A Day in Beijing

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Feb 242014
 

After 31 days and 3100 miles journeying about China I’ve finally returned to the capital to resume my Tucker Fellowship. The William Jewett Tucker Foundation offers funded fellowships every term for Dartmouth students who wish to pursue personal growth through service opportunities abroad. I chose to spend my winter term fellowship teaching and developing curricula at Dandelion Middle School in Beijing, the only government-recognized migrant middle school in the entire city. The hukou household registration system was created to limit large-scale migration from rural areas to cities by deeming certain personal rights contingent upon remaining in one’s place of birth, despite the fact that farming in rural areas has become a decreasingly viable means of supporting a family. One such right lost upon moving is access to education, leaving an estimated 20,000,000 migrant children without any source of formal education. Last year several other ’15s created the Dandelion Project, a group on campus that produces learning materials for Dandelion and helps teachers and students learn English via skype. If you’re even marginally interested I highly recommend you look into both the Tucker Foundation and Dandelion Project. Disclaimer: I had a pretty neat picture of the Canton Tower in Guangzhou that would have looked really nice right about here, but my wifi just couldn’t cut the mustard. Sorry, gang.

Now I’ve never been much of a diary or journal guy, but I feel the best way to illustrate life as a teacher at Dandelion is to share a typical day, namely today, February 24th, 2014:

  • 7:00 – wake up, do hygiene things
  • 7:15 – breakfast
  • 7:30 – conduct morning english readings
  • 7:50 – shoot the breeze
  • 8:00 – chinese lessons
  • 9:00 – conduct english class for classes 1-4
  • 12:00 – lunch
  • 12:30 – roam the streets
  • 12:39 – instigate conversation with strangers
  • 12:41 – make terrible mistake*
  • 12:42 – apologize to everyone in the general vicinity, attempt to explain
  • 12:42 – exacerbate situation, scan the area for escape routes
  • 12:44 – briskly walk back to school, take evasive cautions, lots of alleys
  • 12:52 – arrive safely at school
  • 1:00 – conversational comprehension with small group of students
  • 1:40 – read
  • 2:30 – buy mirror to shave patchy beard
  • 2:42 – drop mirror
  • 2:55 – buy mirror to shave patchy beard
  • 3:30 – teacher meeting to prepare lesson plans for unit 1
  • 5:00 – dinner
  • 5:30 – practice chinese
  • 6:30 – conduct evening english readings
  • 7:30 – tutor
  • 8:30 – grade
  • 10:00 – watch house of cards, admire Kevin Spacey
  • 10:02 – lose patience with wifi
  • 10:05 – make tea
  • 10:05 – burn lips
  • 10:10 – help teacher translate several documents
  • 10:30 – write this blog post (so the rest of the timeline is more or less a guess)
  • 11:00 – do hygiene things, shave patchy beard
  • 11:30 – sleep

*If you’re in a foreign land and not completely sure how to say “I want to hold your baby,” it’s probably best to say nothing because telling a parent “I want your baby,” even with the best intentions, is not only frowned upon but apparently just cause for unrefined hostility and beard-related insults from everyone within earshot.

Feb 132014
 

Were I to have made a list of reasons I chose Dartmouth over other comparably reputable institutions my senior year of high school, the D-plan would fall somewhere between “Dr. Seuss” and “high likelihood of moose-sighting.” It wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with the term system so much as I simply lacked the foresight and imagination to realize the manifold possibilities it allows. I have been living and teaching at a middle school in Beijing since mid-December as a Tucker Fellow, the specifics of which I will elaborate upon later. My school has been closed for a month to celebrate the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival, allowing me a month to travel around the People’s Republic all by my lonesome. I think it’s important I take a moment here to detail the extent of my pre-voyage Mandarin lest I give you the wrong impression; I arrived in China equipped with the syntax of a small child, tonal subtlety of an incoming fax, and a vocabulary that could be recited in its entirety on one moderately full breath; to say my Chinese was poor would be doing a disservice to the word poor. Were the first few weeks communicatively trying? Yeah. Did I get myself into some sticky situations? Sure. Did I through a series of increasingly unfortunate misunderstandings purchase a pregnant goat? Well it’s probably best we don’t get into specifics here, but the point being I was not, by any definition of the word, particularly qualified. Yet here I am nonetheless, in the midst of what I am slowly realizing to be the most cathartic experience of my life all because of a term system I failed to give a second thought to three years ago.

