ThesisCrazy 2022 Part 5: Generally Bug Averse Cultures

Tashfia’s amazing healthcare pamphlet for the Bangladeshi community in NYC

Back again! Today we have Megan Levan ’22 talking about BUGS, and Tashfia Jilu ’22 calling attention to the need for better language interpretation in our health care system. Read on below!

P.S. Megan’s interview was done prior to the thesis deadline, and Tashfia’s was done after it

Interviews by saph and maury

Megan Levan ’22 (she/her). Thesis in General Scholarship. 

Working Title: “That’s a great question. I think right now, I am working with something pretty boring. So it’s just ‘Eating Insects for the People and the Planet.’ And then something like ‘Mapping of a Sustainable Future for Entomology in the United States’ or something. It’s very boring. I need to shorten it and make it more fun.

On her topic: “My topic is entomophagy, which is eating insects in the United States. So basically, I’m looking at this sustainable superfood. And kind of looking into whether or not it’s actually sustainable (at the moment) based on how people eat and access edible insects in the United States. And so what I’ve gathered is that it’s not actually that sustainable at the moment, even though it’s really pushed as this super, super environmentally friendly protein option.

On What Kind of Insects:Yeah, well, I’m looking mostly into crickets. Because in the United States that is the most abundant, because a lot of startup companies use cricket powder for their snacks that they make. And also, crickets are just like, pretty easy to farm. And so that’s usually what you see in the United States right now. But also, I mean, I feel like some popular ones are mealworms and grasshoppers, those are kind of what I’ve eaten the most and been able to find most often.

On how she thought of her topic: “It all began when I was seven years old at the zoo. Goes way back. But basically I ate my first bugs back in the day when I was really young. And I just kind of had it in the back of my mind, like it was there for many years. And I thought it was really cool. I thought bugs were tasty. And then when I got to Wesleyan, I had a couple of classes that had very open ended final paper prompts. And so I kind of was like, now is my time to delve into edible insects. So I wrote two papers my sophomore year, one of them was about the ick factor as a barrier to eating insects in the United States (for my Eating Others class, which was really fun). And then the other one was about mopane worms, which was basically a case study on a certain kind of caterpillar that’s eaten a lot in South Africa and Botswana. So very fun. And I basically realized after writing these two papers, that I still was super interested in eating insects, and I was like, ‘hey, if this can sustain me through two papers, maybe it can sustain me through a year and a half long thesis.'”

On her progress: “So I started my research over the summer. And my research basically consisted of just going around and eating insects wherever I could find them. They were hard to find, but I found restaurants where they sold any kind of insects  available. And I also ordered lots of stuff online, and like, kind of just went on my own entomophagy journey, which was very fun. I also interviewed a bunch of the CEOs and founders of insect based companies. And what I realized was, like, I went into this really like, ‘oh my gosh, yes, insects are the sustainable protein of the future. This has so much potential. I’m an environmental studies major, this is the answer.’ And then I kind of quickly realized, like, through my summer research, that there are a lot of other sustainable diet options that honestly maybe would be more worthwhile for me to promote like vegetarianism, veganism. I was vegetarian before I started this project. And I was like, ‘why should I be telling people that they should eat insects, when I could just be like, you can be a vegetarian?’ Kind of get the same results, you know? And this is specifically speaking for people in the United States. Like, obviously, there are lots of reasons to eat insects. They’re super nutritious and delicious and abundant. And people have been eating them for thousands and thousands of years in their places. Yeah, but yeah, I definitely had a little process of like ‘oh, my, like, what am I doing? And why am I pushing this diet so hard for people that are already kind of, you know, from the get go kind of averse to eating insects?'”

On her mental state:Well, yesterday, I cried in Swings, which I don’t think I’ve done before, or not recently, at least. I kind of feel like by the end of this process, I’ll have cried in every place on campus. That’s the goal, at least. And yeah, I think, I don’t even really realize how overwhelmed I am, because it really has just gotten this week. I feel like I’ve been very chill about the whole thesis process. Until now. It’s gonna get done.

On her most upsetting thesis experience: I mean, honestly, I think watching this one documentary. It’s just called BUGS in all caps, and it’s amazing documentary, but the whole documentary ends just saying like, ‘yeah, it was fun to go and eat these bugs, but like, the whole, the whole protein craze is like stupid and we shouldn’t push insects as like a protein like we should just eat a sustainable diet and like think about how to redistribute like all the food that we’re wasting.’ And I really was so disillusioned after I watched that, but also it was a great documentary. Everyone should see it because it really opened my eyes.

