Somber yet Uplifting, Rewarding yet Frustrating

In the past five years, I have never missed blogging before my final exams. I believe it’s a time of year where it is especially important to take time to reflect, and as easy as it would be to ignore blogging and keep cramming for my exam tomorrow, it’s probably about time I found my way back to The Life of Pinya.

Finals week is never smooth sailing, but this past week has been particularly rough with a whirlwind of emotions.

A week ago today my uncle passed away. Technically he was my great great uncle, but with the way generations work out in my family, everyone just called him Uncle Early. I’m honestly still a bit in disbelief that he passed, even just writing this paragraph in the past tense is kind of surreal. It was a shock to everyone. He was only in his mid-70s and in good health. Just a few weeks ago he was crushing it on the dance floor at his daughter’s wedding and every year he’d still challenge me to a fried chicken eating contest at our family reunion. Then two weeks ago he had a stroke.

He has to have immediate brain surgery, but things were still looking good. He was recovering so well; the last time I went into the hospital his temperature had just come back to normal, the nurses completely took him off of one of the painkillers, and he got rid of the case of strep he caught. Then they found something else in his brain. To be honest, I still am not clear on the details, but he died later that night while I was at the gym coaching.

My Uncle Early was a great man. Perhaps he had a bit of a cynical humor from time to time, like when he called a baby a “chubby little porker,” but he was good-hearted and everyone always admired how he brought people together. As one of my relatives put it, our family is comprised of a lot of halves and quarters and all sorts of combinations, and Uncle Early was one of those people who connects everyone. At his memorial service this past weekend, one of his daughters told us how on the notes in his phone was a list of all the Christmas presents he was going to buy for the people in the apartment in NYC he and his wife lived at once a month and another list of plans for their next family vacation for Summer 2019. It really made me realize just how much he was constantly thinking ahead and thinking of others.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see Uncle Early all that often despite the fact that we were in the same city. We mostly talked at our annual family reunion and the occasional family gathering for birthdays and weddings. Two summers ago my grandma and I also got to spend a week with him and his immediate family at a villa in Italy which was an amazing time. I think his passing made a lot of my family realize how silly it is that we don’t stay better in touch, and now more than ever it’s important to actively work to be together with our main connector gone.

And while you may think that having a family member pass away in the middle of final exams is already emotionally draining, my week only continued to get mind-boggling. On top of my uncle passing away and all of our family coming in town, we also had our first gymnastics meet of the season this past weekend. Thus I spent a good portion of the week in the gym for extra last-minute practices trying to get all of our girls prepared for the meet and the gym ready for us to host. And this only became more challenging once it was official that my uncle’s memorial service would be held in the middle of the time our meet was scheduled for. My mom, sister, and I were all supposed to be working at all three sessions Sunday, and thus when the memorial was planned we then had an extra stressor of trying to figure out how we would cover all three of us not being at the meet – there were a lot of phone calls to old coaches and having to explain to our girls why they would have to have a coach they hardly work with at their first meet.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed to not be able to be at the meet. It’s my first year being an official team coach in terms of actually having a set schedule where I’m the main coach for our youngest girls, so I was kind of looking forward to seeing them compete. Plus I felt bad for them because a competition is already so nerve-racking and I can only imagine what it would be like to then not have your main coach there with you. Not to mention it was the very first gym meet ever for most of my girls as they are on our lowest level of team so they’re mostly newbies to the competition world. I’m proud to say that from what I’ve heard they all had a pretty solid first meet, though a part of me still wishes I could have been there.

I was back at the meet though right after the service because to add another level to this past weekend, not only was I scheduled to coach, I was also scheduled to perform at the meet with my acro partner. While some may say they couldn’t even imagine performing after a memorial service, I’m a big believer in the saying, “The show must go on,” and it was making me more anxious and harder to contain emotions to even think about not performing when I knew I could make it work.

Despite what her mom may have said, I couldn’t bear to think about letting my partner down by not performing because acro isn’t the kind of thing someone can just come in to “fill in” for – if one partner is out, then no one performs. Plus we were both so excited though to show off our new skills and the fact that we finally got everything needed to be an official level 8 pair! (Well officially level 8 besides my tumbling which was a whole other stressor this past week of trying to work past my fear of back tucks while also dealing with my hurt wrists preventing me from other options…) Not to mention, I’m studying abroad over the summer and will miss our in-house meet in the spring, so I’m really not sure when our next performance will be which made me especially upset about potentially missing this showcase.