Font Museum in Shenzhen - exactly what it sounds like

Font Museum in Shenzhen – exactly what it sounds like

I am now in the final leg of my journey around China, a counterclockwise rotation through Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and now finally Guangzhou. While I wasn’t able to spend as much time in Shanghai as I would have liked, the week I did spend there was more than enough to realize it as the most international city I’ve encountered thus far in the People’s Republic (I unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to Hong Kong, the only other potential contender, due to a visa situation). I celebrated my first Chinese New Year in Shenzhen with a Dartmouth friend, who is spending her term in southern China making a documentary, and her family, who introduced me to pig feet (surprisingly sweet), chicken feet (good but look sort of like baby hands), and rabbit heads (a fair amount of work, but definitely my favorite). The warm weather and general air quality in Shenzhen were a nice break from Beijing’s lack thereof. We even made it down to the South China Sea for what would have been an absolutely perfect beach excursion had it not been for a speedo (which they should really let you try on before purchasing if they’re going to enforce a no refund policy) imbroglio that I don’t feel particularly compelled to elaborate upon any further. I have spent this final week of my month-long wandering at the Lazy Gaga (sic) Hostel in an unseasonably cold and rainy Guangzhou, the largest city in southern China. A few nights ago I went out with a group of friends I met at the Lazy Gaga (sic) Hostel to explore Guangzhou nightlife, none of us knowing that taxis shut down fairly early here. So after an altogether weird night I got to persuade a truck driver to let the bunch of us hitchhike in the back of his truck, which we soon thereafter discovered was full of, much to the chagrin of the more squeamish in our group, mutilated pigs. But hey, at least my Chinese is improving.

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!

Mar 292012
 

A note from tour guide David Jiang ’12: 

Hi ‘16s! At Dartmouth you can enjoy the beautiful Hanover campus as well as travel all over the world with our study abroad programs. I came into college knowing that I wanted to learn Chinese, but never imagined that I would end up spending three months traveling through China. Accompanied by 19 fellow Dartmouth students and a faculty advisor, I got to experience life as a student in Beijing.

During the day, we took classes with professors at Beijing Normal University. At night, we attended cultural events. With my free time I’d hop on a bus or subway and explore the city. From 10-story malls to traditional hutongs, Beijing has the perfect blend of old and new. We took two midterm trips, traveling to Tibet, Chengdu and Xi’an among others. I left the program with improved language skills, a greater understanding of Chinese culture and new friendships with my classmates that continued when we got back to campus. 64% of students study abroad in their four years here and now I know why. Come join the Big Green because you never know where your Dartmouth experience will take you.

Mar 292012
 

A note from Senior Tour Guide Dennis Zeveloff ’12: 

Congratulations on being accepted to Dartmouth! It’s been a great place to learn–the cross-curricular scope, student-professor interactions, and world-class research have really enhanced my academic experience. I can’t think of another place where I’d be able to help publish a textbook, run experiments on the school’s fMRI, travel to Bosnia, and write reports for the government all in four years.

Jan 292012
 

With Dartmouth’s financial aid deadline fast approaching (applications are due February 1st), join us for a special Dartmouth Direct Live! show at 8pm EST on Tuesday, January 31st for everything you need to know about financial aid. Senior Assistant Director of Admissions John Beck will be joined in the studio by Senior Assistant Director of Financial Aid Christen O’Connor. No webcam needed. Sit back and watch or participate by asking us questions and we’ll do our best to answer them, Live!

Dec 032011
 
Changing Colors

What a wild ride it’s been. People told me that ten week terms go by really fast, I never knew it would be THIS fast. I’m done with my finals today and fall 2011 term at Dartmouth has officially ended for me. We’re one twelfth the way there! I think back and I reflect. This term has been the perfect introduction for me to Dartmouth!

It all started off with meeting international upperclassmen as I arrived at Dartmouth late at night in pouring rain. I remember the first glimpse I got of my room and the feeling of excitement that rushed down my spine. It took a night’s sleep to finally comprehend the fact that I had arrived at Dartmouth! Next day, I was greeted by a crowd of people dancing around in front of Robo as upperclassmen dressed in crazy costumes greeted us for our DOC Trips. After spending only a day at Dartmouth, I was taken up to the Dartmouth College grant in the extreme north of New Hampshire for my Nature Photography Trip. Could there have been a better welcome?

