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

Mar 032014
 

Los Angeles has often been described as a culture-less wasteland, filled to the brim with both the superficial and the lackluster. Sometimes,  the comical stereotypes seem to run the city – the Starbucks-sipping yogis bouncing between Whole Foods and Lululemon, the chain-smoking, scraggly-looking artists waiting for their big break in the elusive “Industry,” and a whole slew of middle-aged professionals living as if they aren’t a blink over 25, Botox and all.

To some degree, the stereotypes, the impressions, and the reputation of this strange city-but-not-city can be justified. LA is not a conventional city with conventional norms, but nevertheless, it is one that I’ve been so proud to represent as I’ve spent my winter term interning here.

For new friends, readers, and followers, my name is Laura and I’m a ’16 who is currently pursuing an English major along with a Philosophy minor – and this is also my first post! I saw this off-term as an opportunity for respite that would hopefully be conducive to learning –  learning more about myself, about the plans I hold for my future, about how I’d like to move forward. I’m currently interning at the Getty Research Institute in the upper LA Basin in West LA, the institution adjunct to the Getty Museum. As a conservation intern, I work with private art collections that are in need of conservation/preservation aid in the Conservation Lab, along with archiving collection materials and preparing them for gallery showcasing. (So it’s pretty interesting work!)

But when the 9-5 job ends, another adventure begins. Finding myself in this strange but beautiful city has left me with so much to do and so much to explore. So for all you friends interested in potentially interning here in Los Angeles, I’ve compiled a short – and by no means exhaustive – list of the best bits of my time here thus far.

  • Produce in Southern California is amazing. Fresh herbs, fruits, veggies – what more could you ask for? Farmers Markets are varied and plentiful,  leaving little imagination left with markets’ exotic varieties.
  • Angelinos travel by car, almost solely, which seems awful when there’s traffic. But driving provides privacy, the liberty to sing at the top of your lungs when you’re driving down the freeway, and oh yes – just enough time to eat breakfast on the road.
  • Yoga, trendy cafés, outdoor exercises often go hand in hand in this lovely city that is surprisingly naturalistic.
  • Really, there is no shortage of different cuisines. Korean is best in LA’s famed Koreatown, the largest in the nation and located right here in Central LA. In West LA, where I’m living, you can find Little Armenia. However, I would say my favorite finds have been Kentro kitchens on the Westside, Shabu Shabu in Little Tokyo, and of course, the occasional Thai in West Hollywood.
  • The variety in shopping experiences – from crowded night-market-esque Santee Alley in Downtown to Rodeo Drive, one can go from bargain prices to couture very quickly.
  • The diversity! Food! Music! Religions! The people! All of this provides for an interesting time in the city, and this is my absolutely favorite thing about Los Angeles. There is an immigrant or outsider story underlying every current of the city, one full of opportunity, of diversity, of dreams being reached, achieved, realized, and more. I find it absolutely beautiful and inspiring.

Of course, with the good comes the bad. A few less-favorable things about interning in Los Angeles –

  • If you can’t drive, you’re in for a rude awakening in this city. This is the main form of transportation here due to the fact that public transportation has been made unfortunately unaccessible in some parts of Los Angeles. (There is however, and contrary to popular belief, a small subway system.)
  • I actually didn’t believe the LA stereotype that everyone is trying to make it into the “Industry,” which generally consists of singing, acting, dancing, and modeling here. But it’s actually true, and it starts to boggle your mind – and okay, sometimes annoy you – very quickly.

 

As this winter term off-campus comes to an end, I really can say that I’ve valued my time here, with all its interesting and signature-LA experiences. I look forward to making the most of my last few weeks, but until then, let the yogis continue downard-dogging, let the chain-smokers continue puffing and hacking, and let the mid-lifers continue living a life they’re 20 years too old for.

 

 

Feb 242014
 

After 31 days and 3100 miles journeying about China I’ve finally returned to the capital to resume my Tucker Fellowship. The William Jewett Tucker Foundation offers funded fellowships every term for Dartmouth students who wish to pursue personal growth through service opportunities abroad. I chose to spend my winter term fellowship teaching and developing curricula at Dandelion Middle School in Beijing, the only government-recognized migrant middle school in the entire city. The hukou household registration system was created to limit large-scale migration from rural areas to cities by deeming certain personal rights contingent upon remaining in one’s place of birth, despite the fact that farming in rural areas has become a decreasingly viable means of supporting a family. One such right lost upon moving is access to education, leaving an estimated 20,000,000 migrant children without any source of formal education. Last year several other ’15s created the Dandelion Project, a group on campus that produces learning materials for Dandelion and helps teachers and students learn English via skype. If you’re even marginally interested I highly recommend you look into both the Tucker Foundation and Dandelion Project. Disclaimer: I had a pretty neat picture of the Canton Tower in Guangzhou that would have looked really nice right about here, but my wifi just couldn’t cut the mustard. Sorry, gang.