On where we can find said documentary: “You might have to buy it on Amazon. I don’t think it’s very accessible. But it’s a very fun one. Then you should read my thesis about how there’s still some potential for insects in the United States, even though BUGS the movie does not think so.”

On her favorite form of procrastination:It’s a great question. I kind of feel like, at this point in time, since it’s like really crunch time, my procrastination is actually still working on my thesis, I just do all the stupid citation stuff, which is not as fun an answer.

On her plans for April 14th/after she hands her thesis in: “Yeah. Well, so we’re handing it in on Thursday, actually, they’re due on Thursday at 4pm. And honestly, I’ve planned a lot of things because every time someone asks me to do something, I’m like, just hold that thought until after Thursday. So I think I have a lot of things scheduled. But my first biggest exciting thing is that I’m going to go to Undies in Olin which I’m very passionate about.”

Advice for future thesis writers: I think the process has been nice, I feel like you should really only write a thesis if you really have something that can sustain your interest for a long period of time. Like, otherwise, there’s really no point. And I feel like I’ve tried to really live by the motto of like, not letting my thesis get in the way of anything else I wanted to do, which can make the end process a little bit more stressful, but I feel like you know, yeah, just like a side thing. And also, I’m taking like two other classes. So that has been nice, too. Yeah. Make that like your core work for the semester.”

If her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “ I feel like it needs to be something like, kinda chaotic. It would be with a lot of puns, because that’s what my thesis is. It’s all puns. I’m gonna go with “What Else Can I Do” from Encanto. I’ve listened to it a lot throughout the process; it just gives me a lot of inspiration. And also I feel like, you know, what else can insects do? They have so much potential.”

Most used phrase: I‘ve been really waiting to smush all of my chapters together in one document. So I can control F and see how many times I say just ‘entomophagy.’ That one’s got to be up there. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m sure it’s a lot of times. And also I say a lot of times ‘in generally bug averse cultures.’ It’s like all over the place. And I just made that up.”

On her theses feces: They were very regular. And then all of a sudden, I feel like the past couple of days, things got a little crazy. I mean, I don’t even drink any caffeine. That would really be bad, but I just feel like the impending doom got to me. So, yeah. I’m doing all right. I’m gonna survive.”


Tashfia Jilu ‘22 (she/her). Biology and Science in Society Major, Chemistry Minor, Thesis in Science in Society, Carrel #E1. 

Working Title: “Unseen and Unheard: Exploring the US Healthcare System through the Lens of Bangladeshi Immigrants.”

On her topic: “So I did my thesis on the Bangladeshi community in New York City. I am Bangladeshi myself, so it was the community that’d be the easiest to work with and to kind of figure out what their experiences are like navigating the US healthcare system as people who have low English proficiency. Low English proficiency are those who self identify as speaking English, like less than very well. And so obviously, there’s a lot of communication difficulties with their providers, and in most cases, federally funded healthcare institutions are legally mandated to have language services available in hospitals and medical institutions. But either most places don’t have them or they’re just inadequate because it’s not like the first thing on their mind to think about. And so my thesis is really to raise awareness of the issue that this community goes through when they go to doctor’s appointments or have emergency visits to the hospital. I conducted interviews last summer in New York City speaking to the community. And then I kind of looked at the main themes that showed up across interviews. I also kind of split my thesis into three different parts. So the first part was talking about the history of this people, because many people don’t know that Bangladesh actually went through a genocide before becoming independent. Part of that war was fighting for language. I just kind of wanted to highlight that less than 100 years ago, these people were fighting for their language, and now they come to America and are told, ‘No, you can’t speak your language here.’ Or else you’re not going to get access to things that are basic needs. And then the last part of my thesis is providing solutions, obviously, short term solutions, because you know, all that can be done long term is systemic change. And so I created a pamphlet that Bangladeshi people can use. It’s in Bangla, and it informs them of their rights, like the right to an interpreter, the right to a social worker. And then there’s one section of it that they can actually use to communicate with their provider.”

