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 (

Come stressed; leave enlightened. In Mighty Yoga’s lobby, the calm is palpable.
Taken from the Mighty Yoga Website (

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”.

Facebook Headquarters!

Exotic Dartmouth

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Feb 262014

Every once in a while, when the temperature descends to some truly grim level, I will be informed of the fact that, “Super Cool Girl is off this term and she’s living it up in Fabulous Exotic Warm Place. Her Facebook photos make me so jealous of her because while she’s frolicking on Perfectly Sandy Beach, I’m on this winter, freezing my nose hairs in this sub-zero weather.” And yes, envy is a very rational feeling to experience when you have to wear three layers to walk to class every day and some of your friends are wearing -1 layers to la playa!!! Nontheless, there is nothing that I can do to change the fact that I am on this term, in New Hampshire, during a winter featuring a polar vortex. Hearing about the fabulous in extraordinary locations (mostly places with beaches) does not improve my own situation, and I don’t need to expend brainpower to produce ideas that are not beneficial nor productive for me.

So instead of imagining life being better in other places, which may be true but doesn’t matter because I haven’t mastered teleportation yet, I’m enjoying my calming places here in this frigid, challenging place.

My favorite, manmade Dartmouth locale is the Black Family Visual Arts Center. I can’t verbalize how wondrous it is, so here’s picture of it instead:

from the interwebs

As a student who is not taking any arts classes inside this building, I can’t access floors 2 and up, but sometimes the doors are open/kind people who have lots of pity for me open the doors to the upper floors and I can sit along those window/balcony areas you see in the picture (this description probably makes no sense, but the VAC is too modern and cool for me to write about it, so I guess you’ll just have to visit or attend Dartmouth to fully understand, ha). That said, I wouldn’t call the VAC an exclusive place. The first floor is plenty beautiful enough for me, with its large, red couches, snazzy student artwork, and these really great, tentacle-looking lamps that all construct a very evocative and yet peaceful milieu. Plus, artists are marginalized by society, so it’s nice to have a place just for them. Last Sunday, I walked over to the VAC after gorging myself on cheesy eggs at Foco and my butt stayed glued to a little red corner couch from 9 til 10PM. I took a short break at 2 to see Spring Awakening at the Hop. The performance was very well executed by Dartmouth students, accolades and applause to all involved! I thought the costumes and set were particularly marvelous considering what I would imagine are relatively limited resources for costuming and the small stage space.

All in all, I’m in love with the VAC and that’s where I hide when I have either a lot of work, or a small amount of work I would like to use as an excuse to hang out there and enjoy the place.

Coming next: A recap of the DSO concert and the violin recital, or how I managed to eek by in both without totally losing face onstage. Here’s a shameless plug for the DSO concert:

Feb 262014

In this century, college is marketed to prospective applicants as a paradise of diversity. In and out of class, undergraduates hope to gain exposure to a wide range of perspectives that harmonize with and challenge the experience they accumulated before entering higher education. This can come in many forms: racial, intellectual, political, artistic, athletic—you name it.

But there’s another kind of diversity we don’t talk about as much, though its value is immense and shouldn’t be elided. This is what I’d call personal diversity, and it’s something you can pick up a lot of at Dartmouth, provided you’re willing to put a little work in.

Personal diversity means entertaining many different kinds of experiences in your own, daily life. It goes beyond the ordinary diversity in which we find ourselves surrounded, like it or not, with people who offer us counternarratives. Personal diversity means filling our days with activities that don’t match up with what we normally do, or did when we were in high school.

Here’s an example of how I try to achieve personal diversity, all drawn from the past four hours. I’m a philosophy and classics major, and I sing in the A Capella group called the Dartmouth Cords (arguably Dartmouth’s best-looking all-male A Capella group). If I wanted to, I could fill my hours, minutes and days with just going to class, rehearsal, doing homework, and taking the occasional nap.

But when there’s so much else to do at Dartmouth, that can never be enough. At 7pm, I went to a showing of an avant-garde film in Thornton Hall with members of my Philosophy of Art class. At 8pm, I drove into West Lebanon with ten members of the Dartmouth Classics Society (of which I’m the co-founder) and saw the new 3D movie, Pompeii. We relished in inaccuracies and hypertheatrics of the movie: overall a really splendid time.

I came back and went straight to the library, where I confirmed an appointment to meet with a preeminent scholar of Greek sexuality to whom one of my own professors referred me. Then I went to get a tea and a couple bags of chips from Novack Cafe; on the way I picked up the latest edition of Apologia, Dartmouth’s (extremely well-done) publication on Christianity and Theology. I’m not a Christian, but I love to read my peers’ work.

Just the same, as I stood in line, I chatted with a writer for the Dartmouth Review, Dartmouth’s notorious conservative-leaning newspaper, about the recent ‘Freedom Budget’ proposal that was sent out to campus, a document addressing a multitude of perceived deficiencies in Dartmouth’s academic and social atmosphere. I’m not a conservative, but i enjoy hearing what smart people have to say about campus climate, even when I disagree.

Now I’m back in the 1902 room, jamming away at my research for the Classics Department and drinking my tea.

