How to “Create Dangerously”

Hello, I’m Olivia Perry, a senior and Social Media Assistant for The Admission Office.

I wanted to share my amazing experience last night that was provided to me by this great school!

I was invited by President Ronald Thomas to join him, his wife, Mary, professors, faculty, and students to have dinner with acclaimed Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat! As a Creative Writing major, and as someone who read her in a class at Puget Sound, I was very excited to see Ms. Danticat lecture “Create Dangerously”, and to meet her was a bonus!

Edwidge Danticat and I at the reception/book signing after her lecture

Edwidge Danticat and I at the reception/book signing after her lecture

At dinner, President Thomas opened up the floor to ask Ms. Danticat questions, an opportunity I was quick to take. I first asked when she decided that she wanted to be a writer. She told us that she was given the book Madeline when she was four. When she realized this was a way to tell stories without verbally telling them, she decided that was what she wanted to do.

Found on Pinterest from

Found on Pinterest from

I later asked if she had any advice for a writing major, a specifically woman of color, and her advice was something that I took to heart. She told me that I just need to write. I should always have a project to work on as leisure. As someone who feels the need to explain herself, a woman of color needs to not be deterred in anyway from what she has chosen to study and create. And as she spoke, she looked right into my eyes, giving me a sense of how genuine she is.

Her lecture, Create Dangerously, named after her 2010 book Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work, was not as long as expected but was full of insightful anecdotes and ideas. She spoke of writers becoming the reader and what should and shouldn’t be written about. When she was finished, she answered questions regarding education and politics in Haiti and the Caribbean and shared her excitement for the next generation of, not only Haitian, all up and coming Caribbean writers.

They were selling her books at the lecture and reception, so naturally I bought one and she signed it for me!


My new book


“To Olivia, keep writing. One day, I hope to read you. In Sisterhood! -Edwidge Danticat”

Last night was a great event that I would never have experienced if I did not come to this school and become involved around campus. As a senior, I have to say, go to as many lectures as possible! I have gotten to see amazing and well known people, like Junot Diaz and Anis Mojgani, speak in my years here. It is a great opportunity that current and future students should always be taking advantage of!


Teaching English in a French Classroom


Today was one of many new discoveries, doing things that put me out of my comfort zone, but things that felt so fulfilling all at once. Thursdays I am busy solely with my assistant English teaching internship. With my schedule and class numbers all laid out, I headed for building D (the school where I work is huge, but I found my way around really well today), only to find it was just me and five students for la conversation collège. It took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t assisting a prof, but that I would facilitate the conversation alone in English. This turned out to be really fun for me! Slowly I adjusted back into English, surrounded by young people who understood every word I said. All five students had different British accents when they spoke English, one had more of a British London accent, for example and another more of a Yorkshire-like accent. These students have a parent who is French and another who is British, hence why they live in France, but travel to England often to visit family. I just had fun the whole time asking them questions, since the idea is for them to have a chance to use their English. When I told them I was going to Morocco for my fall vacation, one of the boys asked, “vacation?” One of the other kids quickly explained to him it’s the same as, “holiday.” The kids were very helpful answering any questions I had about French vocab and where to find the teacher’s lounge. I look forward to more spontaneous discussions with them.

Next, I worked with the prof, Mme. Lalaude in my own separate classroom, which I was not expecting. I knew, however, that we agreed I would work separately with a small group of her students, while she worked with the other half. The middle school French students looked confused for a moment when I told them to place the chairs in a circle and not to go to their desks. I think I brought with me my American casualness, lack of formality, yet still able to take charge. That must have been quite the interesting surprise for them: who is this American student and why does she do things so differently? I prefer classes Socratic seminar style: everyone is gathered in a circle, there is a sense of equality and less strict formality. I think it really charges the energy of the room and certainly puts me more at ease because I like to sit next to the students, not above them. We went around and made introductions and I had each of them explain their favorite activities, writing on the board to explain certain grammar that was unclear. I laughed with them, enjoyed hearing their travel stories to America or England, and would occasionally switch to French to translate anything unclear I had said in English. It felt like something I was supposed to be doing: I’ve always loved working with young people, especially when it comes to learning foreign languages. They are my French teachers and I am here to facilitate the class period in English. It’s very much a win/win situation. It was really funny seeing the first group reluctant to switch with the second group of kids. I felt like I had done something right.

