Meet Katherine Lee, Instagram Extraordinaire

Katherine and I were in the same ESEM during our first semester at Bryn Mawr, but we didn’t really get to know each other until the following year. Fast forward another year, we were roommates for our junior year. As roommates, I feel like I’ve gotten to know her even better; we have our differences and we also have our similarities, one of which is our common search for the #aesthetic. I figured that since quite a bit of the Bryn Mawr community might know her for her Instagram, it’d be fun to hear about some of her tips and tricks.

Photo courtesy of Kat Lee

Pronouns: She/Her

Major: Computer science

Class: 2017

What’s something people should know about you?

Not everything is always as it seems. For as long as I’ve been at Bryn Mawr, people have singled me out for the way that I curate my Instagram (not meant as a humble brag, but fine, whatever). The truth is, that’s what it is--curated. As much as I can post sarcastic, noncommittal captions or filter to have a perfect theme, my Instagram feed doesn’t tell an accurate story of my time at Bryn Mawr, because not all of it has been easy or pretty or aesthetic. Being at Bryn Mawr is cyclic; there are ups and downs, highs and lows and ultimately Instagram has been one of the ways that I’ve been able to find beauty even when it felt like everything was falling apart. I paint myself as someone who doesn’t take life too seriously, who is sarcastic and doesn’t really care very much, when the truth is the opposite. I care so much that I try to hide it. I don’t want anyone to know; I protect it and cradle it. And I’m working on that. So, take everything with a grain of salt.

What’s something people should know about you? -answered by a friend

One thing I think everyone should know about Kat is that she puts so much detail into all her work, no matter what it is. Even though she tends to be her own best critic, she never fails to be extremely hardworking and create things that everybody admires. -C.W.

Some people may know you from Instagram; you have such a beautiful feed! What tips do you have for someone trying to up their Instagram game?

It’s going to sound dumb and not helpful but you have to have fun with it. I’ve written at length about the effects of social media on my personality, and over the course of the last three years, I’ve taken multiple breaks from social media to focus on self-care. When you don’t have fun with your content, it becomes work, and that (at least for me) isn’t what Instagram is about. Right now, I’m upping my Instagram game by creating content that I enjoy seeing on other people’s feeds--different layouts of photos, doodling on top of posts. Find inspiration in the things that you see and seek out content you wish to create. Play with colors and themes. But don’t tie yourself down, because Instagram is meant to be fun.

How do you edit your photos?

I use VSCO A6, almost exclusively. I also tend to play with effects; I usually up the Exposure, Contrast and Fade, whilst lowering the Temperature and Saturation. I’ll occasionally use VSCO S6 or AnalogFilm Seoul. To draw on my photos I use Procreate for the iPad with the Apple Pencil.

What are some of your favorite Instagrammable spots on campus? Off campus?

On Campus: Just wander campus; you’ll find spots. I tend to look at windows where the light flows in and you get the right amount of shadows and places that are decorated with flowers and colors. Since my feed is mostly scenery based, I try to make sure I’m getting the right natural lighting.

Off-Campus: I adore Green Engine Coffee Co. in Haverford. They have an incredible and clean aesthetic. I also really enjoy just going down the side streets in Philly. One of the nice things about Philly is that it’s a city that’s really preserved its history. If you go off the main road, you find a lot of cobble stoned streets with beautifully colored brownstones that have the cutest little window boxes. A lot of these side streets are lined with fairy lights at night. I just try to look for places that are unique to the space that I’m in.

What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts?

@taramilktea @lichipan @alyssa.lenore @eggcanvas: All the aesthetic goals.

@_monicakang @_jdle @mimochai @studywithinspo @jennetliaw: All incredible and varied graphic designers.

@neuroodyssey @mlee73: These two accounts are both run by women scientists at Columbia University. I’m always really inspired by women in science, especially those who can curate a pleasing feed because that’s something that I strive to do in my life and with my Instagram.

@vivnunez: Vivian is a great friend of mine. She’s the creator and host of “Creating Espacios” on the Forbes Podcast Network and the Founder and Editor in Chief of 2DamnYoung (she was also featured by Instagram this past year). Viv is an incredible and honest storyteller, and just a kind and wonderful human. Her feed is incredibly well put together and her captions tell the honest story of her journey.

What are some of your hobbies?

Lately my hobby has been drawing and digital art, but over the years, I’ve cultivated a weird number of useless skills (well, useless in the sense that I’ll probably never use them, but maybe useful to someone else). During the three years I’ve spent at Bryn Mawr, I’ve learned to play the ukulele, learned to knit, crochet, watercolor… I don’t know, I’m not very good at sticking to a hobby. I get bored pretty easily. I’m thinking of trying embroidery next, but we’ll see…  (Google everything, y’all).