Now I’ve never been much of a diary or journal guy, but I feel the best way to illustrate life as a teacher at Dandelion is to share a typical day, namely today, February 24th, 2014:

  • 7:00 – wake up, do hygiene things
  • 7:15 – breakfast
  • 7:30 – conduct morning english readings
  • 7:50 – shoot the breeze
  • 8:00 – chinese lessons
  • 9:00 – conduct english class for classes 1-4
  • 12:00 – lunch
  • 12:30 – roam the streets
  • 12:39 – instigate conversation with strangers
  • 12:41 – make terrible mistake*
  • 12:42 – apologize to everyone in the general vicinity, attempt to explain
  • 12:42 – exacerbate situation, scan the area for escape routes
  • 12:44 – briskly walk back to school, take evasive cautions, lots of alleys
  • 12:52 – arrive safely at school
  • 1:00 – conversational comprehension with small group of students
  • 1:40 – read
  • 2:30 – buy mirror to shave patchy beard
  • 2:42 – drop mirror
  • 2:55 – buy mirror to shave patchy beard
  • 3:30 – teacher meeting to prepare lesson plans for unit 1
  • 5:00 – dinner
  • 5:30 – practice chinese
  • 6:30 – conduct evening english readings
  • 7:30 – tutor
  • 8:30 – grade
  • 10:00 – watch house of cards, admire Kevin Spacey
  • 10:02 – lose patience with wifi
  • 10:05 – make tea
  • 10:05 – burn lips
  • 10:10 – help teacher translate several documents
  • 10:30 – write this blog post (so the rest of the timeline is more or less a guess)
  • 11:00 – do hygiene things, shave patchy beard
  • 11:30 – sleep

*If you’re in a foreign land and not completely sure how to say “I want to hold your baby,” it’s probably best to say nothing because telling a parent “I want your baby,” even with the best intentions, is not only frowned upon but apparently just cause for unrefined hostility and beard-related insults from everyone within earshot.

Feb 132014
 

Were I to have made a list of reasons I chose Dartmouth over other comparably reputable institutions my senior year of high school, the D-plan would fall somewhere between “Dr. Seuss” and “high likelihood of moose-sighting.” It wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with the term system so much as I simply lacked the foresight and imagination to realize the manifold possibilities it allows. I have been living and teaching at a middle school in Beijing since mid-December as a Tucker Fellow, the specifics of which I will elaborate upon later. My school has been closed for a month to celebrate the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival, allowing me a month to travel around the People’s Republic all by my lonesome. I think it’s important I take a moment here to detail the extent of my pre-voyage Mandarin lest I give you the wrong impression; I arrived in China equipped with the syntax of a small child, tonal subtlety of an incoming fax, and a vocabulary that could be recited in its entirety on one moderately full breath; to say my Chinese was poor would be doing a disservice to the word poor. Were the first few weeks communicatively trying? Yeah. Did I get myself into some sticky situations? Sure. Did I through a series of increasingly unfortunate misunderstandings purchase a pregnant goat? Well it’s probably best we don’t get into specifics here, but the point being I was not, by any definition of the word, particularly qualified. Yet here I am nonetheless, in the midst of what I am slowly realizing to be the most cathartic experience of my life all because of a term system I failed to give a second thought to three years ago.

Font Museum in Shenzhen - exactly what it sounds like

Font Museum in Shenzhen – exactly what it sounds like

I am now in the final leg of my journey around China, a counterclockwise rotation through Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and now finally Guangzhou. While I wasn’t able to spend as much time in Shanghai as I would have liked, the week I did spend there was more than enough to realize it as the most international city I’ve encountered thus far in the People’s Republic (I unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to Hong Kong, the only other potential contender, due to a visa situation). I celebrated my first Chinese New Year in Shenzhen with a Dartmouth friend, who is spending her term in southern China making a documentary, and her family, who introduced me to pig feet (surprisingly sweet), chicken feet (good but look sort of like baby hands), and rabbit heads (a fair amount of work, but definitely my favorite). The warm weather and general air quality in Shenzhen were a nice break from Beijing’s lack thereof. We even made it down to the South China Sea for what would have been an absolutely perfect beach excursion had it not been for a speedo (which they should really let you try on before purchasing if they’re going to enforce a no refund policy) imbroglio that I don’t feel particularly compelled to elaborate upon any further. I have spent this final week of my month-long wandering at the Lazy Gaga (sic) Hostel in an unseasonably cold and rainy Guangzhou, the largest city in southern China. A few nights ago I went out with a group of friends I met at the Lazy Gaga (sic) Hostel to explore Guangzhou nightlife, none of us knowing that taxis shut down fairly early here. So after an altogether weird night I got to persuade a truck driver to let the bunch of us hitchhike in the back of his truck, which we soon thereafter discovered was full of, much to the chagrin of the more squeamish in our group, mutilated pigs. But hey, at least my Chinese is improving.