On how she thought of her topic: “Junior year I took Cultural Studies of Health with Professor Hatch and for our final he asked us: ‘what untold stories, what voices, communities, do you want to highlight?’ And at the time, I was working as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Middletown, Apple Rehab, and I had a Cambodian resident who didn’t speak any English. And, you know, it wasn’t really until he [Professor Hatch] asked the question that I thought about how difficult it was to not be able to communicate with her and know what she needs. There have been days where, she wouldn’t eat and I would sit down with her and I would feed her and then she would eat and but other aides may not have thought that; they may just think like, ‘oh, she doesn’t want to he doesn’t want to eat like I’m not gonna force her.’ But I think it’s more she could have been too weak, maybe she was too tired to feed herself but she didn’t have the language to actually communicate that with us. And after that I thought about about the fact that my parents are immigrants but they’re lucky to speak great English and they can do everything on their own, but a lot of our extended family who are immigrants don’t have that privilege. I did a final project on it for that class,  just generally on what language services look like across the US and then I was like ‘Professor Hatch. I think this needs to be a thesis because I need to do more research on this!’”

On her progress: “I feel like from the beginning, I didn’t really know how I was gonna write it. Obviously I had the research which is my second chapter on its own. That was pretty easy to write, but like I felt like I needed more. I just happened to mention to Professor Hatch like, ‘oh, you know, as I write about language it makes me think about the war’ and he was like, ‘that’s so important, write about it some more.’ So I kind of did some free writing about it because I know a lot about the history for my parents. And then it ended up being the perfect way to segue into the research because it gives background on the people that I’m researching on. Being able to talk about the history of my people made it easier to write because it’s something that I’m really passionate about and really interested in and I was really interested in learning more about. The process itself is kind of hard because I just kind of go back and forth making sure things connect. And then I had a thesis mentor who is a junior. I feel like I would not have been able to submit it without her because she was so helpful. I think just talking through my process was the most effective way of getting the writing and getting me through this.”

On her current mental state: “I’m tired, burnt out. I told everyone like once my thesis is done, I am chilling. I have one last exam that you can take home and it’s next week. But I did not account for the fact that I am in extracurriculars. I have a conference this weekend that I’m planning. Next week, I’m presenting my thesis research on campus and then I also signed up for a conference at Yale where I’m presenting. And so I’m like really regretting all these things and I just, I just want to sleep. My mental state is that I want to sleep.”

On her most upsetting thesis experience: “I don’t know. Like during the process I didn’t really have an upsetting thesis experience. After submitting it. I keep thinking back on it, especially when people ask me like, ‘Oh, my God, you finished it, how does it feel?’, but all I can think about is ways I could have made it better. And the things that I could have added or could have said and I feel like that’s really hard because it’s done and submitted, it’s not going to change anymore. It’s just really hard for me to like, kind of just come to terms with the fact that it’s submitted because of that.”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “Watching Netflix. Sometimes I’d be like, ‘Okay, this isn’t gonna take a lot of mental focus. I’ll just put on like a show or a movie and do both.’ And then I would just end up watching for hours.”

On how she celebrated turning it in: “Because it’s the month of Ramadan. I didn’t go to the champagne pop, but instead my friends and I kind of all went to my house and we did a confetti pop instead. And we broke fast together. So that was a lot of fun.”

What was it like finishing your thesis up during Ramadan? “Part of me feels like it kind of helped. So during Ramadan I wake up around 4am to eat and pray and my friends were actually on a schedule where they would wake up at four and then just stay awake until like 9pm or 10pm and sleep early. And I said I wouldn’t do it, but then I was like, ‘No, I really need to do this.’ And so like I’d be up at four and in Exley by five, writing and getting things done.’

Her advice for future thesis writers: “Two things. One is to know that you really want to write the thesis because if it’s not something that you’re passionate about or something that you’re really interested in, it becomes hard. Like the parts that weren’t as interesting to me took me weeks to write. And the second is just to figure out a plan that works for you in terms of scheduling things out, because at the end of the day, you’re in charge of your writing schedule. For me that was for me that was meeting with my thesis mentor on the off weeks of meeting with my professor. Every week I was meeting with someone and I had something to submit for my writing. It pushed me to make sure I was actually writing and getting things done every week.”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “I think my favorite part of the thesis is the pamphlet that I made. I’ve been showing it to everyone. I got help from a friend who is not not a Wesleyan student, but who is a graphic designer and they did an amazing job helping me with the background and then inserting the text and it’s such a great pamphlet. I’m so excited to actually print it out and be able to distribute it this summer.”

On if her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “I feel like it was very dramatic. There are some very dramatic parts. But I don’t think I know the answer to that question. I’m sorry!”

On her most used word/phrase: “Probably ‘language services.’ Like I said it so many times. I kept asking myself like ‘is there another way to say this?’ No, there’s no other way to say this.”

Theses Feces: “I got a stomach bug like the week before theses were due and I didn’t do anything for like four days straight and I felt so stressed. But you know it got submitted. That’s all that matters.”

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