The last part of my English teaching at the school was to work with high school students. This definitely put me out of my comfort zone the most. I think it’s due to the fact I’m closer in age to the high school students. I don’t have the natural sense of authority with age when I’m with the middle school kids. So I had to really fill the space with purpose and look like I know what I’m doing. I made the same kind of introductions with the high school kids with their desks all in a circle. I facilitated more complex discussions in English like what do you like, or not like about the U.S. when you visited? One girl in the class shared how she found Americans more friendly than the French during her visit. Another student asked me what I liked about France. Since there were two other American-French students in the room, I chose my answer carefully. My experience is not the same as theirs. I have been in France as long as they have, nor do I have French family members. I told them I liked how the French in general are more relaxed, mostly because Brittany where I’ve spent most of my time is calmer. People get a coffee, or share a meal together and they take their time; they’re not constantly rushing. One of the American-French students mentioned how that wasn’t her experience, but she said, “Yeah, Bretagne is kind of dead,” meaning everything is way more chill here than Paris, or other parts of France. Zack, the second American-French student said how much he liked the European community, the food, and how much more relaxed people were as well.

I think the students didn’t mind my presence at all. It was certainly something new for them and I look forward to planning lessons for the middle and high school students. I’m just more used to working with middle school level students; they aren’t as self-conscious about their English and are more curious to ask questions. So for each group, I will have to compartmentalize a bit: what kind of communication in English and in general works for this age group and what doesn’t? It’s going to be a good challenge and learning experience for me. I’m planning on personally journaling about it. Overall, it was a very satisfying day!

Major Decisions: Can The Sciences and Humanities Go Together?

As a computer science/English double major, even I didn’t think I’d find a way to unify such an odd couple. In fact, I never expected to study these subjects before I came to Puget Sound. It was Puget Sound and its combination of professors, liberal arts courses, extracurricular opportunities, and classes in subjects that sounded compelling but that I never imagined studying until college that somehow edged me toward the two disparate disciplines. And it’s largely Puget Sound that’s ultimately done the work of bringing together this odd couple for me.

And as my junior year passes by faster than I could ever imagine and the prospects of internship and job searches loom increasingly close, I’m finally starting to see the connections between English and computer science that only a school like Puget Sound could help bring to light in the first place. This October, I was lucky enough to receive an internship as a feature editor at XRDS, the national flagship undergraduate magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery, a linguo-technophile’s dream come true, where I look forward to applying my interests in technology and writing to the publication. You can check out the magazine here:

I’m also in the process of developing a web app for Pearson’s first ever Student Coding Contest. The academic publisher sought out proposals for apps that integrate with their online learning module, and I was fortunate enough to have mine accepted. I won’t spill the details yet, but the app is designed to help bring the writing process online. The app’s due at the end of the month, and the ever-too-brief hours of furiously coding have commenced.

I’m a writing advisor, and I’ve also recently started working with some fellow writing advisors at the Center for Writing, Learning, & Teaching to contribute to a writing center blog and vlog, both of which are coming soon! Watch for them at It’s been another exciting chance to fuse my interests in technology and writing with many others who are equally passionate about writing. I also recently had a paper presented at a conference of writing center pedagogy. Another student from the writing center and I presented on interdisciplinary studies in the writing center, and the experience offered yet another chance to learn about how very different subjects can (and often do) collide and enrich each other. (For an interesting take on the humanities/sciences crossover and the ways the humanities and sciences overlap, see:

So, I must admit that I was skeptical at first about finding ways to pursue both of my interests in computer science and English. Puget Sound is fairly unique, I think, in encouraging students to pursue such unusual combinations. International Political Economy; Science, Technology, and Society are interdisciplinary mainstays, while a new interdisciplinary biophysics program is developing, and I know countless people pursuing and loving a huge variety of double majors. Puget Sound is also unique in offering highly focused programs so that students don’t ever have to sacrifice depth.