My 3-step descent into coffee snobdom

never drank coffee.

Not in high school. Not during my undergrad years. The most caffeine I got was from chocolate and maybe tea. No matter how much work I had, or how tired I was, coffee was never on the menu.

And then I moved to Seattle.

I held out for a year. Coffee was never part of my daily routine, you know? About a year ago, though, I fell down the coffee rabbit hole and never came out.

It wasn’t an instant thing. I didn’t start chugging coffee from first sip. My descent into coffeedom started slowly, gradually, via this multi-step slide into caffeination…

Step 1: Grad school.

It’s the classic story. Grad students are busy, have tons of work, and get no sleep. I entered a master’s program in a subject I had never studied before. Many late-night hours were spent agonizing over my code, trying to figure out why things didn’t work.


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I was tempted to reach for coffee. But I didn’t. I hadn’t before, why should I now?

Well, let’s throw another factor into the mix:

Step 2: The Eternal Gloom.

For those who don’t know, Seattle is a… special kind of city.

Here were some actual news headlines about Seattle this year:

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Seattle is as gloomy as it gets. Once autumn hits, expect to not see the sun until May. There can be weeks– months– of thick overcast and constant drizzle. Even when you’re outside at noon, it looks as though the sun had just set. It’s that dark.

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I grew up in a much sunnier place. Sure, it gets cold in Philadelphia and Boston– much colder than Seattle– but at least it’d be sub-freezing and sunny. My body was not, and still isn’t, used to the constant gloom. So, during the winter, I’m constantly tired.

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One of the first things I did was buy one of those sun therapy lamps. You know, the ones that are supposed to mimic real sunlight? You’re supposed to sit in front of it for 15 minutes daily. I would leave it on all day.

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Yeah. It wasn’t happening.

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I had to wake up somehow.


Step 3: The City of Coffee Snobs

Now it’s time to share a few facts about Seattle.

  1. Seattle has 1,692 coffee shops in the city, averaging out to 253 shops per 100,000 residents. For reference: NYC only has 103 coffee shops per 100,000 residents.
  2. Seattle is not only the birthplace of Starbucks, but home to over 200 Starbucks stores. There’s a Starbucks on every corner, I swear.
  3. In 2014, Seattleites spent $141.33 per person on coffee, behind only San Fran and San Jose as the highest spenders on coffee.
  4. We have a coffee subscription service that will ship you fresh coffee beans from one of Seattle’s independent roasters each month.

So. Imagine that you haven’t seen the sun in months. You haven’t been sleeping much due to your looming deadlines and confusing assignments. You live in a city that is so full of coffee-obsessed people that there are coffee shops on every block. And not just ordinary cafes where coffee is served as an afterthought– I’m talking about specialty stores that will source, roast, and brew their own coffee beans.

Now imagine that every day you walk by a sidewalk espresso bar (which, by the way, I didn’t know was a thing until moving here) that always smells delicious.

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There was one particularly gloomy night where it was late and I was coding.

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This espresso bar is open until 11PM.

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I gave in, pulled on my raincoat, and walked the five minutes from my apartment to the espresso bar.

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Da fuq were all these words? I went with the only menu item I knew: the latte.


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Pretty as it was, I drank it, of course. I wanted my caffeine.

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Holy shit. This was a game-changer.

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Oh my god, I didn’t even know coffee could be that good.

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Still, I resolved. I’ll only get coffee when I’m really exhausted. 

In the gloomy Seattle winter, I’m always exhausted.

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Soon, I found myself enjoying coffee for the flavor rather than just for the caffeine. I would buy coffee and sit in a cafe whenever my home internet died. I got coffee with friends. I got coffee with coworkers. I bought myself a coffeemaker and a bean grinder. Coffee– good coffee– is woven into the fabric of Seattle culture, something I didn’t realize until I went back to the East Coast and got brunch with my friends…

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Bitter, burnt, watered-down. I didn’t realize the standard to which Seattle holds its coffee until I went somewhere else.

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And to this day, I’m known as the coffee snob among my East Coast friends.

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Well, the haters gonna hate, and I’m gonna caffeinate.

I’m graduated!

