Stefan Deutsch

Apr 152014
 

In high school, I heard a lot about how nobody really stays involved in religious life when they get to college, and I got a bit worried.  I had been pretty involved in church groups growing up, and I didn’t want to lose that aspect of my life or that sense of community.  As it turns out, there  is ample opportunity to get involved in religious and spiritual life at Dartmouth, and it has been more rewarding than I could have imagined.

In my last post, I mentioned an Alternative Spring Break Trip.  These are programs, now common at many universities, where instead of travelling somewhere different to party on the beach, students travel somewhere different to do community service.  I had no idea that this program existed until I went to an informational meeting freshman fall while trying to impress a girl or something.  I left the meeting with a stack of forms and a vague interest that this might be an interesting way to spend a week.  I ended up applying to an interfaith service trip, “working to serve the homeless population in the San Francisco Bay area and exploring service as a shared value across religious and cultural lines.”  Helped along by my half-Christian, half-Jewish family (I remember describing myself as “a walking interfaith dialogue”), I was accepted to the program and met the rest of the group.

 

Coming from a pretty homogenous part of the country, it was an eye-opening experience to be able to share experiences and perspectives with such a culturally and religiously diverse group of people while working together with them for a good cause.  I learned a ton about other people’s spiritualities and was able to redefine my own beliefs.  When I got back to campus, I joined the Multi-Faith Conversations discussion group, which brought the same discussions back to campus, and I’ve been coming to meetings ever since.

There’s an amazing degree of religious openness here, which you might not expect from a place with so many educated and opinionated people.  So many people are still looking and searching, trying to redefine what they believe or just trying to understand their friends on a deeper level.  Sometimes, like in my house’s Passover Seder today, they’re just looking to partake an interesting slice of cultural heritage.

 

Besides, Manischewitz tastes just like Communion wine.

Postcards

 Posted by at 10:02 pm  1 Response »
Apr 072014
 

I never went abroad.  I never really got around to filling out the application and engineering takes a lot of time anyway.  I was ok with it though; I like it here.  (It’s like I’m an admissions blogger or something.)  I can deal with the winter, my friends are usually back at Dartmouth, and I don’t speak any foreign languages particularly well.

Sometimes I feel like I missed out.  My friends got to do some pretty incredible stuff.  They’ve gone to France and Argentina and Thailand and South Africa and all over the world.    I have some pretty nice postcards.

That said, postcards have always confused me a bit.  They’re a bit small to say anything besides “Hey!  I’m somewhere unusual right now.  How’s home?  Wish you were here!”  And if the purpose of a postcard is just to advertise that you are somewhere unusual, that just seems unnecessary.  You should probably know the person that you’re sending a postcard to, and they should probably know where you are when you don’t show up to classes for ten weeks.

Then again, maybe postcards are more of a symbol than anything.  Maybe they’re more a way to show your friends that you’re thinking about them than a way to make them be jealous of you.  Maybe they’re a way to commemorate a friendship that endured across distance and time.  Maybe they’re a way to say “I care enough about this person to wish they were here.”

I don’t send a lot of postcards, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t travelled.  I’ve been to the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco through an Alternative Spring Break program and a swanky hotel in Silicon Valley through the Thayer School.  I’ve interned in a cubicle farm in Chicago and danced at a nightclub in Montreal.  Just last weekend I went to Philadelphia for a club track meet. 

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have so many opportunities to travel even without a formal study-abroad program.  I’ve brought back hats and t-shirts and little hotel shampoo bottles and more than a few scars.  Of course, they’re just stand-ins for the memories I’ve made while acquiring them.  And those are a lot more than you can fit on a postcard

Welcome Home

 Posted by at 1:58 am  No Responses »
Mar 282014
 

First and foremost, congratulations to the Dartmouth Class of 2018!  Your hard work has paid off and we couldn’t be any more proud of you.  Even though you’re objectively the worst class ever, we’re pretty impressed.

It’s gonna be hard to say something that the rest of the bloggers haven’t already covered, so I’ll keep this brief.  Dartmouth is real, it’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way.  And you’re gonna rock it.

Taylor Swift did not go to Dartmouth, but she probably would have written some good songs about it.

Due to a combination of factors (impending graduation, fundraising for the senior class gift, writing this blog post, watching “Garden State”) I’ve been pretty nostalgic lately.  And I couldn’t be happier about that.  I’ve made memories strong enough to last me until now.  I have something that makes it hard to say goodbye.  So I guess that’s the best advice I can give you – spend the rest of high school making some memories that will make it hard to say goodbye (or at least give you good stories when you get to college).

South Park describes my life disconcertingly well.

You’re on the verge of one of the biggest steps in your life – enjoy it.  Seriously, don’t overthink it.  Do what feels right when you’re making your college pick.  You’ll be ok.

