THESISCRAZY 2016 (Part 4): Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared

“That’s what I’m going to be dedicating my last month at Wesleyan to: Toasting perfect toast.”

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Yo yo yo, this is part 4 of THESISCRAZY 2016, the annual series where we bug thesis writers with fun questions about their poops and such. You can catch earlier installments of THESISCRAZY here, here, and here, and you can check out the archives here. If you’re interested in being interviewed sometime before April 12th, feel free to email staff(at)wesleying(dot)org and include your name, major, carrel number/workspace, and times you can meet.

Okay, I’m getting tired of writing intros. Let’s just get to it.Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 12.07.29 PM

Louise de Verteuil ’16, (ARHA, concentration in Italian Studies), carrel “on the third floor, next to the bathroom, printer down the hall” and Angie Lu ’16, ECON, carrel #326 (“Maybe? I never use mine”)

Louise’s working title: “The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele’s 2015 Restoration: Expo Milano’s Legacy and Revival of Civic Identity”

Angie’s working title: “Chasing Shadows: Predicting Turning Points of U.S. Recessions With Financial Market Origins”

On Louise’s thesis topic: “My thesis is about the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan and its 2015 restoration. What I’m doing is discussing how the World Fair that took place that same year in Milan affected the restoration.”

On Angie’s thesis topic: “The one-sentence explanation I give to people when they ask me is that I’m trying to predict financial crises. That’s a huge, big problem that my little thesis can’t solve, so I’ve been basically looking at this paper by these two scholars, and they make a claim that the last three recessions have financial market origins. I’m essentially testing whether or not that’s true, because the evidence that they use is kind of shoddy and they don’t look at everything. I’m trying to fill in the gap and see if what they’re saying is legit. If their argument is legit, I’ll be looking at other financial market proxies and see if the next recession can be predicted.”

On their progress:

Louise: “We had a thesis bootcamp weekend—”

Angie: “—a retreat, if you will. [laughs]”

L: “Yes, a retreat, with very few breakdowns. I would say we’re in a good place mentally. A little less so physically. But mostly just footnotes and editing.”

A: “Louise’s and my theses are very different. So she has a full working draft and it’s going to be 200 pages, whereas mine’s gonna be under 100. I don’t actually have a full full draft yet, but I’ll probably be done today or tomorrow. Just a lot of little things to do.”

L: “She was literally sitting on the floor cutting things out and pasting them together. [laughs]”

A: “It was bad yesterday [laughs]. This past weekend, I cut things out and stuck them together again.”

On Louise’s current mental state: “I’m really tired [laughs]. I don’t feel quite like myself; I feel like I’m floating outside of my body. Hopefully coffee and all these flu pills I’m taking will help. I’m a little sick. Oh and terp is another big thing. We’re doing terp.”

Angie: “Yeah it’s this Saturday. I have rehearsal today and then we have dress rehearsal Thursday, which is gonna take up a huge amount of time. The show’s on Saturday. I’m hoping to be done with my edits by Saturday.”

L: “We want to be drunk and done by Saturday night [laughs]. We’ll see.”

On Angie’s current mental state: “In terms of my mental state, I got a lot of sleep last night, so I’m feeling great. But the thing about theses is things change very quickly, so you might find me crying in my carrel this afternoon or something. I have no idea.”

On their relationships with their thesis advisors:

Louise: “[Angie] has a very different relationship with her thesis advisor [Karl Boulware] than I have with mine [Joseph Siry]. They text. He’s on speed dial. But Siry is amazing. Definitely more of a dad vibe, then [Angie] you’ve got…I don’t even know how to describe your advisor?”

Angie: “I get a bro vibe honestly [laughs]. [Boulware’s] amazing. He’s one of the best people ever.”

L: “She probably talks to him more than her boyfriend.”

A: “If you go through my texts, the last 10 people that I’ve texted are my advisor, my boyfriend, and then my friends and people like that. Seriously, he’s the best.”

On Louise’s most traumatic thesis experience: “I spilled tea on my laptop last semester. [Angie] was there. [My friends] remained very calm while I was trying really hard not to cry. I will say that the most functional element of Wesleyan on this campus is the tech center. They’re amazing. They took my laptop, and the guy was like, ‘Oh, it’s great that you don’t drink tea with sugar or milk, because otherwise you’d be screwed.’ And he fixed it for me, and I had my laptop back by 9am the next day. Everything was backed up, everything was fine. And they lent me another computer for the night.”