Well, almost graduated. Grades aren’t released for another few days, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t fail any classes this semester. (Please be merciful, professors)

Turning in my last assignment was a bit of a shock. Immediately after, I was still in student mode. My friend asked me:

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It took a few days to sink in. I couldn’t shake the anxiety. How could I not have deadlines?! Projects?! Work that will cut into my sleep schedule and make me consume even more coffee?!

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Though, to be fair, that also cut into my sleep as well.

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So now I’m home for the holidays! I’m taking some time off before starting work full-time in February. Current plans? Sleeping, trying to wean myself off caffeine, and reminding myself that, by some miracle, I have a master’s degree.

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Because let me tell you, I sure don’t feel like a “master” of anything yet.

I should be more chill. As my professor reminded me…

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Looks like the learning doesn’t end even when you’re out of school! Except this time, I don’t have to bury myself in debt to do so. In fact, I’ll even get paid!

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Cheers to that!

In which I try to be fashionable, part 2

This summer, I interned at Nordstrom, a chain of clothing stores. Not just any clothing stores, but high-end, luxury department stores that sells the latest trends and finest designer goods.

So, despite being in tech, I still see some very fashionable people at work.

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This wouldn’t do. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not very fashionable. If I was to work at a company that hopes to be the fashion authority, I had to step up my game.

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There was only one problem.

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I don’t know how to match clothes. I don’t know what fits me. I have no idea how to put an outfit together. I’ve gotten away with it at work by wearing dresses, like, all the time. It’s just one item and I don’t have to think about it!

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There was only one thing to do.

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I’ve used Pinterest in the past to brainstorm art and photography ideas. Why couldn’t it work for fashion?

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All the outfits I found seemed designed for those gorgeous, long-legged models who you could dress in a garbage bag and still make it work. My body type is a little less forgiving.

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It was time for more research. 

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I started reading the female fashion advice subreddit.

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I got a headache trying to process all of it.

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It was time for the next step.

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I enlisted the help of my fashionable friend from LA. We ended up going to Nordstrom (intern discount, yay!) where she encouraged me to find my own personal style.

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It was a 180 from my previous shopping experiences with my family.

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So this was a totally new, self-empowered approach to shopping.

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And at the end of the night, I actually bought clothes. That I actually liked. And they were on sale!

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Emboldened by my success, I decided that it was time to step it up.

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This time, I enlisted the help of three friends to help me shop. Three times the people, three times the success, right?

And three times the volume, it seems.

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It kind of became a dress up game for my friends.

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But it worked! In the end, I found a bunch of clothes I liked and bought even more. (I had a gift card that I needed to spend, so I didn’t even feel bad about it!)

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I couldn’t believe it. My coworkers noticed my sudden change in clothes. Even my mom approved of my new look.

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Then, my quest for fashion peaked with one friend’s invite:

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A what?

So there’s this clothing line called Cabi that has an interesting business model. Basically, Cabi stylists host these “fashion experiences” where the stylist will walk you through that season’s Cabi clothes. Then, you can try on the clothes samples, get fit and style advice, and order any pieces you like. The idea is to have an intimate setting where you and your girlfriends can drink wine, eat snacks, and shop for trendy clothes with a professional stylist.

I didn’t even know something like that existed. It was, again, a totally new experience for me.


Yeah. I know nothing about fashion. I’m not girly. I don’t even like shopping. The whole affair was way outside my comfort zone.  Not to mention that I was probably the youngest person there– Cabi seems to be more popular with the middle-aged crowd.

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After the stylist presented all the clothes, we were given the chance to try them on.

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Might as well just go for it, right? I started picking random items from the rack and trying them on. Much to the delight of the middle-aged ladies around me.

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The stylist helped me out.

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Believe it or not, though, the stylist was super helpful! She gave honest advice and never pressured anyone into purchasing clothes– even telling people not to buy if she thought the piece didn’t fit. With her help, I ended up finding some clothes that I really liked! I asked the stylist if I could place an order.

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I felt bad for the stylist, but damn! I had paid for next semester’s tuition that morning. I did not have that money to spare.

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My friend rescued me.

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I ended up buying just a skirt. At a steep discount. Because I’m still in grad school, goddammit!

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In the end, though, I’d say this summer was a success! For the first time, I actually tried to learn how to dress myself. My coworkers have been very entertained by my quest for fashion.

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Deep down, though, I think my clothing preferences have remained the same.

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Sorry, mom– the sports shorts and tank tops aren’t going away anytime soon.

