing tale about a would-be student movie maker who reveals how hard it is to make a movie without lights, a camera and actors. Lehman’s classmate JOSEPH STARUSKI, who is a mass transit freak, adds to the canon with a look at the rage for electric bikes.

Covering the arts, Bryn Mawr’s COURTNEY EU writes about how diversity has come to the comics. Superman make way for an Afro-Latino Spiderman, a gay Iceman, and a Muslim Ms. Marvel.

Bryn Mawr’s ANIKA VARTY, whose beat was the arts, gives us an update on creative dance groups breaking new ground in ballet.

 

The ‘Invisible Yellow’ Speak

Bryn Mawr gets high marks from Chinese students….

But many wonder if the understands them.

By Yuqi Zha

The number of Chinese students at Bryn Mawr College has increased 20 times in 10 years, from only nine students enrolled in 2008 to 181 Chinese students enrolled in 2018, according to Patricia Lausch, the director of International Student and Scholar Services and Advising at Bryn Mawr College. Chinese students now represent 13% of the total student population, the largest single group of international students.

What do Chinese students think of Bryn Mawr College?

To find out the answers, we surveyed all of the Chinese students on campus, including a few recent graduates, and interviewed eight respondents. Seventy-nine students answered our survey, which is a 43% response rate, high for a voluntary survey. In addition, 31 students appended anonymous comments to the survey sent out through Survey Monkey in late April. Chinese students are willing and eager to share their feelings and opinions.

Overall, Chinese students are pleased with their experience at Bryn Mawr, with 24% rating it excellent and 61% rating it good.

Q: Overrall, how would you rate your experience at Bryn Mawr?

They also have a generally favorable opinion of the services they use. The percentage of students rating each service good or excellent are: 73% for the Pensby Center for international students, 65% for the Writing Center, 63% for the Health Center, 67% for the New Dorm Dining Hall and 59% for the Erdman Dining Hall. The one exception was the Counseling Center, considered good or excellent by only 35% of the respondents. The low rating of the Counseling Center is partly influenced by the fact that fewer Chinese students have contacted with the counseling service.

As one respondent to the survey put it: “Without BMC I would not be who I am. In my four years here, BMC not only taught me priceless professional knowledge and expanded the scope I interpreted the world around me, but also helped me have a better understanding of myself. I learned critical thinking here, but more importantly, I learned tolerance from the open and comprehensive environment of BMC.”

Praise was not universal. When asked if the school offered a welcoming environment, 33% students rated it fair or poor. Another 34% said they had experienced some discrimination at the school.

Interviews with students fleshed out some of those feelings. Some aspects of the college have not adapted to the explosion of Chinese students.

In sum, Chinese students want improvement in three areas: They want staff with Asian backgrounds on the campus. They want International Student Orientation back. They want attention to their particular needs and not be the “invisible yellow” anymore, as one student put.

There is one issue that symbolizes that failure to adapt. It centers on the issue of white rice.

Bryn Maw College offers Chinese students lousy white rice.

White Rice

Bryn Mawr College has two dining halls, the New Dorm Dining Hall and the Erdman Dining Hall. Erdman provides only traditional American food, while the New Dorm  has a special buffet, devoted to food from different countries and regions around the world, including Chinese and other Asian food. Students call that part of the New Dorm Dining Hall the special bar. The origin of the food provided on the special bar changes every month.

Probably because of the special bar, Chinese students slightly prefer the New Dorm Dining Hall over the Erdman Dining Hall: 87% said they frequently use the New Dorm Dining Hall, compared to 67% who said they frequently use Erdman Dining Hall.

When the special bar in the New Dorm Dining Hall provides Asian food, it also provides white rice, because white rice is the basis of Asian food. Asians have very different opinions about rice from Americans. They like tender, moist, sticky and fluffy white rice, very different from brown rice. If cooked white rice has the same hard and chewy taste as brown rice, it is considered as “half-cooked” and terrible by the Asians.

The white rice provided at the special bar followed the American standard of preparation. That’s why Chinese students had many complaints about it.

“I don’t really understand how they can make white rice taste so bad,” said Cheyenne Zhang, a sophomore Math and Philosophy major.

“Is it so hard to cook white rice? Come on, it’s just white rice!” said Hou Wang, a senior Fine Arts major.