Angie: “We’ve had so many technology breakdowns. Remember when your charger stopped working?”

L: “Oh yeah! So then I was literally attached to [Angie].”

On Angie’s most traumatic thesis experience: “I haven’t had anything that shocking; I just had a moment where I was really particularly emotional. I was on the phone with my thesis advisor and he was like, ‘Well we might need to fix this up a little bit,’ and it required me doing a lot of changes that I was feeling kind of sad about. I was just grumpy, sitting in my bed saying, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ But we’re over that hump now; it’s okay. My advisor still gives me shit about that. The day after he was like, ‘Boo hoooo!’ and I was like, ‘Excuse me?! My mental state is not to be joked with!’ [laughs]”

Louise: “I think you’re picking up on the fact that we keep saying, ‘It’s okay. We’re okay.’ [laughs]”

Favorite their forms of procrastination:

Louise: “We watch a lot of cooking videos, like Tasty. They’re so succinct. [We also watch] animal videos with puppies that are happy.”

A: “We send each other Instagrams a lot. Like, ‘Hey, this is an adorable puppy that will make you happy. [laughs]”

L: “On Saturday night, we watched a 14-minute video of 6,000 matches being lit up on fire.”

A: “Just very soothing things that don’t require you to think a lot.”

Advice for future thesis writers:

Angie: “I think a lot of people discuss the fact that you do need to love your topic. But for me, my topic has changed quite a lot from where I first started, so I think the biggest thing for future thesis writers is having a good advisor. I have a great relationship with mine. It’s really great to have someone you can go to when you’re at your lowest point to reassure you that everything will be fine. It’s such a crucial moment in the thesis writing process. Sometimes your friends, especially your friends who aren’t writing theses, just don’t understand. They can’t provide as much guidance as someone helping you write a thesis can. Major shout out to my advisor! Seriously, he’s an amazing help, and I’m so happy that I chose him.”

Louise: “I cannot stress how amazing Professor Siry has been. I’ve sent him the most frantic emails, and every time he’s responded to me in the most calming, soothing, ‘don’t worry, I know what your thesis is about, it’s okay if you don’t’ manner. Just really, really great. Also, find a buddy. It’s really nice to have thesis powwows with someone who gets it because it’s just a very daunting process. It’s really nice to talk about it with someone and have someone to get snacks with at Weshop [laughs].

A: “Someone to spend Friday night at Olin with before it closes at 10.”

L: “Yeah. And speak to your mother and father frequently. That’s my advice.”

A: “I think Louise has spoken to her parents more than I have [to mine]. Mine are in Japan having the time of their lives right now [laughs].”

Plans for April 12th:

Angie: “We’ve gone through this so many times in our heads, and I don’t think we have a good answer. Obviously I’m planning on having three bottles of champagne.”

Louise: “I want to be showered in champagne. I want to drink champagne. I want to be rolling in it. I want to be breathing it in. [laughs]”

A: “Just a literal shower of champagne. [laughs]”

L: “And from that point either proceed to my bed or Foss or just stay there until someone tells me to leave.”

A: “Laundry also needs to be done soon. It’ll be very dire like a week or so. [laughs]”

L: “It’ll just be nice to eat and sleep at normal hours again.”

A: “And see people!”

L: “Yes, see people. And being able to do fun things. And being able to go outside when it’s still light out. [laughs].”

A: “I think realistically, the answer to this question is that we’re going to be spending lots of time with each other and with other people. And then doing more time-consuming things we could never get to before.”

L: “I want to develop more hobbies because I’ll have too much time. I don’t know what that’ll entail…”

A: “We’ve talked about knitting.”

L: “Yeah. Or just those things you spend your entire life trying to figure out but you just don’t have enough time. Like the perfect amount of time for a piece of toast to toast. Stuff like that. That’s what I’m going to be dedicating my last month at Wesleyan to: Toasting perfect toast.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.23.41 PMMarina King ’16, SOC, carrel #312

Working title: “‘Urban Legend: The Social Imaginary of Detroit, Michigan,’ which I like, but I’ve only gotten very lukewarm reactions about it [laughs], so I might end up changing it.”

