A juggle between studies and on-campus jobs

How does a college student balance studies and part-time work? This is a story of Leland Chow who went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a shoe-string budget and how he managed to get on-campus jobs to save enough fund for him to visit different parts of the USA without bankrupting his parents!

Commentary by Chow Yong Neng, PhD.

My son, Leland Chow wrote this piece for Han Chiang News in October 2015. I am republishing this here as most of my readers would not have had the chance to read this. Although he does not have to suffer the anxiety I had when I was at Queen’s University of Belfast (counting pennies & wondering if I had enough ££ to pay my tuition fees), I always reminded Leland that our budget was limited and he has a younger sister whose higher education cost would be much higher than his (she being 4 years younger). Hence Leland had to budget well & make the best of his time at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL). If he wanted extra funds for trips or gadgets, he would have to earn it himself. UNL’s Global Laureate Scholarship which covered 60% tuition fees for Leland made possible for our tiny budget (made 40% smaller due to the devaluation of the Malaysian Ringgit since 2014) to stretch just enough to cover over two years of studies for Leland.

Well Leland has completed his studies in December 2016 and he had made several trips to different parts of the USA during his time at UNL, all paid for from funds he made working on campus. His is a classic example of how students pursuing tertiary studies can make the best use of their time and not bankrupting their parents!

Leland returned to Malaysia in late July 2017, after trying for months looking for a job in the USA without success. Currently he is back in the USA for two weeks to attend TwitchCon 2017 at Long Beach, California (a convention for broadcasters on the Twitch platform). This trip was made possible by the funds raised by Leland’s community of Twitch fans and friends who pooled together over US$1,500 for him.

Leland’s first journey to the West was in August 2014, I had written an article about how much work and preparation one has to do if one is planning to go to study in the USA.

By Leland Chow

Malaysian Ringgit has been very volatile for the past few months, causing the currency rate between the Ringgit and the US Dollars to hover around RM4.40 (until recently, where it dropped to around RM4.20). Hence, when it was time for my parents to send the money for my tuition fees, they had to face the burden of the weakening Ringgit and sent less allowance, telling me to be thrifty although most of my money is usually spent on food. Fortunately, I have not faced a huge financial burden in terms of allowance as I do have on-campus jobs here.

I currently work as a tutor and a campus tour guide in the university. As an international student in the US, I can only work up till a maximum of 20 hours per week when classes are in session, and 40 hours per week during holidays, including summer. However, as both of my jobs do not require that many hours to work, I could easily fit the both of them in my schedule without any worries. Therefore, I work as a tour guide during the day and a tutor by night.

As a campus tour guide, I give tours to prospective students and parents around the campus, where I have to walk all around campus, show them important buildings, and the essential purposes and usages of the buildings. I am generally not an active person; hence, the tour guide position suits me best as I get to do some leg exercises early in the morning! Besides, I have to also walk backwards as a campus tour guide, which seems very unusual at first, but can be easily mastered after a few tries.

On the other hand, as a tutor, I give advice and provide help to students in a learning community. My main focus is the lower level Math classes, but I also tutor Finance, Economics, and Communication Studies. In order to tutor a subject, I have to obtain an A in the subject, and also maintain a 3.5 GPA. This is different from other tutoring positions on campus, as the tutors here (at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, UNL) only tutor students in the William H. Thompson Learning Community, which is a learning community for students in the Susan T. Buffett Scholarship (set up by the wife of the investment guru, Warren Buffett who happens to be an alumnus of UNL).

During the past summer, I worked full-time on campus as a conference assistant for the university. As most residence halls were closed during the summer for students, conferences that take place also required accommodation for its guests. Because of this, the residence halls were converted into conference halls for guests to stay throughout the summer. I worked at the front desk which mainly involved checking guests in and out, answered questions, ensured their safety by conducting rounds around the conference halls, and most importantly, made sure that guests were satisfied with their stay at the university.

