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.

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!

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.

Jan 182012
 

Coming back to Dartmouth after a wonderful Christmas was bittersweet. It’s amazing to be back and I missed everyone but it is never easy leaving home. What I’ve found most challenging about this term though has been getting organised. Last term was all about settling down at Dartmouth and getting to know the place a little better. But coming back for Winter term a whole new set of problems are thrown at you: MAJORS, DPLANS, INTERNSHIPS, SUMMER PLANS, APPLICATIONS!!!! Etc. It never ends.

I’ve been struggling to sort out my d-plan. It may seem like I am doing this pre-maturely but, as an international student, there are a whole lot of visa requirements which take a little bit of thinking about. Luckily, this week I’ve really been able to find out about and use the resources that are available to help students figure this all out.

You will hear all about them during orientation and – maybe, like me – you might forget about them completely during fall term which is a silly, silly thing to do. The undergraduate deans. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the most helpful office on campus. I went to go see my assigned Dean (deans are assigned to different freshman clusters and they send out newsletters and important notices that you should not delete from your blitz!). I don’t know what I was expecting as I ventured to the 2nd floor of Baker Library and tentatively stepped into the Undergraduate Dean office. Dean Hoyt turned out to be the friendliest person and she was so attentive and helpful – it truly brightened up my day. This may sound a little exaggerated but you might have picked up that I was getting a little overwhelmed by everything Dartmouth. Dean Hoyt really helped me sort out thoughts in my own head, but also answered questions I had about majors/dplans/applications. It was really great to be able to talk through my academic life and what – at this stage – I want to achieve at Dartmouth and how I can go about doing that.

The result of my meeting was that I came out a lot happier and I just felt more on top of my already crammed to-do list.

Nov 232011
 

I have way too much fun planning.  I think classes are my favorite thing to plan about my time at Dartmouth.  You know how on Macs, they have the “Top Sites” page when you open up a new tab?  Well my Banner account, where you go to pick classes, is listed there now…with other sites like Youtube, my favorite web comics, Gmail, and Sporcle.  I think I look at classes more than I watch television or surf Facebook.  That’s a good thing, right? (Just nod your head, it will make me feel better.)

There are just so many possibilities to consider.  Class topic, professor, time – sometimes it gets to be a bit much because I literally can’t hold all the information in my head.  I don’t mind courses in the morning or going to class on TuTh (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in addition to MWF (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), but a lot of my friends choose courses that only meet later on MWF.  Then there are the distributives that they fulfill, which I’m not really worrying about right now, but eventually I’ll be looking for a CI, TMV, etc.  I apologize for my abbreviations – I think it’s another sign I’ve spent way too much time on Banner.  Anyways, I especially like looking at the teachers’ reviews, especially on the site that the Hacker Club resurrected (don’t worry, “hacking” is another word for Programming, and the Hacker Club works on some awesome projects).  A great teacher can make you really enjoy thinking about subjects that you’ve never thought about before.

Speaking of new subjects, it’s my goal to take at least one crazy, creative, out-of-the-box course each term.  On the agenda for winter term: ethnomusicology, in which I’ll learn about non-western music whilst playing musical instruments I’ve probably never seen before and learning from visiting musicians.  To work towards my goal, I’m already planning (no surprises there) a list of interesting courses that I want to take by the time I graduate.

D-planning is harder to do as a freshman in my opinion, especially because there are so many variables up in the air.  Most freshman take summer off, but I don’t mind staying on-campus if it means I can land a really interesting internship or study abroad program some other term.  D-planning started with my nearly-obsessed friend (you know who you are :P, but no judgment, since I clearly cannot judge anyone).  I caught the disease from her, and now I’ve come up with a tentative plan for my first three years here (let’s not mention the hours that went into that).  D-Planning also leads to discussions about housing next year with my friends, which I won’t even go into here – it’s complicated.

Anyways, when it’s course registration time, I tend to get very little work done.  It’s a pity that course registration opened just before midterms, but I did fine on my tests, so no worries.  But now that’s its Thanksgiving break, I can relax, do a little studying (not go on Banner…hopefully that part works out), and reconnect with my family and friends from back home.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!