Saturday, July 16, 2016

Why #blacklivesmatter MATTERS to Asians

The other day, I decided to log onto Facebook to see what my friends and family were updating on social media. This was the day after Alton Sterling was fatally shot by two of the city's policemen. And unfortunately, a majority of my peers were not focused on trying to stop police brutality, nor the injustice that had occurred. Instead, my newsfeed was filled with people arguing whether the phrase should be #blacklivesmatter or #alllivesmatter. 

One of which, was a comment written by an Asian-American woman who stated how she refused to support the #blacklivesmatter movement since it did not include the Asian community. She discussed how Asian lives also mattered, and that the #blacklivesmatter movement needed inclusion. So that, was her reason for not being a part of the #blacklivesmatter movement. Because of the specific phrasing of #blacklivesmatter, the movement therefore did not matter to her. 

I wish I were able to tell you that this reason only applied to this one woman. However, the unfortunate truth, is that many Asian-Americans believe that the #blacklivesmatter movement doesn't matter because it is a movement that does not include them. 

And one of those Asian-Americans, used to be me. 
Now, before you get mad, let me explain. In the same way, the term feminism is often looked down upon by men because they feel that it doesn't apply to them. Even though the entire feminism movement is about equality for everyone, men often feel as if the movement only applied to women. As an Asian-American woman, I had originally believed that the phrasing didn't include me. Even though the #blacklivesmatter concept was to bring about equality for everyone, I felt unsure that its meaning was that the lives of the Asian community also mattered. Through the phrasing alone, I didn't think it was directly fighting for equality for all. And I failed to see how #blacklivesmatter mattered to the Asian-American community.

Here's the thing- Yes, Asian-Americans face discrimination on a regular basis. But Asian-Americans are not the ones being targeted.

The problem with the #alllivesmatter movement, is that we are ignoring the fact that black lives have been the primary victims of police brutality. In the past year alone, the American police have killed more than 500 black lives alone. Black people are five times more likely to be killed than white people. And in most situations, they are unarmed, completely innocent individuals. 

These statistics don't apply to Asian Americans.

The other day, I read a true story about a black man who was afraid that a policeman would flag him down because his car's license plate had expired. He was afraid of the possibility that a simple encounter with a policeman could end his life that day. But, for us, when a policeman flags us down the road, we are so fortunate to be able to think "I am going to get a ticket" rather than "My life is about to end". When we walk down the street, we are lucky to to be able to do so without preconceived stereotypes that we are dangerous criminals. And we are blessed that our first impressions do not include the word "threat" or "armed". However, our situation unfortunately doesn't apply to the lives of many black individuals. And hundreds of lives have been taken by the hands of corrupt policemen who incorrectly discriminate against innocent black lives. 

But now, I understand, that
#blacklivesmatter is to highlight the injustice that black individuals face everyday.
#blacklivesmatter is fighting for equality for everyone.
so #blacklivesmatter does include Asian-Americans

When I see my fellow Asian-Americans explain that they do not have anything to do with the #blacklivesmatter movement, I can understand why they feel that way. But the thing is, the #blacklivesmatter movement also affects Asian-Americans. 

How? Well, the core of the movement is to equalize all races. And the label is "black lives matter" because black people are the most adversely affected. What the movement is trying to do, is to fix the most affected area first- before police brutality expands to other races. It's similar to fire. If a house were to catch on fire, the firefighters would try to put out the fire in the house it started with, than to focus on the neighboring houses. In the same way, the #blacklivesmatter movement is trying to focus the problem on black lives before other minorities are affected by police brutality. If Asian-Americans continue to believe that this movement does not apply to them, they are in for a rude awakening. Because essentially, we could very well also be the target of police brutality if this problem is never fixed.

In addition, another common misconception is that this problem is one that will never be solved. In fact, one of my Asian-American friends expressed his concern that his main issue with the #blacklivesmatter movement is how there is no tangible solution. But, it's important for all of us to understand that awareness is always a good step forward. This is not an entirely blind movement, but it's the aspect of raising awareness before raising an answer. 