All of these positions require me to possess different skills and qualities, and I believe I have learned a lot taking on these various jobs. Some people might wonder if I am able to balance my academics and work at the same time. I can confidently say that I can.

For instance during last summer, I worked a full-time position and took 2 classes at the same time. I managed to obtain As for both subjects. This shows that with good time management skills, we can succeed both in academics and in work. My on-campus jobs also work around my class schedule and club meetings, so it is easy to study, work and play without sacrificing a lot for any of them.

Finding an on-campus job is definitely not difficult. It just requires some effort and time put into the search. I highly suggest talking to friends or professors, or even looking up at the campus career services website. These methods have helped me in finding on-campus positions, and I believe many people, especially my fellow Malaysians here, would agree with me on this.

Cover photo from http://conferenceservices.unl.edu/conference-assistant-staff (the author was situated on the 2nd roll, the 4th person from the right)

Life’s lessons learned from Harry Potter

What life’s lessons can you get from Harry Potter books? Read what a young fan, Potterhead got to say about this.

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Commentary about this article (revised –  Apr 19, 2018)

The author, Leland Chow was a junior reading Finance, minor in communication studies and economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when he wrote this piece. This article originated as an assignment for one of the author’s classes and is presented here for our readers’ enjoyment.

In late 2012 Leland Chow took the Malaysian Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) which is a national high school diploma equivalent examination that most Malaysian school leavers will take. My wife and I were very worried for Leland. Instead of burying himself with SPM study guides, textbooks etc., he was reading Harry Potter books during most of this month-long examination. We joked that if Harry Potter books are included in his examination, he would score grade A+ hands down. Leland simply smiled and told us that it (reading J.K, Rowling’s books) was his way of relaxing. He claimed that reading Harry Potter calmed his nerves as well. Well, Leland might have a point there. He did extremely well in his SPM to win a full scholarship at SEGi University. But after reading what he wrote, I think Leland gets more than just a calming of his nerves! I also learned two things from this piece, (i) Leland was a victim of bullying at high school (& wish I knew earlier to help him to tackle this),  and (ii) the meaning of a new term, “Potterheads”! ————–> Chow Yong Neng, PhD.


This was the third and final essay of my English: Rhetoric as Inquiry. My instructor, Ms. Maria Nazos has asked me to write an essay regarding a person or a group of people who I admire. Instead of choosing a real-life person or a group of real-life people, I decided to choose my favorite characters from my favorite childhood series, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. I utilized textual evidences from the book to support the characteristics of the three unlikely best friends. —————–> Leland Chow


He was an orphan as his parents were brutally murdered by a horrendous man. He lived with his maternal aunt and uncle since he was born. His aunt and uncle treated him as if he was their servant. He did not feel loved, happy, cared for. His cousin also did not help to the fact that he was literally neglected and bullied by his aunt and uncle, as his cousin was spoiled by his aunt and uncle, giving his cousin new gifts and toys, while he could only get hand-me-down, second-handed gifts and toys. His room was worse, as he literally lived in a small storage closet, barely enough to fit his small body. His life was basically miserable for the past 11 years, until a letter was written to him, telling him that he was accepted into a prestigious school, a magical school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

It was not until 2005 when I started noticing the world of Harry Potter. People usually read the books before watching the film. I, on the other hand, took notice of the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I really liked how magical it was, and immediately bought the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and watched it. I felt that Harry Potter was in a way, sad, but very inspiring to me. Then, I persuaded my parents to buy the three books that came after the first two films. I loved reading books as well, and hence I read the three books quite quickly. Suddenly, I realized that I was actually really enjoying all of the Harry Potter books and films, I was a Potterhead.