“It’s true that Chinese food has many regional cuisines and it’s hard to satisfy all the Chinese students from different parts of China, so I don’t even want to comment on the Chinese dishes on the special bar. But I just want a bowl of normal white rice every day,” said an anonymous respondent to the survey.

Probably, there is no other culture that can exceed the extent to which Chinese culture values food.

“Food is the first necessity for man,” according to an old Chinese saying.

Therefore, if a bowl of white rice can make the campus a much more comfortable environment for Chinese students, why not make the change?

Q: Have you ever felt discriminated against at school because of your nationality?

Staffs with Asian Backgrounds

Shining Zhu, a junior Psychology major, who has worked at the New Dorm Dining Hall for three years, provided an answer—lack of student supervisors and managers with Asian backgrounds at the New Dorm Dining Hall.

“They think sticky and fluffy white rice is gross,” said Shining Zhu, referring to American staff and student workers at the New Dorm Dining Hall.

The student supervisors and managers at the New Dorm Dining Hall are predominantly white, so the food provided there is according to an American standard, including the special bar.

“There isn’t anyone to represent the opinion of Chinese student workers or Chinese students in general at the weekly staff meeting,” said Zhu, “Chinese students might be afraid or nervous to give advice directly to the managers or the college.”

The New Dorm Dining Hall is not the only place lacking staff with Asian backgrounds. Out of the six services surveyed, the Counseling Center was the least frequently used by Chinese students, with 71% saying they rarely or never used it.

There are complicated cultural and social reasons behind this phenomenon. In China, the education system doesn’t pay much attention to the mental health of students. Therefore, many Chinese students didn’t realize that the Counseling Center was an option they could go to when they encountered problems.

Four out of eight interviewees mentioned that they didn’t think they needed any counseling service, but they also mentioned that they felt homesick or stressed, especially in their freshman year.

Another important reason behind the low usage of the Counseling Center is the language barrier.

“I am afraid that I can’t express myself clearly in English, especially for emotions and feelings,” said Jia Wei, a freshman, “The multilingual service of the Counseling Center is only available in Spanish. Therefore, I didn’t use it frequently.”

“It makes me sadder when I need to pour out my fears and worries in English,” said one respondent in the survey.

The presence of an Asian psychiatrist or counselor may encourage Chinese students to use the Counseling Center more often.

The phrase “a dean or Admin staff with an Asian background” also appeared frequently in the comments from the survey.

“I think the only way to ensure that Bryn Mawr creates a supportive environment for international students (Chinese students particularly in this case) is to hire an official dean with a real Chinese background—not someone who grew up abroad but someone who really knows the academic, cultural and professional barriers that Chinese students face,” said one survey respondent.

“We don’t even need an Asian dean, but just someone who really understands Asian culture,” said Hou Wang, “someone who can really understand us.”

All the interviewees agreed that this would be a good idea.

“It’s not like we want an Asian dean to handle all the Asian students, but the mere presence of such a dean will help us feel safer and have more sense of acceptance,” said Wang, “the psychological effect of such a dean or admin staff is very essential. We will feel recognized by the college.”

As in the case of the New Dorm Dining Hall, Chinese students want a dean or a member of the administrative staff with an Asian background to function as the connection between them and the college.

“I feel like if we have such a dean, the dean’s office and the administration can consider the need of Chinese students better when they organize activities or make decisions,” said Siyuan Luo, an alumna who graduated in 2017.

 

“Invisible Yellow”

Fifty-six percent of Chinese students said they never or rarely encountered discrimination on campus. However, 36% percent of Chinese students said they felt discriminated against usually or sometimes because of their nationality Surprisingly, most of these experiences were academically related. It is hard for many professors and domestic students to recognize or respect the struggle international students face, especially when it comes to language.

Luo described her experience in a class called Introduction to Modern Architecture: “I got a really bad grade on my first paper and I decided to talk to the professor. The first thing she said in our conference is ‘I can’t understand your English. I think you should withdraw from this class’, without telling me what I did wrong or helping me improve. I am an East Asian Languages and Cultures major and I have to do a lot of writing. But I never got the similar comment from any other professors.”

In the end, Luo withdraw from the class because she was afraid that the professor wouldn’t offer her any help to pass the course.

