Hey! It’s been a while. And what a year it’s been!

It’s been such a big year. I don’t even know where to start. I know I’ve been away from this blog for over half a year, and it kind of feels like I haven’t seen a good friend in a while. There’s so much to catch up on, and I don’t even know where to begin. I have so much I want to say, yet I don’t know if I can express it all in words, or if I can even recall it all.

Here is a run-down of the “sections” my 2017 was kind of split into:


Wow, co-op was so fun. It was so nice having a life outside of work! I feel like I blogged a good amount throughout my co-op term in Waterloo, so there isn’t too much new content to share on this front. I’m still very thankful for the friends I met, the lessons and skills I learned, and the things I made while in Ontario, and I’m excited for my next co-op term.

Building a Robot

I built an autonomous robot!—at least, part of one. In a team of four, I built an autonomous robot for ENPH 253, a summer course that was probably the best course I’ve ever taken. I had no idea how this robot would be made. I had some rudimentary knowledge of how to analyze a basic circuit and a bending beam, but I definitely didn’t have the skillset to actually build something. Luckily for me—and something I didn’t realize—was that that very feeling was one of the key reasons behind having a robot-building course like 253. Why would “Introduction to Instrument Design” be designed for experienced instrument designers? (that is the name of the course; we did not make musical instruments. if we did, i would love to build a piano!) And so, I soldered (decently, I think), CAD modelled (poorly, I’m certain), and coded (no idea how this went), all with the help of my instructors and peers. By the end of the summer, my team had a robot that could complete the entire competition course on its own. It decided to do so right before and right after the competition, but it’s okay……………..it’s fine……………….

I feel like I write about my general feeling of incompetence a lot, but it was and continues to be a very real thing for me. I really started from the bottom for this course—I didn’t know what heat shrink was, I forgot to slide heat shrink on and had to remake cables several times, I melted components, my team’s robot was almost set on fire again (the first fire was caused by a problem with our microcontroller!!) because I didn’t know how to use a multimeter, and more. But there were also successes. I made things work! The peak detector circuit I made was reliable throughout the course (yay!). I was able to put together a central power supply for other circuits to connect to. I remembered to turn on the soldering fan most of the time. Little things.

I need to remember that I shouldn’t just write myself off all the time before I even get started.  Sometimes, I try writing with my left hand. It looks like how I wrote when I was five years old—and this makes sense. That’s how my right hand wrote when I was five, but over time, with a lot of practice, my writing got better (or more standard, I guess). Similarly—of course I wasn’t able to build a robot before the summer. When had I ever tried? I shouldn’t have let that scare me as much as it did. In addition to that, I am surrounded by very competent people in my program, who DO have experience with robot-building, and other engineering things. It’s hard to self-validate my identity as an engineer when I seem way less engineer-y than everyone around me. But that doesn’t mean I’m a fraud. It doesn’t mean I’m bad, I’m any less—I’m fine. And I have to keep going.

So, I learned a lot about robot-building, and I also learned that I shouldn’t say I can’t do things until I actually try them. If I still can’t do them, that’s fine—but at least I then know there is some truth in those feelings.

Being In Actual School Again

My last “real” school term was Sept-Dec 2016. This really wasn’t that long ago, but it sure felt like it!

I struggled to find meaning this term. I take pride in the work I do, and I feel like my work conveys who I am as a person. This is good, in that I try my best in the things I do—my work is an extension of me, so why would I want it to be an extension of the bad parts of me? This is also bad—I get attached to my work, I start placing self-worth into the things I do, and I feel like I’m a worse version of myself when I’m not actively “doing good in the world”, by my own standards.

I like being busy, and I like being excited about the things I’m working on. However, I find that it’s a tricky balance between this buzz and the burnout that so often comes along for the ride. This balance is one I definitely haven’t found yet—surprise, surprise! I don’t really have good insight to give here—just that I seem to ALWAYS be figuring out who I am, what I want to do, and how to get there without burning out all the time.