In which I try to be fashionable

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been at war with my mom.

It’s been going on for years. There has been blood. Sweat. Tears. Drama. And it’s always been about one thing:

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That’s right, everyone. I confess.

I am not a fashionable person.

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I guess I never cared as a kid. Or as a teenager. Or now. I wore sports sneakers every day until my senior year of high school, and didn’t start even attempting makeup until I graduated. Even in elementary school I thought fashion trends were stupid and that comfort trumped all. Just call me a 7-year-old hipster.

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I hated shopping. Back in the day, I’d bring my Gameboy while my mom and sis hunted for sales.

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To this day, I really only shop when I actually need something. Nothing brings me greater joy than to dress in shorts, a loose tank, and a comfortable hoodie.

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Fast forward to last winter, when I was searching desperately for an internship. My school managed to arrange a visit to Nordstrom, a chain of high-end department stores in the US and Canada. A group of students, including me, were able to meet current Nordstrom tech employees and even listen one of the VPs speak about the company.

I have to say, he sold it.

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So I applied. And lo and behold, I got an interview.

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So imagine my shock — and my family’s shock — when I got the internship.

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I was really nervous. What if everyone there dressed really nicely? Would I need to up my fashion game to work there?

Then, on my first day, I met some of my coworkers.

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I mean, I still try to dress properly for work. I’m an intern, not a full-time developer. Plus my mom would have a fit otherwise.

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Gotta dress to impress, especially if you like the job! Which I do. The work is interesting. Everyone’s been really nice and helpful. I’m learning a lot!

About both technology, and fashion.

And my knowledge is a little uneven.

The other day, the interns got to go on a tour of our flagship store in downtown Seattle. We were taken around the store before it opened and got to see all the brands and designers that we carry.

It was like… how I imagine a non-programmer feels when they hear software developers talk.

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Seriously. Like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

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After the tour, they set us loose for a half hour to shop around.

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Overwhelmed by the fancy clothes, I immediately headed for the electronics section.

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But hey, who knows? Maybe Nordstrom will have a positive influence on me and I’ll suddenly become fashionable. I did see some items that I would buy!

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Or maybe not.


My brief life as a professional dog walker

When I first moved to Seattle, I decided to take a day to explore the city. I figured it was a good way to get a feel for the place. I strolled from my apartment to downtown to see the sights.


Seattle seemed pretty alright! Lots of coffee shops, fancy apartment complexes, and–


–on the corner of Olive and 9th, the greatest sight of all.



A doggy in the window! I love dogs. I never had one growing up, so I’ve always been extra fond of the fluffy buddies.

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What is this magical place I had happened upon?! There were dogs. A room full of dogs. Multiple rooms full of dogs!



It was a doggy daycare. A DOGGY DAYCARE! Several rooms just full of adorable, fluffy, beautiful dogs, playing and napping and eating and MY GOD, JUST BEING SO FREAKING CUTE.


It was puppy heaven, except for one thing: a pane of glass between me and those dogs.


There were people working in this doggy daycare, hanging out in the dog rooms. Their job was to be surrounded by dogs! They could pet the dogs all they wanted! And get paid for it!

I was jealous.


I whipped out my phone.


And believe it or not, I found my answer… on Craigslist.


That’s right: Craigslist is where I found my big break. I immediately submitted an application and sent in my most polished, up-to-date resume.


I even wrote a cover letter. A COVER LETTER. TO WALK DOGS.


My effort paid off! I got an interview.


After two weeks of training and a background check, I was living my dream. Walking and playing with dogs. Every day! And getting paid for it!


Well, OK. There’s more to the job than that.

Every dog has their own personality. You have to learn how to handle each one.

One dog, for example, liked to attack other dogs.


Another dog liked to attack skateboards.

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One dog liked pulling on her leash. Really hard.


I had one dog who was especially strong-willed. Unlike most dogs, this one hated going outside. Especially if it was chilly. Or raining. And in Seattle, it’s like that 9 out of 12 months of the year.


Most dogs come running to the door to greet you. This dog, I had to drag out of bed.


There was only one time that this dog greeted me happily when I came in.


Nope. Turns out the dog had pooed in the apartment. And boy, was she happy about it.


Until I took her on her walk anyway.


Man, I loved that dog so much.

That’s not sarcasm. I loved ALL my dogs. I loved, loved, LOVED my job. I mean, imagine seeing these guys every day!