Gaoan Sheng, a freshman, encountered great difficulties when she tried to communicate with her classmate in ESEM. ESEM is a seminar course all the freshmen have to take, in order to prepare them for academic writing and discussion.

“The American student sat next to me every class,” said Sheng, “but whenever the professor asked us to discuss in pairs, she always ignored me, even if there was no one else she could discuss with.”

Sheng felt especially hurt when she saw that student happily talking with other students both in class and after class.

The discrimination that Chinese students encountered was mostly due to certain stereotypes about Chinese in American culture, ignorance about Chinese culture and a lack of understanding of the recent development of China.

“It’s not really about feeling discriminated, but about feeling ignored,” said Wang, “We are part of the ‘invisible yellow’ in the American society.”

Chinese students themselves have to take some responsibilities for this invisibility. Compared to other ethnic groups on campus, Chinese students are quieter when it comes to campus-wide conversations on many issues.

As one respondent to the survey said, “I wish Chinese students could engage in more panel discussions on campus, or hold the panel discussions themselves.”

Part of this reticence is due to Chinese culture—Chinese are used to tolerate and adapt themselves to difficult conditions. They are good at changing themselves to fit into the environment, but not at changing the environment for themselves.

However, another essential reason behind the “invisibility” is the feeling of insecurity Chinese students face on this foreign land.

“Because we are living on a foreign land, sometimes I felt I don’t have the right to comment on things,” said Eva Liu, a sophomore Biology major, “I am afraid that I will be attacked if I ask them to change. In the end, they are the owners of this land, you know.”

“I am sorry that sometimes I am a coward,” said Wang, “When I heard people having silly conversations about China, I didn’t have the courage to correct them. Because this is not our home, we can’t always say what we want.”

Chinese students also don’t have a student association that can organize and represent their voices in the campus-wide conversations. Probably this is something Chinese students have to work out themselves. But if the college can appoint a dean or admin staff with an Asian background, they may alleviate the feeling of insecurity of Chinese students and give them more courage to speak out on this foreign land.

As the number of Chinese students increases, more and more Chinese students do speak out or participate actively in campus-wide activities and discussions.

“I am really grateful for those who actively raise their voices on campus, like Koukou Zhang in the LGBTQ movements and Xiaoya Yue in SGA,” said Wang, “but for some reason, their efforts as Chinese students ended up invisible. I don’t know why and I don’t know how we could change.”

Q: Rate the efforts made at the school to create a welcoming environment for Chinese students. International Student Orientation

Surprisingly, Bryn Mawr College recently made a change regarding international students, but a negative one. Bryn Mawr College will no longer have International Student Orientation (ISO) for freshmen, starting from next fall.

 

Originally, international students would come to campus two days earlier than domestic students for the ISO. The college would take the students to get their Social Security numbers and arrange a series of events to help the students adapt themselves to this new environment. International upperclassmen would work as volunteers during the ISO to take care of the freshmen.

In the interviews, when asked about the best thing the college has done for international students, half of the interviewees mentioned ISO.

“ISO provides a soft landing for international students,” said Eva Liu, “we were able to meet students from the same origin first before we were fully exposed to this unfamiliar environment.”

“International students need more time to adapt themselves to this new environment,” said Cheyenne Zhang, “even just for the jet lag.”

“It’s a perfect chance for upperclassmen to know freshmen,” said Gaoan Sheng, “it’s crucial for freshmen to have this bond with upperclassmen from the same origin. Because they are the only people on campus who can understand the struggle that the freshmen will go through.”

However, the freshmen coming in 2018 will no longer have all these experiences.

At the end of a long welcome back email from Patricia Lausch to all the international students during this winter vacation, she said, “International Student Orientation will be incorporated into Customs 2018. If you are interested in greeting incoming students, consider applying for a Customs positions.”

Customs is the general orientation for all freshmen at Bryn Mawr College.

“I knew ISO was canceled only when I decided to apply for ISO assistant and contacted Patti,” said Sheng.

The situation was the same for Jia Wei.

“I think they should at least give us an explanation,” said Wei, “Patti mentioned in a meeting, not about ISO, but something like ISO was canceled because the number of international students has increased and we can take care of ourselves. I don’t understand the logic at all.”