I recently read through my journal, and it sure seems like I have the same revelations over and over again. I like to do things! But how many things? Why am I doing so much? Why am I doing so little? What do I want to contribute to this world? I want to be happy. I know what makes me happy. Why am I not happy? Big, recurring, never-implemented, but genius-at-the-time idea: wake up at 6am every day to exercise, meditate, and journal! Apparently, I think I’m discovering new things about myself all the time, when many of them really aren’t that new to my sense of self-awareness. I don’t really know what to do about this. Reflect? Try to goal-set every day? Type out my goals in a spreadsheet and make some cells turn red if the goals within the past few months have too much in common with each other? I’ll try to be more aware of this (ha) in the coming year, and see if it does me any good.

I also did a lot of new things this term! Rain-activated public art, two hackathons (one in Waterloo, ON, and one in Princeton, NJ), and a small talks event for my program—things that I’d never even have imagined before this year. This was all very exciting and unexpected, and it showed me the fun in having flex time in my schedule. I want to keep doing little personal projects in the coming year, because they really help me with feeling grounded, and give me things to look forward to and be excited for amid midterms and assignments.

2017’s been exciting. I lived away from home for a term. I built a robot. I missed a bit of school to travel for a couple weekends. I started a bunch of projects—some of which came to life, and some of which didn’t, and that’s okay. I learned a lot about web development, soldering, and math proofs. I got through Electricity and Magnetism and Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. I learned a lot, and I grew a lot. It’s hard for me to see all of it sometimes. It’s like that thing where not all energy is actually usable energy—but it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I’m not sure how much of what I’m learning is “usable”, in the sense that it relates directly to what I want to do professionally in the future. I spend a lot of time thinking about things I could do that bring all of my experiences together. Design + lettering + blogging + physics + math + electrical + mechanical + ECON 101 + something I did two years ago = the perfect thing for me to pursue? I’m not sure. I don’t think everything I do has to be useful, though it often feels like it’d be more strategic for my future if that were the case. I think the biggest thing about this “wasted” learning, though, is that when I don’t use the things I learn, it doesn’t feel like I’m growing. I have to trust that I am. I have to trust that I’m building up my experiences, learning how to think and learn, and that it’s okay for my life to contain what it does. So, here’s to a year of  growing into my experiences, gathering experiences without worrying about their long-term worth, and reminding myself that things I learn aren’t a “waste”. (exception: the “things” I learn by scrolling through social media for HOURS. like, ok. sure. but not the amount of content that i’m consuming on instagram/reddit/facebook/twitter/LINKEDIN on a daily basis!!!!)

Thanks for reading! Another, final note for this post: I think it may be time for me to move on from this blog to a new platform. I’ll let you know if I stay here, and I’ll share the new address if I move. Thank you for following along—it’s been a great 2.5 years here, and I’m looking forward to more. See you in 2018!

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Adventures in Commuting

Just some random commuting stories if you’re bored. They’re all true and happened to me at my time at UBC.

Another snowy winter at UBC! ????

