All posts by brendango77

High School Minds, College Thoughts: A Degree vs. Experience Debate

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photo credit:

I recently found myself back at my high school 6 years later, speaking to a class full of juniors and seniors. A professor that I had back in 2008 asked me if I wanted to volunteer and speak to her class about my college experiences and how I planned everything. First things first, I planned multiple times and none of them ever happened.  I started sharing my experiences and realized that I was a complete mess and high school really pressured me to find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. High school pressured me into thinking that the University of Minnesota was the only and best place to go to college in Minnesota. I felt out of place when I told my, at the time, 16 year old friends that I was going to a community college instead first – you know, to save some money. I think there is a fine line between experience and a degree and I think there is an unintentional pressure that happens in high school because everyone is so wrapped up about money, the name, where it’s at, etc. So as I walked into the classroom, I felt that I needed to make that point clear, that today, it doesn’t really matter where you get your degree. Sure, that’s a plus – but it definitely is not the only thing that determines where you will go and what you can do.

“Do you regret your choices?” they asked.

As I told my story to the class, I saw that a lot of people were asking me if i regretted my choices and if I could go back, if I would. Obviously the answer to that was no. Even though I have some strings in me that tug and tell me what I would go back and start over again, I felt that if I didn’t go through what I did, I don’t think I would find who I was today. I told them, you are constantly figuring out who you are. All the time. 24/7. You may not think it but everything you do in life must have a meaning right? I was honest with them and what happens in the real world. Even though a lot of teachers say that you should do whatever makes you happy, stay true to yourself, it’s hard because creative people, like me, didn’t think a job out there was possible for artsy people. On top of that having people judge you and say that creativity makes no money and that it was useless was just harsh and demotivating. I made sure I emphasized this to the class, that sometimes weaving around in college and life is not a bad thing. You have to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life and no one asked you to be in school forever to be successful. Granted that there are only a few who dropped out or never went to college ended up being lucky- but no one said that you have to be perfect to be successful in the workplace.  What you want to do for the rest of your life is a HUGE question. I even question myself that still sometimes.

I gave them an example that I still strongly believe stands true. I was told by this by one of my first college instructors at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

“You can have a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering with no background experience and apply to the highest paying company, it won’t compare to someone who has just their Bachelor’s degree with a background full of experience.”

“So I don’t need to go to college, right?” the kid asked.

From my experience, experience is key in college and job hunting. If you really think about that quote, why would a company hire someone who might  know the job because they’ve been in school forever instead of hiring someone who had less schooling, but has already demonstrated in their resume that he/she does know what they’re doing and has done it before? I shared interview questions and that seemed to get a lot of heads nodding because it started to make sense. No company has ever asked me, “Where is your degree? Can you show me proof?” Nor did they mention in their requirements before I applied, “please bring a copy of your degree.” Instead, they asked questions like, “Describe a time where you were struggling to with 3 projects at once. How did you prioritize? If you haven’t worked previously, give an example revolving school work.” Many of the questions revolved around how you handled situations, if you were to be put in a situation, what you would do, how you prioritize, etc. There is one question that a student asked, “So if you don’t need to show them your degree, you don’t really have to go to college right?” I actually did not know how to answer this question besides, “of course you have to! If you do end up getting hired and you don’t perform well at your job, obvious that you did not go to school for that study and you’ll get fired.” But deep down, he made a good point, something I should probably look up too. I’ve had about 5 professional interviews in my lifetime and none of them asked proof of my degree. Clever kid.
I did make sure to mention this, hoping that it would stick with them forever and that was, “ no one told you to stop finding yourself. If you declare a major and in 2, 4, 6 years you find out that it wasn’t for you and you change your mind – do it. Life is about finding things that make you happy. You weren’t born into this world to please other people but yourself.” College is a life changing journey.  I truly believe that this debate is definitely something high schools should be talking more about with their students. 

The degree vs. experience debate has been going on for a long time. Although there are tons of articles out there on the internet, I found that this one simply laid out the pros and cons of each. Read it here.


