A senior from Rice University...

Larissa Charnsangavej

Do you think your major will give you an advantage in the College Championship?
Well, um, I'm a bioengineering major... and, I hope it gives me an advantage in some science questions. I've been trying to brush up on literature and... and art--or that sort of--and history, but, y'know, it's the luck of the draw, I guess--your categories.

What will you do with your winnings?
Um, I'd like to spend some time traveling in the summer. In want to visit New Zealand, I want to go to London, um.... Anywhere it take me--like, depends on [laughs]--I guess it depends on how much I get--what I can spend. But, um... Also, I mean, I've been working on a senior design project for a global health project, and so I--I would like to devote some money towards that.

Is playing Jeopardy! the best spring break you could ask for?
Being--being on Jeopardy! is a pretty good spring break. This is actually my last week of classes, so I've already had my--my spring break. But, uh... No, I mean, y'know, the one that I spent with my friends, we just took a really relaxing road trip to Florida. That was all I could ask for.

Show your school spirit and tune in!

2009 College Championship quarterfinalist: $5,000.

21 and from Houston, Texas at the time of the College Championship.

Jeopardy! Message Board user name: charnsandwich

Larissa Charnsangavej Blog Entry 3
May 11, 2009

Of course I was disappointed by the outcome of my game, but I can't honestly say that I would have done anything different. You can go back to every moment – a question that you missed, every time you misspoke, or made a mistake – I very much believe my mistake was that I did not wager enough during Final Jeopardy! But it was a gamble; there was no way to know how much I needed to wager. And I'm just a conservative gambler. (Brief side note: The philosophy is “Go big or go home.” I didn't go big, but I didn't get to go home, either – I became the alternate. *ironic smile*)

My goal had been: Do not embarrass yourself or your institution. I thought that meant that I had to advance to the semifinals. But even though I didn't advance, I think I played a good game. I just didn't bet right. As nervous as I was, I still had a blast, and I am proud of what I accomplished and I am proud to be an Owl. Good luck to all the other remaining contestants! RICE, FIGHT! NEVER DIE!

So by now I've had time to think about the events of what happened. I realize now that my wagering really was impulsive, and that I probably should have thought it over more, and ultimately bet way more. I could very easily sit and complain about it and beat myself up over it (I'm very good at that). I know that it would have been good strategy to bet more, and that it would have made the difference of at least another $5,000 in the end. It's poignant to think about the possibilities, but I don't hate myself for my wager. Maybe the saddest part is knowing I'm a cautious person. I just don't go big.

I can't complain, because my life is really not so bad, haha. Sure, I didn't win $100,000 (damn, that's a lot of money), but I was one of 15 students chosen out of thousands. I got a four-day paid vacation to LA and met some amazing people, who I hope to stay friends with. The whole experience was such a wild ride. I even got recognized in our hotel later that night by a family who had been vacationing and went to the taping. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!?!?

I'm really glad that most of us got the chance to hang out that last night, and I wish that we could have found everyone. Sure, the first day, there was a little bit of tension and competition, but everyone was just feeling the pressure. Call me Little Miss Sunshine, but I honestly had hoped that I could make some friends from the very beginning. This was such an absurd (in the best way possible) experience, that it would be impossible not to form friendships and bonds.

My plans have changed, sort of. I had been 87% planning to move to LA with my current roommate and try and work in television – my goal is to be a creative programmer for the Discovery Channel (but I'm definitely open to other things). I'm not sure what was the 13% holding me back; it's possible I just didn't believe I would actually go through with it. Then again, I didn't really believe I was going to be on Jeopardy! until I got there and was standing on that podium. So, come next fall I will be applying for internships and page positions. Maybe Jeopardy! will hire me as a researcher for the writers =) I wouldn't mind being on the Clue Crew, either. But maybe I'll just have to settle for getting coffee for execs. Or unemployment.

Whatever happens, I expect it will be an experience. And I look forward to it.