  1. I Pushed a Bus Up a Hill!
    1. I was lucky. I had finished my exams the day before afternoon exams were cancelled due to the weather (although really, it would have been better to cancel the exams earlier that morning, as by 2 pm the snow had turned to slush and traffic was more bearable). Unluckily, however, I had left my sweater in the exam room and had decided to go back to UBC the next day to retrieve it, because unlike high school, who knows where you can find the lost-and-found stash around campus.
    2. At the time it didn’t seem like such a dumb idea. I mean, again, I had just finished my exams, and I was basking in the high of, “I can do whateeeeever I want now that I don’t have anything to study for or any assignments to complete, and this includes taking long bus rides just for the sake of it!” (In my defence, there’s a difference between having to do things and doing them out of your own volition.) I didn’t think the snow would get too bad, since when I had looked out the window before leaving the house, most of the snow had vanished by the time it hit the road.
    3. This changed halfway though my commute, which too much longer than expected. By the time the bus reached Sasamat, we were stuck. We had to all file out and resorted to pushing the bus while the driver slammed on that accelerator. I pushed for a bit, but there was only so much room for people to crowd around in the back, and I was worried I was taking up valuable space from one of the better muscled passengers. (For all of you who pushed the bus: “Thank you, and I’m sorry I wasn’t as strong as you!!!”) We finally got the bus moving after a few minutes, but the driver had to stop so we could all pile back on, and by then, inertia was against us and we were stuck for good.
    4. I trekked the better part of the day through slush, toes frozen and teeth chattering, and when I finally arrived at the building my sweater was in, I had to wait outside, sopping wet like one of those abandoned pets you see in movies, shivering pitifully outside on the doorstep, because there was another exam going on that wouldn’t be done for another hour.
  2. When I Almost Got Arrested on the Bus…
    1. This was back in my first year when we had bus passes instead of Compass Cards. I was busing home after another demoralizing day and had yet to study for my chemistry midterm when the cops decided to hop on and, of all days and of all buses, check if everyone had their bus fare.
    2. Now, I usually carried by bus pass with me, but when this massive officer towered over me asking if I could show some proof of payment, I realized with a sinking feeling as I rummaged through my backpack that I had forgotten my bus pass at home, maybe in my other pants or something. (Of all days, of all buses!) I was escorted off the bus, and the officer gave me “one last time to look” (he gave me three), and I kept patting my pockets and zipping and unzipping the different compartments of my backpack, wondering how much I would be fined because of my oversight and how would I ever be able to tell my parents that I had lost that much in a day and why why why did this have to happen to me when I just needed to get home to study for my blasted midterm (!!!).
    3. I think it was obvious that I was a university student (and thus owned a bus pass) because as I spilled the contents of my backpack before the officer, my Chem 121 Lab Notebook was out there in the open for everyone to see. But surprisingly to me, the officer was very nice, maybe because as I started to tell him that I couldn’t find my bus pass, my voice became quieter and quieter and more than a little shaky. (I’m a good kid, okay!) But I don’t think he wanted to get anyone in trouble. He finally offered me a ticket that I could use to get on the next bus (“Just this once, but make sure you pay for your fare next time”), and that was the last I saw of him.
    4. Moral of the story: don’t be a bum–pay for your ticket or carry your Compass Card!

If you’re looking for stories that are (admittedly) more engaging than this to read over the break, I recommend:

  1. Fox 8” by George Saunders
  2. Horror Story” by Carmen Maria Machado
  3. A State of Variance” by Aimee Bender

Happy holidays, everyone! ????

P.S. For those of you who completed your exams that snow day, you’re the real champs! And for those of you who had your exams cancelled, I know it sucks (it’s happened to me too), but I’m rooting for you!

An Important Reminder!

Here’s a short article by the Ubyssey Editorial Board that’s worth a read, meant for everyone but especially those of you who were stressed this final exam period: “Last Words: Your Wellbeing is Worth More than Your Grades“. Wishing you all the best this holiday season. <3


Some thoughts on the digital and the critical in English language learning

I remember in 1996 my brother and I would turn on a computer and run Microsoft Outlook program all night just to get one email from my mother who was in Rhode Island at that time, but if I try explaining that to my 4-year-old nieces, they would think it is one of the fairy … Continue reading Some thoughts on the digital and the critical in English language learning

Want help applying to UBC? See the online mentorship program!

Hey all!  So over the last few years, I’ve been grateful for the chance to mentor a number of high school students – mostly referred by word-of-mouth. So, thank you to anyone who passed on this site or my contact information. It’s high time that we made this into an official online mentoring service! The … Continue reading "Want help applying to UBC? See the online mentorship program!"

How to prepare an Integrated Sciences proposal

As we transition over to  http://shannayeung.com/blog tell me which posts over the last 3 years have been your favourite! So that I’ll be sure to move those over. http://shannayeung.com/prepare-integrated-sciences-proposal/ Other recent posts on the new site http://shannayeung.com/preventing-procrastination/ http://shannayeung.com/study-tips-stay-top-assignments-studying/  


A lot is conveyed through language. You don’t need me to tell you that. Because many of us rely on speech in our interactions with others, we often exploit it to form assumptions about them. Our perceived answers to “How well does this person articulate their ideas?” informs us (although erroneously at times) about this person’s, say, sociocultural background, and it’s thinking about some answers that people probably conjure for me that’s got me feeling down lately. Maybe more than usual.