Hiking is Healthy

We’re always on different monitors…from the moment we wake up to the moment we get into our cars and to work (GPS and Computer) to back home our phone and our laptop. We never take the moment to enjoy the little things in life that don’t revolve around technology. Isn’t that right? I feel that a lot of us don’t realize that until we sit down and close our eyes at night. I mean look at the kids in today’s world, they hardly go out, so what makes us want to go out? Take a moment and think about how many screens you look at in one day. For me, I look at 3 every single day, moment and hours apart; my work PC computer, to my iPhone through the day and to the moment I go to sleep on my Macbook. Did we forget about trees? The wind, flowers and nature? We need to take the time to stop looking at screens and start looking around us – stop feeling pressured by social media, the news, what’s right and wrong and enjoy what is naturally around us by stepping outside. There is a study that states that hiking relieves stress and to be honest, I don’t think that the fact is too surprising. Hiking is a way to not only enjoy nature but it allows us to actually turn off our minds and focus on what is ahead of us. For the first time, hiking is an activity where we can visually see what it is that we are trying to reach. Even better, we are enjoying the moment, the process of getting to our designated area.

This article How Hiking Relieves Stress breaks down what hiking does to our brain and bodies – and how hiking is a healthy thing to do. To all the kids that were sheltered all their lives or simply just don’t like to be outside, I’d like you to take a moment and take a walk or small hike. When people hear the word “hike” they immediately associate it to “tiring” or “exercise.” A hike could also be a long walk, who says it has to be tiring? I’d like to connect my first blog post “Fitness and the Mind” to this article because I truly believe activities like this drive our mind to another part of us. In a way they are both very similar because they both require exercise and a good mindset. I think that those who truly want to achieve something (fitness, gym, confidence) just like those who want to get to the top to see a beautiful view (hiking), are people that truly understand the meaning of life and happiness. A positive mind brings a happy, healthy life.

Yosemite National Park

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Here is a picture of my boyfriend and I at Yosemite National Park. I also attached a picture of him standing near the waterfall.

 He is a huge nature guy and I wasn’t. This was my first hike and we hiked a total of 10 miles! We also got to visit the Sequoias. The trees were so big, 5 cars could park on top of one bark and there would still be room. I can tell you that I definitely did not like the hiking because it wasn’t my level at all. We went up very high and I could hardly hear and on top of sweating buckets and buckets. It was all worth it though because the views were definitely once in a lifetime. I was actually standing at the area that I had as my background image on my Macbook. Now, how many people have actually done that?

Kids & Cellphones…When Is It Too Young?


I consider myself very lucky to be born in the 1990s. I find that it was the generation and last generation before real technology hit. We were the last of the babies that were exposed to everything that revolved our hands and brains, our imaginations and our voices. We were the generation of revolving technology but it never really took over us until the next wave of babies born in the 2000s. As much as the internet is an endless hole of everything, cell phones are what start things, I believe that cellphones is what makes the internet go round. The internet nowadays spreads memes and videos streamed on cellphones like wildfire. If someone catches something on their cellphone, they can upload it right away on their social media – it’s right at their finger tips. For laughs,  this is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Below is a picture my 11 year old niece sent me at her sleepover the other day. Look at how much fun they are having! (posted in my instagram also @bren_dango)

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Does It Start at 8 Years Old?

When I was growing up, 8 years old meant crayons and colorful construction paper. At 8 years old I was pretending that my Polly Pocket was real and that I was shopping with her for her birthday outfit. At 8 years old, I was reading my favorite comic books. What are 8 year olds doing now? Surprisingly, I have seen them around with cellphones of their own. What we once thought was luxurious, expensive iPhones are now what everyone else has and every phone company has a deal they can wrap you up with. So not only do you have an iPhone now, but so does that girl in 5th grade too. I personally think this technology thing starts at a very young age. Some parents turn to their cellphones when they need their child to stay occupied with something, usually a game online or something on Youtube for them to watch.

