California Appreciation, via Summer in New York City

Hello, Manhattan sunset! :)

I love New York.

I realized this after I returned from visiting a friend in D.C. and was hit by such an intense wave of comfort and relief upon stepping off my bus and into the familiar Manhattan streets. This city has managed to worm its way into my heart. I love so many things about it. From the museums to the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park to the efficient public transportation system we all love to hate, it’s begun to feel a little like a second home to me.

And yet, at the same time, there are a lot of things about this city make me realize how much I miss Southern California, where I grew up and have lived all my life. For those of you moving to this state as you begin your first year at Pomona, and for those of you considering the college at least in part because of its location, I present:

Things I Didn’t Know I Appreciated About California Until I Lived in New York [Read more…]

What Makes a Home? Finding a Piece of Pomona in Cambridge, MA

I felt like Goldilocks in my weeklong exploration of New York City’s wild concrete jungle and Northern Vermont’s wild lush greenery. After returning to cozy Cambridge, Massachusetts, I allowed myself a good stretch and a happy sigh that said, “I just experienced wild on two different extremes, but this is where I feel at home. This middle ground is where I’d like to be.”

Then I packed up my bags again and hopped on a plane home. To my other home, I mean. Good ol’ sunny, drought-stricken California.

Visiting the Elizabeth Gardner Museum with three housemates.

Visiting the Elizabeth Gardner Museum with three housemates.

I don’t particularly miss the humidity of Massachusetts summers or the perpetual symphony of angry car horns, but a piece of me does crave the pleasant buzz of foot traffic and intellectual curiosity that Cambridge, home of two of the world’s most respected universities, provided me these past few months. I long for another Friday night at one of so many awe-inspiring museums, and I ache for the lively rooftop discussions of Plato and morality and formerly unfamiliar philosophical notions. I crave the breathtaking skyline view from my bedroom’s grand bay window, through which I could watch the city’s descent into night and allow my mind, frazzled from the hectic workday, to simply sit and ponder. It is with the white noise of a city like Cambridge that I found my thoughts most inclined to explore. Moreover, with peers who shared similar sentiments, I became immersed in some of the most stimulating conversations the bounds of my intellect have ever known.

This describes my feelings of home in Cambridge, but it is an accurate representation of my home at Pomona College too. [Read more…]

On Leaving China

厉海梅

With my friend, Li Haimei, at the Yunnan Nationalities Village. She is from the Nu ethnic minority in Northwestern Yunnan.

Last Monday, I woke up at 4 AM and proceeded to spend the next 24 hours traveling via bus, plane, and car, finally arriving in my hometown of Seattle, Washington.

I was not ready to leave to leave China. It felt wrong to suddenly rip myself from the life I’d built for myself in Kunming. I was getting used to life in my apartment, building friendships I cared about, feeling confident about my Chinese ability, experimenting with the limits of what could be cooked in a wok (our only kitchen utensil), teaching English, and finally making good progress with my research at the Yunnan Nationalities Village.

On top of that, everyone kept asking me, “When are you coming back?” and I didn’t have an answer for them. I would just offer a half-smile and say something like, “Well, I have to graduate from college first,” knowing full well that it would be at least another year until I was back in China. [Read more…]

Studying Abroad in Melbourne, Australia: Rainforests, Reefs, and Really Weird Academic Differences

Before I get into my magical, life-changing, breathtaking, one-in-a-lifetime trip to Cairns (the rainforest and reef part of the title), let me address some minor academic differences. Because they’re important.

deadpan michael scott

Here at Uni, I’ve been studying a mix of economics for the sake of my major as well as film theory for the sake of my minor (and for my entertainment–I mean, I get to watch movies and talk about how bizarre/fantastic they are for course credit). Universities here teach a little differently than in the states, unsurprisingly. They have lectures, which are recorded and put online (people end up skipping class all the time), and we have tutorials, which are mandatory and resemble Pomona’s mentor sessions (minus the leisurely stroll to class and plus a 40 minute tram ride to school). Additionally, I barely have any assignments. My grade for my Competition and Strategy course, for example, is 25% participation in tutorials and 75% final exam. In other words, we have one test. [Read more…]

Independence at Pomona, via Summer in Cambridge

Grapefruits are bittersweet, right? After weeks of searching for an analogy to accurately depict my thrilling rollercoaster of a summer, I have settled on a fruit whose mixed taste is representative of my feelings at the moment. It is a bittersweet day leaving Boston.

(Well, Cambridge technically. For two months, I lived and worked across the Charles River from one of New England’s most bustling urban hubs. The cities of Cambridge and Boston, however, are so interconnected that to anyone more than 10 miles outside the city, I will say I lived in Boston. But really, I am leaving Cambridge.)

The Cambridge city skyline, as seen from the Boston side of the Charles River.

This post documents Part 1 of my departure and focuses on my work experience as a Content & Design Intern for Zagster, a startup providing bike share services to tens of thousands of people across the United States. Zagster happens to be expanding monstrously, having recently secured $3.5 million in Series A funding, and it took me along for a nine-week ride at the home office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge has a strong focus on higher education and academia, as well as a young, ambitious tech scene not too unlike my hometown of Silicon Valley. Add an actually functional public transit system, subtract a heavily Asian demographic, and boom — my summer summarized.

[Read more…]

Fieldwork in China, or a Huge, Frustrating, Dynamic, Messy Learning Process

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My fieldwork site: Kunming’s Yunnan Nationalities Village (pictured is the De’ang Village).

My past couple posts have focused on my experiences traveling in China, but haven’t really touched on my academic research, which is the whole reason I’m here!

With absolutely zero fieldwork experience and minimal preparation (see my post on Preparing to Do Research Abroad, which describes my research topic and preparation process), I hopped on a plane to China. I figured my research would be just as straightforward as I’d proposed in my grant application: I’d go to ethnic minority tourist sites and interview employees and tourists. I had no idea that a huge, frustrating, dynamic, messy learning process would await me on the other side of the ocean.

Here is an account of that process. [Read more…]