Between studying, socializing, and working, many college students are experienced jugglers. In addition to all of those things, University of Minnesota student Yang Yang Sim also juggles in a much more literal way while earning his degree in Economics from the College of Liberal Arts. Sim juggles the diabolo, an ancient Chinese toy resembling a giant yo-yo controlled with two handles, a hobby that began when he was gifted a set by a family friend at fourteen. Little did he know then, the diabolo would eventually grow from a hobby to a passion, and eventually ease the transition of an international move.
Originally from Penang, Malaysia, Sim was drawn to the University of Minnesota for its large student body and research opportunities. Sim enrolled in fall 2013 and, despite the challenges of being thousands of miles from home, he found familiar ground as a member of the University’s Juggling Club. During his first year on campus, Sim attended many of the club’s practices and performed at the club’s annual juggling festival, Flip Fest. He also sought out new opportunities to share his talents with the Twin Cities community.
Sim found one such opportunity by attending Cirque De-Stress, a carnival-themed event aimed at reducing stress and promoting mental health awareness on campus. The event featured travelling circus troupe Circus Mojo who entertained the crowds of students with performances including belly dancing, trapeze swinging, and juggling. After watching the troupe perform, Sim mentioned he knew how to juggle and gave an impromptu performance. Sim enjoyed his taste of the circus so much, he later asked if he could join the troupe in the summers. They said yes.
Sim’s involvement with the University’s Juggling Club and Circus Mojo has allowed him to perform at event such as a Gopher men’s basketball game and the International Collegiate Circus Festival, among dozens of others. And while the idea of performing was daunting at first (Sim calls his first performance an “utter fail”), he has grown to embrace the challenge.
“I notice that I enjoy being at the center of attention on stage, hearing the roars of applauses from the crowd, and knowing that they enjoyed my show,” he said.
Now the president of the University’s Juggling Club, Sim hopes to share his knowledge by teaching diabolo and other juggling forms. Sim says that although juggling can seem intimidating, the root of that assumption is mostly linked to people perceiving it as harder than it is.
“I can teach you how to juggle three balls within 10 minutes and the diabolo within two,” he said. “You can learn anything and get good at it, as long as you put your mind to it.”
Sim has taken his own advice, not only in learning to juggle, but in many situations: whether it has been getting involved around campus, talking to prospective international students as an International Student Ambassador, or adjusting to a completely new life in the United States.
“[Attending school in the United States] has taught me that I can adapt to a vastly different life at the other side of the world,” said Sim. “It has also taught me about being an independent adult and making the right choices.
“The biggest difference between going to university far away from home and being in high school or secondary school at home is that I’m all on my own without my family. Without night curfews and parents bossing me around anymore, I have an unprecedented sense of freedom. But with that came a lot of responsibility: I found myself setting my own curfews, managing my time between classes, assignments, and other activities. It is not an easy road, but it’s the road to maturity and responsibility.”
Now as he looks to his future, Sim is hopeful he can continue pursuing his passion for the diabolo in new ways, potentially performing full-time or on a show such as America’s Got Talent after gradating in 2017. And although he isn’t sure exactly what the future will hold, one thing is for sure: Sim will keep juggling whatever life puts in his path.
Date Published: March 2016