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I’m writing this during my 50-minute break from thesis completion. I’m putting the final touches on my economics thesis today and I cannot believe I’m halfway done with my last year at Hollins. This has been a very demanding semester for me and, although I’m happy to finally be putting it behind me, I feel a little mellow because the end of first semester indicates the halfway point for this year.

There’s a master post coming up with my reflections on my Hollins experience but until then, I wanna let you know I successfully completed 3/5 finals, presented my econ project strongly and with confidence, and finished my International Studies thesis! I’ll let you know how I did during the semester when I get my grades!

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First page of my thesis presentation

 

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Finally bought a Hollins sweatshirt from the bookstore!

 

End of the semester

Hi guys!
I wanted to let you know that we had a very successful campaign raising money for Oxfam America. The total came out to $232. I am extremely proud of my team–and quite frankly, of myself. I was very nervous going into this project because of its political nature and my emotional attachment to it. Nevertheless, we had a well-informed, hard-working team that delivered our message with confidence and garnered much interest and compassion. With such dedication, we were bound to succeed!

Final count

Final count

On the same note, I’m very happy to announce that I got accepted into Omicron Delta Kappa – the service and leadership honor society. There will be an induction ceremony in February so I will show you some pictures then.

As you can imagine, deadlines and finals are sneaking up on me, so I’m gonna get back to studying now. I have to present my economics thesis this Tuesday! Wish me luck.

 

-Hilla

 

Visit gofundme.com/huheartsrefugees to find out about our efforts!

Good times, good times

Rich with crisp, refreshing weather, enchanting foliage (I’ve been waiting months to use that word haha), and great traditions, October is a natural favorite among many people. For me too, it’s been a blissful month. I’ve made great strides in my health gains. (Unfortunately I don’t have any gym selfies to show right now.) I’ve continued studying for the GRE and have seen awesome improvements. My theses are going quite well, too, although my progress was stagnant for a very long time! Most importantly I’ve made sure to have a little fun!

This year’s fall dance, held at the Hotel Roanoke, was themed “Casino Royale.” I searched far and wide for a suitable dress and ended up finding one in an unsuspecting discount store. The event was lively as usual, though I mostly stuck next to the food bar and devoured the variety of cheeses, hummus, chips, and veggies.

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Family Weekend was lovely, lovely, lovely! My best friends came down to visit me for the entire weekend. On the first day, I took them to my favorite spot on campus and we just relaxed and caught up with developments in our lives.

Love this tree on campus!

Love this tree on campus!

 

By 'catching up with developments in our lives,' I mean I had to listen to my friend's annoying boy problems; my feminist frustration yielded the face I have in this picture

This is the face Feminist Hilla makes when I have to listen to my friend’s frustrating guy problems

Afterwards we had a great picnic at Button’s Bluff–my favorite spot in the SWVA. I had never been there in the heart of fall so it was beautiful to relax with our blankets in the crisp weather with the colorful sight ahead of us. Finally, we took a refreshing hike up Carvin’s Cove on Sunday morning, afterwards sitting in on Stanislav Khristenko’s moving piano performance. We ended the evening off with Downtown Roanoke shopping and Indian food at Nawab’s. I felt quite downcast when my friends left that evening because I hadn’t had a chance to be with them in a long, long time. More so, I realized how difficult it would be for me to move away from the D.C. area once I graduate. Everything I love is over there! I don’t make friends very easily so the ones I do have, I love deeply. These two are basically my soulmates haha😀

Of course we took some shameless mirror selfies as all the elderly passed by

Of course we took some shameless mirror selfies as all the elderly passed by

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You know you’re Afghan when you bring three varying renditions of pomegranates on a picnic with you =P

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We took the carpet with us too😀

 

Junot Díaz at Hollins

This week I had the honor of meeting one of my favorite writers, Junot Díaz. Author of such award-winning books as This is How You Lose Her, and Drown, Díaz writes profoundly and unapologetically about adolescence, turmoil, love, gender, displacement, and many other themes. I fell in love with Díaz’s style in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a coming-of-age novel about its hapless, nerdy, Dominican-American protagonist. Since then, I’ve recommended Díaz to all my friends—especially my fellow first-generation immigrants whose experiences are reflected in the turbulent magical realism of Díaz’s works.

Monday’s event was a reading and Q&A between Díaz and a packed audience in the VAC. Students asked him about his journey as a writer, his treatment of culture and language, and his experience as a professor at MIT. In his answers, Díaz characteristically (as well as aptly, eruditely, and appropriately) bashed the neoliberal world order, defied the myth of exclusive identities, and remained as relatable in real life as in his prose. Because of Díaz’s compassionate and sincere delivery, even his rampant cursing sounded mellifluous.

