How One Student’s Hobby Led to Professional Growth

Jingshu Wen
Jingshu Wen

Jingshu (Camellia) Wen came to Johns Hopkins Carey Business School this past summer to work on her MS in Finance degree. Her hobbies are reading, dancing, and listening to music. She loves dogs. She plans to pass CFA Level Ⅲ exam and wants to become an advanced belly dancer by next year.

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I came to Carey this past summer for the one-year Master of Science in Finance program. I expected this one year to be challenging and rewarding, full of self-growth opportunities. A few weeks ago, I turned a challenge into an opportunity to improve my resilience and presentation skills. Belly dancing has been my hobby and favorite exercise for three years. After coming to DC, performing my first dance solo improved my stress-coping skills. Faced with time and budget constraints, I learned to prioritize, to focus on my work, and to find the positive in a stressful situation.

A few weeks ago, I did my first solo in the hafla in Sahara Dance. I enrolled in the course Developing Choreography, which closed with a final performance in a hafla. I was the only beginner who made it to the final performance. The course instructor had quite high expectations and in the last week she advised me to change my costume, to buy two props, and to hire a stage make-up consultant for the performance. However, I had budget constraints as a student, and didn’t want to spend so much money on things I would not use again, which might not be as important as improving my techniques and knowledge. Besides, I felt stressed out dealing with both quizzes and the performance.

But I didn’t want to give up the performance, because it was an opportunity to build perseverance.

To save money on the new costume and props, I revised the choreography to make it less folkloric and more modern. I also consulted a classmate who could speak Arabic to better understand the lyrics. After doing more research, I was more convinced that the song had alternative interpretations. Presenting my case to the instructor was also quite stressful, because she was certain that this dance should be folkloric. Besides, she asked me either to rehearse again with full costume and stage makeup, or to give up the performance. I really cared about the performance, so I decided to give her what she wanted to get what I wanted. To achieve my goal, I decided to be flexible. I didn’t like people stressing me, but I didn’t do the impulsive thing—blaming the other person.

I can achieve self-growth by updating my beliefs and values, and the only person I can change is myself. It felt like a waste of time to spend another two hours commuting for the ten-minute rehearsal, but I accepted what I couldn’t change. I had to see her on Thursday in order to perform on Friday. To counter the negative emotions, I invited my friends to the rehearsal. I discovered that I could turn a stressful experience into a chance for reunion and fun. When I am in my stretch zone and need emotional support, love and support can make me stronger.

To save money on beauty consulting, I went to CVS and bought blush, lip gloss, eye shadow, foundation, and fake eyelashes. I practiced using makeups on that Wednesday, and the performance was on Friday. My friends gave me useful advice on makeup application, and I improved a lot during the three days. When I encountered challenges, I learned to confront the problem. On Thursday, I gained the instructor’s permission to perform. Inviting my friends to the rehearsal was a fabulous idea, because I started to improvise and dance more confidently with a friendly and non-judgmental audience. Now I am grateful for the instructor’s high expectations, because I pushed myself to practice, visualize, and revise. To get prepared, I must keep practicing and thinking.

I was quite nervous that Friday, but I did my best. There were about sixty or seventy people in the audience. Because it was a hafla, the audience sat quite close to the dancer. I planned a few flirtatious head tosses and direct eye contact in the beginning, which didn’t work out. It was much harder to interact with a large audience than with a small group of friends. I kept smiling and dancing and focused on the music. From the second minute, I was much more comfortable. When the rhythm changed to baladi, the audience started clapping with the beats, and I was fully acting my persona. After that, the tempo increased again, and the performance ended with the audience’s applause. I felt all the efforts were well worth it.

The recognition of my work was the greatest compliment and reward for me.

I used to have stage fright, but now I am turning my weakness into my strength. I will keep pushing myself to new frontiers and self-growth.

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