Member Spotlight: Kassina Tendar

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Author: Maibella Rhoiden, October 2016

Kassina Tendar, Aes Sedai of the White Ajah, was awarded one of two Robert Jordan Memorial Scholarships in August of this year. I’ve met Kassina Sedai in person and she is pretty awesome, so of course I was thrilled that she was one of the winners. (The other winner of this year’s scholarship is not a member of TarValon.Net.) After reading the essay she wrote for the scholarship application I thought she would be the perfect person to feature in this month’s Member Spotlight.

If you don’t know Kassina Sedai, you might not know that she has a twin sister, Aelonia Tendar, who is also a member of TarValon.Net. The sisters are 28 years old and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US. They also have a younger brother who is not a member of the site.

As a fun way for everyone to get to know her quickly, I asked Kassina Sedai to share three things she is really good at and three things she is really not good at:

I’m really good at getting way too emotionally invested in novels!
I’m really good at making lists. I make lists for everything!
I’m really good at music. I don’t play a lot of instruments, but music comes pretty naturally to me (it runs in the family!). I play the flute/piccolo and love to sing.
I’m really not good at sports… any sports.
I’m really not good at waking up in the morning.
I’m really not good at small talk.

In real life Kassina Sedai describes herself as “a huge book nerd (as I’m sure a lot of us on the site are).” She most enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy, “though my literary interests are not confined to those genres.” She is also very much into board games: “I have a nice collection of board games that I’m always hoping to expand, and have a weekly (and a separate biweekly) board game group that I attend. My family plays a lot of board games, too, so that’s the main thing we do when we all get together. I also like tabletop RPGs and video games. I’m mostly a PC gamer and am a huge fan of League of Legends. That’s at least the game I play the most consistently, though I have a bunch of games in my Steam library that I’m working my way through."

Kassina Sedai is “really passionate about education and international education in particular. I studied French and Japanese (with a minor in education) in college.” After graduation she set out on several adventures. “I studied abroad in both countries in college (for one semester each), then, after graduation, I went to Japan to teach English. I stayed there for 3 years and taught English in a small town in the middle of the Japanese Alps. After that, I went to France and taught English there for 7 months. I’ve also traveled to England and Norway, as side trips while I was living in France.” Those experiences helped Kassina Sedai realize that “my dream job would be working with international students. To that end, I just started grad school a few weeks ago! I’m studying Student Affairs in Higher Education, with the goal of working in international student services or study abroad at a university. I had a temp job as the Interim Study Abroad Adviser last year at the same school where I’m now in grad school and absolutely loved it.”

It takes a certain kind of bravery to leave behind everyone and everything you know to live in a different country, speaking a different language, and adjusting to a different culture. Is Kassina Sedai inherently brave and adventurous? She doesn’t think so: I don’t usually consider myself a very adventurous person. I’m certainly not particularly extroverted or socially adventurous. However, for me the love of travel and an interest in learning more about the world made it more than worth it. […] The appeal of traveling and living abroad is about discovering more about people and the world. I find it really interesting to learn about different cultures and how people in different places make sense of the world and live in different ways. There are so many different ways that humans have found to worship, build houses, interact socially, and a host of other things, and I like learning about them. Every place has its story and I love discovering them. Wherever I go, I try to imagine myself living there and wondering what daily life is like. It’s kinda the same feeling I get when I immerse myself in the world of a novel I’m reading. Traveling and living abroad is also a very eye-opening experience and can teach you a lot about how you view the world. It’s important to learn more about other people’s perspectives and international experience is a fantastic way to learn. I like people and I like learning about people, so it’s interesting to learn about people with different experiences and perspectives from myself. Also, the world just has so many interesting things to see! Beautiful temples, historical monuments, majestic scenery, local festivals… there are just so many things to see! The world is huge and diverse, something that can be easy to forget in our daily lives. It’s fascinating and important to be reminded how little we know and how much more there is to learn than our personal thoughts and experiences. Kassina Sedai may not think she is adventurous but I certainly do!

So what brought this world traveler to TarValon.Net back in 2012? She was first introduced to the Wheel of Time by a college friend who was “obsessed” with the series. Her friend talked about the series all the time, and at one point even explained the personalities of each of the Forsaken to Kassina Sedai. Her friend lent her his copy of THE EYE OF THE WORLD but although she enjoyed the Prologue she found the first chapter boring and put the book aside. Eventually she picked it up again and, well, “the rest is history,” she says.

