Name: Alaina Chou
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Name: Alaina Chou
Erin O’Malley (C '21) has four pieces of advice for incoming students.
I first started talking to robots when I was 12 years old. I’d just started what felt like a new life, transplanted six miles from the elementary school where I’d spent over half of my existence to a middle school where I knew no one. From the moment I got there, it felt like every pimply kid had already found themselves in a clique—except me.
1. A girl calls me Chinese in first grade. It’s the first time I remember hearing that word. It’s not an insult: She doesn’t know what "Chinese" means, and neither do I. But I burst into tears anyway. This is the day I learn that she is white, and I am not.
Name: Lizzie Youshaei
Jason Shu (C ‘22) walked into the main concert hall with his cello on his back. Instrument cases filled the first few rows of seats as the musicians unpacked, bringing the first breath of air into their saxes or the first sweep of the bow across their violins. The stage, lined with row after row of black chairs and music stands, quickly filled as members began to warm up. At first, the sound was loud, chaotic: a flute here practiced a solo, a few trumpets there rehearsed another line of music. As Jason found his way to the cello section and gathered his music, conductor Thomas Hong took to his stand at the front of the stage, baton in hand.
It’s rare to feel yourself standing in the middle of history. Rarer still to know that you could have been a casualty. On July 5, 2009, Alim* experienced both.
I know everybody says it, but my parents are the best cooks in the world. I grew up in a household where authentic Chinese cuisine graced my dinner plate every night: rich and tomatoey oxtail soup, spicy mapo tofu, and soft pork and cabbage dumplings expertly folded by my mother on sunny weekend afternoons. There’s nothing better than waking up on Sunday mornings to the sound of potstickers sizzling next to eggs on the frying pan.
“This will pass over soon. We’ll be able to hang out like normal by July, and we’ll definitely come back to school in the fall.”
The phrase “we live in unprecedented times” has become both a cliche and an understatement to describe the COVID–19 pandemic. There have been more than 2.5 million cases in the U.S., and communities of color are particularly vulnerable: Black, Native, and Latinx Americans are at much greater risk to contract and die from the virus relative to their populations. But for Natalie Shibley, instructor for Penn Summer I course HIST 560: Race, Gender, and Medicine in U.S. History, the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of color is far from unexpected.
Content warning: The following text describes eating disorders and can be disturbing and/or triggering for some readers. Please find resources listed at the bottom of the article.
I first realized my parents were racist in middle school, when they told me I couldn’t date Black people.
Hadassah Raskas (C ‘20) hates tomatoes.
Quarantined hundreds of miles away from Philadelphia, I meet Andrew Guo (C ‘21) in front of Van Pelt for a tour of Penn’s campus.
I couldn’t stop biting my fingers the first time I went to CAPS. It’s a nervous habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I pick at the skin around my nails when I do my homework, send an important text, prepare for an interview—anything that makes me stressed, anxious, or afraid of failure.
Like many people, I grew up in a family where meat was always the star of the dinner table. But coming to Penn has made me curious about veganism—the lifestyle choice of not using or consuming animal products—especially since, for the first time in my life, I live in a big city with more vegan food options.
The July heat surrounded Claudia Chung (C ‘20) as she stood on the streets of Yuen Long, a town in northwest Hong Kong. Sweat stuck to her clothes as she walked in a crowd of thousands, many dressed head–to–toe in black shirts and pants, thick gloves, hard hats, and face masks. From above, the protesters looked like a sea of floating umbrellas—a safeguard against pepper spray and rubber bullets. In Claudia’s backpack were two liters of water, goggles, and a first aid kit she hoped she wouldn’t have to use.
Jana Pugsley (C‘22) was used to the metal detector that greeted her at the entrance of Central High School every morning. She was used to subsidized breakfast and lunch, to bathrooms without toilet paper, to letters in the mail from teachers begging parents for photocopy paper.
Yesterday was 84 degrees. Today, it’s a middling 65. As I trek through a brisk wind and spatters of rain to Cira Green, I wonder if this is the turning point—the final traces of summer flickering away into a muted gray fall.
An iconic part of my Chinese upbringing was watching my parents fold dumplings at the kitchen table. As a kid, seeing my mother transform meat, veggies, and dough into hundreds of delicately wrapped pouches with her hands was magical. I was lucky that I could eat them straight out of the pot whenever I wanted, and it wasn’t until college that I realized fresh Chinese food was something I took for granted.
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