Feb 052014
 

Modern Reader,

If you’re anything like me, you keep about five applications running on your laptop at the same time (up to seven if I’m trying to do work). Your web browser of choice (Firefox) is also divided into at least five tabs (my personal favorites include Facebook and food blogs).

Modern Reader, I regularly decrease my IQ because I insist on multitasking and consuming massive amounts of information in as little time as possible. Winter term is only nine weeks long; I have one less week to do real work, and therefore one less week to procrastinate.

So, Modern Reader, imma keep my posts short and to the point.* I’m aiming for my magic number to be five, even though it’s probably something else.

Five items of 14W (take note, 18′s, because all your Facebook photo album titles for 15W need to read like this):

1. 14Winterform: Since the weather is below freezing most of the time, I look like the Michelin Man (c) in my puffy parka 28 out of 30 days of the month. And I really stand out these days because I’m pretty sure Dartmouth is getting sponsored by Canada Goose and I look like a stack of blue tires.

2. 14WhereIsEveryone?: I voluntarily and happily came back for a winter on term after taking fall off instead (curiosity aroused? I’ll tell next time, dear reader, next time). About three hours into my arrival on campus, I thought of my friends in warm, exotic locales like Costa Rica and Australia and cried quietly in the serene silence of 14WinterWonderland. But really, winter term is the most popular term to take off, and it’s been a little colder this year without some of my good friends. Most of them will be back for spring term, only for some others to leave in the spring, so I’m counting on seeing all my favorite 16s during sophomore summer!

3. 14WhatAmIDoingWithMyLife: Students are required to declare their majors at the end of their fifth term at Dartmouth. The time is fast approaching, and I’m still not sure if I’m going pre-pharm or humanities. The fly mashing and mating labs for Bio 13 (Genetics; pre-meddies, be ready to push fruit flies into watery morgues) haven’t exactly been… encouraging. There’s a lot of great people to talk to at Dartmouth about life plans though, what with the Undergraduate Deans Office, the DOSCS (Deans Office Student Consultants) who work there, the two pre-health track advisors, professors who had similar problems in their own troubled days, UGAs (undergraduate advisors), and perhaps best and easiest-to-approach-of-all, your own peers (I talk to my parents too, but they don’t live here with me, thank goodness). I’m incredibly fortunate to have had several accomplished, astute, clear-headed, and generally just very caring students take pity on me and befriend me. These people I’m so honored to call my friends have been most encouraging of late, and I can’t thank them enough.

4. 14Werkkk: I think I spent about $50 of DBA (Declining Balance Account; essentially money for food that you charge onto your Dartmouth ID card) at KAF (King Arthur Flour café) in one day last week because it’s located in the libs and my spot in the beautiful Sherman Art Library was too precious to give up. My last midterm was last Friday, but those imps have a quick turnaround: my next one is coming up in another two weeks. Ridiculously overpriced café au lait and kale slaw, here I come.

5. 14WSkatingonthePond: That was a consonant cluster, you don’t pronounce the W. As much as it blows to feel like your face is getting stabbed with pins whenever you walk outside, I’ve been trying to take advantage of all that the cold weather has to offer. Occom Pond has been frozen for a while now, and I finally made it out there last weekend thanks to the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra making it an official social event (clubs and groups here usually have a social component to them, with a corresponding social blitz listserv). Us orkdorks held hands and skated for a bit, it was a little exhilarating (translation: my friends basically dragged me around in circles around the pond because I was terrified). I also went cross-country skiing for the first time ever last Friday! It was a very well subsidized trip with the DOC (Dartmouth Outing Club covered ski & ski boot rentals, I only had to pay $3 for transportation), and I’m so so ready to try it again. I was a total noob, but the course there in Hartlands, VT was truly gorgeous.