And I think it’s what my uncle would’ve wanted as well. I mean even his own service ended with a party in his honor because that’s the kind of person he was – someone who loved to bring people together for a good time. So my mom braided my hair in the bathroom after the service and I got in an uber and rushed back to the gym. My partner and I had not had the greatest of practices leading up to the meet, and to be honest for one of our routines we had only ever done it successfully with all of the skills once before the show. So besides all the other emotions, I was not in my most calm state rushing into the gym for a quick warm up before performing.

Somehow, thankfully, our performance actually went as good as we could’ve expected! My tumbling was awful, but we made every skill which for this point in the season is good enough for me!

Then Monday came and the whole “it’s the middle of finals week” officially hit me… Between coaching, spending time with family, seeing shows (like my high school director’s annual one-man version of A Christmas Carol, which I hope to never miss, and Elf the Musical – both full of great and much needed holiday spirit), and just trying to stay calm, it was maybe too easy to procrastinate school work…

So now these past few days I’ve been working hard finishing projects, portfolios, and taking tests all the while studying for my one in person exam tomorrow morning before I’m finally done with the semester.

I know I’m a compartmentalizer when it comes to emotions, which is probably evident even in this post, and honestly, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through this week if I wasn’t. But that’s also part of why I thought it was especially important for me to blog tonight. It’s often when we feel we have the least amount of time and/or desire to take a moment to reflect that we need to the most.

I don’t have a problem with talking to people about personal things, but it’s been exactly for that reason that instead, this has been one of those weeks where I just kind of avoided people. I knew I would naturally share with people the chaos of this week, but I wasn’t really in the mood to repeat the story so many times with each new person I ran into. That’s a bit too emotionally draining even for this compartmentalizer. The follow-up comments are just… awkward … There’s no better way to describe it personally. It’s a conversation no one knows how to have or continue or what to say or what not to say. I guess that’s just another reason it’s nice to blog- it’s a way to think without stress or interruption and get it all out there at once, not for the sake of sharing or for the desire of a response, but for the purpose of trying to help take it all in.

This week has seen it all. It’s been somber yet uplifting, rewarding yet frustrating, and a whole mix of other things I’ve yet to fully process, but I think writing some of it down might have helped a little at least to get out of my head and start to piece together just everything that happened this weekend. It’s had a bit of a sleepwalking-like feel which I’m not sure I’ve even quite shaken off yet, but “The show must go on.”

And with that, as the tradition goes:

A merry finals to all,

And to all crammers,

Good luck and good night.

Take a Break

At the point when I started jamming to Aladdin songs silently to myself, I decided having gone over my test two full times was sufficient and I should turn it in and head to the bathroom. However, then I found a cockroach in the bathroom with spooked me and made me anxious because I DESPISE cockroaches. To the point where I found an entirely different bathroom to go into.

There-go, due to this immediate stress post-test, it wasn’t until I was walking back to my dorm that it finally hit me: I’m officially done with my first year of college…

After a week of traveling, performing, and studying, it was the most satisfying feeling to just take a breath and not have to worry about anything for a moment.

Now sure, this week is still crazy with shows coming up and the beginning of the class I’m teaching starting next week, but for the rest of tonight, it’s time to just take a break from thinking and working too hard; an amazing concept.

I sat at my desk for 8 hours today studying math. I got up for maybe 10 minutes total during that time. Then I spent 2 hours in a different chair also doing the same math. I’m very ready to take a break.

So now I’m going to post this blog, walk out of my dorm room and go enjoy some cookies with friends and let a new kind of crazy start tomorrow.

One Day More

Well sometimes you study your butt off and still feel like you didn’t do as well as you wanted/needed to… Today  I had my first two finals and they were okay but I wasn’t amazingly confident walking out. Both tests had some weirdly worded questions that I’m not so sure about, but now it’s done and over and I have one day more of my first year before I move back home for summer and with that, I have one last final. Hopefully, I can do well enough to pull out an A in this class… (Still not used to having to super care about finals but that’s a totally different rant about grades and GPAs and test taking.)

This school year has flown by. Especially this past semester since I’ve been traveling so much. Hard to believe in the past four months I was in San Fransisco, Italy, NYC, and DC on top of dealing with classes and shows and practices amongst other things.

It’s been a crazy year, and even though I’m getting out of school about three weeks earlier than I have in a very long time if ever, I’m very ready for summer and all of its crazy happenings.

Just one day more…

Get’cha Head in the Game

If I had to pick a song to describe the mood of the day, it would have to be, “Get’cha Head in the Game” from High School Musical.

One of those random weird differences between high school and college is how finals work. In high school, classes ended and then finals basically started right away. It was crazy because there always felt like there was no time to study, but now that I’m in college it almost feels like the opposite problem. Because classes ended almost a week ago and my first final doesn’t start until tomorrow afternoon, I’ve been in this weird state of feeling like I’m done for the year, but really I still have two more days and 3 more finals to get through.

