Sonia Su

Student. Journalist. Explorer.

Category: Blog

What Is Studying Journalism

by Sonia Su

One of the many ridiculously useless nuggets of wisdom taught to us senior journalism students: “Every quote needs attribution.”

It’s not hard to see why I have such impatience with this particular required class. I can’t stand learning the basics of journalism again. Sure, one class on the fundamentals of journalism during freshman year may have been helpful, but put me in another class that requires writing stories we’ve all written countless times over the years, and I will whine and whine and whine.

Once you get the newswriting formula down, it’s like simple math. Once you know how to add numbers, you don’t need to take another course on adding, well, MORE NUMBERS.

Sure, in the case of journalism, the more experience you have, the better—but do I really need to waste several thousand dollars to write a story on how people are wiping out kale at grocery stores? (No joke, I got an A on that story—and every story so far.)

No. I do not.

I think the most fun I’ll have in this class already happened—covering a startup competition as a “meeting story.” LOL.

Oh, and a light at the end of the tunnel—two-time Pulitzer winner and New York Times columnist Nick Kristof will be coming to BU at the end of the semester, and we’re covering it.

Anyway, case in point: Journalism programs everywhere need to be consistently revisited and revamped. In this always-changing digital world, professors need to adapt and adjust to what students already know. Sorry to break it to the older generations—we’ve always been one step ahead.

So does that mean studying journalism is a waste? Unlike Anna Holmes in Cosmo (she visited our class yesterday!) who said it was “a fucking waste of money,” I like to think that while journalism programs, even at such a reputable school as COM, are severely flawed, there is value in the experiences that journalism programs help to put us in. COM is really trying, with bringing in David Carr (RIP) and Ta-Nahisi Coates as faculty, and I’m very proud of COM for that. At the same time, the students who find the program redundant are the ones who gained their own experiences and skills working both on and off campus. And COM can’t claim credit for that.

You do learn a lot on the job, and all you need in journalism is passion. Honestly, if I hadn’t added a business minor, I would feel even worse about spending my parents’ money on learning how to write stories as a graduating senior.

Maybe it is a huge fucking waste, but at the same time, I know for certain that I would not have had some of the most amazing experiences and opportunities I’ve had while a student here. Did I need to study journalism, though—versus studying something that I actually can’t learn on the job? That’s seriously debatable.

Note: I wrote most of this while in said class.

4 Boston Startups Advance with Chance to Win $650k

by Sonia Su

1776 Challenge Cup Boston winners

Winners from AdmitHub, Orco Power, Fluid-Screen and OpportunitySpace pose after the competition Thursday night. (Photo by: Sonia Su)

CAMBRIDGE—Four Boston startups pitched their way to join 60 other teams in a global competition culminating in D.C. that promises $650,000 in prizes Thursday night at the Microsoft New England Research Center.

AdmitHub, Orco Power, Fluid-Screen and OpportunitySpace—each innovating in education, energy, health and smart cities, respectively—beat 21 local startups at the Challenge Cup event, hosted by 1776, a Washington, DC-based global incubator and seed fund.

“We were really pleased with the winners,” 1776 co-founder Evan Burfield said. “You could really see the Boston DNA in a lot of the ideas, particularly the very strong depth of the field in healthcare.”

With access to complimentary pizza and an open bar, about 100 entrepreneurs and startup community members watched 25 startup founders present one-minute pitches and then eight semifinalists—two from each category—present five-minute pitches.

The Challenge Cup partners with the Startup Federation in 16 cities and 11 countries around the world “to identify the most promising new startups and connect them with the information, mentors and resources they need to succeed,” according to its website.

Boston, the “the lucky No. 13” stop out of 16, follows the competition in Mexico City, with the remaining stops in Berlin, Dublin and San Francisco, Challenge Cup reporting fellow Dena Levitz said.

Andrew Dolan, 1776 assistant director of special projects, served as the night’s master of ceremonies, encouraging audience members to cheer after each pitch and enforcing the time limits.

“Respect the gong,” Dolan said, prompting laughter from the audience, after one presenter continued talking after the gong a volunteer used to signal time sounded.

Cleo Wolf, an event volunteer who works at a mapping company whose clients include startups in Boston, said she heard about the competition through tech publication BostInno’s newsletter.

“I’m interested in hearing pitches and what people in Boston have to offer,” Wolf said.

Burfield said the diversity in both the founders pitching and the ideas themselves impressed him.

