Becoming A Qualified Writer

“Writing Essays YOU Want to Read”— Could this be possible?

This bold statement can be found on the cover of Slant, Professor Leither’s guide to a strong, persuasive, and interesting essay.

“What a novelty!” I thought, at first glance of the book written by my professor that would be guiding six essays throughout the first two quarters of my first college course.
“Here we go…I finally get to college and I have to read another book about how grammar works all over again.” How wrong I was. Continue reading Becoming A Qualified Writer


What Should I Eat?

Picture1(credit: Getty Images)

What Should I Eat?

When I was in high school, my friends and I found that most of the people have no idea about what to eat for lunch every day. Therefore we built an app that could automatically generate food recommendation for students. On our app,  a simple click on the button may generate more than 10 results, with rankings, comments, specials shown below. At that time, we were all teenagers from middle-class family, and eating for us was not only about gaining energy or nutrition, but also an experience of enjoying delicacy, especially meats.

Picture2(credits: Julian Burford) Continue reading What Should I Eat?

Freedom for all

Growing up, I loved being outside with friends and family. Because my parents never encouraged video games, I didn’t really play them that often. Instead, I would play outside. My brother and I would walk to the tennis courts that were conveniently close to our house and play for hours. We would serve, volley, and hit groundstrokes all day long. I would also walk to the beach and hang out with friends. My friends and I played volleyball, swam in the ocean, and laid out in the sand under the giant golden sun. It was this freedom that my parents gave me to explore the outside world that made my childhood so great. I had no worries, no fears. Continue reading Freedom for all

Perception vs. Reality

When I started my college adventure, I never knew how hard it would be to leave high school where I felt secure and sheltered.  My senior year of high school was a time of celebration.  I received a scholarship to play soccer at this wonderful university and had never been so excited to go to school.  The word student-athlete is not to be taken lightly as we are expected to practice, lift, condition, and watch film everyday while trying to maintain a certain GPA.  Although there are many perks, I also had to balance a lot of things on my plate.   Continue reading Perception vs. Reality

Is Ignorance Bliss?

“We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness.” (Foer)

Santa Clara University is a school that strives to educate the whole person. Throughout my time here (only seven months) not only have I learned in a purely academic sense, but I have also learned how to take these academic lessons and apply them to real life outside of the classroom. The core content in my Critical Thinking and Writing class was initially easy for me to implement from the classroom into my daily life. Some of the main themes for this class were food production, sustainability and honesty. All of which I had previously thought about on a daily basis: “I should probably just have a salad for dinner”, “maybe I should turn off the lights quickly on my way to class”, “is this person really being honest with me right now?” I know these seem like very different topics, but I promise that all of these themes have been interwoven throughout my life over the past two quarters here, in and out of a classroom setting. Talking about these topics weekly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3:50 to 5:30) for the past seven months really allowed my class to dive deep into these themes. Everyone seemed to have different opinions on the issues surrounding these topics and different ideas on how to combat them. Two things that we all could agree on, however, is that there is a negative and a positive side to each of these topics, and we have the power to make small positive daily decisions that have a greater impact on the world if we take the time to educate ourselves about these issues.



To look at one of these topics more specifically, food production and factory farming have many negative side-effects. However, many people are unaware of these harmful issues because they are not widely published. Although most people know that it is important to be conscious of what they’re putting into their body, as it effects your health and the overall quality of your life, but they don’t take the time to research these problems. After taking this CTW course and diving in deeper into these topics, I’ve come to realize that it honestly is easier to be ignorant about all of these issues and be unaware of all of their negative side effects, especially when these side effects don’t affect your daily life. For example, daily decision-making becomes more difficult if you are aware of and educated about the detrimental effects of factory farming on the environment, your health and the lives of millions of animals. When you become mindful of these negative effects, you are called to question your decision every time you want to order anything containing meat. For example, let’s say you’re out for dinner with your friends and you’ve been craving a cheeseburger all day. When you get to the restaurant to order it, you can easily just ask the waiter for it with no internal conflict. However, once you are aware of the negative effects that arise from the creation of cheeseburgers, it becomes more difficult to order it. Even though you love the taste of it, now you are aware that animals have suffered and that the environment has been compromised in the production of that cheeseburger. So even if you’re craving it, your morals tell you not to do it. Therefore, knowing being more educated creates additional internal dilemmas that most people just don’t want to deal with. If you are unaware of these problems, then you won’t feel guilty when you order something containing meat off of the menu and you can cure your craving. People don’t want this moral responsibility, so they decide to remain uninformed which leads to further problems.