Therefore, the theme of the day has been “Get’cha head in the game” trying to refocus and study for this final push to the end. I can already imagine how great it will feel post-Tuesday night once I’m done with all my finals, but I have to actually make it through the next two days first which has felt very draining thus far.

On that note, I should go back to studying in an attempt to get to bed early tonight. So as tradition goes,

A merry finals to all,

And to all crammers

Good luck, and good night


Last night was my last night as a freshman staying up till midnight getting an assignment done because today was officially my last day of classes!!!

As I headed to my room after my team finished our assignment at 11:57pm, I started thinking “Oh poo I haven’t blogged yet.” Then I realized I also still needed to shower, and especially now that it’s time for finals I really should be making sure to get sleep. So I decided I needed to get my priorities in line and took a shower and went to bed without blogging.

Yet at the same time, I don’t know if finals are really my top priority right now, even if maybe they should be. There is just so much else going on in this next week and some of the things I’m working on affect a lot more people than just me if they don’t go well. For example, on top of finals next Monday and Tuesday, Aladdin has show week next week and then next weekend is the gym showcase; therefore, this coming week is the last week of rehearsals and it’s my job to help these kids get ready to look as good as they can for showtime.

Furthermore, I’m traveling to DC this week for a night in order to take part in a meeting on the future of education and the first steps in planning a nationwide event to celebrate learning. Events like this aren’t something you just say no to, and besides taking a trip to be a part of a team that will be doing awesome stuff in the field I want to be involved in seems way more important than just a final to some extent at least.

On that note, I also have a run through of a Flashlab next week for the course my Engineers Without Borders team is running at Paideia high school during May. And teaching that class is both affecting a lot of kids and related to my passion, so obviously that is a high priority right now.

Essentially I’m just saying this next week is about to be crazy but hopefully very rewarding, though with my schedule being crazy, it makes trying to straighten out my priorities quite challenging.

“Finals” Count Down

With hardly more than a week left of classes, we’ve officially reached that point in the year.

Studying all day, sleeping little at night, and stress levels so high you’d think I’d been in a fight.

It’s the final countdown of my first year in college, and today that hit me hard. My final tests of the semester are all coming up in the next few days and it’s truly exhausting on top of homework, job work, and preparing for summer work.

I hate how this always happens where the schedules of classes line up to where there’s always that one week of the semester that feels like hell broke loose and everything’s happening at once in a crazy tiring mess.

Honestly the last days leading up to finals are often worse than finals themselves. During finals, we get a break from all the other work and we can just focus on the exams themselves, but the days leading up we’re trying to study for finals and take the last tests and still deal with all of the other “normal” stuff.

Plus on top of all that, it’s the make it or break it time for grades. I hate stressing about grades, but considering my scholarship is dependent on my ability to keep above a certain GPA, it’s hard not to. I despise that college grades are so heavily based on just a mere few tests, (especially since I’m not a great test taker) and today involved a lot of freaking out about where my grades are at this point and what I need on my last tests and finals if I hope to get the grades I want.

So close to a break…

Finals are Here and I’m not an Engineer

Earlier today I received my first official email from the Scheller College of Business. That’s right, I’ve finally declared a major, and it isn’t what most people expected. download-2.jpg

Since I started really thinking about where I wanted to go to college (so basically since junior year of high school), I have kind of avoided the question of what I wanted to major in. People would tell me,  “oh you’re good at STEM and like problem-solving, you should be an engineer!” I figured, why not. I didn’t have much of a better idea of what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to continue doing design thinking, and I knew education was at the very least a passion of mine. I firmly believe that design thinking is a mode of thought pertaining to every discipline and major, but I’ve observed that higher education doesn’t seem to apply this notion to degree curriculum plans where it seems that only a few majors really dive deep into principles of design thinking.

I realize now that at the end of my high school career I spent far more time looking at colleges then I really spent learning about different majors offered. It’s said that it doesn’t matter what major you choose, and that’s fair, all majors are “good majors” and each is “hard” in their own way- that’s not how you should choose a major. It’s said, “a lot of the first few semesters is the same for everyone”, and I’ve found this to be true too, there are a lot of core requirements that all first years take. It’s also said that it’s fine to come into college as an undecided major- this is the one I have some problems with.