Currently, there are more than 18,000,000 Asian-Americans in the United States today. And within the 18 million Asian-American individuals, I hope that they begin to voice their opinions louder than ever for the violence and cruelty within our country. I hope they begin to understand how #Blacklivesmatter allows us to take the first step towards finding the answer to ending this injustice. And how it is a movement that Asian-Americans especially need to be apart of. 

Because #blacklivesmatter does matter to Asians. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Azzaam Siddiqi

Azzaam's Style
"Well, my style is nothing out of the ordinary, but I do like to add my own twists to it. Nevertheless, I would say my style is very Yeezy-esque, pulling inspiration from Kanye West. Besides that, my style is very much whatever I think just looks good I would hope that people see just me and nothing else. I can dress comfortably, casually, or formally and still look better than the average person out there, so I would say that's very much my style."

Azzaam's Story

"Being a first generation child to immigrant parents, there were a lot of things that I had to go out and discover on my own, with fashion being one of them. Growing up, I had my awkward phases just like everyone else, yet mine always tended to be a bit more awkward than everyone else, which eventually led to bullying. My mom would always dress me when I was younger, but that was when I could care less about what I looked like. However, reaching 7th or 8th grade was when I started to care more about what I looked like. Even then the problem wasn't solved- the thing with styling yourself is that it doesn't just happen overnight. You experiment with different looks until you find one that you like, and with society and whatever is considered "in" always changing, that can become difficult. I always needed other people's approval to feel better about myself and the way I looked, which didn't help especially with all the bullying going on. Finally, not until junior year of high school, after various awkward phases, I stopped caring so much about what others thought of me and decided to do what made me the happiest. That's also when I embraced one of my many life motto, "look good, feel good" If you think you look good, that's all the validation you need for yourself to just go outside and take on the world. People are always going to judge you no matter what you do, so might as well do what makes you the happiest right?"

Behind the Scenes
While many individuals often ask the photographer to think of ways to position themselves in pictures, Azzaam is the kind of person that definitely knows what his best angles/poses are. (In other words, I was definitely not needed HA HA.) However, watching him jump off ledges or posing in elevators yesterday showed how inspiration can be found anywhere. Literally. Even inside a nearly-broken elevator. Or a broken air conditioner. 
One thing that truly amazed me about his story, was how he always appeared so confident about everything. But reading about his past experiences simply reaffirmed the notion that clothing can help us find our inner confidence so that we can love ourselves more than Kanye loves Kanye. Here are a few more "behind the scenes" pictures of our photoshoot. Thanks for reading & I hope you enjoyed! 

When you match the air-conditioner, you know it's time for a picture.

Risking his life for a picture. I guess you could say he likes LIVING LIFE ON THE (L)EDGE(;
shirt - Forever 21, H&M
sweats - H&M
jeans - cotton on
shoes - Footlocker, ASOS
Outfits by Azzaam Siddiqi

Friday, July 8, 2016

From Potato to Beyontato

"Some days I have my potato days when I just... feel like a potato. But, some days, I look in the mirror and feel like I look like I just came out of Beyonce's vagina."
With such a strange unique introduction, I was immediately curious to know how she described her style, or who inspired her. I'm the type of person that's confident about my style and my personality. But unfortunately, I've never woken up in the morning thinking I looked like I came out of Beyonce's vagina. I know- I still have a lot to learn. Hope you enjoy reading about Monica as much as I loved writing about her!
Monica's Style
"I guess you could describe my style as Street Chic.  By wearing a bomber jacket or a coat on top of jeans and a shirt- I feel more chic. Like I truly came out of Beyonce's vagina. As for inspiration, that would definitely be Kylie Jenner. Despite media criticism, Kylie continues to dress and look the way she wants because she's dressing for none other than herself. Fashion shouldn't be to impress others, but to make yourself feel good."
Monica's Story
"In high school, I would dress up in jeans and a shirt, and had no fashion inspiration. Unlike others, what I wore didn't matter to me. But I began to feel out of place for dressing in this simplistic way.  I began to feel slightly paranoid that others were judging me. So, fashion started to matter more. I put more effort into dressing up my outfits through jackets or shoes"
"My clothes definitely convey maturity. Now, I could care less about how others perceive my fashion style. I still like dressing comfortably, so I guess you could say that I still have that casual look. But I think my clothes also say a lot about how I've changed and matured as a person. In high school, I wasn't me. I was quiet. I was bullied. I let it happen and didn't stand up for myself. But in the past few months in college, I no longer care about what others think of me. I've become more mature. The way I dress now makes me feel confident. And in a way, this newfound confidence through fashion has allowed me to be confident in myself. When I'm excited, I'll literally start doing high kicks out of nowhere. When I feel awkward, I make chicken noises or sing with my "Stitch" voice. I'm embracing my inner potato now. Beyonce would be proud of me."
Jacket: Forever 21
Boots: Macy's
Sunglasses: Windsor
Outfit by Monica Sharma

