November 19, 2018 | ° F

Student speakers find their voice, tell their story with TEDxRutgers


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Photo by Jaimin Gandhi |

Sophia Angelica, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she was 14 when she started singing and songwriting. At last night's event, she spoke about her experiences raising awareness for anti-bullying, discrimination movements through music. 


Yesterday, TEDxRutgers held an event where 10 students gave TED talks sharing their ideas and experiences, with the top two advancing to the Rutgers TED conference in February.

The conference in the spring semester will feature TED talks from professional speakers across the country, where their presentations will also be filmed and posted to YouTube.

TEDxRutgers is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share experiences, according to the group's website. Starting as a four-day conference approximately 30 years ago, the overall TED organization works to spread ideas.

Saira Imran, speaker curator, Marketing Committee member and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the ideal speaker is conversational, engages and connects with the audience and is able to tell a story from plot point to plot point — that reaches a climax and comes to a end.

Andrew Qi, a Rutgers Business School senior, gave his TED talk on how people should intentionally expose themselves to new experiences in order to be mentally prepared for when a shock happens. Taking cold showers or going 15 extra minutes will condition a person’s brain to be able to stay strong during events such as a breakup or bad job interview, he said.

Sophia Angelica, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and singer-songwriter since 14, said music is a universal language and can be used to promote kindness and change. She has performed her own music to raise awareness for the anti-bullying and anti-discrimination movements. She said music has changed people’s lives, including on a trip to Taiwan in March.

“When I was in Taiwan, we got out surveys after the events, and some of these responses were shocking ...” she said. “Some of them would say ‘Now I want to believe in myself,’ that 'now I understand I should love myself more,' that 'I am worth something.'”

Abdul Kareem Naasan, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, said what makes a home is family. He was born in America and lived in Atlantic City the first seven years of his life. Then he said his family returned to Syria a few years before the outbreak of the Civil War.

He said living in Syria was more difficult than living in America. At first, Syrians did not accept him, for when he went to his first school children wanted to burn his shirt because it was “made in America.” Even at his next school, he said children were beaten if they received bad grades in class.  

His family was vacationing in Turkey when violence erupted in Aleppo in 2010. He said his family never returned to Syria, as they eventually made their way back to New Jersey. He said America still does not feel like home to him as most of his family still lives in Syria. 

He said he misses them everyday and believes people should not take their family for granted.

“As absurd, as crazy of a reality it might seem that I had, it could happen to anyone one day,” Naasan said.

Alex Louie, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said he received the worst news of his life over the summer, that he had stage 4 cancer. Doctors performed painful surgeries including on his neck and tongue, afterward informing him his internal organs would never be the same and that he had a 35 percent chance of dying during treatment.

When first hearing this news, he said he became upset and unhappy. He said he was upset that he was missing out on friends, concerts, internships and other things he was normally able to do. 

But, he said he began to change his mindset.

He said he began to practice a state of mind focusing on happiness, known as conscious gratitude. His advice to people who feel unhappy in their life is to change their mindset, to sit and slow themselves down, point out the the overlooked things in life and derive happiness from those things.

Amit Kukreja, a Rutgers Business School junior, spoke of his introspective summer, which he spent reading self-help books. He said the books all used the universal premise of everyone will die, and, after getting over the initial depression from that realization, he turned it into something positive.

He said because people are going to die, that is why life actually matters. Risks are positive because regrets are a killer, and nobody wants to be 80 years old and thinking they should have done something in the past.

Hersh Patel, co-president and speaker curator and a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the two winners will be announced along with the tickets to the February event in early November.


Brendan Brightman

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