Alexander Liu: The Emotions of Heaven-On-Earth Week

Photography, Text, Video Interview, by Alexander Liu, Copyright 2017




We call our “Hell Week” “Heaven-On-Earth Week”. This is because the week before our show is both a blessing and a curse. Naturally, there will be moments of sadness and despair due to the shear stress of the upcoming event. However, these same moments help bring the dance troupe much closer together than we would have been otherwise.

Heaven-On-Earth Week started off poorly. After a not-so-smooth first practice, members of the troupe left in a depressed mood. To make matters worse, the harsh cold only reinforced these feelings. Some went outside and reflected on all of the things that went wrong during practice. Others preferred to stay inside and find a quiet space to think alone. Despite the different locations, they were all thinking the same thing: formations were too inconsistent, transitions were too slow, and the choreography was too unclean. With such,  the window of time before show was closing quickly, and the troupe did not have high expectations for the days to come.

As the weeks progressed, the show started to piece itself together. Slowly but surely, the mood lifted as well. The usual lively banter picked up again and people began enjoying themselves at practice. Furthermore, the unexpected warm weather was a pleasant surprise to those leaving practice on a recent Wednesday. Instead of parting ways, they decided to spend some time together in a field under the beaming sun. Here, they told jokes, gave each other hugs, and asked each other about their days. It was clear that Heaven-On-Earth Week had taken a turn for the better.

During Thursday night’s practice, there was much excitement due to the possibility of a snow day. Sure enough, the next morning, the troupe woke up to exactly what they had hoped for. Some members of the troupe went out early to enjoy the snow before class. While the cold had been harsh and depressing merely a few days ago, it now added to the fun of a successful ending to Heaven-On-Earth Week.



Portrait of Alexander Liu by Tong Pow, Copyright 2017


About The Author: Alexander Liu is a freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. Alex is a member of an Pan Asian dance troupe on campus.

JT Chow: Expectations




 Photography, Text and Interview by JT Chow, Copyright 2017




We all have expectations.

Expectations motivate us in our endeavors, in order to discover whether our expectations are, in the end, satisfied. In a way, expectations inspire curiosity and a desire for closure.

Students come to Penn with many expectations. Some with the expectation of finding new friends, some with the expectation of further self-discovery. But common to many students entering college is the expectation of success.

In some way or another, many of us are enamored with the very idea of success. We measure our successes in different contexts – in academics, social spheres, professions, and beyond. The question then is, how do we assign value to our individual success? For successes to have value, they have to be compared.

There is a curious entanglement between one’s perception of success and happiness. I asked my friends, “what does success mean to you?” Many times, the root answer was happiness. Pride, self satisfaction. My friends want to be happy – or they want to make others happy.

Success is two-faced. The less celebrated component of success is the struggle. Sleepless nights, missed chances, and failure after repeated failure. At its core, success is a game of endurance.

Abject failure is the elephant in the room. I have seen my friends internalize their hardships and struggles. Depression gnaws at them from the inside and lashes with subtle strikes.

Missed appointments. Insomnia. Inability to get out of bed in the morning. And despite it all, a dogged, weary persistence to keep pushing through.

As a community, we should not internalize our struggles, but be able to speak out when we need help or seek reassurance from each other. No individual is incapable of failure… in some ways failure should be something to be celebrated as a stepping stone on the way to success.

This too, should become our expectation.





Behind The Scenes:



JT Chow


About The Author: JT Chow is a senior enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, Class of 2017

Hong Li: Every Cool Kid Will Grow Up



Photography, Interview and Text by Hong Li, Copyright 2016



– What Does Graduate School Give Us?


Rachael is a sophomore student at Drexel University. She is beautiful, young and energetic.

Nothing will beat her until she gives up, well, at least she thinks so. She hates  when people

look at her and judge her without getting to know her.  She hates  when people’s

behavior is fool. She is an activist in many ways.

She loves making up, lipsticks are her true loves. She loves tattoos, smoking, and skateboarding.

She expresses her emotion in a  simple and straightforward way, however sometimes her

expressions are a little too dramatic, which might sometimes drive people crazy, said her


In all, she is a cool girl, both in her friends’ views and herself. But she has an academic goal that

seems very contradictory with her characteristic, she has been thinking of getting into Upenn since

she was a freshman. What the life would be like in graduate school? Especially in a school that

many people speak highly of. Would it make me even cooler? These are her guesses.