I entered college in undecided engineering, so I say all this from the perspective of someone is living out the life of an undecided major. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it makes sense that an 18-year-old doesn’t have their life completely together yet, which is what they tell you when you think you’re going to apply as undecided. However, once you get to college you have way less time to try and contemplate what major you want to go into. And sure people say you have time to decide on a major, but really what they mean is, “We want you to decide by the spring, that way at least you’re in something. Then we can deal with you changing your major later if that’s what you need to do.” (This isn’t me implying, I’ve been told multiple times that even though most classes are practically the same for the first few semesters, they still want you to pick a major by the end of spring.)

The other hard thing is that I like to talk to people to learn about the different majors. However advisors are figured out by major, and undecided engineering majors are just clumped with mechanical engineers because it’s the “most general engineering.” So my experience was that all of the advisings was really just focused on mechanical which wasn’t very helpful when looking to just learn more about different majors before making a decision. Thus I also tried talking to other advisors, but some advisors only speak to their specific major (including business…).

The big thing that I realized throughout this process, and in general since being in college, is that working in the realm of innovative education is more than just a passion of mine. I think I’d really like to continue working on forwarding the Education Transformation Movement as at least an initial career. download-1

It’s when I made this realization that I finally started to question if engineering was right for me. I started thinking instead about what’s kind of become a motto of mine, “could not should.”

When I applied to MVPS at the end of 5th grade, I was given a creativity question during my interview. The question asked, “List all the things you could do with a pencil.” So I did: write, use as a bookmarker, keep a locker open, hair piece, stab someone,… When I was telling my mom this story afterward this is the point she stopped me and said, “ANYA PLEASE TELL ME YOU DIDN’T SAY YOU COULD STAB SOMEONE WITH A PENCIL!!!” My response was, “It asked what you could do not what you would or should do.”

I got into the school, so as my mom and I like to think, we guess they accepted that I was taking the question very literal for the sake of creativity. But despite what my interviewer thought, my friends and family have never let me forget this story, and I’m kind of grateful because it’s become a good motto.

I’m not one to lack confidence, and I truly believe that if I wanted to, I have the brain power and persistence to where I could become an engineer. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that I should just because I could. As I started to think about this possibility I realized that I’ve never been one to particularly love activities closely associated with being an engineer, like creating CAD models, or using power tools, or running data analysis on experiments. I’ve never hated these activities when given the chance to work on them, but in a team setting, for example, someone else is always the “engineer” role.

download.jpgSo I’ve switched to business because I want to be a social entrepreneur and oppose to spending my time learning about thermal dynamics, I’d rather focus more on leadership studies, risk management, startup and entrepreneurial culture, change theory, etc. And I’m excited about how the business school is really focused on real-world applications and has extra advising specifically for looking at career paths and getting all students to have an internship/co-op/study abroad experience before graduation. In particular, I’m currently looking to do a concentration in Leading and Managing Human Capital and get a certificate in Social/Personality Psychology, and I hope to also do an exchange in New Zealand to take some education courses and/or maybe do research there. I’m excited to plan more of what’s ahead as I start to meet with my new advior soon.

This was a hard choice, especially since there is a big stigma around business majors at GT. Students consider it the “easy major” and try to claim the students in business aren’t as smart as other majors. But I know some amazingly smart people in business, and we all got into GT just the same, and I’m not transferring because I thought engineering was going to be “too hard.” It’s all just relative. So I’m proud of myself for finally submitting my form and making the choice to go all in. If I end up changing again, so be it, but now that first semester classes are over, I’m feeling pretty good going into finals tomorrow having a bit more of a direction with my college path.



And with that, as tradition goes:

A merry finals to all,

And to all crammers,

Good luck and good night!

And Break Begins!

Now finals are done

The torture has ended 

But teachers must grade

So students and parents don’t complain 

So long, au revoir 

And so let me conclude: 

A merry finals to all 

And to all 

A good night! 


I kind of love the idea of traditions. Every year I start and end finals with a poem, and it’s fun to look back now at blog posts from exactly a year ago when I was finishing finals to see what I was thinking about then. Now break has begun and I’m so excited to get work done other than just homework. (And to rest a little.)

Hacking Final Exams: AP Lang Showcase

WE DID IT!!!!!! First semester is just about over, now all that is left our final exams! Which also means that we finished a full semester of our AP Lang Collab course!!! (Lot’s of exclamation points tonight because I’m super happy!)

Today was our “final exam” for our class, but rather than a typical sit down test, we presented a trailer video, each gave a 10 minute talk, and had a gallery walk for people to learn, ask questions, and give feedback about our bookshelf, feedback and assessment, and logistics for the course.

This all took a lot of work to plan for and I’m just really happy with how it went. I know I’ve learned a lot this semester and I don’t need a number grade to prove that to me. The feedback we got today about how impressed everyone was with our showcase just further solidified that for me.