Larissa Charnsangavej Blog Entry 2
May 8, 2009

Arriving in Los Angeles was only marred by two facts: my flight had been delayed an hour, and I was sick with a cold (my ears never did pop). Even the taxi ride to the hotel was exciting; I really wanted to hang my head out the window and take pictures. I satisfied myself by just taking them with the windows up. That felt corny enough. When I got to the hotel, I checked in (and met Patrick from Notre Dame), and relaxed in my room for a while.

I was actually pretty disappointed when I found out there wasn't going to be any sort of meet-and-greet with the rest of the contestants; we were supposed to have a free day the first day and I wasn't looking forward to spending it by myself. But it was pretty easy to figure out who was on the show– you could pretty much assume any twenty-something who was walking around by himself or herself in a college sweatshirt was a good guess. I met Anthony from Harvard, Scott from Johns Hopkins, and Steve from UCLA (the alternate) and we made plans to go to Universal Studios. It was a lot of fun – good times to be had by all. I think the highlights of the day were getting soaked at the Waterworld show and getting chased by cleaver-wielding maniacs at the Haunted House. It was also pretty funny – we started quizzing each other just for fun, and a few of the clues actually came up on the show, go figure.

We didn't meet everyone else until the day of taping. Everyone was pretty relaxed for the most part. Only a few looked like they were about to pass out. I dunno how everyone else felt, but I was really excited to bond with everyone and make friends. Might've just been me, but I feel like this was just such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you might as well make some friends along the way. I know there's a lot of money on the line, but that's no reason to be hostile or condescending.

I started getting nervous the day before we were supposed to begin taping. By the time we arrived at the studio, it was just plain surreal. I couldn't really believe that we were going to be ON Jeopardy! I think my nervous energy ebbed and flowed - I was excited and flipping out at the same time. I was having so much fun though, but I'm sure I looked terrified.

I wasn't used to wearing makeup, so I was relieved that someone was doing makeup for us. It was weird looking at myself in the mirror. Looked good though =) The promotional stuff was hilarious. There was no other way than to get really into it – they ask you to do such corny lines, you have to go all in, or you look dumb. “Whatever you do, don't get schooled” I mean, really?? I love cheesy stuff though, so I enjoyed it. I didn't use my arms as much though. I could have been really intimidating had I done so. Interviews went ok, but I usually hate those (under most circumstances) because everything invariably sounds goofier out of context.

The signaling button is your best friend and your worst enemy. I don't think I ever got the hang of timing it right, but that's hard anyway, because you're trying to anticipate a human person unlocking the signaling devices. Fairly standardized, but très difficile. The rehearsals were good, the questions were way easier (probably to boost our confidence). But I could feel myself shaking on the stands.

The set is just so cool. I stood at the podium, staring up into all the lights, the game board, all the stuff up close that you can only get a glimpse of on TV. SURREAL.

Waiting in the green room to be called into your game was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. I alternated between calm and terrified. I could feel my pulse quickening in my chest, my heart leaped up to my throat, I started trembling, and I got my typical nervous cough (which unfortunately made it sound like I'm about to vomit). But then I saw some of the other people and I would see how intensely they were taking it, that I tried to calm myself down, if only for their sake. The thing about this is that you have to try to have fun, or else it's all over. Usually taking deep, cleansing breaths helped suppress the coughing, and dancing helped to dissipate some of the nervous energy. (no actual music, but we were watching movies and I was totally busted a move during the credits to Mean Girls).

We actually had a lot of fun back there, watching Mean Girls, chatting, laughing it up, playing cards. It really helped to take your mind off things. But I swear, that damn room was getting smaller and smaller by the end of the day. Again, sometimes I would get up and start walking, or dancing, or doing something to get rid of the energy.

I was SO NERVOUS during my game. I thought my voice was going to crack, and I could feel my knees quaking. I would've bet money that the audience could see me shaking. And yet, I was having so much fun. I mean, I didn't really figure out the buzzer quite as well as I would have hoped, and I did answer a couple of questions incorrectly, but I was ON JEOPARDY! When I fell behind early on, I thought I was done for, but I kept playing. And by the end of Double Jeopardy!, I was in 2nd.

