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 242014
 

All these posts about snow – and the several-feet-high snow banks around me – have made me miss a time where there was no snow on the ground… specifically last winter when I flew South to the tropics to avoid the snow.

One of the biggest attractions for me (as a potential Bio-major at the time) was the Bio FSP to Costa Rica and the Cayman Islands. I was determined to go (who wouldn’t want to?), and last year (as a junior) I got my wish. I had already heard all about the amazing adventures I would have from past FSPers, who wouldn’t stop raving about their trip, and though they had also mentioned the harder parts, all I retained was how awesome it was. Little did I know I was about to embark on one of the most rewarding, yet  physically and mentally draining experiences of my life.

First of all, a little background. The FSP is separated into three segments, each led by a different professor, with two 3-week segments in Costa Rica (terrestrial field biology) and one in Little Cayman (marine biology). There are usually about 15 students and 2 TAs on the trip. Fun fact: the TAs on my trip were married and thinking about starting a family… and they did. Nine months after our trip, this little bundle of joy arrived:

Our little FSP wonder: Cami!

Our little FSP wonder: Cami!

The trip was amazing. I saw animals I didn’t think existed (look up tapir. seriously.), witnessed the birth of a baby howler monkey (bloody affair) that was then interrupted by a puma (scary stuff!), and managed to wade into a marsh to look at pretty flowers only to find myself running from a croc with leeches stuck to me! Below is another one of my misadventures…

 

Me stuck in quicksand after a small competition to see which of us could go deepest and still get out... I lost.

Me stuck in quicksand after a competition to see which of us could go deepest and still get out… I lost. They pulled me out.

 

Yet it was not all fun and games. Throughout this time we were also doing incredibly important work – observing nature around us, coming up with questions (and answers!) to satisfy our curiosity, and conducting experiments to discover more about the world around us. We also had to repeatedly come up with solutions to problems on the spot, learn to work in groups (and multiple groups at once!), research and write papers practically overnight, as well as constantly explore the environment around us and take advantage of all the unique opportunities!

Traveling to new destinations - always fun in the sun!

Traveling to new destinations – it’s always fun in the sun!

This was one of the most exhausting experiences of my life – severe lack of sleep (and privacy!), constantly on the go (your “off” days were travel days… not very relaxing when you’re lugging around all your equipment), prolonged separation from family and friends… yet it was all worth it. I came out of this experience with a small close-knit group of friends, some memorable stories, and with more strength of character and determination that I had before. I encourage everyone to embark on one of these adventures before graduating, for though you may complain along the way, you will always look back on it fondly afterwards. For you, BIO FSP 2013!

Our attempt at spelling out BIO FSP 2013

Our attempt at spelling out BIO FSP 2013

 

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 022014
 

Hello all! For my first post here I want to talk about my most recent Dartmouth experience, that is my wonderful time spent on one of Dartmouth’s many off campus programs. Dartmouth offers a number of Off-Campus Programs, labeled either as an LSA (Language Study Abroad) or FSP (Foreign Study Program). There are varying degrees of difficulty for the language programs and they’re offered all terms. The FSPs usually correspond with a specific department such as the Anthropology, Theater, or History Departments. Each program, LSA or FSP, has a specific curriculum, a Dartmouth faculty member travelling as an overall advisor, and around 8-16 Dartmouth students. I recently returned from London, England after participating on the History FSP this past fall term (September-December 2013). The overall experience was incredible, to say the least, and made all the better by the people I spent the term with. Previously, during my sophomore spring (March to June 2013) I spent the term in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the Spanish LSA. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to study abroad twice, and I believe my experience in London was that much more rewarding because I had already lived abroad. Here are some of my observations from my overall experience from the two trips.

1)    Living in a big city for 10 weeks is more rewarding, challenging, and exciting than you would think.