Technology in Schools

In the article, “Kids With Cellphones: How is Young too Young?” Lindsey Boerma tells us that 8 is way too young, but how about 13, 14 years old? It’s almost impossible to say an exact age because we are teaching kids in a world of technology already. Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools are now incorporating technology in classrooms and because of this, teachers are now able to send grades via a student portal. This allows students to access their grades and keep track of their homework on their phone. It’s almost as if the kids need a phone to be normal and to be able to do what the school is asking them to. I believe a good amount of students whose parents don’t let them have cell phones, eventually have to give in to getting them one because to be on the same page as everyone else AND the teacher, a cell phone is needed. Do I think technology is becoming a bad thing in the world? No. I think that it is giving us the advantage to learn more and gives us the opportunity to always discover more. Cell Phones and technology, like everything else in the world, can be easily taken advantage of and used in all the wrong ways. That is what becomes dangerous. We cannot allow our kids to get to that extent though. There isn’t really a way to monitor them because what they learn in classrooms on their cellphones is something that parents cannot control.

What Age is the Right Age?

Unlike the previous article, this public forum shares the voices of parents. Although there are endless debates on this page, it is safe to say that “too young” is 10 and under. I never had my first cellphone until I was in 9th grade, I was 15 years old. The phone that I had was limited and I was only able to contact my parents – that was it. The screen was too small to roam the web, the camera had such bad quality I didn’t even bother. Like this public forum agrees, middle school seems like it has the most votes. Any child that is younger than the age of a middle schooler, should be given a phone with basic functions. Cell phones are the death of childhood. I truly believe that they close the imaginations of many young minds and that is why I do not think children under the age of 15 should have any cell phone!

Is Your Family Considered a FOB?

This page struck me very much. Perhaps it was the author’s voice when he is asking the question. He is posing a question, but also an opinion of what he sees and thinks of FOBs and ABAs. For those who don’t know what FOBs stands for, it stands for “Fresh Off the Boat” which refer to Asians who have just come to America. They are new to everything and there are a lot of cultural clashes and beliefs that FOBs do not appreciate, or I should say don’t quite understand. ABAs stands for, “American Born Asian” which could mean a person is born in Asia but came to America at a young age and have considered themselves American Korean, American Chinese, etc or one that had family migrate to the U.S.A for a better life and so happened that their kids were born here, making them an ABA.  ABAs are usually fluent in English and have a good understanding of the Western culture and therefore have somewhat adapted if not fully adapted to the American culture and beliefs.

The author or writer in this blog post, poses a question but also states her/his opinion and thoughts of what she/he thinks FOBs are. The writer mentions that many are have come here and look down on all the ABAs because they don’t think that we, I state “we” because I consider myself an ABC, American Born Chinese. He states that “No less insulting are the images held by FOBs. ABAs are the descendants of the lowliest of peasants forced to flee their homelands to become indentured servants, sniff some FOBs.” I must state my opinion here. I truly think that this author has experienced some things in his or her life that he/she is very unhappy about. There is a lot of relation between us ABAs and that is all of our parents, if not most, had a rough life or some even because they wanted to escape war, like mine also known as “first generation parents” who feel the same way towards FOBs. I do think that this writer has exaggerated a bit in her/his thoughts, though a lot of it is true. I do not that that the images held by FOBs are insulting, some of it maybe because they truly had a culture back home. Coming to America does not mean to lose all that authenticity. There is a culture behind our last names. The way FOBs look at us and judge us is because they think that we have dismissed our homeland and forgotten where we came from, but is that to blame? Some of us, like me, have not experience first hand culture. The only culture that I was exposed to was this American culture – where I was free to do whatever I wanted. The only restrictions that I had were ones that my family would put on me.