That put me in an interesting position – my Final Jeopardy! category was “B.C. Thinkers” and I thought “Aww hell.” I had $13,400 going in, in 2nd place by $200. Do I risk a category I knew nothing about to go for the outright win? Or do I play it “safe” and go for a wild card spot?

I am a terrible decision maker. I can agonize for 15 minutes over the type of milk to get, and then buy orange juice instead. Sometimes my impulses pay off. I just knew I didn't want to agonize over it too long, so I only wagered $1000 and locked it in. I honestly didn't think I was going to get it right – but then I did. And because I didn't wager enough, I didn't win. Did I set my wager too impulsively? Maybe.

Larissa Charnsangavej Blog Entry 1
May 4, 2009

I am a senior bioengineering student at Rice University. I don't know what I am going to do next year, but I am kind of excited about it. Although I math and sciences have always been my strong suit (biology was my first love), I have realized in the past four years that research is not for me, and that it is ok to take time to figure out what you want from life.

I am very involved with the residential college system at Rice; I play IM sports, participate in student-run theatrical productions, organize events like orientation, etc. I was a student tour guide, and am an avid sports fan – I went to every home football game this year, and a number of baseball games thus far.

Right now I'm at a strange junction in my life – I want to be a teacher, but I am also interested in trying to get into television production (at least for a few years). I would love to work for the Discovery Channel, working on new programming (but I also have a soft spot for Disney Channel and Food Network). I do think teaching is very rewarding and would allow me to fulfill the kinds of roles and have the kind of interactions that I enjoy: being able to guide and mentor others while also learning something new every day. However, I feel like I am at a stage where I could go chase pipe dreams for a little while (especially with the economy as it is) and not be much more worse for the wear.

I have a wonderful family – four older sisters who I've learned so much from and who have been behind me whatever I do. My parents, too, have always let me make my own decisions and have really shaped the person who I am today. It was a while before I recognized and appreciated how good my family is.

This is the third year I've taken the online test (and the last chance, seeing as I am a senior). It wasn't particularly nerve-wracking; I just sort of assumed I wasn't going to get an audition. But I did quiz bowl in high school and I really love trivia, so I figured I might as well give it a shot.

When I got the email saying I had been offered an audition, I was excited, but the first thought was "Am I really going to do this? CAN I really do this?" I flew to Washington DC (even though I live in Houston) because I had been there for the summer doing an internship, so I was excited regardless to get to see some of my friends. It was funny, because when everyone introduced themselves, I was the only one not from the area. Again, I assumed that they were auditioning hundreds of students, so I figured my chances were slim. I was thrilled to be there and went into it just looking to have fun.

It was funny because my audition was in November, and they warned us that we wouldn't find out until March (very ambiguous). Thing is, taping would have been the very last week of classes for Rice. As luck would have it, I was scheduled to give 2 presentations for different classes, plus two tests and an extended paper. So, even though I had no idea if I would make it, I warned my professors early on that I might be gone. Thankfully, they were as excited as I was when I told them, and I crammed everything in the week before (mostly).

When I got the call, I was actually with the college masters (faculty members who govern the residential dorms – sort of your family away from home) so they were the first ones who found out. I told my roommates, but I actually kept it in for the most part, because there was a huge campus-wide event that weekend that I didn't want to detract attention from. Also… there was a tiny part of me that was afraid it was all a hoax, a la "Congratulations! You got into College Jeopardy! No you didn't, you just got your identity stolen!" =P Silly, I know, but once I got another notification via email, I figured I was safe.

I haven't really done any studying per se, but I've spent a lot of time playing listing games on sporcle.com. It's this awesome website with a bunch of listing games: "Can you name all the presidents of the US in 6 minutes?" But it has all sorts of categories, including past Oscar winners, countries of Africa, opening lines from novels, etc. It's really addicting.

Larissa appeared in the following archived game:
#5689, aired 2009-05-07 Larissa Charnsangavej vs. Anthony Dedousis vs. Erica Greil 2009 College Championship quarterfinal game 4.

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