I live in a medium sized town in the Bay Area, so I don’t have much experience with cities except for the occasional trip up to San Francisco. Living in Buenos Aires was great because my homestay was very much in the center of the bustling, vibrant commercial district. That said, it was a steep learning curve on how to navigate the bus system, the metro, and grasp a basic sense of direction, all while speaking a foreign language. After getting lost twice the first week, missing my apartment by 26 blocks on a run, and leaving the house one hour before any event for the first two weeks, I finally got my bearings and started to simply explore. Buenos Aires is laid out a grid, so in theory, I shouldn’t have gotten lost in the first place. Oh well. Living in a city is an exhilarating and exhausting occupation. Everything you need—a laundry mat, farmer’s market, museum, shopping mall, you name it, is about a 20-30 minute walk or 10 minute commute away, sometimes closer. I learned living in a city, that for me personally, walking is a more rewarding and easier way to get about the city (especially in Buenos Aires where you can’t always time the buses or the metro). Finally, living in a city makes you appreciate the countryside and those small vacations even more. In Argentina, I travelled to Mendoza and San Carlos de Bariloche on my week holiday. In London, I went to Scotland for a week to visit friends in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but also travelled to the Isle of Skye and the highlands on a backpacking tour.

La Casa Rosada, the Argentinan equivalent to the White House. La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires.

La Casa Rosada, the Argentinian equivalent of the White House. La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2)    Don’t be afraid to do things by yourself.

I know some of my friends do this, and I am definitely guilty of this too: I sometimes won’t do something unless a friend goes with me. I think this lesson applies to both abroad experiences but also college in general. It’s totally acceptable to go places by yourself, eat by yourself, or watch movies by yourself, especially when on a Dartmouth FSP or LSA. You want to go to that modern art gallery that’s only here for the weekend? Go! Don’t worry if you have to go alone, it’s nice to sometimes get away from all your lovely Dartmouth friends on the LSA/FSP. Plus you’ll have a great story to tell when you get back. In London for example, I needed an escape, that I got up one Saturday morning and went to a local Christmas market out in Zone 2 (a 30 minute tube ride from my flat), accidentally stumbled upon a local farmer’s market, and ended up speaking with one of the vendors for 20 minutes about my experience in London. It was so refreshing to get away from the Dartmouth flats and my fellow FSPers, not because I was upset or mad at them, no, I just needed the space. Doing things by myself in London (like visiting museums, seeing plays, or finding local markets) let me feel more like a Londoner than someone in that grey void between tourist and resident.

Me, after swimming in the freezing cold waters of Loch Ness on my 3 day excursion to the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, I didn't see Nessie.

Me, after swimming in the freezing cold waters of Loch Ness on my 3 day excursion to the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Nessie.

3)    Finally, really immerse yourself in the culture you’re living in.

Yes, it’s a bit cliché, but you’re living in a foreign country and studying through a fantastic program; so, how could you not? You will only get as much out of the LSA/FSP as you put in. And really, that applies for anything at Dartmouth. If you shut down or spend your whole time texting/Facebooking people back home, of course you are going to have a rotten time. Getting homesick is absolutely acceptable, but you have to find a way to feel comfortable in your new surroundings. For me, I always pack my favorite lip balms, body wash, and perfume from home, so I can always feel comfortable through scent. It may sound a bit silly, but you often have to close the laptop and just get moving.

Studying abroad has defined my Dartmouth experience, so I’m sure I’ll come up with more posts on specific stories from the two trips. If you’re interested in the specific programs Dartmouth Off-Campus Programs has to offer check out http://dartmouth.edu/global/global-learning/study-around-world

London at sunset.

London at sunset.

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!

Oct 072012
 

One of the most undervalued opportunities at Dartmouth, I’ve found, are guest lecturers.

In the past two weeks, I got the chance to hear from Joe Biden, Richard L. Bushman, and Zainab Salbi, three individuals whose work has had a positive impact on the world.

I’m sure lots of people heard about the Joe Biden speech–or rather, Jill Biden’s gaffe that left the college-age audience chuckling unapologetically. The link can be found here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IKfH_E-NsFQ

Less well known, was a lecture given by one of my personal heroes, Richard L. Bushman, who is a celebrity within the intellectual Mormon circuit. He talked about Mormonism and American politics, which is of course relevant due to the whole Mitt Romney campaign. Bushman is best known for his meticulously-researched biography of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling. I had actually met his wife Claudia at a Mormon feminist retreat the weekend before, so I was not as terrified as I otherwise might have been to go introduce myself after the presentation (normally I’m kind of shy).

