Farewell, 2020 + Pixar’s Soul

Assalamualaikum wbt.

[WARNING: Spoilers for Pixar’s Soul]

I spent the last day of 2020 watching Pixar’s latest film, Soul. I feel like I wasn’t as deeply moved by it as other people. The reviews were so good and people were talking about how they were weeping and contemplating their life decisions, that at the end of the movie I was thinking, “Is that it?”. I prefer 3 Idiots instead, which is one of my favourite movies of all time, if not my absolute favourite. But I was impressed at the amount of representation of people of colour, in normal everyday spaces like classrooms and grocery stores – something severely lacking in Western films.

However, I do appreciate it’s central message very much – about how you shouldn’t rigidly limit your life to one single purpose, but you have to appreciate the beauty of just living. Joe Gardner is a struggling middle-aged music school teacher desperately waiting for his big break. He eats, breathes, and lives jazz – he makes sure everyone he meets knows that he was born to play jazz. But thanks to an unborn soul called 22, by the end of the movie, he realizes that jazz shouldn’t be his sole purpose in life. He now appreciates the beauty in everyday mundane things, like walking and sky-watching.

It’s an incredible lesson to be conveyed, especially to people like me who are obsessed with their passion or calling.

Continue reading Farewell, 2020 + Pixar’s Soul

Settling Down in Edinburgh + Living in the Present

Assalamualaikum wbt.

It’s sad that I only ever think of this blog during long holidays. I just went through some old blog posts written by my Mum and I from 2005-2007. The internet was so simple and wholesome back then, not fast-paced and cluttered like it is today. I aim to attempt to keep the art of long-form writing alive, in this modern age where short, flashy and snappy content tends to thrive. Right… from now on I aim to post at least once a week! Hopefully this statement will age well and I won’t end up becoming a clown.

I moved to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, more than two months ago. I live in a comfortable and cosy two-bedroom flat with another Malaysian Master’s student. I decided this within less than a month of living here, but Edinburgh is definitely my favourite city in the UK. It’s full of history and culture, and the city is so photogenic. There’s so much to do even during a pandemic – so many vast spaces and nature-based attractions. I can imagine living here long-term for years to come, if Allah wills. I think I’ve familiarized myself quite well with the city at this point! I used to think that this city was wonderful, but too cold. Now? As Elsa says, the cold never bothered me anyway.

Continue reading Settling Down in Edinburgh + Living in the Present

My Household Got Infected With Coronavirus

Assalamualaikum wbt.

Written 21 September:

You see all the news and updates about coronavirus, and you take steps to avoid catching and spreading it, but you never quite imagine it happening to you until it actually happens.

A member of my household in Newcastle, age 60+, was diagnosed as positive for coronavirus. He’s been self-isolating in his room. The past few days have been filled with disinfectant, anti-viral wipes, LOTS of cleaning, black seed oil (habatussauda) and probiotics to improve our immune system, and being independent.

Continue reading My Household Got Infected With Coronavirus

MSc Marketing @ Edinburgh

It’s officially been 2 years since I first flew off to the UK! What a time it’s been. Studying in the UK has been a journey of ups and downs but definitely a valuable experience nonetheless.

I’ve been quite silent about my next phase of life. I’ve been posting a lot of “Bye Newcastle / Bye England” sentiment, making many people assume I’m going back to Malaysia. I usually just play along with it without explicitly saying I’m coming home. I haven’t gone back to Malaysia in exactly one year… aaaand I probably won’t be back anytime soon!

Today, I’m revealing the truth.

I’m going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Can’t wait to play Quidditch!

Okay, okay. I’m inshaAllah pursuing an MSc in Marketing at the University of Edinburgh! Close enough, I guess – after all, Hogwarts IS in Scotland, and Edinburgh is a city with MAJOR Harry Potter vibes. On top of that, Sumrah gave me a Hogwarts letter for my birthday. AND I’m travelling there by train, too!

Continue reading MSc Marketing @ Edinburgh

My 23rd Birthday + the End of My Degree Life in the UK

Assalamualaikum wbt.

Six months of coronavirus flew by so fast. I handed in my final assessments, successfully graduated, and completed my Digital Content internship. It also feels like the end of a summer that never properly began. This is the conclusion of my degree life in the UK – and one thing I regret not doing is blogging about it properly. I mean, sure I posted Insta Stories and stuff but it’s not as detailed or as well-documented as blogging.

I turned 23 recently! Alhamdulillah that I still have the chance to live, and Alhamdulillah for every blessing God has granted upon me. May age come with plenty of barakah. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything for my birthday. But the night before, Iffah and her parents surprised me with cake, flowers, and a whole bunch of presents (perfumes, bath bombs, and a mug!) – though honestly, their kindness over the past year has been much more than enough.