“I feel bad for the freshmen coming next fall,” said Liu, “they will see all the parents of the domestic students helping them moving in, while they are alone in this strange land. And they will only have Customs People to help them, who wouldn’t be able to offer any help.”

The Customs People are student volunteers working during the Customs and throughout the whole year. They help organize traditional events to welcome the freshmen to the campus. Each floor of each dorm will have two Customs People. However, during the interviews, freshmen and sophomores had many complaints about Customs People.

“My Customs People never showed up in any events,” said Wei, “she didn’t even greet me when we encountered in the hallway.”

“Many Customs People don’t care about their responsibilities at all,” said Sheng, “they just care about the good single room they can get.”

In exchange for their work during the year, Customs People get the opportunity to choose one of the best single rooms on each floor. Room Draw at Bryn Mawr College is a random process—each student will get a number randomly and choose a room based on the sequence of their assigned numbers. Only the first 100 students of each class year can get a good single room. Therefore, applying for the Customs people becomes a good way for many students to avoid the risk of bad luck in the Room Draw.

“I don’t understand why and how the college made this decision about ISO,” said Sheng, “it’s definitely not because of lack of ISO assistants. Many freshmen like me are very passionate and willing to become ISO assistants.”

As the number of international students increases, the resources, especially money and staff, devoted to international students haven’t increased accordingly. Therefore, the attention that each international student receives decreases.

“I don’t want to feel like an ATM, but sometimes I do,” said Wang, “we paid so many full tuitions to the college but they cared less and less about whether we feel good or not.”

 

Can Everest Make It?

Lower Merion High School’s robot, Everest, faces a big challenge

By Sean Woodruff

When his body is fully extended, Everest towers over almost everyone. His steel skeleton sits upon a sturdy base with wheels and a single claw protrudes from his neck.

But right now, he is asleep. Most of this robotic behemoth is covered beneath a large plastic shroud.

Everest’s elevator mechanism, which allows him to grow to eight feet tall, is broken and the young engineers of Lower Merion High School are scrambling to fix it before the end of the night.

It’s the evening before the Mid-Atlantic-District Championship of FIRST, a major event in the world’s largest youth robotics contest (FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

If these students and their robot do well enough over the three day competition, their team will qualify for the World Championships in Detroit later in April.

But everything depends on Everest’s elevator. Without it, he won’t be able to perform a critical move at a tomorrow’s event. He needs to be able to lift boxes more than 6 feet in order to secure an important source of points.

Tonight, the lab is electrified with a sense of subdued activity as students in safety glasses hasten to make adjustments. Another group tinkers with his claw to make sure he has a strong and consistent grip. Others sit at computers, optimizing his code.

The focused murmur is occasionally interrupted by the buzz of an electric saw.

***

It’s day one of three in the District Championship. A sea of people in color coded t-shirts are gathered in Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena. The “Gearaffes” wear orange, “Wolfpack Robotics” wear navy blue. The Lower Merion High School students, nicknamed “Dawgma” wear a distinctive deep maroon.

Maya Levitan, Dawgma’s Team Captain, stops by the Pit, where Everest is inspected and fine-tuned between matches. “It’s like in NASCAR”, Maya says.

Maya is the shortest person in the lab, but she’s poised and confident. She watches carefully as the robot is unpacked. Luckily, the elevator was fixed last night and seems to be working correctly. Nothing more can be done but hope for the best.

Satisfied, Maya enters the arena and is confronted by a wall of sound. An announcer speaks enthusiastically into a loudspeaker. Pop music blares in the background. Teams fight over the remaining sonic real estate with various chants.

An opposing team begins a cacophonous cheer. “Blue Alliance!” Clap. Clap. Clap-Clap-Clap. Their voices crack as they stretch the limits of their adolescent vocal cords.

The members of Dawgma begin to bark and howl back, embodying their school’s mascot. A student in a full Bulldog costume coaxes them on from the lower bleachers.

It’s time for Everest’s first match of the day.

Each match is between two alliances of three teams: Red and Blue. In these early matches, the alliances are pre-determined and change every game. Right now, Everest is wearing red.

The most compelling part of the game is the Scale, a large teetering see-saw on which the robots must balance bright yellow cubes. Tip the Scale to your side, and your Alliance gains control, earning 2 points for every second that you maintain the advantage.

