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.

 

 

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!

A Day in Beijing

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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.

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!

Jul 262012
 

I’m sure you’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: sophomore summer is flying. So many things happening all at once, it’s all so surreal.

First, I wake up to an invigorating all-marching band playing on the Green. I peek past my window curtains and see everything from a communal to a caterpillar-costumed puppeter. Ah yes, glorious Dartmouth life: people are celebrating HOPfest, a two-day festival of the Hopkin Center’s 50th anniversary. The grass on the lovely Dartmouth Green has never looked greener.

Because today I feel more alive than I’ve ever been. With all the ’14s on campus, the spirit of Dartmouth’s tight-knit community appears stronger to me than ever. On top of that, I love the Dartmouth classes I’m taking, in particular Econ 20: Econometrics. It is a class that so brilliantly deconstructs indeterminate systems into quantifiable ones (think economics and statistics marrying each other in a wonderful thought-provoking union). The great ambiance in the background doesn’t hurt, either.

What a great day — and it still hasn’t hit me that we’re already halfway through sophomore summer! Ready to go, I notice that this week is summer recruiting interviews week! Every summer, top firms come to Dartmouth to recruit students for the summer. And my spidey senses are tingling…

Today, I’m coordinating key developments in my startup, Memeja, which won $16,500 in seed funding from the Dartmouth Entrepreneurship competition. Key decisions today: my team and I are building rough prototypes to release to test the market and iterate upon. It’s interesting to witness first-hand just how much a Dartmouth education has helped me. Econ 26, the financial institutions and markets class (with awesome Professor Kohn), has prepared me to understand venture deals and capital markets more thoroughly. Social psychology taught me how to be a decisive team player. And astronomy, of course, reminds me how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things (a very humbling insight).

Ah, yes, sophomore summer, how I love thee. I’m trying my best to savor the experience moment-by-moment and remind myself just how lucky we all are to be on campus!

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.