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
 

I feel loose.  I feel relaxed.  I feel focused.  I feel calm.  I feel…. really, really warm?

A whole twenty-four hours later, it seems I can still feel the effects of of my most recent “warm” yoga session at Hanover’s own Mighty Yoga.  I have done only a handful of 60-minute sessions, but each one has been relaxing, refreshing, and completely worth it.

It begins with the set-up.  Each member of the class gets a mat, a block, a strap, and a cozy, if not overly spacious, forty square feet.  Throughout the session, I found myself contorting into all sorts of positions.  Some were familiar: Downward-Facing Dog, Child’s Pose, and Warrior-II I already knew quite well from my own stretching routine.  Many, however, weren’t so familiar, and soon I found myself in positions almost as complex as their Indian names.

I’ll leave the rest of the session for you to find out on your own.  Here’s a teaser: expect dim lights, warm ambiance, and some high-quality James Blunt.

Come stressed; leave enlightened.  In Mighty Yoga's lobby, the calm is palpable. Taken from the Mighty Yoga Website (http://mightyyoga.com/hanover-2/studio/)

Come stressed; leave enlightened. In Mighty Yoga’s lobby, the calm is palpable.
Taken from the Mighty Yoga Website (http://mightyyoga.com/hanover-2/studio/)

Upon leaving the facility, one often finds that one’s legs feel like a healthy mix of rubber and pine.  It’s hard to describe, but yesterday, I felt like I was walking with a gymnast’s legs. Flexible, strong, bouncy, and deliciously loose.

After indulging my soul for so long, I usually feel it is appropriate to indulge my appetite as well.  The Big Green from Lou’s (with pancakes, Vermont maple syrup, scrambled eggs, and sausage, if you must know) never tastes better than after a high-quality yoga session.

Many of the true benefits of Mighty Yoga do not materialize until long after the session is over.  When I arrive back on campus, I feel far removed from the hectic life most Dartmouth students lead.  Maybe it’s just the normal Sunday mellow, but, for some reason, yoga helps me slow down, look around, and appreciate the moment.

Can you do this? Me neither.  That's why I went to yoga.

Can you do this? Me neither. That’s why I went to yoga.

Especially at the end of a long, cold Winter Term, I think it’s easy to let our lives become one big routine.  Sleep, eat, study, class, eat, work out, hang out, eat, repeat.  Without unexpected breaks, we become like robots, devoting all our time to completing tasks, achieving goals, and studying for midterms.

Don’t think I am undercutting the importance of working hard.  Au contraire, I would actually argue that many Dartmouth students would benefit from a little more time in the library (myself included).  I am merely warning against the fate that awaits the student who lives a yoga-free lifestyle, a lifestyle that prioritizes outward growth, rather than inward.  For those who already find themselves in such a predicament, I will repeat the one thing all yoga teachers seem to encourage: just take a deep breath.

Oh, and do a little Downward-Facing Dog, too.

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 162014
 
Recognize it? Chances are, you don't. Courts like these are only common in the Northeast.  (Taken from DartmouthSports.com)

Recognize it? Chances are, you don’t. Courts like these are only common in the Northeast.
(Taken from DartmouthSports.com)

You won’t find it in the South.  You won’t find it in the West.  You will, however, find it at Dartmouth, and at most other colleges in America’s northeast.  It’s called squash, and around here, it’s just another racquet sport.

Curious?  You should be.  A somewhat-complex, fiercely-competitive, indoor-only, two-person game, squash has taken its place as one of the more interesting sports Dartmouth offers.

Being from the Northeast, I actually have a little bit of experience with the game and can testify to how fun it can be.  The racquet is light, and the ball, when properly used, is bouncy and fast.  Because of the court setup, the ball will only go “out” on a truly erratic hit, so there is little need to prioritize placement over power.  As a result, you can absolutely crank on the ball, whenever you feel like it.

And at the end of a tough week in February, I usually feel like it.

So this past weekend, a friend and I went over to Alumni gym and used our Dartmouth IDs to borrow two racquets and a ball.  We went to the (gorgeous and incredibly well-maintained) courts at the back of the facility, and started our game.

After 45 minutes of absolutely pounding that ball into the wall, I felt like a completely new person.  I didn’t even pay attention to the score; I was too busy pretending the ball was my Econ 1 midterm.  Eye on the ball, line it up, and… smack.  Sweet revenge.

All this was free, and all this was incredibly convenient.  At home and in most places, squash is something of a luxury.  Squash clubs are often expesive and a bit rare, and free court times are even rarer.  But at Dartmouth, playing squash couldn’t be easier.

Now that mid-terms are over, and professors seem to be lightening up on homework, I may not need to return to this house of zen for some time.  Or at least until Finals Week…

Feb 132014
 

This past weekend was Winter Carnival, one of Dartmouth’s better known traditions. Winter Carnival is the Winter Term Big Weekend, the same way that Homecoming is Fall Term’s Big Weekend. There is nothing like a 3-day weekend halfway through the term to remind everyone again of the great community that we have here at Dartmouth, and of the fun things winter brings when one goes outside!