I absolutely love and adore all dogs. I thought this job would desensitize me to dogs and help me STOP gushing all over them. Nope. It made it worse.


I showed off my clients every chance I got.



Dog walking is, really, my dream job. I could walk dogs for the rest of my life and be totally fine with it. Unfortunately, though, it’s not something you can make a career out of.

Computer science, on the other hand, is something that can turn into a full-time job. And I needed to focus on school.

I had to prioritize.


So, after weeks of agonizing, I made my decision. I met up with my boss. My boss is a great guy, and was very understanding.


Ok, ok. School is important. Building my career is important. BUT I WAS STILL REALLY DEVASTATED OVER LOSING MY BABIES.



For WEEKS I had withdrawal. Is that even possible? Withdrawal from your daily dose of happy, fluffy, unconditionally loving cuteness? LET ME TELL YOU: IT’S POSSIBLE.


And to this day, I’m still obsessed with dogs.



My love-hate relationship with computer science

I’ve had one hell of an extended absence from the internet. My last post was last September. It’s March now. What happened to me?

Well, this happened.

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Yep, my foolhardy self decided it would be a great idea to move across the country and learn computer science. In a master’s program. Even though I’ve never touched code before.

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My program is a little different from your typical CS master’s degree. The first year is supposed to be a “crash course” in comp sci, an intense information overload designed to get you up to speed. After that, the rest of the program is master level courses.

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I mean, it’s impossible to fit four years of coursework into one. Not that they haven’t tried. Our professors are not afraid to introduce content fast. 

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And the professors are not afraid to give us work. The assignments we’ve received have been long and daunting. When I’m not at work or in class, I’m coding.

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Even when I’m not coding… I’m coding.

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And when I’m REALLY not coding… I’m thinking about how I should be coding.

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Hell, the only reason I’m able to blog right now is because I’m on spring break. Even as I write this, though, I’m thinking:

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Learning computer science is different from learning biology. Biology requires a lot of memorization. Even if I didn’t understand something fully, I could often BS my way through class from sheer rote memory.

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Computer science is not like that. Learning comp sci is like learning how to solve increasingly complex logic problems. You have to understand everything, or your program won’t work.

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Thus, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with programming. Programming can be incredibly frustrating. I have spent hours and hours stuck on one problem, unable to debug it or Google a solution.

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I’ve never been this intellectually challenged, ever. I made it through college! I can’t be that dumb. But in this program, I feel flat-out stupid.

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Yeah. I’m 60% sure that my professor thinks I’m a dumbass.

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Or maybe we just like to give each other shit. (In all honesty, though, he’s a great teacher!)

So, yeah. Coding! Who knew that it would mean hours upon hours of frustration, swearing, stress eating, and punching walls? Sometimes, all at the same time?

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Since I entered this program just to try it out, my friends often ask how I’m finding it so far.

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To be honest, I don’t know if it’s a yes. Those hours of banging my head on my keyboard? They suck. But when all that struggle turns into a running program, I’m all like,

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Either way, I’m lucky to get to try it in the first place– and I think I’ll be sticking with it for a little longer.








In which I ditch my degree and move across the country.

I graduated.

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It’s a weird feeling. I’m done college. I’m supposed to go find work. Get my own apartment. Start a 401k. Be a grown-up and all that. That’s the general plan for college graduates, right?

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So, last February, I started looking for employment. I attended job fairs, sought advice from my career office, and sent my resume out to dozens of employers. You know the drill.

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All so I could start my exciting future as a full-fledged adult.

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With a bachelor’s degree in biology, I was likely to get some sort of lab technician job. You know, pipetting, running gels, growing cell cultures, doing someone else’s experiment for them. I more or less know the drill. I’ve done two co-ops in the pharma industry, and one internship in an academic research lab. Let me just say, I run a mean lab bench.

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So, yeah. Graduating college, getting some lab work. All very exciting stuff.

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It was amidst all my frantic job-hunting that I received this e-mail from Northeastern.

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Seriously, though, what was this? I’ve never taken a class in computer science before.

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The rest of the e-mail went on to describe why computer science was awesome, and why I should accept this spontaneous admission to some random master’s program. I know nothing about coding, but: it’s okay! This particular master’s program is designed for students with no prior programming experience. What’s more, the e-mail was signed by Northeastern’s dean of the College of Computer and Information Science. Northeastern does have a small campus in Seattle, it’s true. Was this legit?

