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TEDxCMU mini event teases talks to come

“Wrap up the fall season with TEDxCMU’s coziest event of the year!” This was the tagline for TEDxCMU’s Fall Mini Event, and between the complimentary doughnuts, coffee, and Red Bulls, the Christmas lights strung around the railings of Giant Eagle Auditorium, and Baker Hall’s sheltering warmth, the event certainly lived up to this standard.

Four students spoke at the Mini Event: first was Sarah Boyle, a junior in Drama, who spoke about comedy as an agent for change. Next, Zirui Zheng, a masters student in Information Systems discussed his journey of self-identification. Third, senior in Biological Sciences Raashmi Krishnasamy detailed three steps that Carnegie Mellon students can take to succeed happily. Lastly, Ethan Yang, a freshman in the Carnegie Institute of Technology, spoke about how an accidental haircut got him out of his comfort zone.

Boyle began by explaining that “playing to the truth” and being believable to the audience is crucial in a successful performance. She said that stereotypes are important in improv comedy because they make the situations believable, but they may be demeaning to the characters.

Improv can also be used to change people’s ideas of what is normal and believable, Boyle explained, and spoke on the power of diversity in comedy. When an improv troupe has more diversity, it contains more personal perspectives, which it can use to help normalize more diverse ideas.

The second speaker, Zheng, spoke about the experiences he has had since coming to the United States from China seven years ago, and the lessons that he has learned. When he first moved to the U.S., he adopted the name Michael. Afterward, he began to contemplate the balance of Chinese and American culture in his life.

After living in America for a few years, he learned many valuable lessons. First, he learned that stereotypes can be true sometimes, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Zheng also emphasized the importance of uniqueness and being comfortable with that uniqueness. He explained that everyone is unique, but that uniqueness only shows when people are comfortable being themselves. And when you are yourself, people respect that. Lastly, he spoke about how the United States is full of unique, diverse cultures, and how it is our job to bring out this uniqueness and diversity in everyone.

During her presentation, Krishnasamy explained that happily succeeding at Carnegie Mellon can be achieved in three steps: by asking yourself why you are making your current choices, being truthful with your answer to the first question and striving for excellence rather than perfection.

One day, Krishnasamy ended up in the hospital, and she discovered that her illness was partly caused by stress. She realized that if she had asked herself why she made certain choices, like why she was taking 15-112 as a pre-med student, and more importantly, been truthful with her answer, then she would have realized earlier that she was studying something she was not truly passionate about.

Lastly, Krishnasamy explained that Carnegie Mellon students should not strive for perfection because perfection is unreachable, citing Carnegie Mellon’s stress culture as a driver behind students’ quest for perfection. She suggested that our students should be striving for excellence instead because excellence is limitless. When a student has passion, purpose, and takes these three steps, then that student is on their way to happily succeeding at Carnegie Mellon.

Yang, the fourth and final speaker at the Fall Mini Event, spoke about how a haircut helped him to become more comfortable with all aspects of himself. When Yang was in fourth grade, he was diagnosed with moyamoya, a disorder caused by blocked arteries in the brain. After a stress-crying fit, he passed out and then needed brain surgery, which left incisions on both sides of his head.

He was so worried about being different that he always kept long hair to hide his scars. However, in his junior year of high school, his barber slipped up and gave him a haircut in which his scars were completely visible. When he went to school, he was bombarded with questions about them. At first, he was very uncomfortable talking about it, but after a while, he grew to be comfortable with it.

Yang said that getting out of his comfort zone led to a lot of personal growth. He left the audience with this message: “It changed my life — try it and see how it changes yours.”
Samuel Yip, the co-president of TEDxCMU, said that these speakers were chosen because the messages of their speeches were very pertinent to Carnegie Mellon students.

Anyone interested in hearing their speeches can find them on YouTube. Yip said the TEDxCMU team is working hard to prepare for two upcoming events: the spring Mini Event, which will take place in February, and the main event, which is scheduled for March 30, 2019.