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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Looking Back on Fall Semester Part II

A fall scenery with pumpkins around a lantern

At the end of summer break, I couldn't believe that I was already going to be entering my sophomore year at Swarthmore. Now I can't believe that the first semester of my sophomore year already came to an end!

It was an action-packed, full-of-new-adventures kind of semester. Compared to freshman fall, there was so much that I had to/wanted to do. During my freshman year, my mom would say I looked like I was at a summer camp; I didn't want winter/summer break to happen because then I would have to stop having fun at college with all my new friends. But, since I was juggling so much this semester, I found myself looking forward to taking a break.

I want to take this time to reflect on different areas of my life that happened during my sophmore year fall semester.


Classes I Took:

I took 4.5 credits this semester, including half a semester of fitness training for a PE credit. Considering that 4 is the recommended number of credits that a Swarthmore student takes, it wasn't too bad. But some classes did give me a run for my money.

First-Year Japanese:

Oh, it's a beginner-level language class. How hard can it be? WRONG. All Swarthmore language classes are notorious for being extremely fast-paced, with a lot of work to do in and outside of class. Japanese was not an exception. We, of course, started out pretty mellow. Learn Hiragana and Katakana, speak a few phrases, etc. But by the third week, we were already having full-on conversations! Did I also mention that this class happens every, single, day, and that we get assignments every day?

Sometimes, I would get stressed out by how many vocabulary words we had to memorize or the tests and quizzes that happened so often. But I have to say, by the end of the semester, I was having 10-minute conversations with the professors, knew more Kanji than I thought I would, and could read and write pretty easily in Japanese. I had a 'knowing a similar Asian language' advantage, which really helped me memorize some words and understand the nuances of the grammar structures (especially particle uses). I also enjoyed the activities that happened outside of classes, like making onigiris and the end-of-semester party (where we performed skits that we wrote ourselves).

Ultimately, I had a lot of fun learning this new (fourth) language and hope to continue being on top of things for this class because I’m obligated to continue this class in the spring semester..! At least it gives me 1.5 credits 😚

Pictures taken at the Onigiri Action event!

Fan Culture:

I added this film studies class kind of last minute because I got lotteried out of two classes that I wanted to take. Although this was not an 'introduction to film studies class', I was somehow let in, which was surprising because it did say that I needed an intro film studies class as a pre-requisite (or I'm just imagining things). This class was definitely not an 'easy class' - anyone who told me that this class just 'writes fanfiction' or 'watches movies', I don't trust you anymore 😒.

But jokes aside, it was a class that was very different from the rest of my classes, which made it pretty interesting. Also, it was a 3-hour seminar class, so I only had to go to class once a week on Mondays. I read a lot of academic articles on studies done to understand the fan culture phenomenon and how and why fans create communities through different themes like 'transformative fan works' and 'copyright laws'. The assignment for this class was also refreshing because it wasn't just 'write an essay'. I wrote an autoethnography on my journey as a fan of something, delving deep into questions of why it attracted me and why I got so into it. I also made a fan edit of one of the movies that we watched, completely rewriting the story that was 'canon'. This class helped me understand myself better by looking at the things I like (and thus, make up a part of who I am).

Stats 21:

This was a class that I was a little nervous to take because the class before this (Stats 11) didn't go so smoothly for me. But I had a lot of friends who were taking this course, and I really wanted to up my game in R (programming language for statistics), so I thought this would be the best time.

The homework assignments sometimes got me stumped, but the professor for this class did a great job in clearly explaining processes on how to approach analyzing data, and all the things I was confused about started to make sense to me. The midterms were great because it was open-book and open-internet, so I could say that my search skills really improved. This class allowed me to explore the different ways that different types of data can be analyzed and how to be critical consumers of data reports. There are so many ways to skew and change the dataset to the point where the original 'findings' are not correctly displayed. Since I'll be handling data a lot in the future (in psychology), I'm glad I have a solid foundation.

Research & Design Methods:

This was my psychology class of the semester. As a pre-requisite course for the upper-level psychology courses, I wanted to get this done as soon as possible. This class was all about learning how to conduct psychology experiments in a coherent and effective manner. Although I learned some design methods and statistical tests during IB and through some of the other psychology classes that I've done so far, it was good to get a reminder (and delve deeper) into what makes a valid, reliable psychology experiment.