On her topic: “My topic is about Detroit, Michigan and the social imaginary, which is all the cultural elements that have created a narrative around the city. I’ve been looking at representations through three different eras, the nostalgic heyday, the bankruptcy and people thinking of it as this decaying city, and then recently there’s been a turn of future thinking for the city. People are thinking, ‘Okay, it’s coming back, it’s revitalizing,’ but then there’s this notion of revitalization leaving behind lots of people. It’s a huge issue with gentrification and stuff, so I’m looking at those trends.”

On how she came up with her topic: “I’m from Michigan, about 40 minutes away from Detroit, so I’ve always been really interested in the city. I knew I wanted to examine a part of it, but my topic right now is so different from the topic that I started with. I started last November thinking I was only going to do advertisements from around Detroit, but now I’m doing a smorgasbord of everything. It’s been really nice to let it evolve as I go on, which has been really helpful for me in keeping interest in my topic.”

On her progress: “My progress has been pretty good. I’m almost done writing hopefully…I’m kind of tying up loose ends writing-wise and making little introductions for my chapters. I haven’t written my conclusion yet, but I’m not super worried about that. Then it’s just editing, but I’ve been editing all along, so I’m hoping it’s not gonna be too bad.”

On her current mental state: “It’s okay. I’m kinda tired, kinda anxious. Yesterday was weird because I was so in my own head that somebody ran into me and he was like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’ and I just didn’t respond and shrank back into myself a little bit. I also feel exhilarated all the time because it’s such a close deadline, and I need to get it done. It’s stressful but exciting.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I got the flu right before spring break, which was awful, and I was Skyping with my thesis advisor [Jonathan Cutler] because I didn’t want to give him my germs. I was talking about [my thesis] and then suddenly I looked up and just started crying. I was in my room and had to excuse myself from the screen and was just crying to myself in front of my mirror while I could hear my thesis advisor yell, ‘No, it’s okay!’ And I was like, ‘Bahhh I just don’t know what I’m doing!’ But he talked me out of it and it was great. [laughs] He’s been really great through the process.”

On changing her thesis topic: “I came in with a very rigid understanding of doing a thesis where I [was] like, ‘Oh I need to have three chapters and I need to be set in November, and I should do work over the summer’ and all that stuff, which is not what I’ve done at all. I ended up having three chapters, which is kind of funny. But really it had a lot to do with Cutler and the soc department and the leniency I had there. It’s very relaxed, just allowing yourself to explore your topic really well and keeping up that interest. I think the worst thing that could happen would be forcing yourself to do this topic but you hate it since you weren’t allowing yourself to explore other things. It was stressful when I came back from winter break and had only eight pages and I didn’t know what I was doing. [Then Cutler] was like, ‘How about the ~social imaginary~?’ and it was lights with angels singing [laughs].”

Favorite forms of procrastination: “Oh my God, so many. I love going on Instagram and stuff like that, and I also like delving into the really deep, really weird parts of YouTube. Favorite videos are like ‘Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared’ and I also really love movie trailers (that’s my weird thing) and music videos. I’m also very into birthing videos, like animals birthing. They’re fascinating to me. My housemate Jamie Ember ’16 and I watch them a lot. We spent a long time watching different dog breeds giving birth because it’s really weird but also really fascinating.”

On her theses feces: “They’ve actually been pretty good; it depends on the amount of coffee I’ve been drinking. I think doing a thesis has actually been really great for my poops, like made me buckle down.”

On who would star in a movie about her thesis: “I feel like I don’t even want to answer that question because I’d have to analyze my own thinking [laughs]. But there are some cool people from Detroit doing cool things. Like, Big Sean’s from Detroit. I’ve been watching this documentary of him going back to places he frequented in Detroit, and he went back to his high school and had literally crowds chasing him through the hallways. Oh, and Jack White’s from Detroit as well. It’s all the musicians; I want it to be a musical movie. [laughs]”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Let your project evolve to what you’re interested in. Also, don’t worry if you ever feel lost or confused, because it’s all part of the process. I don’t think anyone really feels confident in their thesis all the time, so allow yourself to feel that. Allowing myself to be confused and lost helped me find the path that I was really interested in going down.