After completing TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, Kassina Sedai was sad that the series was coming to an end and that she had to wait for A MEMORY OF LIGHT to be released. She became obsessed with the idea of becoming an Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah: I googled something like “Wheel of Time community become Aes Sedai”, with the specific goal of finding a site that would let me ‘join’ the Brown Ajah. I wasn’t entirely sure what TarValon.Net was when I first joined, and I don’t think I joined the site the first time I found it. After I did join, though, I ended up making friends on the site and was enjoying the conversations I had there. Then, I started playing mafia, which really helped me get to know people better on the site. The longer I stayed, the more I liked it here and the more I wanted to move up the ranks to eventually become Aes Sedai! Kassina Sedai has read the complete WoT one time and is currently participating in the site-wide reread hosted by the Amyrlin Seat. (I’m participating as well, and we are currently up to book 10 if you want to join in!) As with many fans of the series, Kassina Sedia’s favorite characters change as the series progresses. But she does have a favorite scene. It comes late in the series, so SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t read all the way through yet:

This section contains spoilers relating to late in the series. Please expand to view.

I looove Nynaeve riding across the Borderlands recruiting an army for Lan, and Lan charging into the Blight in Memory of Light. Those parts made me cry.

I’m always curious to discover what makes a person choose a particular Ajah or Company as their home. I asked Kassina Sedai what made her choose the White Ajah: When I started guesting, I was so confident I would be Brown Ajah, that, while I randomized my guesting order, I modified it to put Brown last so that I could end in Brown and then just stay there to Aspire. Obviously it didn’t turn out that way. White was the first Ajah I guested with and I just felt so at home. Satara Sedai, who was assigned to be my White mentor, was really welcoming and I enjoyed chatting with her and, even aside from Satara Sedai, I was really made to feel like a part of the Ajah. I never felt like I was ‘just a guest’. I shared about my day and responded to what everyone else was posting. It just felt very seamless. I didn’t need to think about the culture of the Ajah or ask myself whether what I was posting would fit, because I just knew it would. Because I guested with White first, even after I started guesting elsewhere, all the other Ajahs had to compare to White in my mind. While I loved every Ajah I guested with, none of them could compete with White. I forced myself to leave White for a couple weeks to see if I missed it and I was so anxious to get back! In the end, I think it was the way that White Sisters and Brothers support each other, cheering each other on and commiserating when things aren’t going well. We’re a very rational/logical group, in the sense that we don’t let emotions get in the way of our relationships with each other. Not that we don’t have emotions! We certainly do, but we don’t let them get between us as Sisters and Brothers. A lot of White members talk about how we’re very ‘drama free’ and I think the culture in White very much supports that. That sounds so very familiar! I think many of us have found our Ajah or Company homes in a very similar way. And for the record, TarValon.Net’s White Ajah is definitely not emotionless like the White Ajah is often described in WoT. If you have the opportunity to Guest in White you’ll get to see that for yourself!

Kassina Sedai has served her Ajah as a Sitter, a Heart, and a Soul. She would love to be Head of the White Ajah at some point, “though I’ll need to wait to apply until I have the time to dedicate to it.” She would also like to be a Sitter again because “it was interesting to see how things work on the site and it felt like a nice way to help my Ajah.”

Of course, Kassina Sedai isn’t White Ajah only. She has a big Brown stripe due to her love of the Brown Ajah in the books, though if she wasn’t a member of White on TarValon.Net she says she would most likely be a Blue. And when I asked her about her passion for travel and the reason behind it, her answer was very Gray (which pleased me to no end): We’re all on this planet together and, if we don’t help each other, no one will. I won’t simplify it so much as to say that xenophobia and ignorance about other people is the only cause of humanity’s problems; the world is way more complex than that. However, a lot of problems are caused or exacerbated by issues such as xenophobia. In an increasingly global world, intercultural and international understanding is vital. If we hope to work collaboratively with other countries and cultures to solve some of the world’s problems, we need to understand each other. The best way to foster that understanding is direct contact with people from other countries. Educating students about the importance of understanding human diversity will instill in them skills that they will use in their future careers, no matter what field they want to enter. This was the first year Kassina Sedai was eligible to apply for the Robert Jordan Memorial Scholarship. She enjoyed the application process and says, “I’ve been a Sitter before and so have seen the application process from both sides now. I think it’s a very fair application process. I also think the essay topic is a great choice. We model our site after the White Tower and Aes Sedai are supposed to be servants of all. I think that ideal is something to think about and strive for. I hadn’t really thought about how I would use my degree to be a servant of all before, but it was an excellent thing to think about.”

Thank you, Kassina Sedai, for taking the time to tell me about yourself. I enjoyed getting to know you a bit better! If you want to find Kassina Sedai online, look for her in the White Ajah forums, the entertainment/gaming forums, the site-wide reread thread, and in the Mafia forums. You can also send her a Private Message to say hello.