Life through the lens: Olivia Wang

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Olivia Wang, Contributing Writer

This week features Olivia Wang, a sophomore back on campus after a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19 complications. She is intending on majoring in communications and minoring in journalism and economics. She enjoys the easygoing beauty of campus and finds pleasure in little things like Pit biscuits. Here is life through Olivia’s lens.

From Olivia:

Oops! A glob of oatmeal on the Old Gold & Black. Oops! Another stain from a spinach wrap lands on my keyboard. This is what often happens during my breakfast and lunch when I flip through a copy of the Old Gold & Black’s latest edition or browse the New York Times.

Already, I feel very grateful for the vicissitudes and challenges that my journalism class has brought to me, though we are barely finished with the first four weeks of school. The charm of the class has finally burst into bloom and I am no longer the crying girl I was after my first class on FDOC. Yes, FDOC, which I was told would be casual and a lot of fun.

As the class progressed, I totally freaked out and struggled with the looming threat of a quiz because I am Chinese, a foreigner in America. Even though I feel quite comfortable covering the news in China, I appear like a fool when discussing American news, especially the so-called “detailed” pieces.

“How problematic is voter fraud in US elections? Apple recently said it would implement a policy to help law enforcement officials do what? Why are governors in Florida and Texas trying to ban mask mandates in cities and schools?”

These may be questions that you can easily blurt out the answers to, but oftentimes, I know nothing and have to leave them blank. The only subject I am well versed in is the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 surge in America. Still, my knowledge of those big, well-known “world news” pieces seem to be irrelevant at times.

I never felt so humble as in that moment when students around me kept handing in their thickly dotted papers in either black or blue ink without hesitation. Even though I was quite interested in journalism, I was definitely on the brink of dropping the class.

Hopefully I don’t.

I was trembling after class and confided in professor Catanoso that I was lacking in my awareness of American news. My worries concerning subsequent classes and the emotional vulnerability that I felt throughout the 75-minute class poured out in a single moment. I collapsed. 

However, it was our conversation at the bench in front of Tribble Hall that showed me the power of this class, and gradually opened me up from a state of austerity. The bright side of being different became clear.

As soon as I stepped out of my comfort zone and started interviewing different people from different organizations on campus, unexpected harvests came along. Not only did students, professors and staff members willingly accept my interviews, they also embraced my special identity, which further catalyzed my curiosity.

“So this is your first time on campus? Did you sleep in the morning and wake up at night for online classes? How’s COVID-19 like now in China? Have you tried any Chinese food in Winston-Salem?”

The vibrancy and warmth from this class, and the entire Wake Forest community, infiltrate me bit by bit — from each morning’s “how are you?”, to the shake-and-shake of salad in the greenbox, to me turning around and randomly picking an eager interviewee at Wait Chapel.       

The warm feeling that accompanies doing something that I am proud of comes back to me, though, in this new environment, I still struggle with feelings of mediocrity — like I need to start from scratch.

I do not think I’ll ever forget what Professor Catanoso told me after the first class: “You are the person who gets the chance to stand in the middle (between two countries) and seek for the truth (of news). Be patient, take your time and don’t be discouraged.”

Such tranquility and kindness are what I enjoy seeing in any professor that I come across while meandering along the Quad. 

Sitting on my chair in my dorm and jotting down these words, I feel like a crumpled-up math worksheet that is suddenly being snatched up. My heart still twitches whenever I think of Professor Catanoso’s words, and the tears keep gushing from my eyes.

It’s all about the power of words and their ability to touch feelings down deep, especially  for me, living in a foreign country. It’s about feeling relieved after embracing life and finally gaining the ability to walk with confidence. It’s also about my original intention to study abroad and my reasons for brushing off the past to forge ahead.

“We are minorities, but we are minorities who, like magicians, often cast special effects. Whenever everything becomes difficult again, you’ll know deep down that you’ll be fine.”

This is what I tell myself as I stride through the salubrious air of Wake Forest.