Nadia Kim

Nadia Kim (‘19) is a Senior studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). When she is not trying to convince others to play games with her, she dabbles in a range of creative endeavors from spoken word poetry to photography — take a look at her website! Small talk aside, I am very fortunate to be her friend because she has an uncanny knack for making people feel like they can be themselves and for spotting dogs around campus.

Since your show is coming up, let’s start with this extremely pertinent question: Why did you join the Excelano Project and how has it impacted your time at Penn?
I joined my Sophomore Fall during a time when I didn’t feel fully satisfied at Penn, especially with the spaces and the communities that I had tried joining. I had previously been a part of this kind-of performing arts group called Penn Monologues the previous semester, and that had been my first taste of using the stage as a platform to work through issues, tap into my vulnerabilities, and connect with other people. From there, the Excelano Project just seemed like the next logical step.  I’d never written nor performed poetry before, at least, nothing beyond high school English assignments, and so the first actual poem that I wrote was my audition poem for the group. I’d say it’s probably the best decision I made at Penn. The fact that it’s literally the only club I’m still involved with at this point says a lot about what it means to me and what it means to the people in the group, even beyond the shows and the poetry. It’s cliche but Penn can be difficult and it’s nice to have a place that makes it less so.

What’s the second best thing you have done at Penn?
I feel like that would probably be going to CAPS my freshman spring and then continuing with it until the end of junior year. Even beyond all of the benefits of therapy, I think just learning to take responsibility for my own health and well-being was something I’d never fully done before. That was something that I decided that I needed to do, even though it wasn’t necessarily something that I really wanted to do. Carving out time in my week for self care consistently for two years was very important and has hopefully set me up for being able to take steps to look after myself in the future.

Reflecting on your role as the previous Editor in Chief of The WALK, how do you feel about that experience?
It was probably the hardest thing I did— it was a lot of work and a lot of time but I definitely don’t regret doing it. At this point, it feels like a whole blur.
What made the role so challenging?
I tend to base my personal value sometimes on the quality, or what I perceive to be the quality, of the work that I produce. It’s hard to have this mindset and not be in complete control of what you’re making — which was The WALK, just by nature of it being the effort of many different people. Learning to relinquish control to a certain degree and leave things up to chance was very difficult, especially since I can be a control freak with that kind of stuff. I definitely had to learn how to be okay with having a certain vision in mind and it not panning out the exact way I envisioned. This definitely taught me how to be more flexible, which was good because I tend to have a pretty strong point of view about how I think things should look and get done.

Do you remember when I told you that I liked hanging out with you because you made me feel uncomfortable? I mean, to be fair, I feel less uncomfortable around you these days. [Ed. Note: I still feel very uncomfortable when rosewater is involved.]
Well, I think that the fact that you openly call me out on certain things has helped me better examine the things I do and why I do them.
I didn’t realize I did that!
I feel like it happens less frequently nowadays, unless I’m just desensitized to it by this point…
Oh, was it with you that I was talking about how art is this strange form of social capital at Penn?
Hmmm, maybe?
I mean, I’m not saying I’m immune to it, and I don’t think there’s anything necessarily super wrong with it. If there is to be any form of social capital, maybe it is better that it’s art rather than something like physical appearances… although I guess that the value of appearances is a contributing factor of enabling art to exist as social capital. I’m not sure if it is a recent trend and I don’t want to sound like I am preaching from my high horse–
Because we both have the ubiquitous Matisse ‘Blue Nude’ prints in our rooms and own numerous pairs of oversized geometric earrings?
Yes. I think the reason why it bothers me relates back to what you mentioned earlier about intentions and if people are posting Instagram photos of themselves looking at whatever painting because they are genuinely taking it in, versus using it as some form of leverage to up their social media game. With that being said, I think it’s stopped bothering me as much. I think it bothered me more sophomore and junior year when I cared a lot more about “authenticity” (whatever that is),  not that I don’t care about authenticity anymore, but I mean…it’s just tiring to get annoyed by all these little things. If that whole ecosystem is making people happy then it’s entirely their own prerogative. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a similar phenomenon across other schools because it seems to parallel Penn’s general culture of elitism.

The notion of being ‘artsy’ is interesting because it implies that someone is idiosyncratic in a fascinating or attractive manner, but not to an extent that they completely deviate from mainstream ideals. We love a quirky but not too quirky girl!
Yeah, I think it’s funny and I like calling people out.
I think we do a pretty good of calling each other out on things.
Sure, but I didn’t realize I was challenging you in this way. I only thought I challenged you on your taste in men.