Plans for April 12th: “Celebrate. Definitely be on the steps of Olin. I asked my housemate [Jamie] if she would be a designated driver to take us to some restaurant so we could have a celebratory dinner or something, which should be fun. That’s not totally set yet though. But [I’ll] definitely [be] celebrating, getting drunk, having a good time, and probably watching TV. I love watching TV.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.23.46 PMMaddy Junkins ’16, NS&B, SciLi/Olin

Working title: “I have to check with my advisor, but the working title is maybe ‘I’m Singing in the Brain’ because it has to do with bird song and how it relates to humans learning language a little bit. That’s the general connector, but I’m looking at how neurogenesis works in birds [because] it’s not ethical to look at it [in humans]. I have a long title too. It’s ‘Investigating the Role of Adult Neurogenesis in Long-Term Memory Preservation.”

On her topic: “I’m looking at how neurons that were born late in life can jump in on memories that precede them.”

On breaking her own thesis records: “I laughed at Kobi Bordoley ’16 and his comment [about having] the shortest title with the longest thesis, because I feel like I have one of the shortest theses and a very long title [laughs].”

On how she came up with her topic: “Basically the way I figured out this topic is that I went to my advisor [John Kirn] (I work in his lab and started working there last year), and I knew I wanted to stay and do research this past summer. I met with him on day one, and we’d been throwing around the idea of doing a thesis, and finally he was like, ‘I think it’d be cool if you did a thesis, and here’s your topic.’ So he just kind of dropped it in my lap. I really took to it because I like how in this lab they’ve done stuff in the past with hormones and motor learning, which are things I’m no so interested in, but this one has to do with memory, which I see myself pursuing for years to come. I want to go into a research career, so when [my advisor] was like, ‘You’d be investigating how new neurons help out with old memories that precede them,’ I thought that was so cool and really wanted to learn more about that. It really started in July, and it’s been a lot of lab work. The writing only just recently started.”

On her progress: “Today is a funny day because I came to this stopping point where I can’t really write anymore until [my advisor] checks it and let me know how I’m doing. So I sent it in and I was like, ‘What do I do now?!’ So I’ve had the day off [laughs]. It’s great. I think that my thesis isn’t like most Wesleyan people’s theses because it’s pretty short in comparison. It’s only gonna be only 60 pages tops. It’s basically gonna be a science research paper that I try to drag on as long as possible [laughs]. You can only talk so much about bird brains. So yeah, I’m just kind of waiting; he’ll probably get back to me in a day with edits and I’ll go from there. But I’m in a good place. It’s a cycle. I’m sure if you asked me that in five hours, I’d be like, ‘Dying!'”

On her current mental state: “Currently very calm, very mentally healthy I’d say. I’ve not been sleeping well, which is pretty funny to me because I’m pretty calm during the day and people will comment on how I seem really calm, but then last night I had a dream about a paragraph. Like, nothing happened; the dream was the paragraph on Microsoft Word. It’s hard to get sleep when you’re dreaming about Microsoft Word, but other than that, I feel good.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I knew this question was coming up so I tried to think of something, and I came up with two. One was when my laptop click pad stopped working, and you can’t really do anything without a click pad. Then I went to ITS and got a mouse from them, so that kind of solved the problem. Then later on, I went home for spring break to hang out with family, and then I came back that Monday ready to work and I immediately got food poisoning. I hadn’t really written anything yet, but [I knew] I couldn’t start while I had food poisoning; it was a crisis. It kind of all came together over spring break, and now here we are somehow [laughs]. I don’t know how that actually happened.”

Favorite forms of procrastination: “I do a lot of stress showering; I’ve showered multiple times a day for I don’t know how many weeks. I’m clean, which is great. Also, over spring break, I watched this whole show on Netflix called The Great British Bake-Off, which I highly recommend [laughs]. It really helped me when I had food poisoning, actually; that was a good activity to do.”