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Thoughts about Comparisons

Hello Readers! 
This has been a month of self-realizations. Because I want this to be a blog of complete honesty, I have to admit: jealousy is actually one of my worst qualities. I often ask God why I don't have a strong jawline, stellar academics, and a variety of other trivial factors. Especially as an Asian- American, it is common to be compared to basically... everyone. I have had people ask me why I wasn't a better Christian like them, why I didn't have large eyes like Asian pop stars, or why I wasn't "smart enough to get into UCLA my first time". 

But, I've begun to realize that this isn't a problem unique to myself. In fact, my own best friend often compares herself to everyone around her- causing her to believe that she is not good enough, even though everyone else perceives her as perfect. As humans, we often compare ourselves to others by conscious and unconscious effort. But in the end, nothing good comes out of these negative comparisons. 

For a long time, I've been hesitant on whether or not I should write down my personal thoughts about comparisons in my blog. But in the end, if this post can somehow influence and inspire one reader, then it is definitely a post worth writing. Here are some tips on how to stop comparing yourself to others:

Reflect on the wise words of Hannah Montana. *cue Nobody's Perfect song* 
No one in this world is perfect. And that's what makes this world so great. As humans, we all have our different flaws. When you understand that no one is perfect, then you will stop being so harsh on yourself. Society often warps our mind into thinking that there are specific qualities or features we need to have in order to be "every man's perfect girl". But this expectation is impossible. No one is perfect. Everyone has flaws. And the ironic part, is that the imperfections in us... is actually what makes us perfect in the eyes of others. **ohh deeep**

Stop competing. Start appreciating. Even with the awards and scholarships I have won, it's easy to look to the person on your left and want to win more. But that type of behavior is unhealthy. Stop competing with those around you. Stop focusing on the qualities of others that you lack. Stop thinking that you need to be like that person next to you. When you stop competing with others around you and start appreciating your strengths, you'll realize how beautiful & unique you truly are.

Take a moment to reflect on your accomplishments. Literally take a minute to jot down all that you have accomplished. Reflect on it. And know that you are absolutely, positively incredible. Use this to begin ignoring all the negative qualities in you and to only focus on your positive qualities. 

Breathe & tell yourself you are good enough. Do exactly what that says. Breathe. And genuinely tell yourself that you are good enough. A popular saying is that your worst enemy is yourself. And by telling yourself that you are good enough, you are declaring your self worth! You are good enough and there is no reason why you should think otherwise.

And finally, here's a verse that has guided me through my moments when I felt lost in a big sea of fishes.

"You are fearfully and wonderfully made" Psalm 139: 14

Who cares if I was straight up rejected to UCLA when I first applied? Person A may have gotten in on their first try, but it doesn't take away from the fact that I am an exceptional & unique individual. Same for you. Don't let these negative comparisons take away from the fact that you are amazing.

Preach Selena !! ^^
 I hope this was somewhat informative or inspiring. Thanks for Reading!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Community College 101

Hello Friends!
Community College often has a negative stereotype associated with it. In fact, I never thought I would end up going to a community college because "it was for lazy students" or "I would never transfer out". However, community college changed my whole life and has become a topic that I am passionate about. Words cannot express the love I have for community college, and it has become of the main reasons for why I have started this blog- to help aid others who are fearful of the process.

**Disclaimer** I understand community college is not for everyone, but since there is so much negativity surround C.C. school, I'd love to shine some light on its benefits (;

HAHAHA. All jokes aside, here are my top 10 reasons! 