One of my favorite parts of “Garden State” is when Natalie Portman tells Zach Braff that he needs to do something ridiculous because “…this is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and that no one will copy throughout human existence. And if nothing else, you will be remembered as the one guy who ever did this…”  Nobody else is going to take the same path through Dartmouth that you do, so all you can do is make it count.  Of course, don’t worry too much about making yourself unique, you already will be.  The biggest realization I had during my freshman year was that I spent so much time trying to figure out who I wanted to be that I forgot to be myself.  (It was also the most cliche moment of my life.)

Anyway, congratulations again.  Enjoy senior spring.  Come to Dimensions.  I’ll get a meal with you.  I’m not kidding, email me at sjd@dartmouth.edu and say you read this on my admissions blog.  I will be so happy that people actually read this that I’ll probably buy you a cookie or something.  Most of all, welcome home.

Wrapping Up

 Posted by at 2:06 am  No Responses »
Mar 102014
 

Winter term is finally coming to a close in Hanover, which means some pretty big changes in my life.  We finished our capstone design project (and it mostly worked!), so we’re anxiously waiting on the review board of professors and professional engineers to decide our fates.  I’m ending my tenure as social chair of my fraternity, which took up a significant portion of my time over the past year.  Even though it was frequently stressful and constantly frustrating, I definitely grew as a leader and learned a lot of real-world skills I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.  The club running team will be gearing up for our spring racing season, and I’ll personally be preparing to tackle my first marathon over Memorial Day weekend.  The days will get warmer, leaves will return to the trees, and the melting snow will combine with the nostalgic tears of the last-term seniors to reduce every non-paved surface to mush.

Of course, between spring term and now comes spring break in all its glory.  I’ll be travelling to Georgia with the ultimate frisbee team for a week – camping out,  practicing, playing in tournaments, and getting to know the team better.  It’s an important tradition to the team, and definitely one that the rest of campus has heard about.  This trip is really everything a spring break trip should be:  road trip singalongs and spur of the moment detours, late-night swims and early morning jogs, new friends and old.  Also fake moustaches and dyed hair.

I for one think that we are an upstanding group of gentlemen.

I for one think that we are an upstanding group of gentlemen.

Now that I’ve gone and made myself all daydreamy, I need to get back to studying.  One exam and one paper stand between me and Georgia.  And a thousand or so miles.  But really, that’s the fun part.

Mar 022014
 

Finding a job can be hard.  I’m hunting for one for the summer, and I’ve applied for everything from teaching to construction to rocket science.  I haven’t quite entered panic mode, but I’m getting there.  Fortunately, Dartmouth has a ton of resources available for anyone’s job search.   While navigating Career Services was confusing at first (apparently when they ask what kind of job you’re looking for, you’re not supposed to say “whatever I can get”), they were able to help by supplying databases of companies, career fairs, and sample resumes and applications.  I literally didn’t know what a cover letter was before I read their guidebook, but now I’m cranking them out with no trouble.  Job hunting isn’t any less intimidating, but at least I feel prepared instead of lost.

I was even lucky enough to travel to Silicon Valley over winter break through a program from Thayer School of Engineering Career Services, visiting engineering companies in the Bay Area like Google, Facebook, and Tesla.  I got to know other engineers, meet tons of incredible alumni, and get out of the snowy northeast.  I don’t know if I could ever land a job at a company like the ones we toured, but the optimism I saw at every company was incredibly inspiring.  Both the passion for positive change and the level of engineering prowess made me much more confident in a better future (read: self-driving cars).  I guess it made me change my answer from “whatever I can get” to “whatever I can do to be a part of this”.

Facebook Headquarters!

Feb 172014
 

I’ve found that engineering conjures up a different picture for just about everyone I’ve talked to, from the Dilbert-esque cubicle dweller staring at a computer screen, to Tony Stark welding together some awesome new robot suit to save the world.  In my experience as a engineering major at Dartmouth, it’s a mix between the two extremes.  Sometimes it’s long hours trying to find a misplaced semicolon in my Matlab code, sometimes it’s high-fives and hugs as an hare-brained experiment held together by duct tape and desperation finally works, and sometimes it’s even a little bit of world-saving.

First things first – the coursework part of the major can be confusing.  There are two undergrad degree programs at Dartmouth: you start with the Bachelor of Arts in Engineering Sciences, which is a standard 4-year Liberal Arts degree.  Then, about two thirds of these ‘AB’ students go on to pursue a Bachelor of Engineering degree, which traditionally takes a fifth year.  The AB as a solo degree is usually geared toward students who aren’t planning on becoming professional engineers (consulting, medicine, etc.), while the BE is geared at students who are interested in professional engineering or advanced degrees in their field.  The AB has been an awesome experience thus far, especially since it requires you to explore a variety of different engineering disciplines rather than specializing early.  You start with intro classes in math, chem, physics, and computer science, then move on to core engineering classes, usually in sophomore year.  These core classes are really cool, since you get to see how a lot of problems in seemingly different scientific areas can be modeled and tackled with the same set of problem-solving tools.  There’s also plenty of lab and project experience, even that early on.  After the core classes, you move on to distributive and gateway classes, choosing from a few different disciplines.  A lot of these classes have useful applications regardless of what you eventually want your career to be.  In my case, I’m a chemical engineer hoping to go into energy, but I still took materials science and environmental engineering classes along with the standard chemical engineering and thermodynamics courses.  From there, it’s on to higher-level specialized classes and a thesis or capstone design project.  If you plan on the BE, it’s an extra year or so of advanced classes in a concentration of your choosing (mechanical, electrical, etc.).  You can finish the BE at the same time as your AB and graduate in four years, but it’s tough.  I’m taking two extra terms next year and I’m really glad I have the chance to take more electives and liberal arts classes while I’m at Dartmouth.