Two similar mechanisms are on the floor called Switches. These are important too, but without control of the Scale, it’s almost impossible to win.

“3…2…1…Power up!”

The match begins and Everest zooms across the field, beating everyone else to the Scale.

These first 15 seconds of the match are completely autonomous—they are also critical to the game.

“It’s really hard to catch up if you lose control of the Scale early,” says Paul Leeds, a junior.

If anything goes wrong, Everest is all alone.

But Dawgma’s hard work last night paid off. In one smooth motion, the robot extends his elevator up and drops the cube onto the Scale, gaining control for the Red Alliance. Everest is standing tall.

For the next two minutes, human drivers take control of the robots. The Blue Alliance gains brief control of the Scale, but not for long enough.

Paul was right—their opponents were unable to overcome the early loss and Dawgma ended the first match with a 100 point lead. The entire team shoots up in excitement.

There are 12 more Qualification matches to go and this early success has boosted the team’s confidence.

The matches continue over the next two days. A win. A win. A win. A one point loss. Another win.

The team’s energy is palpable and Paul smiles a goofy grin.  It’s looking like they will be ranked high enough to be Alliance Captains.

During the final day of competition, the top eight teams get to choose their alliance for the remainder of the games.

But choosing who to pick is a complicated strategy question in and of itself.

Maya and Annie Liang, a Sophomore, are tasked with scouting out the best teams to work with Everest.

In between Dawgma’s string of wins, Maya and Annie take meticulous notes on each match and log information in an intricate set of Excel spreadsheets. These scoring algorithms are nuanced and complex—a Dawgma alumnus dedicated weeks to set them up.

As Annie and Maya carefully discuss their plans on the bleachers, Dawgma scoops up six more wins.

An enthusiastic parent swings a Dawgma sign and dances after every single one.

***

Back in Dawgma’s lab, before the final day of competition, Maya and Paul reflect on the semester so far.

It’s taken a lot of commitment to design and build Everest from the ground up. The team met for more than 15 hours each week.

“This year, we decided to pull out all the stops,” says Maya.

Instead of playing it safe and building a robot that specializes in just one task, Dawgma built Everest to be a versatile competitor.

“We bit off exactly as much as we could chew,” Maya says while adjusting her glasses.

Paul jumps in: “Yeah, we were up until midnight before the last preliminary competition.”

They built two robots this year, which allowed them to tinker with multiple design elements simultaneously. They even built a mock playing field in a spare classroom to practice driving Everest.

So far, their work has paid off. “This has easily been the best year so far,” Maya says.

The team is good natured, and lives by the FIRST’s mantra of “gracious professionalism”, which states that learning and communal growth are more important than winning.

Dawgma has even helped other teams with their code.

But there is also no denying the stakes at tomorrow’s competition: prestigious awards, ego, and of course—how a good ranking will look on college applications.

Most importantly, tomorrow’s performance will decide whether Dawgma moves on to the World Championship.

***

It’s the final day of competition. After two long days of Qualifications, Dawgma has come out strongly ahead.

Now ranking seventh among 125 teams, Maya and Annie get to pick their carefully selected dream team as the Blue Alliance: The Pascack π-oneers (π as in “Pi”) and the Mechanical Mustangs.

The Quarterfinals are three back to back matches against someone else’s dream team. Tensions are high.

Quarterfinal Match 1 of 3

The first Quarterfinal match is a little hard to watch. After two days of working flawlessly, Everest seems tired. The elevator that the young engineers worked tirelessly to fix is now stalled.

Everest tries to reach up to the Scale, but strains only a few inches away. What once appeared a towering behemoth now looks more like a toddler trying to reach the counter on his tip-toes.

He spends the rest of the match trying to hold control of the ground Switches, but it’s not enough. They lose 263 to 386.

Dawgma only has six minutes to repair Everest before the next match.

Maya sits stoically, trusting the technicians down in the playing field to fix their robot before the next round.

Paul shifts a bit on the bleachers.

Quarterfinal Match 2 of 3

Luckily, the technicians know Everest in and out, and he enters the second Quarterfinal match good as new.