Soon we went through a 2 week long orientation, starting with International orientation and then regular orientation. I was thrilled at the opportunities that were available to us here at Dartmouth and was already thinking about the millions of things I planned to do over the next few years. All this was accompanied by more than a thousand new faces around me. The fact that many of these faces would be an important part of my life for the next four years, and some even beyond that was both scary and exciting! After the perfect welcome through DOC trips, orientation provided the perfect kick-start to our time at Dartmouth. Soon we picked our courses for the term and classes began.

The opportunity of being taught by professors who were experts in their field was amazing. Every day I was learning so much and it made me feel proud of myself. We found ourselves coming up with the perfect weekly schedule for ourselves. We found ourselves trying things we had never done before (Which, for me, was playing tennis). We found ourselves being challenged and overcoming those challenges. We found ourselves growing!

Days passed, and soon I was watching my first football game wearing the Dartmouth gear I had recently purchased. It was an amazing experience, especially since we won!

Homecoming finally came with trees changing their colors, and we ran around that huge bonfire that was built to mark an official start to our time at Dartmouth. We were filled with spirit and felt proud of being members of the Best Class Ever in the Best College Ever!

Soon New Hampshire showed its magic with snow in October. In just a few hours, Dartmouth turned into a winter wonderland, and The Green turned completely white! At midnight the entire college came out, and had a massive snowball fight on The Green. We were amazed at how magical this place is!

Before we knew it, finals were right around the corner. We found ourselves turning to our favourite studying spot (which for me was my room), and doing our best to make sure we’re ready for being tested on our previous ten weeks’ worth of work. Many took advantage of the numerous study breaks that were organized throughout campus. A large part of the community came out to The Green yesterday evening and decorated Dartmouth’s huge Christmas tree.

And finally, today my finals ended, and with them so did the term. I repeat, it’s been a wild ride, it’s been the perfect start, and I’m excited about what is to come. Dartmouth feels like a home now, and the people here feel like a family. Adios fall 2011, you’ve treated me well!

 

Cheers

Sep 262011
 

As I sat on my bed in Karachi, Pakistan, nearly 7000 miles from Dartmouth College, several thoughts rushed through my head. Dartmouth is supposed to be my home for the next four years of my life. There is excitement, but at the same time questions. How will I get to Dartmouth from Boston airport? Who will my first friends be? How will I understand the technical aspects of being an international student on an F-1 student visa (how will that effect my job on campus, my D-Plan, etc)? These and many more questions made me slightly nervous. However, soon an email cleared everything out.

Dartmouth has a very comprehensive International Student Orientation. Over the summer before coming to Dartmouth, each international student is given an upperclassman mentor. My mentor got in touch with me through email and allowed me to ask all the questions that I had. In addition to that, I was told that my mentor and other International Student Mentors (ISMs) will be there to greet me at the airport and then again at the bus station at Dartmouth. This indeed served as the perfect welcome to Dartmouth, and in general, to USA!

In pouring rain the ISMs made sure that my luggage was sent to my room and I had a peaceful night’s sleep after a very long journey. The following morning they made sure that I got my Dartmouth ID card and my room keys and even gave us international students a brief tour of Dartmouth. It was, however, after I returned from my DOC trip (Which was another adventure altogether and deserves a separate post), that International Student Orientation officially began with an awesome BBQ!

The 3 days of International Student Orientation were the perfect start for all of us international students to our lives at Dartmouth. The information sessions covered all the technical details and answered all of our questions. We got several chances to talk to upperclassmen about their experiences at Dartmouth and asked all sorts of questions. We were given the opportunity to have breakfast with professors from various departments and then were able to personally talk to them. We also had several fun activities including an amazing talent show and an awesome dance party. But most of all, I made several amazing friends during International Student Orientation.

As an international student at Dartmouth, you would never feel left out. Dartmouth, as a community, is open to all. Dartmouth’s orientation programs for incoming freshmen provide the perfect start for everybody. As soon as you arrive at Dartmouth, whether you are an international student or not, you are given several resources to make your transition to Dartmouth both easy and enjoyable. In simple words, it is as soon as you arrive at Dartmouth that you fall in love with The Big Green!