A Conversation With: Rachel Nguyen

Three months is possibly the lengthiest hiatus I’ve been on with regards to posting- I don’t have any (good) excuses, but I do have some ideas and content lined up for upcoming posts, so look out for attempts for redemption ASAP. In the meantime, I had a FaceTime chat with Rachel of That’s Chic chic-ness and here are a few nuggets from what we talked about when we weren’t going off on tangents, which I can either attribute to A) me being a bad interviewer/ conversationalist, or B) Raych  being too fun and easy to talk to. We met in person for the first time when I visited LA two years ago and have had but brief reunions in Paris and London, and yet she’s one of those personable yet irrefutably cool girls who can make you feel like you’ve known her forever. Plus, she has YouTube skills and style like nobody’s business. Hope you enjoy the following fragmented bits of our catch-up!


A Conversation With: Alyssa Lau

A while ago I came up with an idea to incorporate more content into this site through conversations with people I know that inspire me. I guess I’ve been frustrated for a while with trying to figure out what I can bring to this space, and got excited when I realised that it doesn’t necessarily have to be me who ‘creates’ the content; rather, I can be the one who facilitates it. Of course, it helps that I happen to know a lot of really talented, kind and motivated people and want to do my part to sprinkle their charm over as many crevices of the internet as I can. So here it is, my first conversation (hopefully, of many) with the lovely Alyssa of Ordinary People and New Classics Studio.  I’ve always been amazed by her work, from her quirky style and really good video content to her focus on sustainability and ethical retail, and it doesn’t hurt that Alyssa and her boyfriend Eric (co-founder of NCS) are two genuinely lovely people. I hope you enjoy this conversation and please let me know what you think and would like to see more of, I’d really appreciate it.

Z: So…how would you describe what you do?
A: It’s hard, because a lot of people ask me what I do for a living…the short story is that I own my own small business and do a lot of random projects. The long story would be that….I would call myself a creator; New Classics is my number 1 priority and we still do some work on [the blog], but that’s still a creative outlet for me- more like an online journal. It’s hard to categorise or simplify it to one term. 
Z: I know what you mean- its so funny hearing the terms people call bloggers nowadays. In Hong Kong people use the term KOL (Key Opinion Leader) which kind of makes you sound like a cult leader and there are so many different labels now. 
A: At the end of the day what we’re doing is still blogging, but I feel like blogging has transformed so much, and a lot of people who started out as bloggers are so much more than bloggers- you can call it whatever you want but its never going to encompass everything. 
Z: What do you hate the most about social media?
A: Well, I talk about this quite often (laughs), I think its become a lot less authentic and genuine because its all being sponsored. I don’t think its really anybody’s problem because people are trying to make a living and I understand that, but at the same time the whole thing with social media and what made it amazing was the ability to make creative, raw and organic content which people could relate to, and I can’t really relate to a sponsored message. Everyone’s reaching out to bloggers and it’s become another way for people to shove ads at people, and the fact that a lot of people have the same content over and over again. I don’t really believe in the idea of ‘original content’ but some people don’t try to create anything original. 
Z: I know what you mean- I feel like we could talk about that for ages but just so we don’t go off on a tangent for too long…where do you feel most at home?
A: Actually, my room (laughs), as long as there’s my dog and Eric with me I feel at home. It depends on what you think of as home- some artists find ‘home’ where they’re most creative but for me its where I can lie down and relax and stop thinking about work. If you’re self-employed you’re in charge of your entire lifestyle and not thinking about it can be really hard. 


Q&A: University Abroad

I’ve been getting questions about university / applications / living and studying abroad for a while now and I’ve never really known how to answer them save for the occasional tumblr ask and reply; in general I get asked a lot of things a lot of things I don’t know enough about, and I feel clueless about everything in my course currently as it is to I’ve always figured you guys would be able to find someone smarter and better equipped academically to help you out.