It also made me think comparatively about how other classes give their final exams. One of the things I’ve realized is that myself and other students know a lot. More than we think we know probably. The part that makes things difficult is a matter of if we are asked the right questions.

Learning is a process. Not everyone will have the same takeaways all of the time, but everyone will take away something.

With most final exams all students are expected to have had the same takeaways, and there isn’t much room for students to just say “this is what I have learned and taken away from this course so far.”

I wonder how final exams would be if things were more flipped like what we did with our exam, so rather than a teacher saying, “This is what I want for an answer because this is what I know we’ve talked about,” a student was able to showcase to a teacher or larger audience, “This is what I want you to ask me about because this is what I’ve learned.”

In AP Chemistry today we talked about how there can often be many different answers to questions because everyone has a different logic behind how they answer it. If you are able to clearly explain your reasoning, you should get some credit is the philosophy we have in that class.

I really connected with this since it’s related to why we didn’t take a standard final exam for AP Lang. We wanted to celebrate our work and communicate what we’ve learned with others and then let them ask us questions.

Plus we recorded it! So now, without further ado, because it is still finals week and I need sleep, here are our  MoVe Talks from earlier today about our experience so far in AP Lang:




And with the first day of finals arriving tomorrow, it is in my tradition to say this every year (actually I have a surprising amount of posts about final exams.):

It is time once again, for that time of the year has come, where I must sing this song for the next week and some.

(To the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but without writing all of the versus out.)

On the twelfth day of finals my teachers have to me

12 multiple choice

11 fill in the blanks

10 matching questions

9 short answer

8 days of prep

7 different essays

6 days for teachers


4 hours of sleep

3 sheets of paper

2 number two pencils

And 1 really long annoying test

Now all through the night

Some people will still study

So before I part,

A merry finals to all

And to all crammers

Good luck, and good night!


Passing the Oblique Asymptote


The last two weeks of school may very well be the most stressful weeks of the entire year. In these last 9 days I have 7 quizzes, two projects, 1 test, a research paper final draft, a MoVe talk, a Kemps tournament to finish, and more venture work.

I’m just a tad bit stressed right about now.

I don’t get it; why does the end of the year have to be so stressful? Why does it never feel like we had enough time to get everything done? Why do we get so many last assignments? It isn’t like this is the last time we will ever be learning.

I wonder how things would be different if we changed the concept of final exams. What if our “final exam” was some big transdiciplinary project where we could present on anything we wanted in any format as long as it connected to some theme we decided on?

I still remember last year when my science teacher showed me this amazing final exam he had created. It was entirely interactive and even involved a page where you would use prototyping materials to create a model of a cell. This exam required you to be creative and use concepts from across the year to apply it into actually doing something rather than just answer multiple choice problems.

I mean from what I can tell based on the limited accidental empathy work I’ve done, teachers feel obligated to use multiple choice questions because it is expected on a final exam, even in subjects like math where we never have multiple choice questions all year.

I understand that part of the reason for using multiple choice is because it makes grading easier and when there are that many tests to grade, it needs to go somewhat fast but still be even grading overall.

So what if we were to take collaborative final exams? (I’ve mentioned this before in some of my other blog posts from first semester exams, but this idea just keeps coming up.)

What if we tested collaboration skills on this final exam by making the class work as a team to complete a challenge. To be honest that may pose to be more challenging then you would think, and it would test skills that will be more important than knowing how to find the oblique asymptote on a graph in the long game. ( An oblique asymptote is a line that a graph will get infinitely close to, but it will never touch or go past this line. )

To my knowledge, I’m going to exempt all of my final exams (then again all of the assignments coming up makes me nervous about that, mostly for AP World where 6  of those quizzes will take place in to prep for the AP exam #blah), so in actuality finals themselves aren’t really stressing me out.

However, I still don’t feel like I can celebrate my year of learning because of how much work is going on in these last 9 days.

One of my teachers today said that teachers don’t try to be creative or different with their finals because they are too afraid of having to change it after it gets reviewed. I find it a little weird that you can have one team review all of the finals because when you think about it, it would seem weird for an English teacher know what a good math final looks like right? (That was just an example; I don’t even know the exact team that reviews finals I just know I’ve heard this mentioned.)

I wish a teacher would try to push over that line of what a final can be. How do we know if it would get approved until we try?

To add to my list of valuable lessons I’ve learned this year: changes take risk taking and the willingness to fail up. HMW end the year on a meaningful note instead of a stressful one? I can’t wait to see that experimented with; I can’t wait for us to cross the oblique asymptote line.