Harry Potter was created by a British author named J. K. Rowling, in a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. She used that name as she had no middle name, borrowing Kathleen as K. from her grandmother, and this made J. K. Rowling’s initial identity to be more anonymous. She wrote the first few ideas of Harry Potter on a napkin, and in later times, used a typewriter to type the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. When she was writing, she usually wrote in cafes in Edinburgh, and her then baby daughter would be around with her (Farr). I found it to be quite ironic that J. K. Rowling got her ideas of Harry Potter in a train, as in her books, a platform in King’s Cross Station, Platform Nine and Three Quarters, is used as the platform for the official school train, Hogwarts Express, which is used to transport students to Hogwarts (Rowling, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, 87). This coincided her writing with her true experience in the train. Her way of writing this type of transportation used in all books of Harry Potter resembled a relation between the land of magic and the land without magic. It served as a bridge between the wizards and witches, and the normal non-magical people, the Muggles (Rowling, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, 53). A bridge whereby there were quite a few similarities between the magical world and the non-magical world, which was quite fascinating because to me, I would not have expected wizards and witches to use just the same mode of transportation: a train. Even though it may be a magical train, but still, it was the same type of transport, using a similar type of train tracks.

The younger me at that time read books pretty quickly, so in a month or two, I have already finished reading the three books, ranging from a thin Prisoner of Azkaban, to a very thick Order of the Phoenix. But, unlike now, where I take my time to read and understand carefully about the books, I was just reading and not understanding the plot of the books. Somewhat, this old habit of mine reflected on my personality that I did not understand deeply enough about the true nature of things. I was technically bullied at that age, but I did not know that I was bullied, nor did I know why I was being picked on. I was just too immature at that time to understand things from a different perspective.

Harry’s Love

Love was one of the themes in the Harry Potter book series, and it was evident in Harry himself. Unlike his nemesis, Voldemort, Harry Potter had been loved by his parents. He was born into a dangerous world, and was bullied by his aunt and uncle, but when he was in school, he was loved by his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Ron’s parents, the headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore, and even the deputy headmistress at that time, Professor Minerva McGonagall. Molly Weasley, Ron’s mother, in fact claimed that Harry can be her son, and even gave Harry her brother’s watch as Harry’s 17th birthday present (Rowling, “Order of Phoenix”, 90; “Deathly Hallows”, 114). Harry’s love for his friends was also evident when he saved them in the Chamber of Secrets, where he successfully slayed the Basilisk, a dangerous monster, faced many Dementors, which were soulless creatures, and as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, sacrificed himself for the safety of his friends (Rowling, “Order of Phoenix, 527; “Deathly Hallows”, 703).

If he did not love any of the people mentioned, I believe that he would not have sacrificed himself because the existence of love in him was one of the key reasons he did not join the evil side. The darkness that was present in the society was growing more than ever, but his love for everyone and vice versa kept him grounded. Voldemort utilized his followers as if they were his tools, and when his followers were useless or dead, he did not shed a single drop of tear, nor did he show any signs of remorse (Rowling, “Deathly Hallows”, 656). Harry, on the other hand, showed his emotions clearly. He was sad and cried for the death of his loved ones, even in the case of a death of a non-human creature, Dobby the elf! He manually dug a grave and engraved “Here lies Dobby, a free elf” on top of the gravestone (Rowling, “Deathly Hallows”, 478-481). Would Harry be less emotional, and worse, less likeable, if he cannot feel love? In my opinion, definitely! This is what sets Harry and Voldemort apart, as Harry understood the ability to love someone, while Voldemort, unfortunately, could not feel love, and did not love anyone, as he was born under a concoction of a love potion made by his mother for his father (“J. K. Rowling Web Chat”).