One of the most inspiring talks I’ve heard in a long time came from Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International. The story she told about her efforts to start an international organization to help women in war zones was incredibly inspiring and and reminded me why I came to Dartmouth in the first place–because I believed that with the right training and education, I too could make a difference. She offered profound advice–I’m paraphrasing here, but she said something along the lines of, “Saving the world is not a warrior’s journey. You must get off the horse and put the armor down–the world won’t change out of anger, only out of love.” I left the presentation feeling inspired and able to recommit to my sometimes exhausting service-oriented endeavors.

I’m so grateful that I have such amazing opportunities to listen to the voices of such amazing people who are finding ways of doing good in the world in their respective fields. Presentations like those mentioned above help me to become more and more cognizant of the fact that there are, in fact, plenty of other ways to have a meaningful, service-oriented career that do not, in fact, involve medical school.

Joe Biden visits Dartmouth

Celebrities from a variety of different sectors visit Dartmouth, sharing knowledge and advice with students.

Aug 072012
 

So I’m sitting here writing this blog post for you all from the Jones Media Center, a place I was not really acquainted with until this term. Not only is it my new super secret study nook, it has unbelievable resources and technology to help you with every class. The reason I found myself in here was because the other day I was doing research for my Economics Independent Study and needed to pull up large excel sheets at the same time as Stata for data sets– Jones could do it all. Also, it is conveniently located next to the Dartmouth Map Room, another new treasure of mine. Did you know they sometimes give away FREE MAPS? I think that’s super cool. I recently acquired some for my room decorations. Today, I’m in Jones writing a paper in response to a lecture by Todd Stern ’73, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, as part of my Leading Voices Government class. Leading Voices has given me the

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern ’73

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern ’73 at the Hop. Photo Courtesy the Dartmouth Flickr Photostream.

exclusive opportunity to meet speakers from all part of foreign policy and ask them questions about their careers, and about pressing matters like Global Health, Nuclear Profliferation, Womens’ Rights and now Climate Change. It’s been a unique experience that reminds me a lot of the Dickey Center’s Global Issues Scholars program that I was a part of during my Freshman Year.

Just when I though I was really knee-deep into my Dartmouth experience, I realize I’m still finding new things like it’s Freshman Fall.

Apr 142012
 

Christine Wohlforth is the Acting Director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding


Some of the best parts of the Dartmouth experience take place away from Dartmouth. Take Victoria B. ’11, who did an internship in Hanoi, Vietnam with an organization promoting sustainable development in Vietnam two summers ago. By her own admission, she was unprepared for the experience, and struggled to work with no Vietnamese language, living in a dorm with a bunch of westerners and commuting an hour each way to her job. Upon her return, she described the experience as “challenging, exhausting, rewarding, frustrating and scary”. But her internship, supported by the Dickey Center for International Understanding, also gave her the opportunity to try out real research, some of which she incorporated into her senior honors thesis. It also gave her the desire to return to Vietnam. Better prepared to embrace the culture she had only superficially encountered previously, Victoria just completed a Lombard Public Service fellowship working with Save the Children. She took Vietnamese, and practiced this skill interviewing street youth and families living with HIV/AIDS. Victoria is now preparing for a career in public service and advancing her study of Vietnamese. As she says, “Vietnam truly changed my life, and I am grateful for every minute I got to spend in that amazing country.”

Victoria B. '11 with some of the youths she worked with on her Lombard Fellowship in Hanoi.

Mar 292012
 

A note from tour guide David Jiang ’12: 

Hi ‘16s! At Dartmouth you can enjoy the beautiful Hanover campus as well as travel all over the world with our study abroad programs. I came into college knowing that I wanted to learn Chinese, but never imagined that I would end up spending three months traveling through China. Accompanied by 19 fellow Dartmouth students and a faculty advisor, I got to experience life as a student in Beijing.

During the day, we took classes with professors at Beijing Normal University. At night, we attended cultural events. With my free time I’d hop on a bus or subway and explore the city. From 10-story malls to traditional hutongs, Beijing has the perfect blend of old and new. We took two midterm trips, traveling to Tibet, Chengdu and Xi’an among others. I left the program with improved language skills, a greater understanding of Chinese culture and new friendships with my classmates that continued when we got back to campus. 64% of students study abroad in their four years here and now I know why. Come join the Big Green because you never know where your Dartmouth experience will take you.