However, I’ve realised that even if I cannot necessarily tell you how to get into your top-choice university or cure your homesickness, it always helps to know what someone is going through when they’re studying or living somewhere that you would like to be in the future, or kind of to just make a simple PSA that I don’t have my shit together either but I try (kind of). I hope these answers will help calm your post exam/ applications (etc.) nerves or just spread the word that its okay to be stressed out/homesick/socially awkward (the list goes on) in the first place.

Here are the basics: I graduated from high school in Hong Kong and am in my second year of studying the Law LLB Undergraduate program at Kings College London; I did not take the SATs, ACTs, LSATS (nor did my school ever use the GPA system) and only took the LNATs for my university application.

Part 1: Academics, Applications and Studying Abroad

Why did you choose to study law?
Most people studying law at uni will attribute their choice to a clear career-oriented mindset (i.e. I want to be a diplomat/ barrister) or to having been extremely passionate about the law/ justice/ human rights (etc.) No one in my family studied or practiced law and I wasn’t particularly informed about it growing up, but I can say that when it came around to applications, I knew I was interested in it, and that it would be a challenge. It doesn’t sound like much to go on (especially considering the program’s three year duration) but I tried my hand at work experience in a legal working environment and was intrigued by the field, and thought that it was something I could potentially be good at. Not a very ‘cool’ answer but its true, and I haven’t regretted choosing Law so I think I made a good decision.

I know a lot of people expected me to go into fashion/ art after high school but I wanted to try something new and really challenge myself; I really cherish how my blog allows me to immerse myself in the fashion industry but wanted to study something at university which would give me a new perspective.

What is it like studying law in university?
A lot of it is just going with the flow. For both my first and second year I felt pretty lost about the topics we were learning until revision before exams, when a combination of pressure and class notes helps everything (kind of) come together, and I’d be lying if I said I did even half of our recommended reading but I think I will be okay (fingers crossed).

The people in my program are super driven, vocal and intelligent and most of the time I feel out of the loop but when you’re interested enough in the subject and keep up your attendance its still a good time. Theres a lot of reading involved and one thing I really liked was having some really great teachers and lecturers who are the authors of the textbooks you’re using to study; its surreal to have them teach you about the topics that they’re experts in.

One thing I’ve realised is that even though I’d say the (other) people who study law generally have their shit together, everyone is human and even if they seem on top of it, they’re probably freaked out too.

Any tips for applying to schools abroad?
Start your applications early. I didn’t apply to the US so I can’t say anything about the Common App but applications were pretty stress-free for me as I only had to write a single personal statement, which I polished over time. Note that (even if you are applying to the UK) your statement should be unique as admissions probably read the same justice-themed statements 100 times a day.

Also, chill. The university you get into doesn’t mean you are a better or smarter person (smarts-wise maybe only a tiny extent). University applications are not the biggest thing that will ever happen to you; you are simply applying to a school and you really don’t need to be stressed out about it. It sounds easy, i know, but when you grasp the magnitude of all the challenges you will face in the future it should be easier to understand. Getting into a great school helps and can open the door to a lot of opportunities but that school is not the only school that you can thrive at.

How were the LNATs?
Fine. I did the practice test just to see how it would be like (do it!), and I think that having a tutor/studying for the LNAT isn’t really necessary, its not really something you can study for.

Why did you choose to study abroad in London specifically? 
I knew I wanted to study abroad as I wanted to become more independent and step out of my comfort zone. Studying law in the UK is a lot more straightforward than studying it in the US, hence why I didn’t take the SATs/ apply to any American schools. I knew I would like studying in London specifically because I get bored easily and like cities.

What have you learned about yourself through university and studying abroad? How did you grow as a person?
I’ve learnt that I’m a lot more shy than I previously thought; being put in a new environment will tell you a lot about your social behaviour and I’ve always been very comfortable in Hong Kong and my friends there so it was very new and different being in London by myself. At the same time, I’ve gotten a lot more independent and comfortable with being alone and that’s really important to me.