The story of my evening could have been: I went to the library, did some homework, and went to bed. But that would be the story of someone who either didn’t know –or didn’t care–about the swarm of little opportunities Dartmouth provides to make each bit of our day a little more sparkly. By some degree I’ve enhanced my personal diversity today, and I’m going to try to do the same tomorrow. I have Dartmouth to thank.


A scene from the new ‘Pompeii’ movie. A real thrill.

Feb 252014

Dartmouth has consistently been ranked #1 for best undergraduate teaching. But with all the deadlines and midterms approaching, it is easy to forget this and complain about the pile of work left undone.

I was recently reminded of how great the professors here are, and I’d like to share that with you.
I realized that my science professor, who teachers 100 or so other students, knows the students in his class by name. I was asking a question in class and – I had never had a conversation with him where I formally introduced myself- he said, “Yes, Reem”. I was surprised, but then noticed that he went on to call all those who asked questions by their first names. If that doesn’t demonstrate how caring and attentive a professor is, I don’t know what does.

In related news, a classmate and I had lunch with our professor on Dartmouth’s dime a few weeks ago. Dartmouth’s Undergraduate Deans’ Office sponsors a “Take a professor to lunch” program, where they provide a voucher for a meal at the Hanover Inn. It is pretty obvious, I suppose, that Dartmouth wants students to build relationships with their professors outside of the classroom. The lunch was an opportunity for us to discuss the class, our academic interests, but also general life topics!

Feb 242014

For this intrepid blogger, Sunday was adventure day. The destination? Boston. The method? Dartmouth Coach. The motive? Clam Chowdah at Joe’s American Grille, and a birthday celebration of an old friend from high school.  But mostly the Clam Chowdah.

I arose at the unearthly Sunday-morning hour of 10 AM, to a warmer-than-usual sun and a Dartmouth campus in the depths of deep slumber.  I breakfasted (broke-fast?) alone and boarded the 11 AM bus to South Station.  The first leg of my long journey was underway.

At this point in the story, I would like to laud Dartmouth Coach on the comfortability of their seats.  Thanks to their plush leather and spacious rows, I had no trouble in sleeping the entire ride.  And sleep I did.

Three dream-filled hours later, the bus was already pulling into its terminal.  I felt disappointed. Was my journey over so soon? And did I really sleep through the whole trip?  I soon realized my fears were unfounded, for, as most New Englanders already know, Boston is rather large. My destination, Joe’s Grille, would not be within walking distance of South Station.  I would need to acquire a Charlie-ticket and hitch a ride along the infamous Red Line of Boston’s Subway System, known to locals as the “T”.

For getting around Boston, tickets like these are a must-have.

For getting around Boston, tickets like these are a must-have.

Using my innate resourcefulness and the English and Spanish instructions on the e-kiosk, I acquired one such Charlie-ticket and hitched one such ride, all within ten minutes of my arrival.  Not too bad for a naive tourist like me.

Soon I would be arriving at my long-awaited destination, with nothing but food, friends, and fun to follow.  We had assembled a small troupe of Boston-area buddies from our high school, and I was a bit early for the reservation, so I took some time to walk around town and contemplate life.

"Why are we here? What is our purpose?"

“Why are we here? What is our purpose?” While roaming Boston alone, I found myself confronting life’s deepest mysteries.

When I finally did get to the restaurant (my musings on life’s mysteries kept me longer than I had anticipated), all the others had arrived and were anxiously awaiting my arrival.

It was a reunion for the ages, and a feast fit for five kings.  But, alas, before I knew it, the meal was over, and it was time to head back North.

In the same way I came to Boston, I left, although this time with a much fuller belly, and a psyche much refreshed by the change in scenery.  Hanover is home, and there’s no place like it in the world, but I must concede that Boston is a truly gorgeous city.  Sometimes, a little time spent away from campus can be a great thing.


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 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


Belonging in Hanover

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Feb 232014

Many things in my life have changed over the last 19 years, but my appreciation for the people around me has not. A sense of community and belongingness has always remained a top priority, even when my life has changed in various drastic and important ways. As I’m sure many prospective students are aware, the transition from high school to college will be one of those times–times in which change itself can seem to jeopardize our existing feelings of community and belongingness.


Nonetheless–and this I can promise you–I have found precisely that at Dartmouth. It is a diverse and eclectic community, yet one that is intimate enough to make genuine friends and find support in groups of good people. In the various sub-commmunities I’ve joined at Dartmouth, I have found the belongingness I desired when I left home.

Since the beginning of my freshman year, I have been in an all-male a cappella group, the Dartmouth Cords. The guys I’ve met through the group have served as mentors, role models, and above all, friends. Then, this past fall, I joined a fraternity. While the media portrays the Dartmouth Greek system with mixed reviews, I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience with my fraternity. The other brothers have taught me many things about how to succeed at Dartmouth, how to have fun, and more generally, how to be happy. Since rushing in September, an indisputable feeling of welcomeness has surrounded me.

While this post may be filled with clichés and corny descriptions of camaraderie and community, I hope that my central point still stands: Dartmouth has become my home, and many of its students feel like family.

I genuinely believe that I belong here. And guess what? You will, too.campussunset