Hermione’s Logical Intelligence

Of course, the adventures of Harry Potter would not be as great if Harry was not accompanied by his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Hermione Granger possessed a trait that many people would seem to admire and hate, all at the same time: logical intelligence. It was because of her logical intelligence that she solved the Potion Riddle to help Harry to defeat the professor who had Voldemort stuck at the back of his head (Rowling, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, 286). However, it was also because of that intelligence that Harry and Ron were not fond at her at first. She was described as a know-it-all, having read and studied every book in detail even before the semester has started (Rowling, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, 105). Her intelligence came from the fact that she was outspoken, and because of her outspokenness, the two boys did not like her (Jusino). She proved herself worthy though, and through her kindness towards everyone, she has won many people’s hearts, including Harry’s and Ron’s, and they eventually became good friends. To me, she has also won my heart, as she resembles me in some ways. I am considered an outspoken person. Because of this though, many people think that I am intelligent, especially when it comes to getting good grades in my exams. Unlike Hermione, however, I am the one who works hard, pay my fullest attention in classes, and try my best to get the grades I want. Unfortunately, when it comes to house chores and other life skills, I am the worst person to ask. I cannot cook, I cannot assemble a shelf properly, and I definitely cannot fix a car. Hence, Hermione possesses a trait that is somewhat relatable to me and I admire her because of this.

Soon, as I grew older, I started rereading the Harry Potter books. I now had four books, including Half-Blood Prince. I slowly began to understand more about the struggles Harry, Ron and Hermione faced in the books. I understood the pain the trio faced, especially Harry, after rereading those books. I have slowly started to change my habit of reading, preferring to read slowly and understand more about the plot development. At the same time, I started to realize that I was not very happy in life. I realized that I was being bullied, and I did not dare to tell my parents about it. I just kept everything to myself, like what Harry did by hiding his pain from Ron and Hermione.

Ron’s Humor and Maturity

Ron Weasley, Harry’s male best friend, on the other hand, was not as smart as Hermione, nor as skilled as Harry, but he had a trait that the both of them lack: His sense of humor. He was a character that provided some comic relief in the books, making sure that the books were not dark and sad at all times. At the beginning where Hermione was not on Ron’s good shoes, he kept on mocking her, saying that she was scary. When Harry and he were stuck in a plant and Hermione was freaking out, he questioned by shouting at her if she was a witch. He also joked that Harry had to get his Inner Eye tested during a class when Harry tried to read the tea leaves from Ron’s cup but failed miserably. When the fake Professor Moody Transfigured Malfoy into a ferret, Ron told Hermione to not say a word, as he was trying to remember that scene forever (Rowling, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, 172, 278; “Prisoner of Azkaban, 105; “Goblet of Fire”, 207). In the first two cases, although he was mean to Hermione, he was funny and in a way, was a joker to the other two of his friends. Rowling has said that the reason why Ron had a good sense of humor was because he was immature as well (Ferreol). He, however, became more mature where he came back to Harry and Hermione after leaving them. At the end, when he married Hermione and had kids, he said to his children that he’s extremely famous, prompting them to laugh, showing that he still had his sense of humor (Rowling, “Deathly Hallows”, 380, 759). In my opinion, Ron was one of those people that no one could hate, as he was hilarious in many situations. Rowling wrote such a contrasting character to accompany Harry and Hermione, but because of what she wrote, Ron was easily likeable by Harry Potter fans, or commonly known as Potterheads. He was the type of guy that every guy would want to be when dating with a girl, as he knew what to say to make the girls laugh.

When the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, I was delighted and requested my parents to buy the book for me. As it was quite expensive, they were initially reluctant to buy the book for me. After several plead from me though, they decided to buy for me as they knew I liked books. A few years after owning the last book, after many times of rereading, I finally realized that I had changed after reading Harry Potter, somewhat quite a lot. I learned to look things at a different perspective. When I realized I was being bullied at first, I kept on wondering why I was picked to be the victim, why other people would not be the victims. Then, I realized that maybe it was because of some misunderstanding with them, or they had a huge issue on me that even I did not realize.