On who would be in her thesis if it was turned into a TV show: “It would have to be somebody to play my role…I would say one of the girls from Broad City. I think it’d be great. It’d be a fun interpretation; you have to find someone to make it exciting because it’s lonely and quiet in the lab. It’s also kind of depressing because I had to do a lot of surgeries killing birds and stuff. I feel like you’d have to put some sort of comical twist on it. Actually I have an anecdote: One time over the summer I was doing a surgery and was in the process of killing the bird, and then I realized that an egg was coming out of [that bird], and it was really traumatic. But the egg was a fluke and didn’t have a baby inside of it. I can definitely picture Abbi Jacobson dealing with that [laughs]. I also like the idea of [both women from Broad City] in the show together, because I felt like I had very split personalities in the lab. Part of me was focused and part of me was like, ‘Let’s play music as loud as we can and have a fun time!'”

On her theses feces: “It’s been erratic and confusing and will probably straighten itself out after April 12th [laughs].”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Don’t be intimidated to just sit down and write. I was biting my fingernails for so long about it, and I literally left it until spring break, which you can’t really do for a longer thesis. I didn’t really have a plan, but I just started typing stuff and it all somehow organized itself, so you really just have to trust your instincts and do it. And for those doing a thesis in the sciences, don’t shy away from it; it’s a fun experience. I got to take these birds from being hatched to be talked about retroactively in a paper; that’s their lifespan, and I controlled the entire process and had minimal help, so I feel prepared for the real science world. If you want that autonomy over a project, do a thesis.”

Plans for April 12th: “I’m really excited for the whole champagne thing; I’m trying to have a darty afterwards, but I don’t plan parties, so I don’t know how it going to work [laughs]. I’m hoping it’s just gonna come together. Then my friends and I like to go to Trivia Night on Tuesdays at La Boca. We always have a great time; we had a winning streak for a while, so we’re trying to get back on track with that. But I haven’t been able to go for the past three weeks, so I really want to show up having just drunk a whole bottle of champagne.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.23.51 PMMara Woods-Robinson ’16, FILM, Steenbeck Editing Room

Working title: “My working title is the [actual] title because it’s printed on the film [laughs], and it’s ‘Pharmaceutikillme.’ It was originally a temp title on my first draft that I wrote, and I was like, ‘You know what? I like it,’ so it became a thing. We also had joke titles on set like ‘Pills: The Musical’ because it’s all about pills.”

On her topic: “The concept is that it’s set in this world where everyone’s addicted to this commercialized pharmaceutical program called ‘The Program.’ The way it works is you get prescriptions of pills in the mail every day that regulate your emotions, so to be happy you take a pill called Happy, and when you wake up, you take your ‘wake up syringe’. It’s made to control your emotions so you only have positive emotions. It was conceived as a semi-dystopian/utopian suburban world. Within that, there’s a story of a teenage girl, played by Julia Morrison ’17, who stops taking her pills, and [it’s about] her parents’ response to that. There’s a lot of themes; it’s satirizing pharmaceutical dependency. It’s satirizing the commercialization of the American Dream. It’s about the experience of feeling alone as a teenager.”

On how she came up with her topic: “I’m an insomniac, and I’m always really interested in the choice to take sleeping pills, so freshman year in Intro to Playwriting I wrote about sleeping pills. I’ve written short stories about sleeping pills and what happens when they’re used to exploit people with insomnia. That was sort of the basis for it, but then I decided to broaden that into something that could be more interesting. Since film is all about emotion, I thought, ‘So what if we had a film set in a world where every emotion is preordained?’ I also wanted to do something not realistic and something that would be fun and crazy and weird. Something that would allow me to go nuts visually because I was doing 16mm and it’s beautiful. And when am I ever gonna get to do this again? So my production designer Sofie Somoroff ’18 did an awesome job and she went nuts on it [laughs]. Lots of red gingham.”

On her progress: “I’m done [laughs]. Well, the film’s at the lab; we have to get it in two weeks early, so we have two weeks less than digital [thesis film] kids do, which is crazy because way have more work to do. So it’s at the lab; they’ve claimed they’re going to overnight ship it back on Monday…so it should get back on Tuesday. I got a text this morning from Anna Cocuzzo ’16 that was like, ‘Okay we have a backup plan: We’re going to drive to Maryland if they’re not done on Monday!’ So let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But that’s the only thing left to stress about, so of course I’m stressed about it. I’m done, but it’s not done; it’s a weird thing. But that’s all of film; it’s on other people. So many of the problems that happen come with dealing with people and trying to organize everyone.”