Despite the larger moral responsibility, it is better to be educated and aware of issues surrounding these themes so you can make decisions that decrease the larger negative impacts created by factory farming, as it will create a better world.

I think the most widely known issue about consuming meat products is the animal cruelty because there are many popularized movies such as Food, Inc. that present this problem. Before taking this course, I knew that animal cruelty was an issue that arises from the meat production industry. Animal cruelty was something that people always talked about: “oh I don’t eat meat because it’s mean to animals” or “I don’t eat meat because of the conditions the animals are kept in”. But I only really knew that animals were being kept in horrible conditions because of what other people said. I never took the time to consider it on my own. After taking this class and becoming more educated about factory farming, I soon realized why so many people were claiming this. For example, on a factory farm that Jonathan Foer visited,there were at least thirty-three thousand chickens are kept in one small room. These tight quarters lead to numerous issues, such as “walking impairments and chronic pain” (Foer). Not only do tight, overly-populated space create uncomfortable living situations for the birds, but it also makes the birds go mentally insane. “Of course chickens will go crazy if forced to live in such grossly unnatural conditions for long- the lighting and crowding, the burdens of their grotesque bodies” (Foer). After learning about these conditions in class, it forced me to stop consuming as much meat- because I was genuinely disgusted by the conditions that these farms were forcing their birds to live in and I did not want to continue to contribute to their misery.

“Few people have seen the insides of industrial dairies, egg or pig operations, and most consumers truly have no idea what is going on at such places. I’m convinced that the vast majority of people would be appalled with what goes on there” (Foer).

Not only does factory farming have the obvious immediate visible effects of animal cruelty, but it also has a much more subtle, gradual negative side effect. Although you wouldn’t notice if you were just walking into a factory farm, the production of meat within these major corporations has an enormously destructive effect on the environment as it creates large amounts of air and water pollution. For example, in 2000 manure from a factory farm ran off into the town’s water supply in Ontario, Canada. As a result, seven people died and over two thousand three hundred people became ill due to drinking tap water that had been contaminated with manure (Environmental). Not only does cow manure from factory farms contaminate our water supply, but it also emits greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Before taking this Critical Thinking and Writing course and learning about food sustainability, I was under the impression that cars and planes were responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emission. And I imagine that many others are under this impression as well, however this is not the case. Manure from factory farmed cows emits over one hundred and sixty different kinds of toxic gasses into to the atmosphere (Farm). It also makes a “forty percent greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change” (Foer). Therefore, consuming meat not only promotes animal cruelty, but it is also incredibly unsustainable and leads to further issues for our environment.

“Animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse, and manure has been turned into toxic waste” (Foer).

Despite all of these drastic issues surrounding factory farming, the majority of people continue to buy these products. When we buy factory farmed products, we are increasing the demand for them. And with an increased demand, factory farms will respond and create a larger supply of meat in order to meet the demand and increase their profits. “The irony is that while factory farms don’t benefit the public, we not only support them, but pay for their mistakes” (Foer). We have to remember that factory farms are money hungry corporations. When we buy meat products from these factory farms, it just leads to more suffering of animals and more feces infected water. I think the majority of people continue to buy these products simply because they are unaware of the fact that there are such large negative side effects surrounding factory farms. These issues aren’t widely talked about mostly because “The institution (The USDA) we have put in charge of telling us when foods are dangerous has a policy of not telling us when foods (especially if they are animal products) are dangerous” (Foer).  We put trust into the USDA to tell us that what we are eating is healthy, however in reality they are not explicitly telling us when factory farmed meat is not healthy or good to consume. Therefore, it’s up to us to look further into issues, rather than just relying on one source (especially when they might not be telling you the whole truth) and determine what practices are morally okay to support and which are not.

Corn field at sunset


It can be easier at times to choose to ignore larger issues that do not immediately affect us in a negative way. When we are ignorant about an issue, we can continue to live our daily lives and make decisions that provide immediate satisfaction and have the greatest positive effects for only us, without thinking about the bigger picture. However, when we become aware of the fact that our actions have an impact on the rest of the world, our daily choices become more difficult but also more important. For example, if we are aware of animal cruelty and environmental issues surrounding factory farming then we can decide to make better dietary choices and create less harm throughout the world. However, if we remain uninformed about the issues surrounding factory farming, it might make our dietary decisions easier, but it will in turn have a negative impact on our individual health and the environment. Even though it makes daily decisions more difficult, this idea of being educated rather than ignorant can and should be applied into other aspects of our lives in order to make the world a better place.