The writer continues and states “Born and bred to accept second-class status in a white society, sneer others. Slackers who don’t know the meaning of ambition and sacrifice — and who lack the guts to do anything about it in any case.” I definitely agree with this part, but I also think that coming from a first generation family, I was looked down in that way. Many FOBs believe that because they had us here, we are copying, mocking, trying to fit in the American culture when we are just trying to see both worlds, but is that us to blame? I was an unplanned child so my family did not expect me. I always tell my parents, I DO understand the meaning of ambition and sacrifice…because you came here for ME. You came here so that you could have a better life and for me to have a better life. Then I would question myself, “but do I?” Of course I don’t completely understand because I was never there. I don’t agree with the part where the writer states, “…who lack the guts to do anything about it in any case.”  Though I have jumped around in college and left my family to and from to accomplish my goals, I have always had my family in the back of my mind – to always work hard and harder and give back the life my parents deserved to have – not because they forced those beliefs on me, but overtime as I grew into an adult, I understood why those Ngo values were also values for me. I truly believe that those are struggling with the FOBs are the younger generation of ABAs. I’d like to add to this piece that I too have grown up in two very different worlds, two worlds that expected different of me. Until today I struggle to find out who I really am but I have never once threw where I came from away. Even though I have trouble finding ways to please sides, I have always found a way to put myself first, though for FOBs it’s the opposite. We must pursue the greatest for the family first, and then yourself.

To be completely honest – I think this writer is missing is the appreciation piece. Obviously I have times where I question why my family was so pressuring, why I had to do things this way, but today I feel very lucky because I came from family that had different values and beliefs that I would no longer have or carry when I have my own kids. I grew up with a family where I heard war stories every night. I had the opportunity to be born from somewhere that I cannot offer my children except for the stories that I can carry on. Sometimes, it can be a very complicated life for any culture to be born in America because like me, they have not experienced poverty or war first hand. 

Creative People & Perfectionism

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve met enough creative people that have the same traits as I do. When we are out in public, we like to observe our surroundings, we like to listen to what conversations are happening, the atmosphere, etc. We like to analyze and break things apart and that could be a piece of art, furniture, a conversation, even a relationship and person. I’ve come to a realization that I have those exact traits. Ever since I was young, I knew that I was a creative person. I knew that I had a relationship with art. I fell in love with the freedom to make anything come to life. I fell in love with the artwork that was used in movies, anime, and cartoons – and I still do. When I decided to study graphic design, I never knew how stressed out it would make me. I started to knit pick at everything I saw wrong, especially when I made something and it wasn’t coming out the way I imagined. As a student, I was still learning ( I still am) so I tried not being so hard on myself because I was starting to feel like I was a perfectionist.

Work & Freelancing

After I graduated, I started freelancing. I did work for people who I knew took advantage of me but as a new designer and entering the world, I was desperate to make money and I knew that this was just the first steps of working on my own. There was a moment when I decided to stop freelancing and it was because I started becoming very frustrated with the rules I made for myself. I tried pleasing too many people and I was becoming a worse perfectionist than I ever was. I wasn’t able to produce a single piece of artwork without either starting over and over critiquing myself, pointing out everything that I thought was wrong. That logo isn’t right. This color is too bright. Is that line crooked or is it just me?  I found that I needed a team. I knew that I enjoyed working with people and to be honest, hearing feedback from others that had the same passion as I did would help me. I eventually started to work for a small company as a digital designer and realized that I was still the same way. Everything needs to be perfect. My work is going to be public – the whole world will see. I need to fix this one thing. When I decided to turn to my manager, she gave me lots of good critiques. Her words gave me another perspective on my work and I found that really helpful. Heck, I even asked people who weren’t creative for feedback and they even said a few things that surprised me! Things will stay the same if you don’t try new things. After working at my job for a year, I’ve really enjoyed working in a group. I know that even though perfectionism is a trait that most of us creative people will always hold, it doesn’t control us. Having people around us tell us other things besides what our brain tells us is actually very life saving.

Nothing is Perfect. It’s Your Brain.

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I found out that regardless of the situation, I will forever be a perfectionist, which isn’t a bad thing as long as it doesn’t come between my work…too much. I will continue to over analyze everything and my eyes will go straight to the one area that I don’t like in my artwork. I’ve come to tell myself that it really is just the word “perfect” because “perfect” doesn’t exist. What exists is our brain that tells us things need to be perfect. Since this involves our brains so much, I find that this could lead to stress, stress and overstress to sometimes panic, especially if something you created is going live or being put up publicly. Our brain continuously tells us that that thing is very noticeable and you need to fix it or change the color, change it’s position. There’s too much white space happening, when really you just have to accept and move on.

