Apr 072014

I never went abroad.  I never really got around to filling out the application and engineering takes a lot of time anyway.  I was ok with it though; I like it here.  (It’s like I’m an admissions blogger or something.)  I can deal with the winter, my friends are usually back at Dartmouth, and I don’t speak any foreign languages particularly well.

Sometimes I feel like I missed out.  My friends got to do some pretty incredible stuff.  They’ve gone to France and Argentina and Thailand and South Africa and all over the world.    I have some pretty nice postcards.

That said, postcards have always confused me a bit.  They’re a bit small to say anything besides “Hey!  I’m somewhere unusual right now.  How’s home?  Wish you were here!”  And if the purpose of a postcard is just to advertise that you are somewhere unusual, that just seems unnecessary.  You should probably know the person that you’re sending a postcard to, and they should probably know where you are when you don’t show up to classes for ten weeks.

Then again, maybe postcards are more of a symbol than anything.  Maybe they’re more a way to show your friends that you’re thinking about them than a way to make them be jealous of you.  Maybe they’re a way to commemorate a friendship that endured across distance and time.  Maybe they’re a way to say “I care enough about this person to wish they were here.”

I don’t send a lot of postcards, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t travelled.  I’ve been to the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco through an Alternative Spring Break program and a swanky hotel in Silicon Valley through the Thayer School.  I’ve interned in a cubicle farm in Chicago and danced at a nightclub in Montreal.  Just last weekend I went to Philadelphia for a club track meet. 

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have so many opportunities to travel even without a formal study-abroad program.  I’ve brought back hats and t-shirts and little hotel shampoo bottles and more than a few scars.  Of course, they’re just stand-ins for the memories I’ve made while acquiring them.  And those are a lot more than you can fit on a postcard

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 022014

This term I’ve taken advantage of the awesome opportunity to study abroad in Rome with the Frank Guarini LSA+ program. This means that I’m taking Italian 8, 10, and 12 right now while living with a host family in the Esquiline quarter of the city.


As a sophomore, this is my first experience studying away from Hanover, and also my first real experience watching campus life from afar. This little bit of distance from the typical Big Green life has made me realize a few of the things I’ve come to love about Darty. Things like….

Being able to get back to your room in 10 minutes or less in almost any condition. Whether it’s snowing heavily, you’re in the Life Sciences Center, or you’re finishing your last lap around Occam Pond, at Dartmouth you’re still probably pretty close to your dorm. It’s been a hard realization that here in Rome, it takes me about 45 minutes on a bus to get to school, and if I go out at night I need to head home before midnight, since that’s when the bus lines stop running.


The food choices. Maybe this is a bizarre one to bring up, but I’ve literally eaten pasta at least once a day since I arrived here in Rome. Don’t get me wrong, I love pasta (especially the alfredo pasta with broccoli from Collis), but I’ve caught myself wishing a few times that I could head to the Hop and grab some nachos, try something new at WorldView in Foco, or just order some Thai Orchid to my room. Plus, it’s been at least 2 months since my last warm chocolate chip cookie from Foco, and a girl can only be expected to survive for so long without her basic life force.

The safest campus ever. Don’t quote me on that, I can’t cite a statistic that says Dartmouth officially has the safest campus, but I do know that I feel totally confident walking by myself at any time of night, talking to strangers, and letting people into buildings if they’ve forgotten their IDs. The biggest danger I’d say I face on any given night at Dartmouth is getting accidentally elbowed in the face at a TDX dance party, whereas when I walk the streets here I keep one hand on my pepper spray and the other curled around an uncapped pen in case I need to stab someone to escape (I might be paranoid).

The dogs. Rome is full of dogs, but none of them know how to cheer me up quite like Samson and Baxter at SAE, Zeus at TriKap, and the other dogs at Dartmouth.


The people. This one is a no-brainer, and I knew that I’d be missing my friends when I was off campus, but being away has made me realize that it’s not just my friends that I miss. Of course I miss them — I miss our spontaneous trips to Collis Late Night for milkshakes and our Pop Punk cuddle sessions, our standing mozzarella stick lunches and frantic dashes to Dartmouth Hall in the pouring rain — but I also miss the people at Dartmouth that aren’t my friends. The people that I barely know. I miss them because I know that they’re all uniquely talented and amazing, and that just because we’re sharing the same campus we are kindred spirits. I miss them because I know there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t or shouldn’t be getting to know, and that’s an amazing thing.

