Thank You Cards

For almost as long as I can remember, I have been writing thank you cards to people who have done favors for me, given me presents/thought of me, and/or have done something that made me really appreciative of them.

Since the school year is quickly coming to an end, my friends and I recently came together to make a thank you card that fell in the latter category for our RA. Like all the other thank you cards that I write, my friends and I did not start making the card until a day or so before we were planning on giving it to our RA and we all completed our part of the card in one sitting while we had some free time in our rooms. Furthermore, as I was writing my part, I was feeling very reflective because I had to think about what exactly I wanted to thank my RA for. However, I did not feel that anything was particularly at stake with this particular card because it was not written as a direct response to something that someone else did for me. But I do recognize that in some other situations, a thank you card can have someone’s reputation at stake because many people feel that it is basic manners to write someone a thank you note if they do or give something specifically to you.

In terms of conventions when it comes to writing a thank you card, I feel like they can change slightly depending on how intimate of a relationship you have with them (such as the formality of the tone with which you write). However, I do feel that there are some very general conventions that most people follow, and these include addressing the card to the receiver(s) (because when you write a thank you card, it is almost always not written for yourself), signing your name, and of course, using language that conveys gratefulness such as “thank you,” “I’m so grateful,” etc. since the whole aim of this piece of writing is to let someone know you are thankful for them*. As with many other things, I only learned of these conventions through observing and getting advice from others. More specifically, I learned from watching what my older siblings would write when we would make a thank you card together and from asking my mom what I should and shouldn’t write in my cards.

Now in terms of a response to a thank you card, I feel that there typically isn’t one since the thank you card itself is usually a response to something the other person has done. However, for cards that fall into the same category as the one that my friends and I wrote (ie. a card that is just a somewhat random expression of appreciation), I could expect to get a response along the lines of something like, “Thank you, that’s so sweet of you!”

*While some may deem this as grammatically incorrect, the use of “them” here is intentional because it is a all-inclusive, gender-neutral term.

Notes, Notes, Notes

Considering the fact that I am still a student, taking notes is a huge part of my life. However, note taking is not strictly limited to the classroom. One recent example of a time when I took notes outside one of my classes was my pre-departure orientation for my Hong Kong summer study abroad trip. Because the people in charge of the program were going over important information about our trip, such as how to get to our hotel from the airport, what items to bring, what we can do to prepare in advance, etc., I thought it necessary for me to take notes. Of course, I chose to take notes, rather than use a different form of writing, in this situation because the main aim of notes is to help remind you of important information that you will need to reference later on in time.

I believe that note-taking is a very personalized form of writing due to the fact that the primary audience is yourself. (While it is not uncommon to share your notes with others, you still originally wrote those notes for yourself.) But because note taking is very person-specific, I do not feel there are many conventions people have to follow. In fact, I believe that there is really only one convention that people follow when taking notes, and that is to not write in full paragraphs as in other forms of writing. Instead the information is broken up into smaller pieces and is organized in a list format using some type of bullet point. This convention is one that I learned unconsciously through seeing many examples of notes that other people had taken since a young age. One example would be seeing the notes my elementary school teachers would have on the slides they projected for the class. However, these examples also helped me develop my own personal style for taking notes. This is seen clearly in the fact that I draw a star next to points that are extremely important, a habit that is surely the result of many of my former teachers also putting a star next to what they thought was most important.

Another thing that I, like many other people, tend to do when taking notes is to abbreviate words. Because I am the main audience, which makes my own personal understanding of something the only thing really at stake in my notes, there is no problem abbreviating things as long as I know what they stand for. In my notes from the orientation, for example, some of the abbreviations I used included “+” for “and,” “w/” for “with,” and “HK” for “Hong Kong.”

Now in the case of notes, the response or feedback you get is not the typical one, if there is any at all. This is because people generally imagine a response or feedback coming from someone other than the original author, but in the case of notes, almost all of it comes from the original author. For example, in my case, when I find something I don’t understand when looking back at my notes, I mark it with big question marks to communicate that this section needs clarification.

However, note taking is different from other forms of writing, particularly other forms of writing closely related to academics, for other reasons as well. Most other forms of academic writing require you to start somewhat in advance. However, for my orientation notes, as with all my other notes, I did not start until the person lecturing/presenting started speaking. I then continued to work/ add to my notes while the orientation was still taking place in the classroom. Additionally, most other writing is used as a tool to articulate your own thoughts, but in note taking you are only trying to write down things other people are telling you with little to no incorporation of your own thoughts. But as a result of focusing so much on writing down what the other person is saying, I generally don’t think or have any feelings about what I am writing.

Translate: from Chinese to English

For this ethnography, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the English translations of Chinese sentences that I often have to do for my Chinese class.

Since they are simply translations of already established sentences, and thus ideas, it is typical behavior to translate the sentence in Chinese as closely as you can in English, even though less precise translations probably convey the same idea. Furthermore, it is expected that your translation uses proper English grammar rather than “Chinglish” (using Chinese grammar structures that do not exist in English in your translation). However, I only came to know of these conventions by having seen many examples of good English translations and having been explicitly told by my professor to do, or not do, such things.

And because these translations are done in a classroom or academic context, their goal or purpose are quite clear: to demonstrate to my audience (my Chinese professor) that I understand new Chinese grammar structures and how they translate into English. Additionally, the academic context of these translations means that my grades are at stake in these writings. As a result, I often get feedback from my professor on these translations in which she points out grammar points that I should have included or changed in order for me to do better on future translations.