Coral is in her second semester of her Master’s study at PennDesign, she has  suffered a

lot from her studies. She doesn’t have time for anything other than study. She said she’s been

trapped in the studio since she got here and almost lost her normal life.

Nowadays, she is already used to life in a simple and easy way. There is less arguing, less

annoyance in her life, yet more silence and privacy. When she is free she tends to watch a

movie herself instead of hanging out with friends. When she needs to relieve her stress she would

go for a bubble bath, etc.

She can feel the micro transformation from youth to grown happening slowly in herself every

day. Recently, she prefers to hide her negative feelings under her peace face because she thinks

everybody is  busy and no one would like to see a lady with a sad face; also, because she is

an adult. As she mentioned, she would only show her nervousness, weakness, ecstasy, even

love, to those people that she is familiar with.

Sometimes pieces of old memories will still come back into Coral’s head, that long time ago, she

was also a girl with a strong personality, she was always eager to express, she was stubborn, she

hurt the boy she loved badly, she was unique, she was wired, and she was once a cool kid…



Hong Li

About The Author: Hong Li is a graduate student enrolled in the School of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania.

Ruowen Lu: Waterless






During my childhood there was a beautiful lake by my house. For all the kids growing up in the neighborhood, the lake was like our backyard – a place to play and see friends. About 5 years ago, the city decided to reclaim the lake into land for commercial use. Water was drained and replaced with a luxury shopping district. People got used to the new center quickly, but for me, every time I walked by the mall, I still see the lake I used to play around. With some nostalgia, confusion, and primarily helplessness- Waterless is made.

It was my first time making a video and I didn’t know any filmmaking techniques or rules. I planned out the scenes in my head and just went for them. When I first started shooting, I only had two scenes in mind and came up with the dream scene much later. Initially, the water balloon part was just to contrast the past with the waterless “reality.” However, my film teacher inspired me with the idea of using a war metaphor to create a sense of irony to the dream scene. Likewise, with other spontaneous decisions, I added random elements to the film but luckily the dots all connected at the end and served the overall story well.

Looking back, I am glad this is my first film experience. In a way, ignorance of the filming rules gave me freedom and allowed me to follow my heart.  Now after having more experience, I can’t approach a film without worrying about the structure of the story, character development, etc.  Sometimes, when I am overthinking my work, I think about Waterless and tell myself to relax because the story will come together at the end.


Portrait of Ruowen Lu

About The Author: Ruowen discovered her passion for film last year when she made a video for her acting class. She now studies at the University of Pennsylvania, intending to major in environmental science and cinema studies. She hopes to use her artistic skills to advocate for the environment and helps green organization reach high impact. Ruowen also has a background in theatre and sometimes acts in her own films when she has spontaneous ideas. Even though it is hard to operate the camera while acting, Ruowen finds it fun and a great way to make short experimental films.

Transformation: New Americans in Philadelphia

33 people of Burma
Photography by Harvey Finle, Copyright 2015.


Posted on January 21, 2015, by Roberta Fallon (


A Photographic Exhibition by Harvey Finkle at the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia Until 2/15/15 in Conjunction with “One Book, One Phildelphia.


An historic, exciting transformation is occurring in this unique neighborhood, South Philadelphia, the original destiny for immigrants arriving in this city during the last decades of the 19th century and early 20th century. This diminishing population of descendents of European immigrants from over a century ago are being replaced today by immigrants from a variety of other countries, but bringing the same energy, values and hopes brought by their predecessors a century ago. As a Jewish community that some once estimated at a quarter million evaporated and the Italian community slowly shrinks, they are being replaced by Indochinese from Cambodian, Vietnam and Laos; by Indonesians of both Christian and Muslim faiths; by Mexicans and most recently by refugees from Nepal and Burma.


South Philadelphia is a microcosm of what is occurring in old neighborhoods of many large cities throughout the country. New immigrants and refugees are revitalizing urban neighborhoods with their energy and commitment that emulate what prior immigrants brought. Homes, shops and restaurants, once vacant and deteriorating are being regenerated; schools are being refilled; even religious facilities are being restored or constructed to reflect the varied belief systems of these new arrivals. Simply put, they work hard, want to live in safety, raise their families, educate their children and worship without fear.


This is a unique historic moment. The issues of immigration are once more at the forefront of a national discussion. Immigration will continue to be a natural occurrence throughout a globalizing world, imposing the need for major political and policy decisions. Social movements have already blossomed. An organized, informed grass roots effort can influence and enable beneficial decisions. This work can offer some small contribution to the already existing local and national discussion.