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I guess we were about to find out.

What compelled me to even go to this informational lunch? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was my overwhelming enthusiasm for my future lab job. Or, my love for the study of biology.

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So my friend and I went to the informational lunch. We’re both in the sciences, though, and any good scientist has a healthy amount of skepticism.

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The dean had brought her second-in-command and two current grad students with her. They buttered me, and the handful of students who came, up with food and drink and handshakes and flattery.

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They then proceeded to give us the most enthusiastic pitch I’ve ever seen.

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Unfortunately for them, I wasn’t the only one who came in skeptical. One girl raised her hand and asked,

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I added my thoughts.

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And finally, another girl asked it straight:

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The dean seemed shocked that we thought it was a scam. For her, setting up this program had taken years. But, to us… let’s be real. Out of nowhere, you’re offered admission– and a scholarship– to a master’s program you hadn’t even heard of?

I wanted to cut the crap and hear the real deal. Civilly, of course.

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She went on to explain. Northeastern’s Seattle campus was built only a few years ago. It offers a number of graduate programs, including the master’s of computer science. Northeastern is hoping to grow the Seattle campus to have a couple hundred students, but they’re having trouble.

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The truth comes out: their program needs home-grown females. So, they’re offering us admission and a scholarship. That way, we could go and do the first semester for free. Try it out. If we don’t like it, we can always drop out and go home.

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My friend turned to me.

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If you haven’t seen the Sassy Gay Friend videos, you are missing out.

So, the dean and her crew seemed desperate determined to bring in some local, female students. Not everyone was as keen as they were, though. Take my friend, for instance.

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And this girl.

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They had contacted us too late. It was already April, graduation was approaching, and future plans were already finalized. Except for my own.

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I once again turned to the Sassy Gay Friend.

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I think you can guess what I chose.

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And that’s why, right now, you can find me in Seattle, Washington, starting anew with only my suitcases and my nerves.

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I guess Sassy Gay Friend said it best.

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Let’s see how long I last.

Hello, world!

Uh, hi.

I’ve been gone.

For a while.

Five months, to be exact.

I had reasons! I swear! No, seriously. My life has been a bit crazy for the past few months.

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And that was only May.

As for the rest of the time, I’ve been occupied doing something else entirely. Remember when I decided, last-minute, to get an art minor? Well, I probably should have planned for it a little sooner than my senior year. I wanted to get this minor, but still graduate on time in the spring. This turned out to be… complicated.

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Okay, I’m exaggerating. Northeastern offers exactly two basic art courses in the summer, courses I had already taken and didn’t need.

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The art advisor hesitated.

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Excuse me?

She was serious. This was a real thing starting this year. If I went abroad for two months to some tiny, tiny town in Ireland, I could get the art minor and graduate by August.

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Yeah. The situation was absurd. I couldn’t get my art minor at Northeastern this summer… I could only do it in Ireland.

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I’m stupid.

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So, dearest readers, that’s where I’ve been all summer.

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And man, was that the weirdest trip of my life.

Art does not compute

I’m all arted out.

Can you tell? You probably can. This blog is usually my creative outlet. The fact that I’ve neglected it for so long means that my artistic energies have been directed elsewhere.

Where, you ask?

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Yeah. In a last-minute, last-year-of-college panic, I decided to declare an art minor.

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Therefore, I’m taking two art classes this semester. One is called “Conceptual Drawing”…

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…and the other is “2D Foundations.”

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This was going to be good. I already knew it.

The first week of class started out slow. The professors kept it basic. My conceptual drawing professor gave us this exercise:

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Uh, sure. I know what that is. Just kidding, I’m a biology student!

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Our first project was to use the marks we made and compose a larger drawing from them. Then, we brought the drawings into class. Each student was asked to explain their work, and then received critique from the professor and students.

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Then, they got to me.

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Ok, ok. If I’m going to do an art minor, I can’t keep using that excuse. But the truth is, I’m used to hearing people talk about supercoiled plasmids, or carbonic anhydrases, or, you know, the oxidation of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate. I am not used to all this artsy terminology.

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What I especially don’t get is how subjective all of this is. I need numbers! Formulas! I took a color theory class last semester. Our first assignment was to paint a color wheel.

