26 Clique to Continue

Shashank Lal

In this piece, Lal makes use of the photo essay to illustrate the constant nature of change. Change is explored here in the  particular context of embarking upon third level education with all its attending upheavals and discoveries and also in the context of the pandemic. Lal’s engagement with digital and visual literacies in this photo essay invites the audience into a new space of meaning-making, showcasing the unconventional possibilities of the Circulating Multimodal texts unit. The descriptive transcript provided is one way to consider how to translate visual content into a delivery method appropriate for screen readers.

Shashank Lal


ENGLWRIT 112: College Writing

Day Month Year


Clique to Continue

Click to watch this essay

Clique to Continue Descriptive Transcript

Slide One

[White writing on black background]


Change is the only constant in life. I left the umbrella of my parents’ protection in September 2019 as I changed my environment, my friends, my everything to come here, to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. There was a change in my education system, a change in who I was living with, a change in the food that I ate, a change in my lifestyle, and, now again, a change in everything due to the pandemic. Before this semester, I was pretty annoyed about how I had to take a college writing class because in my head it seemed completely useless to me. I kept thinking, “I’m a computer science major, I don’t need to know how to write essays in MLA format”. However, the skills that I have learnt in this class and the perspectives that I gained are unparalleled to any other experience.

This photo essay is simply an effort to display my life over this past year with the changes I mentioned along with many more and how the topics of discussion in our units culminate beautifully, allowing me to reflect visually by looking at a picture which I probably wouldn’t have before this class. The pictures that I’ve included are simply of those in my community and those that have influenced me and shaped me in pivotal ways; all in the context of what we learnt in this class, together.

Slide Two

[Slide split into two parts. Left half black background with white text, right half purple background with images and white text]

[Left side] Home Away From Home – 10/02/2019

My initial days here at UMass were mostly filled with just meeting an endless flurry of people, knowing that I probably wouldn’t even remember anyone’s name come dusk. Eventually, I found my own circle, where I found my three best friends who’ve been by my side since.

I’ve always been influenced by those around me. I like to think of myself as a mold of everyone that I have ever been close to over the years. Usually being picky about who I spend my time with, I’ve surrounded myself with people who carry various qualities such as kindness, selflessness and honesty.

[Right side] A collage of three images:

On top a landscape image of Boston with blue skies, captioned ‘My First Trip To Boston (view from Prudential Tower)’

Below to the left: an image of the author with two friends. The glare of the sun is visible. All three are smiling and embracing, captioned ‘Sairam, Anushka and I’.

Below to the right: the author and one friend in the foreground embracing and smiling for the camera. Another friend in the background. Red lighting. Captioned ‘Tanya and I’.

Slide Three

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[Left Side] New Experiences – 11/18/2019

College is all about new experiences, right? Meeting new people, finding your clique, and even trying out things that perhaps your parents might frown upon (not me though). I promised myself that I would try everything, I didn’t want to miss out on any experiences (except the Freshman 15). In my freshman year, I was successfully elected as the president for my house council, won an award at my first HackUMass, faced heartbreak, found a family, and even partied and blacked out whilst also taking part in and keeping up my grades in all my classes. The whole package.

[Right Side] A collage of four images:

Top left: author and two friends photographed after winning an award. Captioned ‘Post-winning an award at our first HackUMass’.

Top right: Author and four friends at a house party, smiling. Arms around shoulders. Captioned ‘A Sylvan House Party (surprisingly those exist)’.

Bottom left: Author with fellow members of Webster House Council. Casual clothes, spaced apart. Captioned ‘Webster House Council 2019-2020’.

Bottom right: Author with group of four friends. Outside at night, on campus. Captioned ‘The Clique’.

Slide Four

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[Right side] My First Snow – 12/02/2019

I specifically remember this moment because Sairam looked at me, and said “Let’s take one for the gram,” and I had never cringed harder. Then, Anushka slipped. We had also somehow built a sad snowman, but we all loved it dearly. Until someone lobbed a piece of ice and mutilated it. Good times.

Just like Nathan Jurgenson said in The IRL Fetish, what happens offline fuels the online (Jurgenson 130). In this case, we wanted to share our first snow with our friends and family. These were memories that we knew we would want to cherish even twenty years down the line.

[Left side] One portrait image of author and friend in the snow. Both dressed in warm coats, hats and scarves, laughing. No caption.

Slide Five

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[Right Side] Glued to Screens –  3/22/2020

Speaking of how we use media to stay connected, I remember when I was younger, my mom would always come and shout at me, telling me to stop sitting in front of a screen all day. Now, I think about how the tables have turned watching my dad reply to a seemingly endless stream of emails, my brother with his video games, and my mom getting her daily dose of social media. Jurgenson talked about how people boast about not having a Facebook profile (Jurgenson 128), and my parents were one of them as well. Until they weren’t.

[Left Side] Image of author’s family members at home. His father, mother and younger brother all sitting on the couch and engaged with screens (laptop, phone and tablet). No caption.