There were many events happening at the same time, which is a little overwhelming, but the good thing is that any event you go to will be guaranteed fun. From the ice-sculpture building, to the Polar Bear Challenge (swimming inside a frozen lake!), to the Olympics Opening Ceremony and the many themed parties, Winter Carnival was a blast. This year’s theme was carnival of thrones, and so there was a student-build ice throne in the center of the Green. Pictures are attached!

 

arnival2 wintercarnival wintevarvibal

Feb 102014
 

Hello Prospies!

I’m Emilia Hull, Dartmouth ’14 (senior year!), a Biology major hailing from Brussels, Belgium, yet I’m actually half Greek half American. Bit of a mouthful, huh? I’m excited to join the Dartmouth Direct Bloggers for my last six months here at Dartmouth (*tear*) – the wildest, craziest, most amazing experience of my life. So far…

Me with one of my favorite 15's (Emily Leede) earlier this year

Me with one of my favorite 15′s (Emily Leede) earlier this year

So there have been a few posts on Winter Carnival, and the fun events you can participate during this four-day extravaganza (ex: Polar Bear jump, human dogsled races, etc.). Yet the reason for Winter Carnival for me is because we ALL need a break after midterm madness. The 1-2 weeks before students are packed into the library cramming those last few quotes into their brains before rushing off to take a midterm, or typing like crazy to make that midnight deadline for a paper.

My Design Thinking group's final whiteboard presentation for the modular bag

My Design Thinking group’s final whiteboard presentation for the modular bag

Personally I had either a midterm or presentation every day leading up to Friday. Did I sleep very much? No. Did that stop me from going out and enjoying Winter Carnival? Absolutely not. I employed one of the many skills I have developed while at Dartmouth – the ability to function on little sleep, whether I’m studying or socializing with friends :) So get ready for an intensive journey upon enrolling at Dartmouth, where you will go straight from the library where you’re cranking your last sentence for a paper to the Green to cheer on your floor mate in Human Dog Sled races and grabbing Chili to go to warm yourself up.

With a few friends (including graduates!) on the Ice Sculpture of Winter Carnival

With a few friends (including graduates!) on the Ice Sculpture of Winter Carnival

Good Luck!

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.

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.

Feb 022014
 

This term I’ve taken advantage of the awesome opportunity to study abroad in Rome with the Frank Guarini LSA+ program. This means that I’m taking Italian 8, 10, and 12 right now while living with a host family in the Esquiline quarter of the city.

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As a sophomore, this is my first experience studying away from Hanover, and also my first real experience watching campus life from afar. This little bit of distance from the typical Big Green life has made me realize a few of the things I’ve come to love about Darty. Things like….

Being able to get back to your room in 10 minutes or less in almost any condition. Whether it’s snowing heavily, you’re in the Life Sciences Center, or you’re finishing your last lap around Occam Pond, at Dartmouth you’re still probably pretty close to your dorm. It’s been a hard realization that here in Rome, it takes me about 45 minutes on a bus to get to school, and if I go out at night I need to head home before midnight, since that’s when the bus lines stop running.

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The food choices. Maybe this is a bizarre one to bring up, but I’ve literally eaten pasta at least once a day since I arrived here in Rome. Don’t get me wrong, I love pasta (especially the alfredo pasta with broccoli from Collis), but I’ve caught myself wishing a few times that I could head to the Hop and grab some nachos, try something new at WorldView in Foco, or just order some Thai Orchid to my room. Plus, it’s been at least 2 months since my last warm chocolate chip cookie from Foco, and a girl can only be expected to survive for so long without her basic life force.

The safest campus ever. Don’t quote me on that, I can’t cite a statistic that says Dartmouth officially has the safest campus, but I do know that I feel totally confident walking by myself at any time of night, talking to strangers, and letting people into buildings if they’ve forgotten their IDs. The biggest danger I’d say I face on any given night at Dartmouth is getting accidentally elbowed in the face at a TDX dance party, whereas when I walk the streets here I keep one hand on my pepper spray and the other curled around an uncapped pen in case I need to stab someone to escape (I might be paranoid).

The dogs. Rome is full of dogs, but none of them know how to cheer me up quite like Samson and Baxter at SAE, Zeus at TriKap, and the other dogs at Dartmouth.

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The people. This one is a no-brainer, and I knew that I’d be missing my friends when I was off campus, but being away has made me realize that it’s not just my friends that I miss. Of course I miss them — I miss our spontaneous trips to Collis Late Night for milkshakes and our Pop Punk cuddle sessions, our standing mozzarella stick lunches and frantic dashes to Dartmouth Hall in the pouring rain — but I also miss the people at Dartmouth that aren’t my friends. The people that I barely know. I miss them because I know that they’re all uniquely talented and amazing, and that just because we’re sharing the same campus we are kindred spirits. I miss them because I know there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t or shouldn’t be getting to know, and that’s an amazing thing.

Jan 122014