  1. UC TAG- This is a transfer admission guarantee. That's right- community colleges can actually guarantee that you will be accepted into one of the six participating UC schools. The only requirements are that you have earned 30+ UC transferable units at the time of your TAG application and have a UC transferable GPA of 2.8 - 3.5 or higher (varies by campus). While the common community college myth is that you will be stuck there forever, the UC TAG will ensure that you will be accepted into one UC school of your choice as long as you fulfill the simple requirements. When I first applied in high school, I was rejected to UCI. But in 2 years, I was able to TAG to Irvine and was guaranteed an acceptance letter! For more information, click here
  2. Associate Degree- After my first year at a community college, I realized I only needed one more course to receive an Associate Degree (aka AA or AA-T)! Oftentimes, once you finish your GE courses, you are close to qualifying for an AA. Some of these degrees include communications, journalism, political science, math, etc. Click here to see what kind of degrees are offered. In the "real world", AA degrees are not enough to receive amazing job prospects, but they definitely highlight your resume to make you stand out. 
  3. Transfer Agreements- Piggybacking on the previous reason, receiving an AA-T (Associate Degree for Transfer) allows you to have a guarantee to transfer to any Cal State school. ** This only works if you live in California ** You do not have to have the BEST GPA, just a degree to transfer! Keep in mind, not all C.C. schools offer every AA-T degree. So click here to see if your local community college carries the degree for your major.
  4. Saving Money- As a UCLA student, I currently pay $30,000+ a year, but at C.C., I only paid around $6,000 for the two years I was there. That $6,000 included book costs, transportation costs, and tuition! As a student who currently pays for her own college tuition, going to community college is a smarter choice because it definitely saves you a lot of money. 
  5. Exploring Major Options- When I first applied for universities in high school, I was a Marketing/Business Major. But after going to C.C. I realized that I hated math and I never wanted to take a Calculus class ever again. In my two years at C.C., I went from a Marketing Major, to International Development Studies, to Sociology, to Linguistics, and then to Communication. It took me five attempts to realize what I wanted to major in. Going to a C.C. allows for students to easily explore and pick their major. If you are not 100% sure of what you want to major in or what exactly you want to do, don't waste your time/money going to an expensive university.
  6. Smaller Classes- There are no lecture halls in community college. My class sizes typically ranged from 15-30 students each. Smaller classes allows for more productive learning (IMO) and helps with getting to know students to make friends.
  7. Professor Interaction- Because of the smaller class sizes, you receive more personalized attention from professors. Most professors go out of their way to memorize the name of every student and some professors will go the extra mile to buy food and throw class parties! This is probably one of the greatest benefits of going to a C.C. because networking with professors helps with job opportunities and great letter of recommendations. PLUS, these relationships that you build with professors are lifelong friendships and it's great to have someone to go to for "real world" advice.
  8. Living at Home- I personally thought I was missing out on the dorm life (which is not true because I'm dorming right now) and did not want to live at home. But once you leave, you will definitely miss living at home. Mom's cooking is definitely the best food there is. It's the best feeling to walk home knowing the refrigerator is fully stocked with your favorite foods and that your mom has already prepared an amazing meal for you. Did I also mention that your chances of receiving Freshman 15 in community college are slim to none? Win-Win situation!
  9. Smooth Transition- Community Colleges are the best way to transition from high school to university because it is the perfect medium. Classes are still small, you still live at home, and school is based upon a semester system. BUT, you will gain independence because you now have to pick your own classes, schedule appoints with a counselor, go to office hours, etc. PLUS, your parents no longer have access to your grades because report cards and parent teacher conferences are not implemented in community colleges!! (Thank God) !! Personally, I believe that community college is a perfect mixture of high school and university and it will definitely allow for a smoother transition for starting at a university.
  10. Scholarships- Most people choose to not be involved within their community college because they don't see it as a college experience and will thus miss out on many scholarship opportunities. Oftentimes, the application pool for scholarships are so small- making your chances of winning even greater! At Community College, I was able to receive more than $4,000 worth of scholarship money. And, one of my friends received $3,000 his first year. Students who are active in college are practically guaranteed a scholarship offer! 
STILL WORRIED? Here are some popular myths about community college: 
I admit, these myths intimidated me when I first started out in college, but hopefully this guide will ease your worries. Leave me any other myths or popular opinions that you would like reassurance on. I'd be glad to clarify anything.