“At a time when startup community leaders need to be really intentional about engaging all the talent within their ecosystems, the Challenge Cup Boston was an encouraging sign for Boston,” Burfield said.

Due to extended judge deliberations, the four-hour event ran longer than scheduled, but many still stayed to network after a night of diverse pitches.

“We’ve seen pitches from about 850 to 900 companies in the first two years,” Burfield said. “Last year in Chicago, one of the competitors got up on stage, threw up and fled. As long as that doesn’t happen, you’re not the worst.”

1776 will provide an all-expenses paid trip for the final teams in the weeklong D.C. Challenge Festival in May.

More about the Boston winners:

Winner: AdmitHub — Offers free, college-admissions advising online.
Runner-up: LearnLux — Targets millennials with online learning tools to teach personal finance.

Winner: Orco Power — Produces additives that modify crude oil to replace diesel fuel in high RPM engines.
Runner-Up: WrightGrid’s Sol Power — Provides free charging stations in outdoor locations, such as city parks, college campuses, outdoor shopping centers and outdoor events.

Winner: Fluid-Screen — Enables rapid bacterial detection from fluid samples with flagship product being a hand-held device that detects bacteria in water, blood and other fluids in 30 minutes, as opposed to days.
Runner-Up: Admetsys — Provides fully automated glucose control system for the needs of hospital and surgical care.

Winner: OpportunitySpace — Finds unused land owned by cities and government to be used for various purposes.
Runner-Up: Zwayo — Helps city drivers park their cars through app request.

How I Met Your Mother

by Sonia Su

I finally started watching “How I Met Your Mother” last night, and I owe it to the first two episodes for making me have an epiphany in the middle of the night—and no, I was not watching the show in the middle of the night (I sleep quite early now). Rather, I literally woke up in the middle of the night with this realization. Yeah, it was quite strong.

Because of the nature of this epiphany, however, I don’t feel comfortable enough to reveal too much about it, but I will say this: Certainty in life can feel incredibly comforting.

For much of my life, I have often felt uncertain about so many things, never knowing exactly what I want, and I really do think that, in a way, is a curse. Of course, spontaneity is great and can lead to experiences you will have never encountered otherwise. Heck, since my last update, I’ve already booked a flight between the end of finals and graduation to South America. Spontaneity defines the majority of my life and often is the essential ingredient to making my life exciting. But some parts of it you just can’t rely on impulse all the time.

At the same time, knowing what you want does not necessarily mean anything, either. The clarity is helpful, yes, but life kind of takes over after that. Everything else remains, well, uncertain. Doesn’t that make your head hurt?

I guess you could compare life to weather. We like to think that we can predict it, but when it comes down it, we’ll never fully understand it, and it will always throw surprises at us. Even today, the forecast said we should expect rain and nearly 40-degree weather, which sounds like summer after weeks of subzero temperatures. But since waking up at 7, all I’ve seen so far has been snow (yeah, we’ve reached a record 100 inches last night for the season so far) and now cloudiness.

Last night while on the phone with my sister, I fully expected to stay in all day—thinking the weather, like seemingly every single weekend so far this semester, would trap me indoors. But now, I’m not so sure. It’s only 10, and I’m itching to do something other than tedious homework, which is how I spent much of yesterday anyway.

I got Jonathan Haidt’s book The Happiness Hypothesis in the mail early last week and have yet to start. Maybe I’ll try reading for pleasure again. The famous designer who came to speak at BU recently recommended this book.

With such a gloomy semester so far, this book seems fitting.

Until next time.

Playing Catch Up

by Sonia Su

It has been a little too easy to forgo blogging lately. So my laziness has certainly led to regret.

Quite a lot has happened, with the most shocking news being the death of my legendary professor David Carr. Frankly, it’s too depressing to dwell upon—four news outlets have already reached out for comment from me, and numerous people have written suitably glowing obits for and essays on the amazing man—and David deserves them all—but I hope you understand my desire to make a somewhat brief statement on the matter. It is quite amazing just how far-reaching his influence and impact has been. That night when The New York Times sent out that breaking news alert while I was in bed ready to sleep, I ended up spending more than an hour afterward thumbing through Twitter and Facebook. The saturation of emotion-filled reactions on Twitter surprised me the most. Of course, I had already gotten a glimpse of just how incredible he was both as a writer and professor from that one class we had, but the reactions from people across industries—not just media—confirmed this. David, no matter how brief of an interaction you had with us and anyone else in your life, you have inspired us all. R.I.P. <3

I suppose the natural transition is to discuss his successors for our class. (Note that Dean Fiedler and others specifically pointed out David will have successors, not replacements. No one will ever replace David.) I was quite overjoyed to learn that Ta-Nehisi Coates, the senior editor of The Atlantic who just won the coveted Polk Award, will be the primary instructor, along with Martin Nisenholtz, most known for his work with bringing the Times into the digital space. In addition to looking for jobs in Asia, I’m applying for a fellowship at The Atlantic and am actually quite a fan of Coates’ work, especially during his time in France. Basically, I’m super excited and welcome them both with open arms.