Next up: 14WinterCarnivalRecap, or what the scene was like in the library because I have an essay due in a week. Before then, maybe pictures, which I can’t seem to upload right now.

Dec 062012
 

This post goes out to all the Dartmouth students that are now home for the holidays with this year’s new Academic Calendar extending from Thanksgiving to New Years as well as to the brand new ’17s that are, as of today, part of our Dartmouth family! Congratulations! I am excited to meet the DC- area ’17s at the Dartmouth Club of DC Holiday Party coming up next week.

As I finish up my time at home in DC this fall quarter, I have realized how crazy fast the time has gone by. After having this “real life” job, I am ready to go back and enjoy my time as a student for a little while longer. Although I have learned so much more in these past ten weeks than I could have imagined I would, I also miss my friends, my sorority and my classes that didn’t start until ten and were only a few steps outside my door. Get ready ’17s, for a fantastic college experience, whether you are in Hanover or taking off-terms in cities all over the world, take advantage of all of it! We’re all waiting to see what you’ll do.

Also, say ‘Hi!’ on campus!

 

Oct 112012
 

Well, unlike many of the other posts on here, my junior fall at Dartmouth is not actually at Dartmouth! I’m taking the Fall off, courtesy of the D-Plan, and working in Washington, DC. I’m interning at both the Department of State and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, for a total of at least 60 hours a week.

Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Overseas Private Investment Corporation

I’m a DC area native so I’m living at home with my parents and taking the metro every day to commute.

I know, I’m absolutely crazy. I go to State at 8 AM and leave at 4 PM for OPIC and work until at least 8 PM there! Thankfully, all of my friends are at school or the ones in DC are also working weekdays so I get to just come home and eat a home cooked meal before crashing into bed.

So far though, it’s been an awesome experience! Both of the internships are really interesting and I’m learning a lot every day. Most days I’m so busy doing work that I look up and its 7:30 already and I didn’t even notice. I know that if the jobs weren’t as interesting the 12 hour days would be dreadful so I’m thankful they are.

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

I’ve already been able to meet with the Ambassador of Panama, help with a North African entrepreneurship program, assist with multilateral agreements like the TPP and learn about development projects around the world.

The Assistant Secretary of the Bureau I work in is actually a Dartmouth grad and was really excited to have a Dartmouth intern, so it’s just another example of the Big Green network that extends across the world. It’s crazy that I get to take things I learned about in government and economics classes at school and actually see them in action here at State and OPIC, and it helps me realize how lucky I am to be a Dartmouth student and the opportunties off-terms give me. So far, it’s all been so rewarding!

Mar 292012
 

Hey guys! First of all CONGRATULATIONS on getting into Dartmouth. Here’s a link to my post to the early decision sixteens. Much of this applies to all of you as well.

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dartmouthdirect/2011/12/to-the-sixteens/

Over the next few weeks you guys will be making one of the most important decisions of your life. Many of you might have excellent offers from other colleges as well and are closely looking at every aspect of every college to make sure you make the right decision. I was in the same position exactly a year ago. Today, while writing this post, I am filled with immense happiness and pride for choosing Dartmouth which ended up being the perfect choice for me. Although it’s probably true that Dartmouth may not be for everybody, but trust me, Dartmouth’s versatility and welcoming nature ensures that most people will have the best time of their life at this institution!

So the major question is why should you choose Dartmouth? You’ll probably find thousands of answers to that question. I’ll just add some of my own experiences to that list.

One major thing you’ll always hear about Dartmouth is the focus on undergraduate studies. Trust me that is NO joke! All classes are taught by professors. They also have additional office hours when you can ask them for help or just have a nice chat with them. To see world class professors working extremely hard for you is truly inspirational and you can find that at Dartmouth! This is one of the biggest and most important reasons i’m completely in love with Dartmouth!

Next is the versatility. This is something I’ve talked about in my previous posts. Dartmouth has something for everybody. You meet loads of different kinds of people and all of them have made their place in this wonderful institute. For example, coming from Pakistan my favorite sport has always been Cricket. Coming to the US, I assumed that I probably will not get to play cricket during my time here. However I was in for an amazing surprise when I found out that Dartmouth actually had a cricket club. I get to play cricket every single week here. Many people have had similar experiences with their passions. Sometimes when there actually isn’t an official organization for you, then you can easily create one. Best thing is that you will almost always get both funding from Dartmouth as well as support from peers, administration as well as professors. It’s magnificent!