How Should I Tackle my Next Project?

I consider myself still very new to the design world, especially in this time and age, everything has become electronic and art can now be created through technology. I’ve come across a blog by “GREIG,” a graphic designer himself who talks about his struggles of a graphic designer.

In his blog post, he suggests a few steps to take when you are up against a new project or artwork. GREIG agrees that we take our work to others. This advice might be something very obvious, but surprisingly, not a lot of creative thinkers resort to this. We try to figure everything out ourselves and when it comes to artwork, we get a little hesitant to show others because it’s not completely finished yet, Okay, so this isn’t done, don’t judge but this is what I have. I promise the color doesn’t look like this on the monitor! But i’d like some feedback. I know the logo is totally ugly, but give me some time!  Get the help you need, get feedback from other people whether that is posting on social media or showing it in person, you can even go as far as showing it to your previous design school professor! Some other ways suggested by GREIG is accepting that the first initial step of a design does NOT have to be perfect, in other words that is why they are called rough mockups. You have to understand that sometimes your client doesn’t like perfect. What you may think looks perfect, may not be perfect in someone else’s eyes.  Accept that these traits are natural when it comes to a designer or any creative person. Next time when you are about to start your next art project, whether it is a poster, drawing, or website, make sure you step back, create a rough mockup and ask for advice from people around you. You never know, someone’s feedback could spark another idea for you.

Fitness and the Mind

I don’t know when this started exactly, but it was around the time of a very stressful moment in my life where I felt that I had no where to go and no one to turn to. Starting college, I had a lot of anxiety (self diagnosed), I know but ask anyone and they will tell you that I am the biggest worry wart they know. I started declining in my school work and over thinking so many things in life that it was driving me crazy – family, friends, pets you name it.

I started recording my own workouts to inspire others and keep myself motivated on my Instagram @bren_dango

I had a friend who was that crazy gym girl. She was focused, dedicated, driven, strong- basically all the adjectives you could describe an everyday gym person. What is is that drove her so much? I always thought. I wish I had that drive in me. I would always say. I was sick of saying it and told myself to try it out. It was then when I realized that working out was extremely important to not only our health, but our mind. I’ve seen people making excuses that “they are too busy” or “I don’t have time” or “I will tomorrow” but when will it start? To be honest and straight forward,  I think people who don’t go to the gym are lazy. I admit it, oh I get lazy on many, many days but there is something underneath all that frustration, anger, laziness, whatever excuse, that’s still there; that spark – find it, keep your mind at it because there has never been a time that I’ve heard someone say, “Jeez, I wish I never worked out today” because every workout, small or big will make you feel better. What is it that will drive you? What is it that you want? I found that working out not only made me feel better, but it gave me a better me. My mind functioned better than ever. I am always able to sweat out all the bad things. I am no fitness guru, though I may sound like one sometimes, I don’t understand all the nitty gritty things about fitness nor am I the “you must eat organic and salads everyday to feel better about yourself.”All I say is simple; clear out the junk, get up more, and eat cleaner.  It is definitely easier said than done. There is no doubt that living a more active life leads to a happier you. Here are some articles you can get motivation from:

Why is fitness such a hard thing to incorporate in your daily life? When will people understand that the mind is something that controls your every movement, your decisions, your thoughts. People who work out (regardless of where you do it) have said they are happier. When will your “I will” turn into “I am?” People do not realize the simplicity of fitness and exercise. It is proven that your work ethic at the gym (or in fitness overall) determines what kind of person you are. If you are striving to better yourself at the gym, you are most likely doing the same thing at work, school, etc. What you do at the gym reflects you as a person, your outlook and view of determination. Remember, the only person that’s stopping you, is you.


By Brenda Ngo