  1. I won't be able to make friends: It's a common myth that no one wants to be friends with you in college, but this rumor is completely false. After my two years in community college, I found my best friend as well as many lifelong friends. Just because we aren't living altogether in one building, doesn't mean our possibilities of making new friends are reduced. On the contrary, it actually may be easier for some to make friends in community college because your classes are smaller (so you can get to know your peers faster) and because most people are in the same boat as you (to transfer). If you join a club or any extracurricular activity, you are bound to make new friends. Another common myth that pops up after this one is: but my friends are going to other collegesHoney- when you get a job in the "real world", you will start fresh knowing no one in that career. This is a perfect time to gain independence, and build your networking and social skills.
  2. Community College is for stupid/lazy people: This statement could not be more false and is simply a negative stereotype unfortunately surrounding community college students. For me, I chose community college because I could not afford the cost of a 4 year university. Other reasons could range from wanting to save money, to having children, to wanting to transfer to a specific UC school, etc. There are multiple reasons why an individual chooses to start their journey in community college and no one should be judging them for taking a different path towards higher education. If you believe that community college is only for stupid/lazy people, then you'll definitely be shocked when confronting a class full of intelligent/driven students.
  3. I will be stuck there forever: This myth is partially true for those who do not create an academic plan. If you speak with your counselor regularly, work hard on your academics, and show up to class- you should definitely be able to transfer within 2-3 years. Of course, there are students who have stayed in community college for a lengthy amount of time. But, these types of students can be found anywhere- from Harvard to UCLA to Community College. And, working at their own pace to transfer shouldn't be any of our business. If you build an academic plan with your counselor and follow it, you will definitely be able to transfer in within 2 years.
  4. Classes will fill up: Okay... I'll be completely honest. This one may be sort of true. BUT if you were to join an extracurricular activity such as student government, athletics, forensics, choir, etc. then you can receive priority registration. If not, there is always the option to waitlist for a class or to simply take night classes (which are not filled as fast). If you schedule your classes on the registration date assigned, you are definitely going to be able to register for some classes. One thing I'd like to mention though, is that this rumor can be applied to every university across the U.S. This shouldn't be a reason to judge community college, as classes are always impacted in every college/university.
  5. I am now all on my own: There are resources everywhere to assist your transition into community college such as the transfer center, career center,  and honors center. Hundreds of faculty members are always more than willing to assist you in your journey. Unlike high school, community college does not provide faculty members to hold your hand throughout the entire path. But, this independence is a good thing. There are resources if you go and look for them. You will only be on your own if you choose to
  6. Community College is too easy: This reason is similar to reason #2. Is community college harder than Harvard? Most likely not. But is too easy to a point where you would not have to study? No. In my opinion, community college is literally the middle ground between high school and university. If you personally believe your classes are too easy, challenge yourself by taking on more classes, getting another associates, or working more than one job. Perceive community college anyway you'd like- but you use it towards your advantage to help you grow as an individual.
  7. It's too hard to transfer: Refer to the section above where I discuss the UC TAG and Transfer Agreements. The best part about C.C. is that you don't have to be a 4.0 student participating in 500 clubs. As long as you meet the basic requirements needed, you're good to go & guaranteed to transfer. Did I also mention that UCLA took in 25% of their transfer students in 2015? Your odds of being accepted into UCLA as a transfer student are a lot higher than if you were a freshman. *Bonus Tip* : Being in your community college's honors program makes you twice as likely to get in.
  8. Now I'll never get the dorming experience: I'm ashamed to admit, but this reason was actually one of my top reasons for not wanting to go to a community college. I wanted the full college experience and felt that I was missing out by not going to a 4 year university. However, this is also false. As a transfer Junior at UCLA, I still get to dorm, gain weight by eating in the dining commons, and much more! Multiple universities also ensure that the transfer students have an enjoyable experience by still giving them events such as "transfer day" or "welcome week"
  9. No one successful goes to community college: Once again, false. Notable individuals include Clint Eastwood, Walt Disney, and Sarah Palin. For a more extensive list, click here or here
Hope this was helpful!
Leave me any questions or comments you may have & I'd be glad to help !