This is what happens when I speak (especially in class when there are dozens of eyes on me or even one-on-one with a professor when I’m obviously the ignorant one in the situation): I open my mouth; one or two words escape; my brain divides into two parts, one that thinks about what I am going to say next, and the other that thinks, “Does this person think I’m stupid? Is what I’m saying stupid? Does this person think I’m stupid? And if I am stupid, will I always be stupid? Does this person think I’m stupid? Will I forever be saying stupid stuff to brilliant people who can see how stupid I am?”; I stumble on my words; the latter part of my brain seizes the controls over the former; my brain shuts down; and everything goes blank. The desire to communicate my opinions becomes eclipsed by a suddenly urgent need to salvage my sentence on some half-decent note.

Nearing the end of September, Almighty Chem Wizard*, Alex, and I attended this special Writers Fest event at the Chan Centre, which featured author Salman Rushdie in conversation with Hal Wake. (I know, I can barely believe Rushdie was in Vancouver too, and I was freaking there!) After the event, when we were gushing about how intelligent and humorous and profound this guy was, Alex said, “He’s cool because he’s at this level where he talks as well as he writes. It’s like you’re listening to someone write right in front of you.”

I never wanted so much in that moment to be able to do just that, to take all of what I loved best about reading–the diction, the clauses, the syntax–how the careful organization of each of them, and sometimes the deliberate misuse of them, can elicit such intense emotion and debate in and among us–and be able to churn it out so spontaneously, offer it in a medium so tenuous–literally mere reverberations of air–that people would be forced to pay attention to it in a way that’s impossible with text. Much as I love the printed word, there’s something to be said for a form of art that can’t be skimmed, that requires real-time engagement, because it’s not like you can rewind speaking, at the minutest level, a word and have the person not yet hear it.

Long, long ago, I watched a documentary on sand mandalas. A posh voice speaking over scenes of crouching Tibetan monks kept stressing the importance of why the mandalas would be destroyed soon after their completion, almost as if to placate the viewer who would mourn their (tragic) loss, but even as a kid I could never disapprove of the monks’ motives. There’s a lot to be said for work that endures, but the ephemerality of all the rest makes them just as beautiful and just as meaningful, don’t you think? Because when they’re gone, that’s when we realize that we lived in that special, almost miraculous moment in which both our existences collided, and no one else will ever have that experience ever again. And although it’s sad when the things we loved aren’t here anymore, the simple fact that they evoked this pure, earnest feeling in us lends greater credence to their value.

Besides, everything eventually gets lost to the human consciousness anyways.

People are often fooled by high rhetoric. You know how in The Merchant of Venice, when Bassanio is all like, “So may the outward shows be least themselves./The world is still decided with ornament./In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt/But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,/Obscures the show of evil?” when he’s deciding on which casket to open to win Portia’s hand? I totally agree. Yet is it wrong to desperately want this power too, to be able to fool the world with my (currently non-existent) verbal prowess? I admire the people who can speak in class so effortlessly and elegantly, because to me it means that their minds also work that effortlessly and elegantly. Meanwhile, all I’m able to muster is a babble akin to some first grader describing her favourite t.v. show–all superficial: “Um, yeah, I liked the part when Franklin shared with his friend, Bear, because that was the kind thing to do.” Makes me feel like I am a first grader.

Part of what I like about writing is that I get to think it through. I can rise above, say, the limitations of my sociocultural upbringing. I don’t have to be that dumb and dumbstruck student when I can mull over questions as long as I want with no one the wiser, and I can give my response in a well-organized, well-articulated fashion with sources to boot. I don’t have to worry about all the variables that come with the spontaneity of speech. Or maybe it’s true, and my mental dexterity will never match up with everyone else’s, as evident by my sucky speaking and writing, but at least for that one moment, I feel that I get an honest chance to try and be a realer me, a me that deserves to have her opinion heard because it’s a damn good opinion.

Problem is, people don’t communicate through pen and paper 100 % of the time; I know this and I can accept this, but it’s hard to. It is so, so hard. And yet…I can’t seem to shatter this tiny kernel of hope within me that someday, I’ll be able to talk the way I want to. Tl;dr: I wish I could speak like a champ in class and in life.

*Obvs not her real name.