However, because it is not always clear how to translate a certain phrase, it can be quite frustrating at times to write these translations. This is especially true when I have to do such translations on tests because I cannot reference my textbook, the internet or friends as I can when I am simply doing such translations for homework.

The Life of a Student

The life of a college student includes many things, such as spending late nights in the library (or in my case, the business school breakout rooms), eating dining hall food that is less than appetizing, and sending a lot of emails.

And I, as a college student, am no different. While I definitely receive more emails than I send out, I do write my fair share of emails, especially to professors. This is because emails can serve a multitude of purposes, from conveying a question in need of clarification to alerting the professor of a particular circumstance to setting up appointment times.

But since there exists the teacher-student power dynamic when emailing a professor, certain writing conventions need to be followed that do not necessarily need to be followed when emailing your peers or other people with whom you have a close relationship. Some of these conventions include always including a formal greeting at the beginning of the email, emailing them at appropriate times, and avoiding using any sort of emojis or slang.

I first learned about these conventions years ago when I began to start writing emails to my teachers. My mom and/or my older brother would always read over my emails and give me advice on how to make my email more appropriate and professional. Without them, I would have realized the many conventions for emailing professors much later on in my life.

Because the audience of the email (i.e. the professor(s) to whom you are sending an email) is most likely expecting these conventions to be followed, not following them can put your reputation at stake because they may assume that you do not care enough to show due respect to your professor(s).

I begin most of my emails very soon after I think of something that I need to ask or inform a professor about. They do not tend to be long-thought out pieces of writing. I only spend enough time writing emails to ensure that I clearly conveyed what I wanted to and that I made sure to follow the various writing conventions associated with emailing a professor. Because of this, I can write emails almost anywhere my phone or laptop has internet connection, but I do usually prefer writing emails when I am sitting in my own room.

But while the process of writing emails to my professors usually looks more or less the same for me, what I am feeling as I write them depends on the content of the email. For example, the most recent email I sent was to my Chinese professor, in which I told her that I had completed an assignment and had attached it to the email. Because I was checking something off my to-do list, I felt a sense of relief as I hit send. However, if I had been emailing her about a potential problem, I might have been feeling worried instead. But, with the number of emails students send to professors, the entire range of emotions will probably be covered sooner or later.

Accounting 101: A Case Report

For this ethnography, I decided to focus on the case report that I had to write with my group members for our Accounting 101 class. Because our report had to be written in the form of a business memo, there were certain writing conventions we had to follow. Most notably, we had to create a heading that stated “To: (Professor’s name)” on the first line, “From: (names of group members)” on the second line, “Date: (the due date of the assignment)” on the third line,” and “Subject: (case name)” on the last line. Then immediately below the last line of the heading was a solid black line that separated the heading from the body of the memo. Additionally, the body of the memo was suppose to read as one cohesive, yet concise, piece of writing rather than as numbered responses to each of the individually posed questions. Lastly, graphs, tables, and other types of exhibits were allowed, and maybe even encouraged, as a means to help summarize the information we were presenting. However, before completing this assignment, I was not aware of any of these conventions since I had never written a business memo before. I only became aware of them when the professors clearly laid them out in the instructions for the assignment.

Since this was an assignment for a class, a portion of my grade was at stake with this case report. Furthermore, what the goal or aim of this piece of writing was also very apparent: it was suppose to prove to our audience, our professor and possibly some teaching assistants, that we knew how to read various financial statements and use the information in those statements to make calculations and inferences.

However, despite the relative importance of this case report, my group and I did not start working on it until a few days before the due date. But this ended up being enough time because we managed to finish the report the night before it was due, and I think this was in large part due to the fact that we worked through the entire case together, rather than trying to split up the work and then trying to stitch everything together. However, the process of writing this was admittedly quite frustrating because the questions we were responding to were not entirely clear and one of my group members failed to pull his weight in constructing the case report.

But all of that is in the past now. All I can do is hope that the next time we have a case assigned to us, things will go better than this first time around.

Applying for a Summer in Hong Kong

Recently, I completed my application for the MSB’s summer program in Hong Kong which, like most applications, included a portion that required written responses to various prompts.

While there are no hard and fast rules people must follow when writing such responses, there are certain conventions that most people do tend to follow. These include things such as being honest about yourself but also highlighting what makes you unique, writing in a way that makes it clear that it is your voice coming through, and grounding the topics you are discussing in concrete examples or experiences. However, I only became aware of these conventions once I embarked on the college admission process and began writing numerous applications and receiving a lot of advice from people that had already been through the same process.

As with the written portion of any application, my admission into this program was at stake in my writing. Thus, what I wrote aimed to convince or prove to my audience that I was a perfect fit for the program. And of course, the audience for which I was writing was very specific because I was really only writing for the small group of people who do not know me but will arbitrarily decide whether I am suitable for this program after reading a couple paragraphs about me. And while I, nor anybody else, will never receive specific feedback about what we wrote from our readers, the final decision on whether or not we are admitted is a pretty good indicator of how persuasive our writing actually was.

Like most of my other past applications, I started this one fairly early, a couple months before the deadline, but I only worked on it very sporadically in the beginning. It was not until the deadline was much, much closer that I really sat down in a quiet place to try and string together the various thoughts I had quickly jotted down earlier into a cohesive response. As a result of this last-minute push-to-the-finish-line approach, I actually felt quite stressed out while writing this despite such writings being seen as “easy” (in the sense that the responses should come more naturally since everything is about yourself).

But that is all in the past. Now that my application has officially been submitted, all I can do is wait.

Hong Kong: where I will HOPEFULLY be this summer