What activities are you involved with on campus? Off campus?

I’m one of the co-heads of Liberty in North Korea, which is an international non-profit organization that rescues North Korean refugees from China (where if caught they are returned to North Korea and executed) and resettles them in either South Korea or the United States. As North Korea appears more and more in the news, it’s easy to forget that there are real people there struggling, that as much as it is a threat to its surrounding countries and itself, it has and is currently categorized as a crime against humanity by the UN. One of the things that we really seek to do is educate the Bryn Mawr population on North Korea and teach, without fear mongering, what the threats of North Korea really are. And the sad part of our job is that there’s not much else that we can do. North Korea, right now and maybe rightfully so, is a waiting game. And so what we can do is support those who wish to tell their stories, educate and listen.

Another organization very close to my heart is WHRC Bi-Co Radio. I served as Programming Director and General Manager for the radio for two years and a year, respectively. And whilst I’ve passed on the baton to the next generation, it remains important to me. Radio in the bi-co has such a rich history and has touched thousands of alumni in the last hundred years. Through it, I’ve met incredible people and been able to explore the years of history our very old schools have to offer.

What’s your favorite memory from your time at Bryn Mawr?

This is probably cheating since I wasn’t technically at Bryn Mawr but… the first person that I texted after I got into Bryn Mawr was my friend Christine. She was a year above me in high school; we had been friends, but not super close. Christine attended Bryn Mawr. She called me within thirty seconds. She was crying. There was a lot of screaming from her friends. Christine told me that she would be my heller (I had no idea what she was talking about, but she was right), that she loved me, that she was so happy for me. Honestly, I didn’t make out a ton of what she was saying, but that was my first taste of what Bryn Mawr had to offer me: endless and unconditional love and support. She was my first friend at Bryn Mawr, and though we didn’t always see each other during our three years together at Bryn Mawr, she remained a constant support in my life. She would, on occasion, check in with me and make sure that I was doing okay. She sympathized when I was having a hard time and celebrated my accomplishments. We laughed together and cried together, and she has come to epitomize what Bryn Mawr means to me.

What’s your favorite method of self-care?

Sheet masks, tea and meditation. I think I’m secretly 80 years old, honestly.

Pro tip: Buy your sheet masks in bulk on Amazon. What’s really nice about sheet masks is that they sort of force you to take time for yourself. You look enough like a scary monster so that you don’t really want to go into the outside world; it feels like it’s going to slip off your face so you’re very tempted to lie down; simultaneously, you’re nourishing and hydrating your skin.

But pro tip #2: Don’t leave them on more than the recommended time! Seriously, I know it feels cool and refreshing on your face, but that time is there for a reason. Once you go past that time, the liquid that was on the sheet mask will have absorbed into your skin. And what does a porous sheet like that do then…? Start absorbing liquid. So leave it on for only the recommended time for optimized skin nourishment.

Tea has a similar quality. It cools down pretty slowly so you have to take your time drinking it. There’s no rushing a cup of tea.

Meditation is something I want to be better and more consistent with. Currently, I tend to use it only when I feel really stressed to center myself and really take time to do nothing and clear my brain. I know that when I stare at my computer for too long or am in my head for too long, I can get really bogged down, especially if my schedule is particularly crazy. So I like to use meditation or even guided meditation (Headspace, sponsor my life ples) to take a little bit of time to stop and be centered.

My last method of self-care is journaling. Sometimes it helps to get things down on paper. I’m not really a tell-everyone-all-your-problems type of person; I’m pretty good at keeping things secret, so it feels really nice to get them out.

For anyone visiting Bryn Mawr or Philly for the first time, what recommendations do you have for them?

I love the vibe of Green Engine Coffee in Haverford, and the people who work and own the place are super nice (but you shouldn’t go there this semester, because I have to write my thesis and it’s already too crowded, shhh…. ). Philadelphia really is the land of independent coffee shops. There are so many of them. But my general advice would be to explore your surroundings. I’m someone who gets really bogged down if I’m in the same place for too long, but Philly is a city that’s rich with history; there are tons of museums, graffiti walls, side street facades and wonderful little nuances that make this city a great place. I would say to get off campus and get out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to forget that when we live in this little bubble, but there’s a lot out there to explore.

Thank you for your time Katherine!

Keep up with Katherine on Instagram!