Making campus a little brighter: A double feature

Today we’re bringing you something different; a double feature about two artistic students at opposite ends of their university careers, making campus a little brighter with what they bring to and leave behind with the University.

Our first story is about Lyle Kam, a hopeful first-year in love with music. You may have seen him between Dana Porter and the Physics building this past Valentine’s Day, or another day this term, busking.

Lyle Kam Playing Guitar in the open space between DP and PHYS, a small crowd has gathered to watch

Lyle Kam,a first-year nanotechnology engineering student, has always wanted to pursue a music career alongside his studies. While he began with writing and producing, he soon sought other ways to create and share his music, which is what inspired him to busk on campus.

“I mean, if I'm going to be a musician, I have to be able to perform as well — and I'm having a blast doing it! Plus it's good practice!”

Getting up in front of a crowd of people isn’t easy for everyone, but there’s something that keeps him coming back. “Most people comment that you have to be pretty brave to go up there and do that, and at first it was pretty scary, but there's a sort of high you get from going out there and just playing, hoping to make someone's day even if it's just one person,” he says.

A screenshot from Lyle Kam's Instagram, he wears headphones and stands in front of a microphone with his guitar, sinnging. There is a plush goose behind him, in a yellow hardhatThat effect, of being able to cheer up someone’s day is twofold. “It's quite fascinating how little things can have such life-changing effects,” Lyle says. “In this case, it's encouraging to see all the people who are supporting me, it tells me that I actually can sing and I have a chance in this world!”

When asked about the response he’s received to his performances, he says, “it didn't start this way, but I have been told I sound a bit like Ed Sheeran and that I have his guitar. Both of those things were a funny coincidence actually, but I do enjoy his music.”

For Lyle, music is a way of life. “It's what we associate with memories, a time in our life, and often, it comforts us in our time of need. I believe music can convey the emotions when words simply can't.”

A screenshot of the Instagram, Andy Cho's sticky with a drawing of a whisk that says "Don't be afraid to take whisks"

Our second story is about Andy Cho, a fourth-year student at the end of his studies. Have you ever found a sticky note with a beautiful calligraphic pun and illustration on it around campus? Chances are you stumbled upon one of Andy Cho’s creations.

Andy Cho is in his final term, majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Economics. Unexpectedly, he began practicing calligraphy as a result of being in CS/Math classes.

“There's a lot of proofs you have to write in first and second year, and I got tired of burning through disposable pens, so I got some fountain pens, then looked into calligraphy as I found calligraphy pens,” he explains.

“That was definitely not a side effect I expected from coming to Waterloo.”

Creating the notes themselves began as part of an annual Instagram #randomloveletter calligraphy challenge last summer, and Andy cites the puns as one of the biggest factors in his participation. This term however brought a different motivation behind his creations.

“I picked it up again after returning to school this term since the winter term feels a little drearier than others, and campus could use some extra love. It's also the term where a lot of first-years start their co-op applications, which was the time I felt the most helpless and low during my five years here.”

One of Andy Cho's Stickies, it says "Muffin compares to you" next to a photo of a muffin.As an upper-year co-op student, there can be a lot to work on but Andy finds the time to continue his calligraphy – during pomodoro breaks while coding.

“I've also been using calligraphy as a less stressful form of self-expression than coding — your notebook doesn't crash if you forget to draw a semicolon.”

Instagram has been more than a method to document his pieces; it’s also a place to connect with other like-minded people. During his co-ops work terms, Andy says that, “the Instagram calligraphy community is super nice and welcoming, and it has helped maintain a stable feeling of being in a community while moving every four months.”

That feeling of community is passed along by his anonymous stickies. Andy often leaves his pieces around campus with a little “Take me” note, and when he’s slow to leave, he can spot the grins of students as they pass them by.

When the University of Waterloo Library found his stickies in the stacks they featured it on their @uwlibrary Instagram, to pass along the positivity.

A screenshot fomr the University of Waterloo Library's Instagram accound of Andy Cho's Sticky that says "lET's live  Apple-y ever after

We asked him what he thought happens to the notes after people pick them up.

“I actually have no idea what people do with the note after they take it,” he says, “but I hope that it brings them little bursts of happiness every once in a while if they keep it around. Recently, someone who sat next to me in STC (Science and Technology Complex) randomly made me an origami frog, which I've kept on my desk, and it now makes me happy whenever I see it while working on an assignment.”

These little acts of kindness between students are the lasting impression that Andy will take away from his time at Waterloo.  He shared a story from his first-year to explain why: “As I was rushing to the Tatham Centre through the Student Life Centre (SLC) for a co-op interview, an upper-year saw me and wished me good luck. I have no idea who he was, but even as I near graduation, I still think about those few seconds from four years ago whenever I'm in the SLC.

I hope that we can continue and strengthen this culture of random acts of kindness to make our campus a more positive place to be.”

So what are these artsy boys’ plans for the future?

“Make music, release music, play more, get famous?” Lyle jokes, “I'm actually working on a new EP, it has some of my best work yet, and it's gonna be on Spotify! So, keep an eye (ear?) out for it!”

For Andy, at the end of his academic career, he’s hoping to continue practicing his calligraphy after he returns to Seattle to work as a developer. “Although putting up sticky notes might be a bit trickier once I'm off campus,” he admits.

You can find Lyle Kam on Instagram @lylekam and YouTube. Andy Cho can be found on his website.

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