Slide Six

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[Right Side] Effect of Our Four Day Work Week – 4/20/2020

One of the best parts of this class was that I was given a platform to research and dive into a topic of my interest. Researching the four-day work week gave me a lot to learn and think about. One of the main reasons that I chose this topic was seeing all the stress that my dad faced.

Upon coming back home, I told him about the findings from my research, and how it could really change his — and my —  life. I told him about how my research showed me that a four day work week would be beneficial for both employers and employees (Lal). His reactions —  pictured —  speak volumes.

[Left Side] Two before and after images of the author’s father, wearing grey hoodie. Father has blank expression in first image and is smiling in second image. Captioned ‘Before After’

Slide Seven

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[Right Side] Applying my Research – 3/21/2020

This period of self-isolation really gave me an opportunity to test and put my own research into practice. During the month of April, I planned out my week in such a manner that I could keep up with my schoolwork and chores without sacrificing either, all within four days of a week.

I’d usually start my day at 10am, have breakfast with my family, and then get on with what was planned for the day. Between my planned activities, I would find myself enjoying a repetitive stroll in my balcony (lockdown, so beggars can’t be choosers). To end the week, video games all night.

[Left Side]

Orange and purple infographic of a quarantine four-day weekly planner. Planner title is: ‘My Four Day Quarantine Week’.

First box, light orange in color reads: Monday extra day off – family time, work on my ukulele, do some yoga.

Second box, dark orange in color reads: Tuesday catch up on Friday, Monday, Tuesday lectures, do the dishes.

Third box, dark orange in color reads: Wednesday study for CS187 and Math233 quizzes, broom and mop the house.

Fourth box, light orange in color reads: Thursday catch up on Wednesday, Thursday lectures, do the dishes.

Fifth box, dark orange in color reads: Friday complete assignments for the week, video games with the boys till sunrise ☺

Slide Eight

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[Right Side] Zoom University – 4/23/2020

Our times of separation and socialization are more interconnected than ever before (Singer 55). Singer may have meant it in a different context, but it can be applied to our current situation as well —  while we crave human interaction more than ever, we are ironically more connected and more ‘in contact’ with our relatives and friends.

Due to the interconnectivity, life, to an extent, is still going on normally. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if we didn’t have this level of connectedness in today’s world? I surely can’t.

[Left side] Two images:

On top: Screenshot of a zoom meeting of friends playing a game. Five participants are to the left with video on. A screen is shared showing round 5/5 completed in the game. Caption reads: Despite what it looks like I wasn’t really fifth. I had to re-join the game because my internet crashed.

Bottom: Screenshot of a zoom meeting between two people. Author is in small screen and second participant’s zoom screen takes up most of the image. This larger image shows the zoom participant in a kitchen, leaning over the sink. The caption reads: Performing a chemistry experiment virtually isn’t the best idea.

Slide Nine

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[Right Side] Self-Quarantine –  4/2/2020

Amidst this pandemic, I’ve been locked indoors for more than a month now. Initially, in March, there were only three things I would do when I was awake: Eat, study, or play video games.

This time of lockdown gives us all an opportunity to invest time into ourselves and self reflect. As a college student, the feeling of overwhelmedness isn’t alien. We sometimes forget to slow down, and I often find myself guilty of that. While staying on top of lectures and assignments, I give myself time to do the smaller things I enjoy, such as listening to the soothing sound of my ukulele.

[Left Side] One close-up image of author wearing a yellow t-shirt and playing the ukulele. Caption reads: Originally French, La Vie En Rose (the song played in the background) is about peace, love and hope; and honestly in times like these, we need nothing more. I easily spent a week learning how to play this melody.

Slide Ten

[White writing on black background] CONCLUSION

Realizing how important my community is in shaping me, critically analysing essays written by established authors such as Jurgenson, independently researching and presenting an addition to an ongoing conversation for the ideal work-life balance, and eventually curating this photo essay to really bring everything together has been nothing short of an enriching experience.

My journey so far at UMass has been all about discovering myself and finding lessons in the most unexpected places. While I agree that one’s personality is shaped throughout their lifetime, I also believe that college is where most of it happens, since college is the first time that I truly experienced independence.

The innumerable skills that I’ve taken away from this class, such as the ability to critically analyse texts, will help mold my future endeavours as now I will see them from a different perspective. As I move forward in life, I know that these skills will stay with me forever, allowing me to understand and analyse any situation properly. Thank you Professor Aaron Tillman, for every piece of knowledge that you’ve passed on to us in this class.

Slide Eleven

[White writing on black background]

Works Cited

Jurgenson, Nathan. “The IRL Fetish.” Opening Conversations: A Writer’s Reader, edited by Haivan V. Hoang, et al. Hayden-McNeil, 2015, pp. 126-131.

Singer, Daniel. “Disconnected.” The Student Writing Anthology, edited by Anna Floch Arcello, Hayden-McNeil, 2019, pp. 53-57.

Lal, Shashank. “Time to Cut Time?” ENGLWRIT 112: College Writing, 9 Apr. 2020.


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