One thing that I learned in CTW is that the easiest way to fix an issue and to make others more aware, is to simply start a conversation about it with others. If you ignite someone else’s interest about the issue, they might look further into it themselves and then come to the same moral conclusion as you did. If enough people are aware and educated on these problems, it’s possible to decrease their negative effects on the rest of the world. So go out there and start some conversations. Who knows? it might lead to a more sustainable planet!



Works Cited

Clark, Ed. “USDA’s ARC/PLC Regs Letter Expected to Hit Producer Mailboxes as Early as

This Week.” AgWeb – The Home Page of Agriculture. N.p., 05 Aug. 2014. Web. 22 Mar.


“Environmental Impact of Factory Farms.” Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. N.p.,

  1. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. farms/

“Farm Santuary.” Farm Sanctuary. Farm Sanctuary Inc, 2016. Web 18 Nov 2016.         environment/

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York, Boston, London: Little, Brown, 2013.



“HAPPY PLANET….?” EarthPM. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

“Iepurele Plictisit.” Iepurele Plictisit. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

Thompson, Gary. “Identity Management Blog | Self-Service Password Management |

Avatier.” The Identity and Access Management Blog. N.p., 28 Dec. 2016. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

What’s With That?

Preparing to write this, I looked back over all of the essays that I turned in for CTW 1 and 2 and I am kind of amazed at the difference in my writing. I sound like a completely different person. In a way, I am kind of a different person than I was when I started college. Coming from an international school in China where I was somewhat divided from real life as an expat, the transition to being a full and equal part of my surroundings was by far the biggest change for me. It’s kind of an interesting feeling.

Suddenly being a fully integrated part of my surroundings took some adjustment but I have always found that I work best when I understand how things work and why things are the way they are. Accepting things for the way they are is not always something I can live with, I like knowing why. So when I sat down in CTW 1 and the first question we were asked were something along why do you think you are happy (after filling out that happiness questionnaire) and being pushed for a real answer not just the surface level stuff, I had a feeling I would enjoy this class.

I found that as we progressed in the course material, we started reframing the question of why. We would talk about something we had read or watched and ask ‘what’s with that?’ We framed normal things like packaged turkey in ways that reveal the absurdity of them and asked ourselves and the class ‘what’s with that?’ ‘What’s with that’ is how I framed my essays, how my life outside of CTW 1 and 2 started changing and how I will question things going forward.

Picking a topic for our essays was probably the hardest part of this class. My constant struggle was finding a ‘what’s with that’ topic and actually being able to talk about it in an essay instead of having to write a book to do it justice. That being said, I probably still could have written a book about each of my essay topics as I went down the rabbit hole of whys and how comes. Exploring specific topics from a more narrow perspective and a very specific lens gave me more power to actually write compelling stuff though because I could talk about the entire thing and still have a little creative room.


(What The Hell)

The most difficult essay topic I wrote about was probably my most recent one about Whey protein. Up until that point, we had asked ourselves ‘what’s with that’ and written five essays on different topics revolving around the idea of food, so writing about a similar topic in a different way for the sixth time seemed like it would be impossible. Using a culmination of my experience gathering primary data, I thought it would be best if I collected data right from the source, the SCU gym, so that I could be qualified to talk about Santa Clara as a whole. Throughout the course of writing my five other essays, I found that simply being somewhere relevant and asking questions to a random selection of people was the most effective way to get data that was related to your subject. I tried doing surveymonkey surveys with a huge variance in results that I was expecting. Maybe it was more accurate, probably it was, but my arguments were stronger when I my hypotheses were proved. I guess this is very much me lying to myself like Dan Ariely writes about in The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (Ariely) and I’m glad I can identify it so when I do research in the future, I know how to keep my bias out of it.

What we learned in CTW also had some real applications to my life outside of the classroom. I did make improvements in my writing for other classes because of my developing writing process, but that aside, our conversations and readings were pretty convincing. One section in particular from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer changed my entire diet for nearly two months. It was a description of chickens being slaughtered in a soup of their own feces and how that liquid soaked into the meat and helped weight that chicken down. It makes me gag just thinking about it again. I not only cut out chicken from my diet, but all other meats too for nearly a month. I became vegetarian for a month because of a ‘what’s with that’ experience I had in a class. There haven’t been many times that I’ve learned something in a class and changed something in my life because of it.