The Trio’s Bravery

Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, possessed one of the few traits that no one else in this real world could compare: Their immense bravery. Lord Voldemort tried to kill Harry many times after he killed Harry’s parents, including the night where his parents died, the time where he was fighting for his life in the Triwizard Tournament, and the time when he was a legal magical adult, facing Voldemort, and came to accept his apparent death (Rowling, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, 12; “Goblet of Fire”, 663; “Deathly Hallows”, 703). He was not alone, as Ron and Hermione bravely stood beside him in nearly all occasions, trying to help him to defeat Voldemort once and for all. They were not cowards, and they did not bother running away. Even until the end, the trio did not surrender, even though Harry sacrificed himself to his death. In fact, Harry knew that he had to do so because that was the only way to defeat Voldemort. He knew that a part of Voldemort’s soul was attached to him, and as long as he lives, Voldemort cannot be defeated. Ron and Hermione did not know about that, but when they found out about it, they were sad and continued fighting against Voldemort and his followers (Rowling, “Deathly Hallows”, 686, 731).  Harry chose to die, and not live, as if he chose to live, everything that has done for by his parents and everyone else he loved will be betrayed (Deyoung).

The trio’s bravery was the main reason why Potterheads, including me, admire him. In my opinion, bravery was something lost in the whole of Harry Potter book series. There were too many characters who were afraid of losing something, including losing Harry’s life. These characters then decided to stay silent and be passive in the general public, unlike Harry, Ron and Hermione. They were one of the only few who decided to take action against Voldemort. They were the one of the few who sought light against all the darkness. They were the ones who stood up against all evil, never giving up, and bravely assumed their roles that they must defeat Lord Voldemort in order to successfully vanquish the evil, and restoring peace in the world.

2012 was the year when the final film adaptation of Harry Potter was released. It was a bittersweet moment for my life as I realized that this was THE final film of Harry Potter. No more Harry, no more Ron, no more Hermione. Deathly Hallows Part 2 was very heartfelt as I finally got to see the truth, as read in the book. My life took a turn for the better after reading and watching the last book and film adaptation, respectively. I finally understood that people were still immature at that time when I was bullied, as when I was finally leaving high school, I was not bullied, but on the contrary, I had friends who I can count on. I finally got to experience true friendship from these great friends.


It was and still is surprising that a pure-blood, a half-blood and a Muggle-born could be good friends together. Harry, Ron and Hermione, from the Harry Potter series, have inspired many people to be brave, to be themselves, to fight against evil. I dare to admit and say that I am one of those people. I applaud Rowling for writing such a great series of books, timeless stories, and most of all, creating a magical world that many Muggles like me try to realize in the real world. I hope that everyone who reads Harry Potter could take something home after reading the series, because I have.


Works Cited

Deyoung, Rebecca Konyndyk. “Love Bears All Things: Thomas Aquinas, Harry Potter & The Virtue of Courage.” Virtual Library of Christian Philosophy. Calvin College. 12 Sept. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Farr, Emma-Victoria. “JK Rowling: 10 Facts about the Writer.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Ferreol, Yvette. “Rowling Reveals `Marriage’ to Harry Potter at Reading (Correct).” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 22 Oct. 2007. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“J.K. Rowling Web Chat Transcript”. Bloomsbury. The-Leaky-Cauldron.org. 30 July 2007. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. Transcript.

Jusino, Teresa. “Hermione Granger: Minority Geek Girl”. Potterpalooza on TOR.com. TOR.com, 14 July. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine, 2007. Print.

—. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2000. Print.

—. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2003. Print.

—. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 1999. Print.

—. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Arthur. A. Levine, 1998. Print.


Below is the grading & comments from the author’s instructor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Grade: ___A_____Comments: Leland, well done! Your revisions all went in the right direction. It is great to see (after the Doyle essay) how truly athletic you are as a writer, slipping from one challenging essayistic form to the next. You have been a delight to have in my class. Please keep in touch if you need anything.

[Feature picture of this post was derived from: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/markhughes/files/2014/10/Harry-Potter-1940×1212.jpg]

Studying in America: a young Malaysian’s story

Although I am very “British” in my academic “pedigree”, having spent nearly twelve years studying in the United Kingdom, the most enjoyable teaching experience I encountered as an academic was when I taught American Degree Program (ADP) in different colleges in Malaysia. The breadth of knowledge, relatively flexible learning paths and the communication skills of ADP students were the key influencing factors for me to advise my son, Leland to choose to study in the USA.

