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Some Personal Favorites from the Past Year: Cultures, Subcultures, and Love

I did a similar list at Christmas time, so I won't repeat any of the posts I listed there. Take a look back at that post from December 2010 to see some previous favorites worth checking out.

Top 5 personal favorites

#1) We Are Not Terrorists: Muslim Experiences on Campus, Question of the Week

My Biggest Surprise in the US: Sadia’s Story
Being Afghan and Muslim at a US High School, by Farima

I loved these three posts because of the unique insights and perspectives they offered on being a Muslim in the U.S. Sadia, Farima, Umer and Beenish (the two people we interviewed for the "We Are Not Terrorists" story) all talked honestly about their experiences - both good and bad. And I felt like their conclusions were summed up beautifully by this quote, from a Pakistani UGRAD partipant on his first day in the U.S.: "There are only two kinds of people which you will find in every corner of the world, in every society, in every country. That is good and bad. It exists everywhere, and last night I found this true."

#2) On Cultures and Sub-Cultures in America, by Nareg

We came to know Nareg as our resident sociologist/anthropologist, always interested in the foundations and layers of American culture. This piece explores a particularly unique part of American culture - the way it enables innumerable subcultures sprung up around everything from particular styles of dress to musical preferences to emotional states. I enjoyed seeing his take on some subcultures I've grown up with, and tussling with him in the editing process over his portrayal of hipsters and nerds.

#3) Bin Laden is Dead – What Did it Mean and What’s Next?, by Sebastian

When the news first came out that Osama bin Laden had been killed, we pulled together some quick reactions to it. But Sebastian took the time to put together this very nuanced and honest look at what it was like to hear the news and watch the reaction over the next few days. I appreciated the guts it took to look at the celebrations and the joke-making, and to ask people to take a step back and think.

#4) Celebrating Love, the American and African Styles, by Senzeni

Love and Dating for International Students, Question of the Week
Love and Disappointment Dating American Girls: Jairo’s Story

This series of posts came out around Valentine's Day and looked at dating in the U.S. The Questions of the Week and the post submitted by reader Jairo were both interesting, but I was really struck by Senzeni's contribution. She tackled the topic with her typical heart and introspection and came out with a unique take on the interplay between her traditional African values and her new American surroundings.

#5) A Shifting Identity in Photos: Jihye’s Story

Jihye interned at VOA for several months in the spring, and so she's the only blogger I really got to know face-to-face. This post, in which she uses a photo essay to document her introduction to Washington and the way her self-perception shifted in her first weeks here, is a wonderful expression of her bubbly personality. Plus, it's bilingual!

I can't seem to get you all to love this video as much as I do, but I absolutely adore this video by Senzeni and Sebastian (cello playing by Yale student Kevin Olusola). Just watch it and then try to tell me this song doesn't get stuck in your head: