Mar 132014
 

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Just as the weather was warming up a little here in Hanover, a blizzard hit and rendered Dartmouth Winter W onderland again. Say what you will about the cold, but snow- in good times- can mean adventure.

I say good times because the academic term just ended, and the snow storm hit while I was leaving my last final for the term.

Finals are stressful anywhere I suppose, but perhaps more so here because the terms are only 10 weeks long and it always feels like there isn’t enough time to study. That said, a lot gets done to ensure that you don’t get too over your head; study groups, study breaks, and q and a sessions are organized by various offices… My chem prof got us clementines during our chem final- so we won’t “get vitamin c deficiency in case we get stranded in the classroom!”.
In any case, back to my earlier point, being done with finals feels great! And then when the storm started, a few friends who were also done with finals and I headed over to the BEMA and then the golf course to sled. Super cold, snow was too thick, but was so great to be able to go outside and enjoy the nature that the Dartmouth campus offers.

Next post will be about spring term! They go by so fast :(

 

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Mar 132014
 

Among many other things, this term has been a term of bananas. As a food that’s eminently portable, fun to eat, provocatively-shaped, available at every one of Dartmouth’s dining locations, bananas have long exerted an occult power over me that reached its climax in the early days of Winter Term, 2014. I’ve been eating bananas non-stop, in and out of class. As I write, a pile of peels sits next to me on the desk, looking for all the world like the corpse of a black and yellow octopus. I’ve also discovered that a banana makes for a handy apparatus for gesturing vigorously at a fellow student who’s just said something out of line, or as microphone when conducting a hard-hitting interview with an important campus figure. I’ve littered my text messages with the banana emoji, in singles and pairs, leaving my conversational partners to wonder at the tantalizing meaning of my messages.

I have even come to identify with a particular banana, whom I met mid-way through January. On the back porch of the Black Visual Arts center, which I’ve passed each Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning on the way to class, lies a banana. This miserable specimen of fruit has escaped custodial eye, stranded endlessly on the chilled cement like a high-potassium Ariadne. As the temperature has swung up and down, the banana has repeatedly re-frozen and thawed, causing its process of putrefaction and blackening to get drawn out agonizingly over a period of ten weeks, that should have lasted no more than ten days.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thought that enters my head is “Humanity is doomed. You are doomed. Facebook, yolo, Real Housewives, Kindles, Upworthy, Miley Cyrus…these are the reasons God doesn’t talk to us anymore.” With these grim and menacing thoughts clouding my mind like a wreath of bats, I shuffle out of Topliff and in the direction of class.

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[Pictured: Aaron Pellowski '15]

But then I catch sight of the banana. “Hello again, banana,” I think. “You’re looking a little limper than last time. If it weren’t for the hard cold air, I’m sure your odor would be sweet and violently pungent. It is only your lack of segmentation that distinguishes you from a turd in the eyes of passers-by. But I know what you really are, on the inside. And I’m proud you’ve survived.”

This has been a trying term for me, but like the banana, I’ve resisted rotting into a dark puddle of despair. In all seriousness, the banana hasn’t been more than a symbol, but it is a symbol for the real phenomenon of collective angst. We here at Dartmouth understand ourselves to be high-achievers, the smartest cookies in the box. We set preposterous expectations for ourselves, seemingly for no better reason than testing the limits of our raw human capacities. Happiness, self-care, therapy of any form: these aren’t just forms of giving up, they’re forms of selfishness. I was sick for nearly a third of this term, but I still attended class with an ear infection that made it almost impossible to hear. I wanted my friends to see me persisting in spite of my difficulty, just in case any of them were dangerously close to completely giving up. We inspire each other with our success, but we grasp our collective humanity when we suffer.

This term saw superhuman achievement on the part of our student athletes at the Olympics and the Ivy Heptagonals. As a community, we enjoyed explosive, unenvious pride at their accomplishments. But this in this same term, we lost a son, and then a daughter of our family. And another daughter was made the victim of unspeakable violence that came from within our own ranks. It was in those wordless hours when we brought our fists of celebration down to our hearts and held them there, feeling the ebb and throb that remind us that we are human, and that we owe each other everything.

 

Wrapping Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 072014
 

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“It’s just that I feel so sad these wonderful nights. I sort of feel they’re never coming again, and I’m not really getting all I could out of them.” — This Side of Paradise // F. Scott Fitzgerald

One week left in the city of light.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I spend about 3/4 of my time in the same areas in Paris — the traditionally chic, bobo, touristy ones, unfortunately — and that I had neglected to even ride the metro through half of the city. So I furiously researched suggested walks / things to see / places to eat in the areas I hadn’t visited yet, and I came up with a long list. These areas around the periphery are more “popular” in the sense that this is where you’d find your “average Parisian” — the one that doesn’t necessarily wear a Hermes scarf, Louboutins, and chignon everyday.

Surprisingly, the more I walked, the more I realized that this is the side of Paris I truly enjoy. Even though I explored some of these parks, streets, and neighborhoods on my own, I never felt lonely. This might be extremely trite, but I felt like the real charm of the city is the one gained from discovering it through your own eyes, reflecting while wandering, and finding beauty in the less-gentrified streets. Instead of seeing the Paris that others have created for you, you create your own impressions and your own appreciation….not exactly a completely successful way to describe the feeling, but it will suffice.

I became obsessed with street art. I’ve always been very interested in it, especially after learning about artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy in high school, but I’ve never been able to really dig into the scene. Here, for one of my final papers, I’ve decided to write about art squats in Paris, which give rise to street art/graffiti. Squats are essentially abandoned / reconverted buildings that have been occupied (illegally), usually in response to high rent. Many of these locations have been converted to studio spaces for artists, thus the origin of art squats. Many of the art squats in Paris have been closed by the government, but some have gained “legal” status, so that they receive some support from the municipal government and are allowed to exist but only as work and not lodging spaces (such as 59 Rivoli). In all of these places, you will find a treasure chest of art — dancers, musicians, actors, painters, sculptors, graffiti artists, etc.

Today I ran to an abandoned warehouse-turned-lodging-and-studios in search of a graffiti exhibit, where I met 3 street artists — Maxime Aum, Codex Urbanus, and Shadee.K — who showed me around the exhibit and introduced me to the pieces of graffiti. Some of them were familiar motifs that I had seen around the city, and it was really exciting to finally meet the mysterious faces behind the characters and words that decorate Paris.

With so much to discover, so much to inspire, so much to absorb, Paris is a haven for anyone who has ever tried to create something. I wish I had a few more weeks, even a few more free hours to spend here, building relationships with interesting people from all walks of life and letting the enchantment of the city mold me into someone more reflective and appreciative.

The 1902 Room

 Posted by at 5:41 am  No Responses »
Mar 072014
 

Flanking the lawn before Baker Library is a large, one-room building of two-story proportions. It’s called the 1902 room and it’s always open. It contains about ten long, broad wooden tables, each paired with a portrait of an important figure from the college’s history. Their expressions range from stern and stoic to friendly and bemused. They’re all men. One of them is named Craven Laycock.

When, just before 2AM hits, Baker’s PA system plays its startling announcement that the facilities proper are about to close, a moribund train of book-weary students begins to shuffle into the 1902 room and set up shop for the rest of the night. While some prefer Novack cafe, also a 24-hour space, and others retire to dormitory study rooms, the atmosphere of the 1902 room sustains a ghostly appeal to others. Just why is an engima. I don’t know whether the 1902 room has anything like a self-aware culture surrounding it, though some of us talk about it like it does. But the mere mention of a night spent laboring in the 1902 room evokes near-universal recognition of what is considered a thoroughly punishing experience. There is no bathroom, and only one door leading to the outside. When that door opens, especially during the winter, a gale of freezing air enters the room, causing students to grimace and pull their pants further down over their ankles. The 1902 room is quiet, but not silent, so while conversation is instantly met with a host of hostile turned-around stares, the littlest cough or spurt of flatulence is audible to all. There is a ceaseless chorus of chair-creaking and inadvertent sighing. The lights, which never turn off, are so bright that in the brain of the sleepless they emit an oppressive noise of their own.

Last winter I took Intensive Ancient Greek, a choice which, while intellectually rewarding, turned out to be titanically masochistic. In order to succeed on the final exam, I spent the last weeks of the term camped out in the 1902 room surrounded by a books. 20 half-empty coffee-cups and unwashed clothing. I only left to go to class and eat once a day. I slept in sporadic cat-naps on a couch near the front of the room beside a defunct fireplace. Over the course of that period, I developed a supernatural, delirious attachment to the 1902 room which, though it was forged in agony, gave rise to great feelings of nostalgia the following term when I was abroad.

Finals period looms like a mouthful of fangs and once again I find myself serving out huge terms in the 1902 room. This space represents one component of my Dartmouth experience that, compared to the first five I’d name off the top of my head when asked, is relatively minor. Nevertheless, it is one I’ll never forget, and one which, as I reflect on it, has a unique sheen to it. As a budding freshman, I would have never anticipated forming this kind of queer relationship with an otherwise uninteresting room. And that raises a question which we should all be asking ourselves as we undertake and begin to exit the turbulent, four-year project of college: what familiar things have become strange, and what strange things familiar?

 

Mar 052014
 

With just finals/studying for finals/complaining about finals/killing the soul for finals left for this term, I’d like to offer myself a brief reprieve from forming premature wrinkles to focus on something that’s provided me with what I like to think of as my main, my little bit of eternity, my “other”: music!

WOW. SO BEAUTIFUL (the violin).

WOW. SO BEAUTIFUL (the violin).

I held a violin for the first time when I was four years old (okay, more like a tinny wooden box with some holes and wires on it) and haven’t given it up since. Apart from a premature mid-music-life crisis when I was eight, during which I had to decide whether or not I really wanted to continue practicing and playing even when I didn’t want to (the ordeal was quite lengthy but was eventually resolved after a few hours of tears and compromising), playing the violin has been the one constant in my life. The violin in the picture and I are reaching five years of a happy marriage, which we’ve been able to further explore here at Dartmouth with our relationship counselor, Mr. Princiotti, in both private lessons and in the symphony orchestra.

If you play any sort of instrument, whether it be brass, wind, string, percussion, or your voice, Dartmouth offers a free Individual Instruction Program. Translation, free lessons if you just sign up! Here’s the link for more info: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~music/performance/

My freshman fall I didn’t enroll for lessons. I did, however, audition for the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and am now very enthusiastically involved in it. Here’s a picture to express my feelings on my musical group affiliation: 469253_10151388436716780_488359831_o

I’m the sigma, be jellin’. We had a great concert this past Saturday, our soloist played an amazing Tchaik (I would LOVE to be that good) and Mussorgsky’s Pictures was fairly awesome as well. You may not believe me, dear reader, but attending DSO concerts, or seeing any sort of performance in general, is really encouraged here. It’s a thing to frequent the Hop for a show on weekends, and/or go out to acapella and dance group shows at some frat on weekdays. I think it’s really inspiring to attend a school where young people, my PEERS and not just the old crogies I always see at classical music concerts, support the arts.

That said, the two other goons you see in the picture above are my best friends who I got to know through DSO, and they successfully convinced me to ask Mr. Princiotti (DSO conductor) if I could take lessons with him starting winter term my freshman year. He agreed, and I’ve been studying with him since! I’ve found Mr. Princiotti to be much more understanding of my busy schedule here at college than all my old violin teachers were of busy-ness in my life, and I’ve really appreciated how relatively relaxing violin lessons here have been. The most stressful aspect of taking lessons, I would say, is performing at a recital appropriately termed, “End-of-Term Recital” because it occurs at the end of term and all violin students are required to perform the piece that they have been learning throughout the term (unless the piece is really difficult, in which case you can ask for an extra term to practice). Despite the fact that these end-of-term recitals are incredibly low key affairs, and the fact that I’ve been performing for years, I still get really nervous about performing. Thankfully this past Monday I played the first movement of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 4 with my friend playing the piano part, so performing was a lot more fun than usual.

I’m sorry that all my photos this time had my mug in them, I’ll try to post more interesting and coherent content next time.

Until then, FINALS!

 

*if at all curious… song referenced to in title is Amy Winehouse’s “Cherry”.

 

 

 

Mar 052014
 

At Dartmouth there are of hundreds of possible classes one can take, yet which ones are the ones that stand out, the “must-takes”? Every Dartmouth undergrad may have a different list, but one that crops up a lot and is on my personal list is ENGS 12: Design Thinking.

What is this ? Weird name, huh? Well, Design Thinking is actually exactly what it sounds like… you think about how things are designed – anything and everything from objects (ex: a table) to technology (ex: iPhone). And you not only think about design, but think about how to improve design and come up with your own!

My second design project. Can you guess the theme?

Yet what skills do you learn, how does this happen? Main skill: learning to be creative! In class you will find out all types of different brainstorming activities, lateral thinking, and so much more! This is also a project-heavy class, so you get your hands dirty, and group-based – at times frustrating, but an invaluable skill.

Myself modeling one of the many ways you can wear the modular bag – the bag everyone has been waiting for!

This class is not only fun, but the skills you will learn (anything from working intensely in a group to photoshop!) will be invaluable in other aspects of your life: other classes, job interviews, new solutions to old problems… You will not regret taking this class.

The App You’ve Always Wanted: Tinder for Exercise Buddies!

To wrap this post up, this is just one of the many Dartmouth classes that has made an impression on me and changed me for the better. But who knows what gems you will discover? Take-away message: take classes outside your comfort zone – you might be amazed at the rewards.

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.

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”.

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