I spoke with the author the next day during another Q&A. I asked him a question that I’ve had while reading many of his works. One of the most impressive aspect of Díaz’s work is his ability to organically illustrate the relationships that exist among women. Seeing as the writer is not a  self-aggrandizing person, I didn’t think it’d be appropriate to ask what he has realized in this regard, that so many other male authors have not. Instead I asked, “How do you approach this theme [female relationships]—especially with regard to the mother/daughter relationship in Brief Life, seeing as motherhood is an already problematic relationship that’s further complicated when you superimpose the dynamics of immigration and race?” Díaz’s answer was deeply introspective. The writer answered that he had to acknowledge his immense privilege as a male—and more importantly realize that ignorance of this privilege ruptured his relationship with his sisters. In fact, it even ruptured the relationship that his sisters had with their mother. I was touched by this refreshingly raw answer; suffice it to say that it gave me hope about changes that may come.

Finally, towards the end of the event I took a picture with the Nobel-prize winner. I was fan-girling super hard so I think I left without thanking him properly. Oops:/

 

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Catch up!

Hi everyone!
I wanted to update you all on my semester thus far. I’m feeling very optimistic about this year. Despite the overload of credits and the theses, I feel like I’m in charge of my life. I‘ve made considerable progress on both theses and I’m learning a lot about the research process, in addition to my topics of interest. Just as importantly, I’ve made enormous progress in my physical health. I have to say I’m incredibly proud of myself. I’ve tried to get in shape multiple times in the past; but each time I failed, whether it was because I got busy or frustrated with not seeing results as soon as I wanted. This time I’ve been super successful. I go to the HU gym 4 times a week and run around the loop on weekends.

Additionally, I’ve been studying for the GRE for a few weeks now and I think I’m making excellent progress on that end as well. What I’ve done is spend one Saturday reading the Kaplan section on each section of the exam and then spending the rest of the week practicing questions until the next Saturday, when I study the next section. Afterwards, I practice the sections cumulatively. Once I’m finished with all sections, it’ll be practice, practice, practice until test day! I’m finding this method to be very helpful for me because I can chart my progress.

Finally I wanted to let you all know I’m working on implementing a project with the Global Interest Association to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. I’m hoping that an extended fundraiser that is guided by improved awareness can enrich the rhetoric surrounding the crisis and contribute to alleviating the crisis. Even if the contribution is tiny relative to the scope of the problem, I hope that as a campus we can say we did something about the problem.

First weeks back

Hello readers,

I’m sorry I haven’t written a piece for ya’ll sooner. I arrived at Hollins last Wednesday and was busy with unpacking, preparing for classes, and catching up with friends. I can already tell this semester will be a dynamic one. Currently I’m fanatically looking through Google Scholar and various databases in search of thesis ideas. I’m essentially treating my theses as a probe into the field to which that I will be dedicating the rest of my career. Unsurprisingly both my economics and international studies theses will be addressing Afghanistan in one way or another. Currently, my IS research question stands at: In what ways do the multifaceted and competing foreign-policy interests among China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Iran, and the NATO​ countries impede, and in what ways do they advance, the achievement of security and reconstruction in Afghanistan? For econ, I am choosing between investigating the efficacy of Amartya Sen’s capability model in Afghanistan, the potential for mining in the development of the nation, and the potential of the Afghan diaspora in propagating growth.

Hopefully I’ll be looking back at this blog post months from now and laugh at how elementary my original ideas were. I understand that one of the fundamental aspects of thesis writing is continuous refinement so I will be meeting frequently with my advisors and professors to hone in on my research questions which will guide the rest of my papers. I’m very intrigued by the challenges and opportunities that thesis writing presents!

Quite frankly, I will dedicating most of my senior year to academic, job hunting, and grad school submissions. However I haven’t forgotten about the friendships that I made here! On Saturday I celebrated the birthday of a friend of mine. It was a small, charming party in her apartment; we danced, listened to music, and reflected on the summer and our goals for the year. It was a great refresher to the start-of-the-year headaches!

As I’m starting to get back into the swing of things, I want to add gym attendance to my daily schedule. I know I’ll be very preoccupied this year so I have to make sure to take care of myself and find an outlet for energy and creativity. I will be running around the loop on weekends and doing weight lifting on weekdays. I am also looking forward to starting rock climbing again!

 

Details of my room in the apartment :)

Details of my room in the apartment🙂

 

My new carpet :)

My new carpet🙂

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