Anyway, now that we have established that I like being friends with people who make me slightly uncomfortable…What about you? What qualities do you appreciate in a friendship?
I would say ‘showing up’, which sounds kind of basic and the lowest sort of requirement, but honestly, I think that it’s a simple action that can get neglected at a place like Penn, or really, anywhere we can regard as modern life. I think being present in a friendship is really important, especially when facing even the seemingly smallest of situation. At the end of the day, the cumulative effect of ‘showing up’ is indicative of the friendship as a whole.

What is a quality you appreciate in yourself?
I’m not sure if this is my number one most prized personality trait–it’s more so about when I like myself the most–but something that comes to mind is how I am when I’m fully comfortable with someone, when I can let go of everything else and just be my weird and wholly authentic self. I overthink a lot (I write poetry, did you know??) so that kind of ease is exhilarating. I will say that it takes a while to get to that point, and it actually goes back to another thing I value in friendships: when people put me at ease. Honestly speaking, I’m not 100% at ease in a lot of social situations. I tend to be consciously/subconsciously aware of others’ impressions and expectations of me…but once I’m able overcome that, it’s just really nice to just BE with someone.

That’s really interesting because I was under the impression that you were always confident in expressing your true self, as that is how I have ever seen you exist. Wanna ask me a question?

Have your expectations going into this project been met or even exceeded? What has surprised you about it?
Frankly, I don’t think I had many, if any, expectations going in because I didn’t really know what I was doing, and arguably, I still don’t really know what I am doing now. In life, I think it’s ideal to be as creatively prolific as possible. However, this is easier said than done as there always seem to be 100 things vying for our limited attention and time…and 95 of those things seem like they must be prioritized because they are integral to succeeding, whatever that means. I am glad I decided to do this because even though it isn’t something that is penned to define my future, it’s an opportunity for me to exercise greater autonomy of how I spend my time as well as my creative muscles.
The best feeling always occurs after I post a new small talk, and I think this feeling was the strongest when I first embarked on this project. However, during winter break, I was unsure as to whether I wanted to continue with it. I think this uncertainty arose as a function of where I was mentally last semester but also because I didn’t really feel as though I was doing anything novel because I felt as though 34ST really stepped up their game. Also, I kind of just missed having organic conversations with people. In between all of this time spent musing, my website hosting plan automatically renewed for $130…I guess it’ll be around for at least another year! Jokes aside, I do think it’s a valuable activity for me because it enables me to practice skills that I wouldn’t otherwise get to practice regularly, such as photography or having conversations with strangers.

Okay, back to you. What do you appreciate most about Penn?
I don’t want to give a cliche answer but I genuinely think it is how driven and passionate people are — it’s probably what anyone would say. I have probably gotten more out of people that I’ve met than my classes. I think this contributes to why art as social capital art bothers me. Sometimes it just feels ingenuine, especially in comparison with instances where I see someone who is just doing things for the sake of doing things. For me, the most salient example of this occured during my brief stint as a general assignments reporter for the DP. I interviewed Jameel about Khiry and was blown away by the fact that someone could create something so amazing on top of being a student. That’s the example that I always return to if someone ever asks me what Penn students are like — I mean obviously he’s kind of an outlier but it’s just very cool to be able to be in the same space as people like that. Even the amount that people care about their clubs is pretty remarkable, albeit sometimes it is to an unhealthy extent.

Sorry to have to ask you this question since I feel graduation’s impending presence is something that many seniors are avoiding, but is there anything that you would have liked to change about your Penn experience or about Penn in general?
I am definitely guilty of this — I think a lot of people want to expand their circle, make new friends, and meet new people, but don’t necessarily take the steps to achieve these goals. It is so much easier to just be complacent and comfortable. I don’t even really know  what the steps to achieve this would be, because really intentionally trying to make friends requires approaching it in a somewhat tactical way, which just seems so much more arduous than just hanging out with people I already know and I’m around.

Alright, final question. What is something that you would like to recommend to others?
Can I recommend something that I’ve never done? No wait… it’s really weird.
Do share!
…Have you heard of shower orange? You go into the shower and really aggressively peel and eat an orange – it’s supposed to be some kind of visceral, carnal experience that I guess is very satisfying? There’s a whole subreddit dedicated to it. I’ve never tried it but you should do it. Otherwise, I would recommend coming to an Excelano Project show and also, this poem.

Who do you recommend we, which is to say, I, talk to next?
Do you know Isabella’s friend, Yoni? I had coffee with him a couple weeks ago and he’s doing very cool things that I can’t explain because I am inept at technology. He’s sub matriculated into his Master’s program and is working on some fascinating things with computer vision and maps…and that is all I can say.

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