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!

Sep 112012

Every Fall at Dartmouth, I’m reminded just how old I am.  As I walk around the beautiful Green, I hear the classic flair, loud music blasting and seemingly clueless ’16s wandering around!  And that’s when it hits me – I’m a junior!  In a way, Fall symbolizes a period of renewal.  It’s an exciting time to be sure — everybody coming back to campus after a lengthy break (except for the sophomores over summer!) and life at the Big Green continues.

Not for me, though. For me, Fall 2012 is something new, something exciting. With three other guys and a vision, I am finally taking the Fall off to launch a start-up with $16,500 in capital raised from the Dartmouth Entrepreneurship Competition (if you’re curious, see here http://thedartmouth.com/2012/04/06/news/des). With an early prototype engineered and our value hypotheses validated, we’re currently pursuing different techniques to tighten the validated learning feedback loop between customers and our start-up. Ultimately, whether the start-up succeeds or fails by conventional metrics of valuation is personally irrelevant. In my mind, success stems from personal growth and evolution. What really finalized this decision to pursue the start-up path was the realization that as someone with a vision and capital, I really had nothing to lose and everything to gain!

So Fall still, to me, is a renewal in some senses.

Jul 312012

It’s always fascinating to take a breather and look back at just how far we’ve come.  Even more compelling though is to see how much we’ve learned. Indeed, time flies. Looking forward, I believe there’s plenty of growth and development ahead of us. And personally, I believe it’s valuable to dig deep into the minds of those who have already ventured the beaten path for gems of insight. Luckily, Dartmouth’s tightly knit alumni community is perfect for this.

To that end, a week ago, I began reaching out to the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, asking for advice from Dartmouth entrepreneurs more experienced than me. Most were eager to help out our startup, Memeja. After a few phone calls and email exchanges, I met up with Dartmouth alumni, Nader Aknoukh, who graciously agreed to meet up at Dirt Cowboy for a cup of coffee. My objective was to dig his brain as much as possible. Questions  like “What do you wish you had known while founding your startup” and “What was your biggest mistake” yielded insightful answers about the nature of venture capital and communicating with the market. We walk away thirty minutes later with pearls of wisdom rolling around in my mind.

What I’ve realized is that the Dartmouth alums really want to help you — especially when it’s obvious that you’re funneling tons of time and effort into something you love. They’re friendly, responsive, extend invaluable insights and love to reminisce about their adventures in the startup world. And hey, I don’t mind hearing what Dartmouth was like way back when, either! (apparently there were many more public computer terminals back then).

Jan 112012

Hello from Hanover, once again!

First and foremost: welcome to all the ED ’16s! Lots of my friends were facebooking and tweeting their excitement about you on the day the decisions came out. As fun as it is being the fawned over babies of the school (usually), we really are looking forward to meeting you all!

Winter break provided a lot to think about. I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving, so these past few weeks were my first time being back in Cincinnati since September. I expected it to feel strange, but it didn’t at all. Instead, I found myself maneuvering through the scene of my pre-Dartmouth life like I was on autopilot. I didn’t forget how to drive or where anything in the house was kept. Though I feel like all the new things I’ve been doing and learning at Dartmouth have changed me, it was startling how much home had stayed the same.

Being away from home made me realize how spoiled we are at Dartmouth. For all the bellyaching about tiny dorm rooms and cafeteria food, I really do feel like the college life is a pampered one. We don’t have to worry about cleaning the bathrooms– the custodians do that for us (tip: befriend your custodian. they’re great people and you’ll need their help sooner or later.) We don’t have to cook our own meals, or even pull something out of the fridge and put it in the microwave. Once we’re finished eating, we put our plates on a conveyor belt and they magically disappear, returning in clean stacks next to the salad bar by the next mealtime.

bye, dishes!

At home, I found myself a bit jolted by all the household chores and compromises I had left behind. I was now expected to walk the dog and make sure she was let out frequently. I had to coordinate use of the cars with my family members, instead of heading out whenever and wherever I pleased. I had to sort out and fold laundry for my parents and siblings, instead of merely taking care of my own clothes. If I wanted clean utensils, I actually had to load and unload the dishwasher. All these things are normal household tasks that should be expected of me– but all the services provided with a college education had let me off the hook from them over the past three months.

This is not to say that we don’t have responsibilities to fulfill in college. We do, just of a different variety. Instead of being accountable to a family team, we are accountable to ourselves and what we are making ourselves into during these four years. College is a self-indulgent time, in that we get to work on ourselves in whichever ways we choose. We can take all sorts of classes to become more knowledgeable about certain subjects, we can join activities to gain new skills, and we can meet new people to expand our perspectives and provide us with companionship. But what we have to remember is how we will use these new selves we are building to help others.