Feb 022014

Hello all! For my first post here I want to talk about my most recent Dartmouth experience, that is my wonderful time spent on one of Dartmouth’s many off campus programs. Dartmouth offers a number of Off-Campus Programs, labeled either as an LSA (Language Study Abroad) or FSP (Foreign Study Program). There are varying degrees of difficulty for the language programs and they’re offered all terms. The FSPs usually correspond with a specific department such as the Anthropology, Theater, or History Departments. Each program, LSA or FSP, has a specific curriculum, a Dartmouth faculty member travelling as an overall advisor, and around 8-16 Dartmouth students. I recently returned from London, England after participating on the History FSP this past fall term (September-December 2013). The overall experience was incredible, to say the least, and made all the better by the people I spent the term with. Previously, during my sophomore spring (March to June 2013) I spent the term in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the Spanish LSA. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to study abroad twice, and I believe my experience in London was that much more rewarding because I had already lived abroad. Here are some of my observations from my overall experience from the two trips.

1)    Living in a big city for 10 weeks is more rewarding, challenging, and exciting than you would think.

I live in a medium sized town in the Bay Area, so I don’t have much experience with cities except for the occasional trip up to San Francisco. Living in Buenos Aires was great because my homestay was very much in the center of the bustling, vibrant commercial district. That said, it was a steep learning curve on how to navigate the bus system, the metro, and grasp a basic sense of direction, all while speaking a foreign language. After getting lost twice the first week, missing my apartment by 26 blocks on a run, and leaving the house one hour before any event for the first two weeks, I finally got my bearings and started to simply explore. Buenos Aires is laid out a grid, so in theory, I shouldn’t have gotten lost in the first place. Oh well. Living in a city is an exhilarating and exhausting occupation. Everything you need—a laundry mat, farmer’s market, museum, shopping mall, you name it, is about a 20-30 minute walk or 10 minute commute away, sometimes closer. I learned living in a city, that for me personally, walking is a more rewarding and easier way to get about the city (especially in Buenos Aires where you can’t always time the buses or the metro). Finally, living in a city makes you appreciate the countryside and those small vacations even more. In Argentina, I travelled to Mendoza and San Carlos de Bariloche on my week holiday. In London, I went to Scotland for a week to visit friends in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but also travelled to the Isle of Skye and the highlands on a backpacking tour.

La Casa Rosada, the Argentinan equivalent to the White House. La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires.

La Casa Rosada, the Argentinian equivalent of the White House. La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2)    Don’t be afraid to do things by yourself.

I know some of my friends do this, and I am definitely guilty of this too: I sometimes won’t do something unless a friend goes with me. I think this lesson applies to both abroad experiences but also college in general. It’s totally acceptable to go places by yourself, eat by yourself, or watch movies by yourself, especially when on a Dartmouth FSP or LSA. You want to go to that modern art gallery that’s only here for the weekend? Go! Don’t worry if you have to go alone, it’s nice to sometimes get away from all your lovely Dartmouth friends on the LSA/FSP. Plus you’ll have a great story to tell when you get back. In London for example, I needed an escape, that I got up one Saturday morning and went to a local Christmas market out in Zone 2 (a 30 minute tube ride from my flat), accidentally stumbled upon a local farmer’s market, and ended up speaking with one of the vendors for 20 minutes about my experience in London. It was so refreshing to get away from the Dartmouth flats and my fellow FSPers, not because I was upset or mad at them, no, I just needed the space. Doing things by myself in London (like visiting museums, seeing plays, or finding local markets) let me feel more like a Londoner than someone in that grey void between tourist and resident.

Me, after swimming in the freezing cold waters of Loch Ness on my 3 day excursion to the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, I didn't see Nessie.

Me, after swimming in the freezing cold waters of Loch Ness on my 3 day excursion to the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Nessie.

3)    Finally, really immerse yourself in the culture you’re living in.

Yes, it’s a bit cliché, but you’re living in a foreign country and studying through a fantastic program; so, how could you not? You will only get as much out of the LSA/FSP as you put in. And really, that applies for anything at Dartmouth. If you shut down or spend your whole time texting/Facebooking people back home, of course you are going to have a rotten time. Getting homesick is absolutely acceptable, but you have to find a way to feel comfortable in your new surroundings. For me, I always pack my favorite lip balms, body wash, and perfume from home, so I can always feel comfortable through scent. It may sound a bit silly, but you often have to close the laptop and just get moving.

Studying abroad has defined my Dartmouth experience, so I’m sure I’ll come up with more posts on specific stories from the two trips. If you’re interested in the specific programs Dartmouth Off-Campus Programs has to offer check out http://dartmouth.edu/global/global-learning/study-around-world

London at sunset.

London at sunset.

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.