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It’s mostly this conceptual drawing class, really. For some reason, it just doesn’t compute in my head.

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Thus, I tend to take the class too literally.

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Another surprising part of art is how time consuming it is. I mean, I should know that better than anyone—a single blog post usually takes between 6-10 hours to make. The time I usually use to blog has been used for my art projects instead.

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Honestly, it’s more time-consuming than studying for classes! You can often find me in the art studio of my university all day, regretting a particular design choice or composition.

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It’s been crazy. I’ve been straining a completely different part of my brain, a part that I’ve barely flexed before. It’s a stretch, a challenge for someone like me.

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And I totally love it.

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I don’t know how to describe my feelings. Art is different, somehow. There’s the satisfaction of producing something that is completely your own. There’s the frustration of wanting to improve your skills, your ideas, your designs. And there’s the fulfillment of knowing that you made something beautiful. Something that can’t be explained or rationalized, but somehow still has value.

It’s something I’ve never experienced before, in all my years of studying biology—the sense that, for once, I’m doing what I was meant to do.

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It’s not like much has changed, though. I’m still a biology student. I’m still destined to live in a laboratory, pipetting the same liquids into the same machines. Maybe I’ll even get to go to grad school one day, so I can memorize the theory behind enzyme-lined immunosorbent assays or the importance of bovine serum albumin.

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But for now, I have the chance to grasp at what I wish I could be. I’ll learn as much as I can, for as long as it lasts.

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So, if you need me, before I move into the lab—I’ll be living in the art studio, getting paint everywhere.

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Want to see what I’ve been working on in class? Look below, and follow me on Instagram!


In which a grown man rolls around in the snow

So, like I said before, my long-distance boyfriend is currently on exchange in the US.

Not just the US, but in Boston. At my school, Northeastern University.

How rad is that?!

It’s rad for me, but I think it’s been even more rad for him. The Northeast US is very different from what he’s used to. This boy is tropical, born and raised. His hometown has two seasons: hot, and hot and wet. His university, in Sydney, experiences 300 days of sunshine per year. This summer, he experienced temperatures in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

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As a result, he’s never seen snow. Not in person, anyway. Everyone’s seen it on TV– in those Christmas specials and the Harry Potter films– but he (and most Australians) has never seen snow.

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Thus, whenever I sent him snapchats all like

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He’d always respond

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When we finally found out that he was coming to the US, he was excited. I’m sure you can figure out why.

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Clearly, he didn’t understand just how horrendous the cold could be. How could he know? He’s never experienced it before. At my urging, and his mom’s insistence, he went out and got winter clothes for the first time.

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Finally, he arrived in the US. In the middle of December. I greeted him in the airport, where it was heated and warm and indicated nothing of what was to come.
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Then, we went outside.
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His face was priceless.
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He tried to laugh it off.
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I had to explain to him that, just because it’s below freezing, it doesn’t mean that it’s snowing. He looked like a wounded puppy.
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But he perked up real fast.
Back in Philly, however, it doesn’t snow all that often. Not as much as it does in Boston, that’s for sure. We’ll get snow a couple times a year, maybe. The boyfriend got over the novelty of the cold real fast, and waited eagerly for his first snow.
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Then, finally:
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That night, I went to bed. I’m not sure if he did, as excited as he was. The next morning, I was forcefully awakened.
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As it turned out, the snow had arrived, and the boyfriend had already gone out to play. As I sleepily ate breakfast, he shared his observations with me.
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He even took videos.
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By now, I had come to view snow mostly as a nuisance. It’s a pain to walk through. It’s even worse to drive in. I commute to school by bicycle, and nothing screws up your trip more than icy roads and snow in your face.
But seeing the boyfriend all throughout that day…
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…reminded me that snow is, actually, kind of nice.
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And that, as boring as I find my hometown, other people find it fascinating. It’s strange, being on the other side of a foreign exchange. Usually I’m the one freaking out, you know?
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Finally, the boyfriend and I went up to Boston. I figured he might like it. It snows a lot more here, so he’d get to see it more often!
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Maybe a little too often.
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I, as the good girlfriend, comforted him about the unfortunate weather.
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Looks like he’s adjusting well.
By the way, the boyfriend is making a USA video blog! Here’s one he made about his first snow. I even cameo in it!