This year, I’ve been spending a lot of my time working on my capstone design project:  a cheap, home-scale device to remove arsenic from drinking water in rural areas.  Like almost every other project in the engineering program, it’s in a small group, which is great because it’s a way to share ideas and learn from each other as you learn more from your own research.  These senior design projects are always in collaboration with another company or organization who is interested in bringing Dartmouth students in on the project.  We’ve been working with VillageTech Solutions, a non-profit out of California, and it’s been really incredible to do engineering work this in-depth and important this early in my career.  One of our group members even travelled to Nepal over winter break for a field study!  I still haven’t really processed the fact that this project has the potential to legitimately improve or even save lives when it’s eventually deployed, but it’s easily been my most personally rewarding academic experience of that last four years.  Hopefully I’ll post a picture in the next couple weeks when we get our full-size prototype working.

My capstone project team with the dean of the engineering school and Skip Stritter from VillageTech

My capstone project team with the dean of the engineering school and Skip Stritter from VillageTech

Another great thing about a Dartmouth education is how much the professors care about undergraduates.  I’ve had several undergraduate research experiences already, either working as a Presidential Scholars research intern (not as pompous as it sounds) building a device to measure the permeability of snow using sound waves instead of digging core samples.

My permeability sensor (remember that experiment held together by duct tape and desperation?...)

My permeability sensor (remember that experiment held together by duct tape and desperation?…)

I also spent my off-term junior year on campus doing full-time research on ice samples (I just couldn’t get enough of the Hanover winter, so I decided to spend it working in a literal freezer) and I surprisingly learned a lot about theoretical science even while a lot of the job was building things and working with my hands.

It turns out ice is really pretty when you shine some polarized light through it.

It turns out ice is really pretty when you shine some polarized light through it.

Even though engineering has been a lot of work, I’m really glad I chose to stick with it.  The opportunity to learn from amazing faculty, give back to the community, and build some really cool stuff has been completely worthwhile.  It’s also a really collaborative environment, where nobody is terrifyingly competitive or overly concerned with a few hundreths of a point on their GPA (oh hey pre-med).  It’s a real community, doing really awesome things.

Anyway, sorry for the long post, I’ll be back next week.  Happy Presidents’ Day!

 

 

Feb 102014
 

Hello Prospies!

I’m Stefan Deutsch, a ’14 engineering major from Essex Junction, Vermont, and I’ll be one of your Dartmouth Direct student bloggers this year!

This past weekend was one of Dartmouth most legendary traditions, Winter Carnival.  Carnival started as a winter field day to encourage students to escape the doldrums of winter in Hanover, and has carried that spirit of adventure through to today.  Over a century after the first Winter Carnival, the purpose of Carnival is still getting outside and enjoying a respite from classes and schoolwork for a few days.  The weekend is centered around a variety of fun activities, from skating (cool) to swimming (cold)  to concerts and dance parties (sweaty) to a chili cookoff (spicy).  I love the fact that there’s something for everyone, whether you’re into sports, parties, performances, or just catching up on sleep.

My fraternity brothers hard at work on their cookoff entry:  "Chen's Chicken Chorizo Chipotle Chili.  With Chips."

My fraternity brothers hard at work on their cookoff entry: “Chen’s Chorizo Chipotle Chili, with Chips.”

I’ve noticed that people like to complain about the cold and the snow here (and, being from Vermont, I like to make fun of them), but  I can definitely see where they’re coming from.  It’s easy to get caught up in how soggy your boots are and how the snowdrifts make it hard to move when you’re just trying to walk to class.  But, when you take some time to step back and look at it, the snow falling past the streetlights is gorgeous and the drifts actually make it a softer landing when you fall.  In the same way, even though college can be a challenging place, a lot of the things that make it hard are also the things that make it worthwhile, and some of the scariest aspects can end up being your best resources.  That’s really what I like the best about Carnival, and by extension, Dartmouth:  it always gives you the opportunity to step back and appreciate the little things that make an education here so worthwhile.  The sunrise is always beautiful after an all-nighter, teammates who I was once intimidated by are some of my best friends, and when you’re sprinting through the snow in a human dogsled race, it’s pretty easy to ignore the cold and focus on laughing with your friends.

My Human Dogsled Race team.  That orange sweater may be my most prized possession.

My Human Dogsled Race team.  That orange sweater may in fact be my most prized possession.

Well, that’s all for now.  I’ll be back next week with a breakdown of the engineering program in all its stress and excitement.