On her current mental state: “I’ve been done for a week, so I’ve progressed from feeling kind of numb to being kind of chill again. I spent the day eating an ice cream bar and watching Jane the Virgin. And then I went to the studio art theses. I have so much free time now [laughs]. If you’d talked to me a week ago, I would’ve been like, ‘My head is exploding!'”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “It would have to be between my two shooting days. The first shooting weekend went so incredibly smooth. Everyone was doing a great job, we shot the hardest scene, we got through it with time to spare, and we shot under in terms of how much film we’d anticipated using. Everyone was so on their game. So I shot the weekend before Thanksgiving and the weekend after. So the first thing that happens is that I’m on set the second day and the location we’re shooting at is like, ‘Oh, you’re shooting here in two Saturdays? You can’t. We’re having a party that day.’ And I was freaking out the rest of the day, but I had to push it back because we were shooting. Then my sound guy was like, ‘Hey, a conflict came up, so I can’t be there.’ Then later that week, as I was already freaking out about finding a new location and sound guy, another crew member also told me they couldn’t it. So I was scrambling to find two replacements and a new location. Finding a new location not only meant finding something and organizing the details of that, but also reorganizing all of my shot list to fit the new location and working with my production designer to fit everything we’d been planning to fit this new location. It ended up working out great because I think it works better for the scenes we shot than the old location. But I felt like everything was crashing down all at once because it was just one thing after another. Then that day, when we shot at the new location, was the longest day, but we got through it and lived to tell the tale [laughs]. There’s also this crazy thing that the [film] building closes at midnight, so I’d be here and have to have a cut by the next day and it’d close. One time a PSafe officer took pity on me and let me work till 1am, so that was really nice. Shout out to PSafe! Honestly, I got to know a couple of PSafe officers who had the midnight rounds [laughs].”

Favorite forms of procrastination: “I go to the Film Series a lot. Although when I was shooting, I didn’t really go, which I was sad about. Last semester, I watched a lot of Veronica Mars (all of it) for the first time. Then this semester, I’m in Drawing I, which is the best way to procrastinate because you’re kind of doing work but just drawing and it takes time. I definitely had one assignment for Drawing I that I spent 12 hours on that turned out wasn’t even a graded assignment [laughs]. I definitely spent that long on it just so [I didn’t have to] work on my thesis [laughs].”

Advice for future thesis writers: “For future film theses, one: Get a great crew. Honestly, that’s what makes your film. If you don’t have people [whom] you trust that you can work with and you know can bring it, it’s just not going to go well. I had an awesome crew and that made my job as a director so much easier. Two, for the scriptwriting process, don’t be afraid to try crazy stuff. For one draft, I wrote about puppets that came to life that just ended up getting flushed down the toilet. So also don’t be afraid to completely rewrite it; sometimes it’s necessary. You can’t hold everything as precious. I think the best film theses I’ve seen are the ones that just go for it and go balls deep and it’s not just the same story. And for 16mm, this is a piece of advice to keep costs down, and this was a big thing since this thesis cost money: The most important thing I would say is rehearse every take five million times before you shoot it. I got everything in one or two, maybe three, takes, but never more than three takes on anything. I used five rolls of film, so it was a little under 60 minutes of footage for an 11.5-minute movie. That’s a 5:1 shooting ratio; that’s really low, and that saved me so much money. That’s the way to cut costs.”

Plans for April 12th: “So I have a plan where I’m going to get two bottles of champagne. One is going to be Andre and be for spraying and one is gonna be expensive and it’s going to be for drinking and not a touch of it will touch people’s clothing. That’s my first plan. Second plan is to be drunk all day probably. I already got out of my Espwesso shift for Tuesday night; I’m now working the Monday night shift which means I’m gonna get a lot of business from all the people finishing their theses. Then after that it’s gonna be weird since it’s going to be the same as it is now. But the difference will be that all my friends can hang out with me, and it won’t just be me hanging out in my room watching Jane the Virgin; I can be downstairs watching Jane the Virgin with my housemates [laughs].”