I’m sure that many of you will already have heard of the amazing study abroad opportunities, the flexible schedule, amazing internships, world class resources, and the millions of other things Dartmouth has to offer. All of these together make Dartmouth a really magical institute. However something that struck me the most was the amount of love students have for this college. People are actually passionate about making it a better place and almost everyone wholeheartedly believes in the greatness of this institution. I’ve also talked about a magical feeling associated with being here in some of my previous posts. The best thing about this feeling is that it keeps increasing over time. As I said, each week brings something new, presents a new challenge, and gives us the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and emotionally.

Overall, I’d just like to say that you guys are a really lucky bunch. Think about your college choices carefully, but speaking from experience I HIGHLY recommend Dartmouth! I am super excited to see you all on campus and I can’t wait to see all of you soon! Make the most of your last few pre-college months!
Cheers!

Jan 162012
 

The beauty of 10 week terms is that each week is a challenge. It’s like you’re on a reality show in which you’re given a list of tasks. You work super hard to complete task after task and get through that list. While doing that, somehow you also find moments to laugh, have fun and just breathe. Eventually, after days of working hard, you complete all your tasks. You feel proud, and happy and motivated. You go ahead and submit your list with a check mark against all the tasks with a huge smile on your face. And before you can even celebrate you’re given a new list and you have to start all over again. Each week at Dartmouth is a new list of tasks. Every Sunday night we try to make sure we’ve completed our list for the week. Monday morning, a new week starts and, with that, a new list.

Weeks and terms at Dartmouth go by really fast. Often we find loads of work piled up. Often we have to go by a day with less than 4 hours of sleep. But somehow, in some weird way, being at Dartmouth makes it completely manageable. Not only do we manage to make sure to get all our work done, but we end up making sure we have time for activities, for sports, for just having fun. And then every Sunday night when we’ve conquered one more week, we realize the beauty of this place and are ready to start the next week filled with motivation and excitement. Having said that, the magic, however, is that each week is an adventure yet no two weeks are the same. Each week brings us a new lesson, a new challenge, a new perspective, just something new. Each week adds to our personalities at least one more positive attribute. Each week makes us a better and stronger person. In this way we continue our journey at Dartmouth, becoming better individuals, and achieving something remarkable, one week at a time.

Nov 232011
 

I have way too much fun planning.  I think classes are my favorite thing to plan about my time at Dartmouth.  You know how on Macs, they have the “Top Sites” page when you open up a new tab?  Well my Banner account, where you go to pick classes, is listed there now…with other sites like Youtube, my favorite web comics, Gmail, and Sporcle.  I think I look at classes more than I watch television or surf Facebook.  That’s a good thing, right? (Just nod your head, it will make me feel better.)

There are just so many possibilities to consider.  Class topic, professor, time – sometimes it gets to be a bit much because I literally can’t hold all the information in my head.  I don’t mind courses in the morning or going to class on TuTh (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in addition to MWF (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), but a lot of my friends choose courses that only meet later on MWF.  Then there are the distributives that they fulfill, which I’m not really worrying about right now, but eventually I’ll be looking for a CI, TMV, etc.  I apologize for my abbreviations – I think it’s another sign I’ve spent way too much time on Banner.  Anyways, I especially like looking at the teachers’ reviews, especially on the site that the Hacker Club resurrected (don’t worry, “hacking” is another word for Programming, and the Hacker Club works on some awesome projects).  A great teacher can make you really enjoy thinking about subjects that you’ve never thought about before.

Speaking of new subjects, it’s my goal to take at least one crazy, creative, out-of-the-box course each term.  On the agenda for winter term: ethnomusicology, in which I’ll learn about non-western music whilst playing musical instruments I’ve probably never seen before and learning from visiting musicians.  To work towards my goal, I’m already planning (no surprises there) a list of interesting courses that I want to take by the time I graduate.

D-planning is harder to do as a freshman in my opinion, especially because there are so many variables up in the air.  Most freshman take summer off, but I don’t mind staying on-campus if it means I can land a really interesting internship or study abroad program some other term.  D-planning started with my nearly-obsessed friend (you know who you are :P, but no judgment, since I clearly cannot judge anyone).  I caught the disease from her, and now I’ve come up with a tentative plan for my first three years here (let’s not mention the hours that went into that).  D-Planning also leads to discussions about housing next year with my friends, which I won’t even go into here – it’s complicated.

Anyways, when it’s course registration time, I tend to get very little work done.  It’s a pity that course registration opened just before midterms, but I did fine on my tests, so no worries.  But now that’s its Thanksgiving break, I can relax, do a little studying (not go on Banner…hopefully that part works out), and reconnect with my family and friends from back home.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!