Continue reading My 23rd Birthday + the End of My Degree Life in the UK

Avengers: Endgame Dissertation (Part 2) – The Findings

[DISCLAIMER: This blog post is a condensed version of my research’s findings. If you’d like a copy of the complete dissertation paper, please e-mail arifahbadli@gmail.com. If you’d like to read about my journey in writing this dissertation (including my personal motivations, challenges, and methodology), head over to Part 1]

After an insane amount of late nights and hard work, I managed to submit my final year dissertation consisting of 10,000 words during a global pandemic. Alhamdulillah, Newcastle University gave my research paper, “#DontSpoilTheEndgame: An Investigation Into Social Media Engagements With the Viral Phenomenon of Avengers: Endgame” a First Class grade of 78/100! 

ABSTRACT: Avengers: Endgame was a film released in 2019, the finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity saga, that not only became the highest-grossing film worldwide but broke records in terms of social media engagements, making it a viral phenomenon. This research explores the factors leading to high engagement with the film online, revealing social media’s role as a space for meaningful conversations about a beloved media franchise. To investigate this area, insights from 692 online questionnaire respondents as well as a sample of 1,000 random tweets posted during the film’s screening period were gathered. This data was then analyzed thematically to interpret the ways in which social media users interacted with Avengers: Endgame, and why they were inclined to post or share about the film. Drawing on theories of participatory culture, convergence culture, virality and cultural phenomena, the findings argue that meaningful social media engagement with Avengers: Endgame was influenced by psychological motivations – such as emotion, exclusivity, and secrecy. Other than that, this research discovered the powerful capacities of social media in uniting people across the world to interact with the film online through fandom communities, production of user-generated content, and interactive features. This communal genuine urge to share about Avengers: Endgame succeeded in spreading the word to a large audience and making content about the film go viral. However, the negative aspects of this, such as fan labour and spoiler-related anxiety, are also touched upon. Evidently, social media plays a huge role in elevating media audience participation in this digital era. 

Keywords: Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Cinematic Universe, social media, engagement, fandom, participatory culture, convergence culture, viral, cultural phenomena, film marketing

As we all know, academic writing is often dull – it lacks humour, storytelling, personal experiences, and is full of hard-to-understand jargon. So please enjoy this condensed and more fun version of my dissertation findings! For every major finding, I’ve also provided an alternative example from a different real-life event for better understanding. It will take you about 15 minutes to read, if you can spare the time to do so. 

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Why choose Avengers: Endgame as a case study?

Well, other than the fact that I myself am a huge Marvel fan… the movie gained 40.5 social media engagements during release week, breaking internet records. It was also named as the most tweeted movie of all time in 2019. Also, director Joe Russo himself mentioned that Endgame couldn’t have achieved the numbers it did without social media.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is also an extremely unique movie franchise in the sense it released 21 movies prior to Endgame are interconnected with each other. Every movie is a small part of a huge jigsaw puzzle, despite featuring different characters. This means that most people who regularly consume American entertainment are familiar with at least a few movies or characters even if they aren’t huge Marvel fans. That small sense of familiarity could have influenced them to watch Endgame, thus posting about it on social media.

Continue reading Avengers: Endgame Dissertation (Part 2) – The Findings

Avengers: Endgame Dissertation (Part 1) – Producing A 10,000-word Research Paper During A Global Pandemic

[DISCLAIMER: This blog post is about the journey of writing my dissertation (including my personal motivations, challenges, and methodology). To read a condensed version of my research’s findings, please head over to Part 2.  If you’d like a copy of the complete dissertation, please e-mail arifahbadli@gmail.com]

On the 29th of May, 2020, I finally submitted my 10,000-word dissertation titled “#DontSpoilTheEndgame: An Investigation Into Social Media Engagements With the Viral Phenomenon of Avengers: Endgame”. I consumed way too much coffee for the defining assignment of my university life. It was worth it though – because I am extremely proud of my findings. And well, it ended up being a First Class dissertation, receiving 78 marks out of 100 – which is considered a brilliant score in the UK system. Alhamdulillah! I’ve only written one other essay that managed to get a mark higher than that. 

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So, what is a dissertation, exactly? There are many other word variations for a research dissertation – thesis, final year project, and so on. But generally, many university students all over the world have to produce a piece of original research during their final year. For my Diploma in Communication and Media at UiTM, my groupmates and I did research on The Portrayal of Skin Colour in Malaysian Advertisements. Even conducting research as a group gave me severe head pain – but nothing compared to my degree dissertation! In fact, that Diploma assignment looks so amateur now compared to my most recent work. 

So for those of you who don’t know, I am a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and have been since the first Avengers movie came out in 2012. Obviously, I was super pumped for Endgame (my followers would know…) and had the best cinematic experience of my life watching it with an amazing crowd. Being a media student, I was extremely fascinated observing the amount of social media hype regarding Endgame. I think my curiosity about this started as early as Infinity War (April 2018) – because before Infinity War, I’d known invested Marvel fans to be a tight-knit group of people. Like, among my circle of friends… I know who the Marvel nerds are, and I rarely talk about Marvel to those who aren’t interested. But when Infinity War came out, there were spoiler leaks all over the internet (yes, I’m still traumatized by that… that’s why I ended up writing a whole dissertation about it…). Which made me scratch my head and wonder, SINCE WHEN DID EVERYONE AND THEIR GRANDMOTHER BECOME A MARVEL FAN????? I was getting forwarded spoilers in class and housemate Whatsapp groups – something I have NEVER witnessed for any other movie ever. I barely even remember anyone talking about Avengers: Age of Ultron when it came out in 2015 other than my fellow Tumblr mutuals! So naturally, I decided to pursue this area of interest for my dissertation. I mean, if I was gonna be investing a lot of time and effort into writing something, it might as well be something I’m passionate about. 