(Chicken Coop)

I must admit that I am eating chicken and other meats again, but because we thought about it critically and exposed the absurdity of something we take for granted, I am more aware of what’s around me and that leads me to question other things in my life. This ‘what’s with that’ attitude I’ve learned in CTW 1 and 2 has gotten me into some pretty interesting conversations. Just recently in my Christian Traditions class, a question I asked my professor at the beginning of class ended up being a Leither-esque class long discussion. I realize I may not be qualified to talk about everything but I’ve also sharpened my skills on becoming qualified or at least qualified to talk about one specific thing in depth with primary and secondary research I have conducted. Going forward, I see myself asking ‘what’s with that’ a lot more, not only out of a personal desire to know why things are the way they are but because through this class I’ve seen a need to know for my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of people around me.

Seeing how much I have changed and grown in the last two quarters because I asked why things are the way they are, I have absolutely no idea what I will be after the next two quarters. As I continue to get a feel of my place in this still new environment that I am a part of, I will keep trying to put things in ways that make take a step back for minute and ask: ‘what’s with that?’


Works Cited:

Ariely, Dan. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. 1st ed. London: HarperCollins, 2012. Print.

Chicken Coop. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. 1st ed. New York, Boston, London: Little, Brown & Company, 2013. Print.

What The Hell. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

What’s Up With That. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.


It was summer ’16 and I had just graduated high school and I was getting ready for the next phase of my life: college. At orientation for SCU I found out they had already enrolled us in a mandatory English course: Critical Thinking and Writing 1. As I looked at the paper I thought to myself, Oh, great. Another English class that I’m being forced to take. And I have to take it for 2 quarters.


I really wasn’t looking forward to attending class because all I could think about was the amount of reading and writing I was probably going to have to do. I figured I was going to do a lot of that, but I was hoping it would at least be for a class I chose and was genuinely interested in. But, since I had no choice, I sucked it up and went to class.

Surprisingly, I found the topic of the class (food and dishonesty) to be very interesting and our professor is really laid back, so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure to appear to be more academic and intellectual than I really am. I was so used to essays, and especially research papers, to be more academic in nature with very strict guidelines, and so I found it difficult to adapt to how our professor was teaching us how to write. We were free to choose topics that interested us, as long as it related somehow to the course topic.

This kind of freedom in my writing allowed me to actually enjoy the essays I wrote for this course. When it came to second quarter, where our essays were more research based, I actually didn’t mind doing a lot of research because the topics I chose to write about were interesting to me and were subjects that I wanted to learn more about.


The first quarter we read Eating Animals by Johnathan Safran Foer. I found that book to be disgusting, but very eye opening. I knew that the practice of killing animals for human consumption was cruel and inhumane, but I never looked into how bad it really is. This book really shed a light on how gross the food industry is. I remember Foer discussing, in detail, how much feces that is involved while processing and packaging chicken. I had to stop reading at times because the book became so graphic and gross that I just could not handle it. Despite all that, I still eat meat. Chicken is by far my favorite. I am, however, more aware of the cruel practices of the meat industry, and I don’t eat as much meat as I used to. Basic RGB

My favorite essay from this quarter was second essay where I discussed Filipino culture and my journey towards accepting who I am. It was very anecdotal and it was fun to write because I was able to draw from personal experience in order to comment on how difficult it can be to blend two cultures together (Filipino and American culture). I really enjoyed writing that essay because it was a bit more introspective than what I was used to and I believe it really helped me begin to grow in my writing in order to write better essays.


Second quarter we discussed the topic of dishonesty. We had lightly touched the subject in first quarter when we were talking about factory farms and the food industry and how it’s all basically a lie. They say they’re trying to keep the people’s best interest, but, in reality, their main goal is to make as much profit as possible. We read the book The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. This book was a very interesting read because the author created many different experiments in order to test what circumstances people would lie under and what could drive people to lie. People can lie because they want to keep up or fit in with the norm. I found that relatable because I would tell people I got a higher score on an exam if I felt that I was falling behind everyone else. Or, in volleyball, I would report a higher number of serves that went in just to make it look like I was in the average.

For this quarter, I wrote an essay on aphrodisiacs and touched on the subject of dishonesty. I discussed how Cosmopolitan appears to be trying to sell aphrodisiacs to their readers by making them seem appealing and that they really do work.

cosmopolitan_logoI have found that aphrodisiacs have very little impact on one’s sex drive, which led me to question why would Cosmo continue to claim that these foods can help your sex life when there is little scientific evidence to back these claims. In fact, experiments have shown that their effects are very insignificant. I hypothesized that perhaps Cosmo is writing these articles to draw in more readers. These big industries and big names don’t really have our best interest in mind and we should be cautious in trusting them.


This course helped me find a way to make writing more enjoyable and interesting. I am beginning to write papers that are interesting to me which then makes it more interesting for the reader.

Questions can lead to more questions and that’s okay. Sometimes, we can’t get a definite answer, but that’s where the controversy lies.