Getting Ready for College

Congratulations- you have submitted your SIR and are about to start as a freshman (or a transfer student) in college. Now what?

Dorm shopping is always the first dreaded task faced by most students. As a current junior at UCLA, I waited until the day of to finish packing and had to make a quick stop at Target to purchase last-minute items. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes to make move-in day an easy transition.

  1. Hangers- Though it seems like common knowledge, I forgot to pack enough hangers, and had to resort to stuffing neatly piling my clothes into the cabinets. Bring enough hangers for your clothes and bring extra because universities will always be handing out free gear.
  2. Power Strip- I never faced a problem with finding outlets at home. But in college (especially if you share a room with three other people), finding a free outlet may become an impossible task. Bring an extra power strip (or two!) to ensure your Iphone, laptop, and fridge have a place to charge.
  3. Business Professional Clothes- I never thought I would need to pack business clothing at school, but I was wrong. Within my first week at UCLA, I received two job offers and was SOL. With that said, pack business professional clothing for alumni networking nights, job opportunities, and social events.
  4. Room Sprays- Especially for those living in buildings with communal restrooms, it is inevitable that the restroom will stink. Bring a room spray to use in your own room and the restroom. Your floor mates will thank you for leaving the restroom smelling fresh and clean after going "number two".
  5. Brita Pitcher- College dorms have water fountains, but they may not have it on every floor. Brita Pitchers filters tap water into drinkable water. Plus, it's extremely convenient so you would not have to continuously leave your dorm room late at night for more water!
  6. Flip Flops- I'm talking about the $1 sandals from Old Navy. Communal restrooms are disgusting because you don't know what people do in the shower! Bring an extra pair of cheap flip flops to protect yourself from "athlete's foot" or other unknown bacteria. 
  7. Extra Sheets- Bring an extra fitted sheet to use when the other one is in the wash. Keep in mind that the dorm room beds are of a different size (TWIN XL), and any other size would be too large or too small for the mattress.
  8. Flash Drive- Having a flash drive to save all your files is extremely important to avoid the awful situation of having your laptop shut down before your work is saved. In addition, free printing is always available on campus, so saving all your work on a USB makes it convenient when we need to rush to the nearest printing center.
  9. Fans- It seems as if air conditioning was never an additional resource from UCLA housing. Bring an extra fan because the weather can get extremely hot. 
  10. The Obvious Items- Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Charger/Wallet. It seems obvious, but when you are stressed over last minute packing, you WILL forget one of these necessities. Write a list to ensure these objects are packed in your bag and DOUBLE CHECK before you leave. Due to all the commotion, I forgot my wallet at home, and had to make a second trip. 
In addition, here are my top three tips for saving money when going dorm shopping, With the extreme costs for housing, tuition, and books, paying for college has become a struggle for multiple college students. So, here is a gif that best summarizes my current relationship status with UCLA:

  1. Shop in the Dollar Store FIRST - You will be surprised at how much you can find at Dollar Tree. From an extra set of pens, to containers, to shower supplies, the Dollar Store seems to have every item possible. It is the perfect place to find dorm decoration supplies as well as school supplies. Shop at the Dollar Store first and I can guarantee that you will cross off at least 25% of your "Dorm Shopping" list! 
  2. Free and For Sale- There are always multiple free and for sale groups located on Facebook under your school name. Utilize these pages to purchase second hand items that graduates no longer need. Through these pages, you can find mini-fridges, mattresses, furniture, lamps, basically anything, for half off or even FOR FREE. Most of these items are not even a year-old and are in like new condition. PLUS, in most occasions, college students are looking for a quick way to make cash and thus resort to these Facebook sites. Make sure to join these group pages to find the best deals to score dorm items for a great price!
  3. Team up with your Roommate- Split the cost of necessities with your roommates. Items may include the refrigerator, printer, microwave, etc. By sharing the costs and items, you would not have to pay for all the items and can even have additional space in your rooms! Contact information is generally released a month in advance- which leaves ample time to shop as long as you contact your roommate as soon as possible.