For a while, this class stressed me out a little because there were so many little checkpoints along the way that prepared us for the final project (which was having an academic poster session for the experiment I designed and conducted and writing a fully-fledged report on the narrative of the experiment. But in the end, I was glad that it happened in little parts because I just had to put them all together (Kind of. I did have to do a lot of editing and rewriting.) in the end. It also helped that I was taking Stats 21 because many statistical tests and methods of analyzing data, like ANOVA tests, looking for interactions, and checking the integrity of the data, were taught in both classes, so I was getting double the exposure, helping me really set the information in my mind. I'm really proud of the experiment I conducted, the poster I created, and the final paper I wrote.

Poster session for the students' experiments

Club Activities:

This fall semester has been quite an excitement for me in terms of the club activities I got started on. At the clubs/activities fair, I was roped into auditioning for Swarthmore's (best) a cappella group, Grapevine. With their signature colors of green and purple, I was intrigued by what it would be like to take part.

After the first audition and a call-back audition, I was told I got in! For the 'initiation' process, I was "ambushed" by the current members of Grapevine where they sang me a song. Then I was going around the whole campus, trying to find the other people who got in.

Even with the 6-hour rehearsal schedule, we were always having so much fun. It felt like I found a warm, welcoming community within the Swarthmore community that I already enjoyed being in. We had our Grapevine Concert and a combined concert (called Jambo) with the other three a cappella groups at Swarthmore. Even though I haven't known the Grapevine members for a long time, we got very close very soon. Now I know that these people have my back!

Another club that kept me busy was the i20 Board. I got selected as one of the board members of the international students club (named The i20 Club after the legal document needed to get a US Visa) as a graphics designer/promotion representative. After my great work in designing the logo and t-shirt for international orientation, I knew I would be getting it 😝. We would discuss many events that the club was planning to host, and myself and another friend would be in charge of creating promotional material for that. It was nice that I was able to keep my ties with the international students even after international orientation. The Fall Feast was a hit, where I made tteokbokki (spicy rice cake) with a Korean friend. It's a Thanksgiving tradition for international students to gather and share cultural food.

Picture from Jambo Concert (left), the tteokbokki we made (center, right)

Finding a New Job:

After a year of not thinking that I needed a job, I landed a job as a lab assistant at Swarthmore's developmental psychology lab! I reached out to the new developmental psychology professor, and she offered to have me help in the lab. I wanted to do research, but I thought it would be best to get some hands-on experience on the procedures first. I've created a website on WordPress, organized files and binders, and sorted through wires and gadgets to get set up for the beginning of lab experiments in the spring semester. It's quite exciting to be of help in a psychology lab, and I even get access to the lab room whenever I want! So it's quite a good deal. I hope to learn a lot from this job.

Lifestyle Updates:

This is kind of big - I finally managed to break my habit of biting around my nails! For a more extensive story of why this was such a big problem for me, go take a look at this post. I wanted to try those 'DIY gel nails' after seeing ads on Instagram all the time. I got everything set up and did them quite perfectly, but every time people asked me if they could see my nails, I felt a little embarrassed by the fact that the skin around my nails was so tattered and raw (because I chewed on them). That's when I became really determined to break this bad habit.

And just like how I broke my habit of biting my nails a few years ago, it kind of happened all of a sudden. I would recognize and isolate the urge to bite, spot patterns on what triggered that response, and just generally try to keep my hands away from my mouth. Something that really worked well as an intervention for my hands that now lost a way to go to my mouth, was having a fidget toy in my hand. I used a lot of different types of fidget toys in the past for precisely this reason, but I would find them a nuisance to carry around (if they were too big), and I felt a bit self-conscious pressing on a cube with all sorts of pegs and buttons in public that made clicky noises. I would lose interest (or just lose track of where I put it) in a few days, and I would be back on square one.

But the magnetic putty, Speks, was different (disclaimer: I am not, in any way, affiliated with this company - I want to share what worked for me). It was small enough to fit in my palms discreetly, and it didn't make a sound, which meant that I could use it in study rooms and even during class. It looked pretty, and because it was magnetic, it didn't leave residue on my fingers or become messy. Whenever I felt the urge to take my hand to my mouth, I would just play with the magnetic putty instead. Now, I don't always need it to not bite around my nails. It actually feels pretty weird taking my finger to my mouth now, let alone chewing on the skin.

I'm also really happy that I got to connect with friends, new and old, more this semester. I would have designated breakfasts, little talks, karaoke nights, and dine-ins with them. These really helped me through times when I felt a little overwhelmed by the workload.

Me having some autumn fun!


There you have it! A run-down of how my sophomore fall semester went :) I'm looking forward to the spring semester and what it has to offer!

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