There are certainly ways to help others while still at Dartmouth; the Tucker Foundation, spring break service trips, and many campus-wide charity and activism events all make this an easy thing in which to be involved. They are awesome programs, and I recommend that all you ’16s check them out. But I also think it’s okay if college is in some ways a latency period, where we build ourselves up with the skills and ideas we will need to be generous, productive, engaged members of society for the rest of our lives. We all have certain lifelong humanistic responsibilities to each other, like being respectful and kind. But I also think it’s okay to think of this great Dartmouth opportunity as a time of responsibilities to ourselves and our futures. Eventually we’ll have more occupational and familial obligations to fulfill, but for now we have the resources and time to make ourselves into adults capable of handling those obligations with skill and poise. There will be plenty of time to wash our own dishes after graduation.

Live free!

Oct 062011

It has been about a month since I first landed on the Green, and about two weeks since classes have started (which is a significant amount since we have 10 week academic terms). It’s been both stressful and exciting at times. I have my first midterm coming up next week, I am researching questions for my first proper academic paper, I have been to my first two football games (yes, my life’s first two!), I’ve had my homesick moments, I’ve had a wii party with friends, I’ve made spontaneous decisions of visiting West Lebanon in the middle of the week with some friends, I’ve worked my first shift at Courtyard Café located at the Hop (Hopkins Centre for the Arts), I’ve joined the tennis PE course and the Cricket Club (Yes Dartmouth has a Cricket Club! Dartmouth has something for everybody), I’ve played poker at 2 in the night with my floor, and I have done tons of other stuff during this month. There have been mostly highs and some lows. However, there is one thing that I’ve experienced every single day I’ve been at Dartmouth.

This common experience that I have every single day is simply a feeling that stays with me. It is one of the most positive feelings I have ever experienced. It includes pride and happiness. When I think about my day, I’m filled with a sense of achievement. At Dartmouth, every single day we achieve something academically, morally, physically and intellectually. Whether it’s in a class through the teacher’s lecture, or at your friend’s dorm through helping them with a math problem, Dartmouth is filled with all kinds of learning experiences. Going through such experiences makes you feel proud of yourself at the end of the day, since you know that you’ve grown and developed since you woke up that morning.

The feeling also includes inspiration. At Dartmouth you are inspired to seek new areas, to take up new challenges, to think outside the box, to believe in yourself and your peers. A few weeks ago while talking to an upperclassman one of my friends spontaneously decided to go on a canoe trip. The flow of water was intense and she had never canoed in such conditions before. She took up the challenge and she came to me that night telling me that it was one of the best experiences she has ever had! You find several such opportunities at Dartmouth, and soon you are inspired to take them.

You also feel part of the community. At Dartmouth, students are very welcoming. The friends I have made over the past month are amazing. Despite coming from a different country and culture, I have never felt left out at Dartmouth. We find a sense of unity with everyone at Dartmouth and it certainly becomes our home.

I may still be a new freshman at Dartmouth (I haven’t even ran across the fire at homecoming yet) but I have loved every moment I’ve spent here. The magical feeling that Dartmouth has given me is priceless, and this feeling grows each and every day.



Sep 252011

Wednesday morning, September 21, 4:30 am. In just over four hours, my first day of classes at Dartmouth will officially begin. I’m sitting on the red circular seat at the entrance of the Hop, which I’m convinced is simply wood with one layer of upholstery draped over the top, as alert as I can be after being abruptly woken from a state of quasi-slumber. Men’s a capella auditions, second round.

After not making it to the third, final round of auditions (yet still sleeping through the paroxysmal beeping of my alarm clock and my first class), I was justifiably upset. I had never sung in a choir before, let alone an a capella group, but I was convinced that I had a wonderfully melodious voice. After all, my friends and family had insisted on it, and they wouldn’t lie to me. The truth was that the standards had simply changed. Everyone had 18 years of life experience before we met, and everyone had devoted themselves for years to their extracurricular passions. For some, it was singing. It dawned on me what it really meant to leave my public high school in suburban Wisconsin.

I felt as though I was the subject of a grave injustice. I too, had literally spent every waking hour during my final two years of high school on Academic Decathlon, and Dartmouth didn’t even offer a near substitute. I was left to carve a new path out for myself, while everyone else continued what they’d been doing for ages. But slowly, I began to see it for what it really was: unbridled opportunity to discover my true self. Although I still have no clue about what new interest I’ll stumble upon next, I’m ever grateful for the strange conspiracies of fate that brought me to where I am today.