As if make up for his previous flub, Everest places an impressive two cubes on the Scale during the all-autonomous portion of the match, creating an insurmountable lead that gives the Blue Alliance its first Quarterfinal win.

The team’s barking and howling becomes deafening. A human “wave” makes its way around the stadium.

Quarterfinal Match 3 of 3

The third match starts even better than the second. A robot on the opposing alliance loses connection for more than 40 seconds, allowing Everest to swoop in and tip the Scale.

“Last year, things like that happened to us a lot,” Paul says, obviously proud that Dawgma has learned how to be more consistent.

The team screams each time Everest balances another cube on the Scale. Maya creates a megaphone with her hands, amplifying her cheers.

In the last ten seconds, the Blue Alliance has more than a 100 point lead. Everest does a victory lap around the field before the clock even runs out.

High fives and hugs are shared all around. Dawgma is now the leader of a top 4 alliance—this is a big deal.

“We’re also in the running for a control systems award,” Paul says.

“Yeah, the judges have been to our Pit several times,” Maya says. She allows a smirk to breach her natural humbleness. “We’re probably going to get the award.”

Semifinal Match 1 of 2

Spirits are high going into this match. Dawgma’s cheers easily drown out their rivals’.

The match begins and Paul sits on the edge of his seat, his eyes glued to the chaotic flurry of yellow cubes in the arena below.

These six robots are top-notch and the whole match looks like a well-coordinated dance.

Unfortunately, the Red Alliance is just a bit more coordinated. It’s not looking good for Dawgma.

The rival chant begins to gain steam as the Blue Alliance’s defeat becomes inevitable.

“Red Alliance!” Clap. Clap. Clap-Clap-Clap.

As soon as the match is over, Paul hunches over.

The team members look back and forth at each other. “We usually lose the first match,” they try to reassure themselves.

Semifinal Match 2 of 2

The arena is more packed than its been the whole event. It’s hot—and humid with the sweat of more than a thousand people.

“Who let the Dogs Out” starts playing on the loud speaker. One Dawgma member swings her head back to the others.

“Stand up!” she shouts. “Are you listening to it? It’s our song!”

It seems like a good omen for the next match. The team begins to bark again.

The Bulldog mascot does his best to keep up the energy, but three days of dancing has begun to take its toll.

One of Dawgma’s alliance members calls a time out. The Mechanical Mustangs’ robot, Cutlass is having a technical problem. “It looks like his claw is broken”, Paul says.

“Red Alliance!” Clap. Clap. Clap-Clap-Clap.

The barking fizzles out.

The match begins, but Paul looks a little worried. “I don’t know if it’s fixed or not…”

Everything starts well, but Everest accidentally knocks a cube from the Scale. Cutlass stutters along, and his injured claw fumbles several cubes.

Maya claps in encouragement, but most of Dawgma is silent. With thirty seconds left Dawgma’s alliance is more than 100 points behind.

But the Blue Alliance has one last trick up their sleeves.

The Pascack π-oneers’ robot, Dragon, begins a dramatic transformation as two huge wing-like platforms fold down from its body. The robot extends its neck and latches onto the Scale.

There is one more important source of points in the game. If your robot lifts itself a foot off the ground at the end of the match, your Alliance gains extra points.

It’s a difficult task, and the only thing in the game that Everest can’t do.

But he can be lifted by robotic comrade and Dragon’s platforms were specifically designed to carry other robots up to victory. Maya and Annie added Dragon to their dream team for just this reason.

It’s risky, but it’s their only chance.

The clock counts down. 4— Everest climbs onto the platform—3—he secures his placement—2—the platform begins to rise…

At the last second, Everest topples. Down with him goes Dawgma’s chance at competing in the Finals.

Everest lays motionless on the ground as Paul and Maya give a few conciliatory claps from the bleachers.

“I think I have to go change,” says the Bulldog, drenched in sweat.

***

Although they didn’t make it to the final round, the whole team is proud.

Dawgma finish the regional championship ranked 6th out of 125 teams, and they did end up winning the prestigious “Innovation in Control Award”.

Even more impressively, Dawgma’s performance secured them a spot at the World Championship in Detroit.

Detroit is a long trek from Ardmore, but the team is ecstatic.

“I’m definitely going to go—even though I’ll miss a lot of physics class,” Paul says.