Best and worst part of studying law and studying abroad?
Best part of studying law: It’s interesting and you learn a lot, really quickly.
Worst part of studying law: You can never read/know enough, and its very competitive.
Best part of studying abroad: You learn how to enjoy being alone, and you learn a lot about yourself.
Worst part of studying abroad: Missing my mum’s cooking.

Do you have any study tips?
Like I said, I’m not the best person to ask as I don’t have the best study habits. The best thing for me is doing practice exams and choosing a few topics to be really good at. Writing things out is good for memorising, and for cases I like to make case lists in a table format (topic; case name; facts; ratio).

Part 2: London Life

What is your daily routine like?
Second year has mostly afternoon classes, so I’ll usually wake up at 9-10am, fix a good breakfast, and either go to class and then the gym or gym before I go to class if I want to exercise that day; if not I’ll just watch Youtube videos until I have to go to uni and grab a coffee on the way. After class if I’m not going to the gym or meeting up with friends I’ll go grocery shopping for dinner and cook something, and work/ Skype Ran/ browse the internet on my couch. On weekends I like to read/ do my laundry/ eat with friends/ see movies or travel if we have a holiday.

How was it like being away from home and how do you cure homesickness?
I wouldn’t consider myself especially prone to homesickness, but I do find myself missing random bits of home. I Skype/facetime my family sometimes and we Whatsapp regularly so we talk often. I’m not the best person to ask about homesickness though as it wasn’t an issue for me throughout uni, but I’m sure hanging out with friends and having some good food will help a bit.

How are you able to balance university and your other interests?
Compromise: like I said, I don’t do all my reading, but sometimes I can’t make an event because I have to go to uni lectures. Its all about knowing what your priorities are and finding time to rest to avoid combusting, I’m one of those people who get really stressed out when I have a lot of things to go to so I like to keep everything relatively chill so I can function efficiently.

How difficult was it to fit in socially? Do you ever feel guilty for not socialising enough?
I’m an introvert, and the happiest when I am alone or hanging out with a few friends who I do feel comfortable with. I’m not going to lie and say that I have a ton of friends at uni or that meeting people is easy, it isn’t easy for me. But at the same time, it makes it so much better when you do meet and connect with people, and as long as you keep an open mind (no matter how shy you are) this isn’t impossible. I think it’s pretty unhealthy to feel guilt for not socialising as you should be doing whatever makes you comfortable, and if this includes staying at home alone with takeout and netflix then you do you.

How do you stay motivated?
I feel the least motivated when I’m not actually doing anything. If I can muster up even the tiniest bit of motivation to at least start, say, an essay, it becomes a lot easier to continue writing it. Also helps to make a good study playlist and study with people who are motivated, in an environment where people are working.

How do you manage your finances?
Save money by walking everywhere; buy a student oyster (/metro) card if you can; become a loyalty card member of your nearest supermarket; and cook as many of your meals as possible. Take advantage of student discounts and remember to pay your bills.

Part 3: Everything else

What kind of food do you cook at home?
I love to make oatmeal for breakfast with banana, blueberries, granola and peanut butter (or yoghurt with muesli if I’m lazier); sometimes I’ll fix lunch and take it to school (rice/ pasta/ salad) but I usually buy lunch elsewhere; for dinner I love baking salmon and vegetables, or easy things like kimchi fried rice and pasta. Youtube videos are your friend :)

How do you stay fit?
I’m a member of my nearest gym and try to go 2-3 times a week but sometimes I get lazy. At the gym I’ll usually run and do classes every once in a while. I try to walk where I can if the weather is okay.

If you have any other questions I’ll try my best to answer them in the comments. I hope this helps some of you, and will make another study playlist soon!


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Playlist: Week 31/08/15

It’s been a while since I’ve made one of these. I don’t really plan on leaving my bed for most of today so I figured it be a good time to post some tunes…it’s also raining outside (a.k.a perfect TV show catchup weather) so if you’re looking for me, I’ll be here. Hope you like it!