Leland started to prepare for his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) when he started his Form 4, at the age of 16. We went to major bookstores in town to buy four SAT preparatory books which formed Leland’s main learning sources. He studied diligently on his own and by December 2011 he was ready to take his SAT. He managed to achieve a respectable SAT score which was well above the cut off point of many reputable US state universities.

When he was in Form 5 (the last year of senior high school), Leland and I started to plan his studies with various alternatives in accordance to our modest budget. We knew that our budget would not be able to fund him for a full four-years studies in the US despite the fact that many top ranking US universities give variable amount of financial aids to international students based on merits. Even if one could secure a full tuition fees waiver, the living expenses for full four years in the US would still be a substantial sum. We decided that Leland should enroll in a ADP at a local private college in Malaysia and we opted for the credit transfer route.

With a reasonably satisfactory Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination performance (a public examination all high school students in Malaysia will take at their graduation year), Leland was fortunate enough to be granted a full scholarship by SEGi University to enroll in its ADP. Right into his second semester in ADP, we started our search for universities that were high enough in the various rankings but with total fees that we could afford. However when Leland wanted to apply to some of the “shortlisted” universities, we encountered our first hurdle. Our SPM certificate being written fully in Bahasa Malaysia would be required to be translated by officials in the Ministry of Education (MoE). Off we went to Putrajaya, (the Malaysian Government’s administrative city where the MoE is located) to get this done, a simple enough process especially if there have been many requests over the years for this translation service, but it took the MoE about 1 month to complete. Because of this, Leland had missed the deadline to complete his application to one of the universities he had applied to and forfeited the US$60 (RM194) application fee. Luckily we still managed to beat the deadline of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). However, UNL’s total fees was above our budget and we decided that if he was not successful in securing a scholarship, Leland would apply to another US university with a lower expenditure. In late May 2013 Leland received his official acceptance by UNL with a Global Laureate Scholarship that would cover about 60% of his tuition fees and our budget is just enough to cover the rest of the cost.

The next step was for Leland to secure his US student visa. A very important document called “I20” would have to be issued by UNL and couriered to us. But before this could happen, I as the sponsor would need to show UNL the evidence that I had the fund which could cover Leland’s entire first year cost of US$39,343 (RM127,078).  He also needed to register to pay for the visa application fees of US$200 (RM646) as well as visa processing fees of RM528 (US$160, to be deposited in Standard Chartered Bank in Malaysia). It was another two weeks before an appointment with the US Embassy in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur could be secured. In the mean time, we had decided on the choice and booked Leland’s accommodation at UNL. Leland had to fill in the bulk of the information for his student visa application online which was a good thing as it took him just a couple of hours (including waiting time) to secure his student visa. Only then did we contemplate sorting out his flights to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Although as a former deputy principal of a private college in Malaysia I had been personally involved in sending many of my students to the US, little of that prepared me to the kind of complicated processes, procedures and decisions which parents of US-bound students have to make with their children.

My advice to all students (and their parents) who are planning to study in the USA is to:

  • Plan at least one year in advance, watch for the deadlines for applications,
  • Plan to take tests like the SAT, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as early as the student is prepared. This will give the student time to re-take these tests if he/she needs a better score and lastly,
  • Have your funds ready.

If a student decides to take the ADP/credit transfer route via a local Malaysian college, he/she should make sure that the credit hours that he/she plans to study in Malaysia are transferable and he/she may need to adjust the timing of his/her transfer to the US accordingly. Thus I would strongly advise students and parents demand to see evidence of such credit transfer arrangements when they are on the “college hunting” trail.

Leland survived his arduous thirty two hours Journey to the West with 2 layovers and is adapting to life as a sophomore like ducks to the water. I hope he adapts to his studies just as well.


With so many decisions that students aspiring to study in the USA have to make, Dr. Chow’s advice is for them to plan with their parents very early on, preferably by the time they start senior high school (Form 4 in the Malaysian system). If any student or parent requires unbiased advising, Dr. Chow will be most happy to oblige, please click here for more details.

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