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TikTok, juggling, podcasting: Students get creative in quarantine

<p>Junior Anish Kottu and senior Hamza Mohamoud &nbsp;continued their podcast, The Break, in quarantine.</p>

Junior Anish Kottu and senior Hamza Mohamoud  continued their podcast, The Break, in quarantine.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and stay-at-home orders continue, some students have found creative ways to make use of their time at home, from recording a podcast to reaching internet fame.

Trey de Leon III finds himself in the latter group. Though the junior never intended to become TikTok famous, his videos have racked up thousands of views, including one reaching viral fame at more than one million views. 

“When I really started [posting videos] was during spring break, because that's the first time I had a lot of time. And then that just kind of snowballed when we were sent home to quarantine,” he said.

Although some of his videos, including his most popular one, poke fun at popular TikTok trends, de Leon has made use of his platform for social good.

“As much as I love posting on social media for entertainment purposes, I've kind of realized it's also a good platform to spread more awareness about certain things,” he said, citing his TikToks bringing attention to Black Lives Matter resources and highlighting police forces around the country that have yet to adopt Campaign Zero’s #8CantWait policies.

Other students have turned to their hobbies to get away from screens during quarantine.

Caroline Olsen, a senior, has taken advantage of time at home to hone her juggling skills, a hobby she picked up in seventh grade. Though she started juggling with softballs, Olsen eventually graduated to juggling items of different weights, rings and even tennis rackets.

“When learning [juggling], it feels completely out of control, and I remember just dropping things all the time, but now it's become where my hands just know what to do,” she said.

On top of using her time to perfect classic three-ball juggling, Olsen has picked up two new forms of the sport during quarantine: contact juggling, an illusion performed with one ball, and devil’s sticks, a form of juggling that involves the spinning of one stick by two others. 

Olsen felt that the increased screen time associated with being at home has made her value the “balance” that juggling emphasizes. 

“It feels weird to always be looking at some sort of screen, whether that's my phone trying to stay connected with friends or for classes or work. It just seems like the whole world is on a screen right now,” Olsen said. “It's been really important to find things that allow me to put the screen down and truly just be with myself a little bit, and I think that's where I find a ton of value in juggling right now.” 

Junior Anish Kottu and senior Hamza Mohamoud are co-hosts of The Break podcast and have continued to make new episodes while at home. 

Though Kottu originally conceived of The Break during his first year at Duke, previous attempts at starting the project with some of his friends did not work out.

The current form of the podcast, where Kottu and Mohamoud jointly interview a guest, came about in April 2019, though it was not all smooth sailing.

“We basically had to start from scratch. We had no idea what the theme was going to be. We had no idea what we were doing. And we have plenty of interviews that we, unfortunately, haven't gotten to air because we don't feel like they're good enough, they don't fit our format,” Kottu said. “That's just the learning process.”

Over the past few months, podcast team has continued to release episodes, some recorded on campus and others during quarantine. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, the hosts had to adapt to new challenges, including recording troubles and adjusting to being physically apart. 

“I'm more comfortable in person talking to someone than over Zoom. I find it easier to be myself when I'm in the room with someone than over Zoom. It's kind of weird to me,” Mohamoud said.

Kottu echoed similar sentiments, but appreciated the lessons learned from the current situation as fodder for better podcasts.

“It's not really about how good is this particular episode? It's how good is our process and how fast and efficient are we? How technically sound are we? How good are me and Hamza as hosts?” Kottu said. “For me, I'm trying to see this as a way to improve our process.”

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