I had to write my research proposal while Avengers: Endgame was still screening. A whole year before my dissertation submission. Yet, a nagging thought entered my head: what if people don’t remember engaging with Endgame on social media anymore months later when it’s time for me to conduct my research????? So I did something probably nobody else did: I collected data immediately. I got an ethics form approved and distributed my online questionnaire to people. Before I had even done literature review readings or been assigned a dissertation supervisor. Insane, I know. But I had to do it, to ensure respondents’ maximum retention of their experiences engaging with Endgame on social media. I asked them stuff like “On which social media platform do you encounter the most Endgame content?” and “Which posts from the cast/crew stood out the most for you?” and “How did social media raise your awareness of Endgame compared to traditional media?”.

Continue reading Avengers: Endgame Dissertation (Part 1) – Producing A 10,000-word Research Paper During A Global Pandemic

Covid-19 Reflections: Appreciating Every Moment

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Before Covid-19, I was living my best life after going through a long rough time. While I appreciated it a lot, I could have appreciated it more. Here are some reflections on appreciation.

In September 2019, I said I’d make the most of the final year of my degree. “I hope to make the most out of it. Grab more opportunities, complain less, spread love and focus on positive things, absorb everything I can”, I wrote back then.

And I did. I really did ♥️ I romanticized every boring, mundane thing. I thoroughly appreciated all the big, flashy moments. I told all my friends I love them and had a lot of ‘indie youth film’ moments – from helping each other climb up the National Monument in Edinburgh in the freezing cold, to having deep reflections on 2019 by the Newcastle Quayside before the colourful fireworks started bursting in the sky. I looked up so many little facts about Newcastle, the University, and the North East – and compiled a list of must-go places before I leave. I posted a zillion Stories without a care in the world because i was only focused on one thing: ENJOYING THE PRESENT. And I don’t regret a thing.

Continue reading Covid-19 Reflections: Appreciating Every Moment

Self-Betterment Through #StayingAtHome

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As an introvert, I’ve never been bored staying at home. Not even one second of my whole life. But a friend challenged me to share what I’ve been doing at home, so here goes…

Let’s use our time staying in at home for self-betterment, productivity, and doing things that we always claim we ‘can’t find the time to do’.

E.g. learning the art of mindful silence, rethinking our habits, reciting and reading translations of the Qur’an, reconnecting with old friends / loved ones through video calls, taking online courses, learning cooking skills, journaling, making art, producing videos, learning a new language, self-reflection on your life goals / development, purging your social media, financial planning / budgeting, thoroughly cleaning your home, catching up on books / television shows / podcasts, writing your dissertation, fundraising for Covid-19, writing reviews for your favourite small businesses.

Continue reading Self-Betterment Through #StayingAtHome

My Journey to Newcastle University

So I recently started a Digital Content internship with Newcastle University, and my responsibilities include creating engaging content for prospective / current students. I’m particularly proud of this blog post where I write about my journey coming to Newcastle University!

Studying abroad at a top university had always been a dream of mine, and now I have the immense privilege of it being my reality. Upon reflection, it has been quite a journey indeed!

Pursuing Media & Communication in the UK

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(My brilliant TEDx Talk at Newcastle University… okay, okay, I was just pretending)

After completing a Diploma in Communication and Media at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia, I wanted to thrive in this field even further by pursuing an overseas education. I started by looking at universities based on QS World University rankings and course rankings.

Five universities were deemed worthy of making it into my UCAS application – Sheffield, Nottingham, Lancaster, Cardiff, and of course, Newcastle. I had a smooth journey with my UCAS application thanks to IDP Education, an overseas education consulting agency with a branch in my hometown, Subang Jaya.

The Grand Offering

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(Personalised GIFs and inspiring posters from the University hyped me up about coming here!)

I managed to get unconditional offers to all five universities, but Newcastle was the earliest to give me a response – after only 4 days! Since Newcastle was my first offer, it gave me significant hope that I could truly achieve this aspiration of flying to the UK.

However, I needed to argue my case to receive a convertible loan to study abroad, so I chose Newcastle which offered me direct entry into Year 2. I officially accepted the offer to pursue a BA (Hons) in Media, Communication, and Cultural Studies! My family was over the moon, and my friends felt extremely proud.

Newcastle was honestly not my first choice among the five, and I’d heard from a friend about how terribly cold and windy it is. Luckily, the University’s You Belong Here campaign gave me the extra encouragement I needed!

Continue reading My Journey to Newcastle University