Other exciting news about my life? I snagged an interview with the editor of TechCrunch China and founder of Technode in Shanghai. We were supposed to Skype earlier this week but have rescheduled for after the Lunar New Year. As for the Princeton in Asia fellowship, I’m still waiting until March 15, when all placements or updates on placements should be sent out. This waiting game is not fun. As a second-semester senior, I’m finding an increasing desire to know exactly what I’ll be doing and where. After all, graduation is just 86 days away, and after a month of traveling Europe, I will be working and attempting to live as an adult. Bring it on.

Speaking of traveling, I can’t believe spring break is a mere two weeks away. For those of you living under a rock, Mother Nature has gifted Boston several snowstorms within a few weeks, leaving small mountains of snow and just blankets of snow throughout the state. And yet, in two short weeks, my roommate and I will be traveling to Istanbul. Upon returning, we will enjoy a Pentatonix concert. And then—our 22nd birthdays. Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all that chaos is my placement in Asia (or lack of). I hope my heart can handle it.

…and speaking of hearts (my transitions are marvelously unplanned, I promise), I spent Valentine’s Day with my female friend enjoying ourselves at a spa on Newbury Street, getting our nails done, and then feasting on yummy pasta and chocolate cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory (the wait at Max Brenner? 1.5 hours. No, thank you). #TREATYOSELF (omg, I also finally finished all six seasons of “Parks and Rec” on Netflix. The later seasons were harder to get through but I finally did it. Now I’m all about that “Fresh Off the Boat” weirdness).

I also received a Valentine from a “secret admirer.” I woke up to see the cute box of chocolates outside my door and obviously had to Instagram it. Unfortunately, that secret admirer has yet to reveal his/her identity, and my curiosity is killing both me and my roommate, who also received one.

So those are the main updates. I may have missed some, but that’s the punishment I get (yes, I, because I need to record everything or else I forget) for becoming such a lazy blogger that my sister had to text me about how I haven’t updated in a while.

I’m attending an AWESOME startup competition today and using it as a “meeting” story in Cambridge for my beat reporting class. I even asked my professor to check that this would count, and she approved. Yay for avoiding boring city council and school board meetings! Let’s just hope I can find a way to get there, with the T not being a reasonable option and taxis with wait times of 45 minutes.

Life after snow (and by that, I mean blizzards. Mother Nature somehow continues to cover us in a few inches of snow every day) is slowly giving us back the normalcy we had been missing. And that apparently includes blogging. It feels good :)

Enough Snow Days!

by Sonia Su

You know you’ve had too many snow days when you find yourself yelling, “Nooooo!” upon the news of yet another snow day.

Yes, by some twisted act of nature, BU has canceled school for a fourth day in two weeks.

I’m so tired of the snow, and I just want to go to David Carr’s class. How unlucky for us to get such an incredible opportunity to take a class with Carr and have two out of three classes canceled so far!

In other news, I’m happy to hear that people still read my blog, despite my slacking on updating. I’ve been recovering from a cold (flu?) all last week. It started on Monday (a, surprise, snow day), when I was literally bedridden all day. Never have I been as sick as to feel so weak that I was writhing in pain in bed, freezing in one moment and then waking up to having to strip all the layers I had put on in another. It was a pleasant Monday. I couldn’t even pull myself together to watch Netflix while writhing. Gasp.

I’m still recovering, with a phlegmy cough and now less-stuffy nose. I did pull myself together for the most important interviews in my life on Friday, however. I interviewed with two people, and I felt I aced my first interview. The second—not so much. But you know, we’ll see. If you care for more details, we can chat in person.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of when 14 of us embarked on a journey to have what ended up being the best time of our lives in Shanghai. Some of us reunited over dim sum in Chinatown. Oh, how we miss Shanghai. <3


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