What Makes A “Good” Study Abroad Program

For my French study abroad semester, orientation was 2 weeks long and is finally nearing its end. It’s been an exhausting time, though nowhere near as intense as the orientation in Yokoze, Japan for the fall. Comparing the two, as well as my internship program in Mongolia, brings about some interesting reflections about what constitutes a “good” study abroad program. Namely, I feel that integration into the community for students is key to developing a truly fulfilling experience.

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You Saw Me In The Mirror

Semi-fictional piece on friendships that build and break and haunt you with regret.

Once upon a time, I thought I had a best friend. As I’ve grown older my mind has gotten weaker, and I’ve allowed myself to forget the location of every wrinkle on her face and the exact pitch of her voice when she asks a question. But even though my memory is no longer pristine, I still can trace the bridge of her nose, and I still hear echoes of her voice.

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“Heureux qui, comme Ulysse…”

This was a creative nonfiction piece I wrote first year of college. It’s about homesickness and searching for a place of belonging, a theme still relevant to me today. It describes the narrator’s journey throughout the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA.

Sunlight dangled from the ceiling windows. The air smelled of earth and dust, and the voices of onlookers echoed through the room. I placed my hands on the stone parapet and leaned forward. Was this what they called a home?

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Time As God

Can time be considered a religion? The deification of time in the modern world. 

Part of what makes any museum but especially the British Museum so well-loved is how it provides an easily accessible insight into cultural values. It should be an artfully chosen distillation of a community of the past, combining history, art, mathematics, and the physical being into one. Visiting the British Museum led me to realize exactly how much value modern Western cultures tend to place on time to the extent that it is arguably deified. The museum has curated a Clocks exhibition, where gold, silver, and every other type of precious metal adorn intricately designed clocks. They do not always have a practical use, admittedly, but then again, is a tabernacle really “practical” if you take faith out of it?

Like churches, mosques, and temples, clocks are constructed by the human hand with startling detail and care. Hours of toil go into crafting an elaborate exterior of a machine that very possibly is not even accurate, but which we believe has vital use to our daily lives because of how much we rely on time to keep our schedules in order. Religious edifices are beautiful because (1) people want to properly represent the perceived inherent value of the thing they are worshipping and (2) people know that viewing something as art will deter its destruction by rival hands. Similarly, the exteriors of these clocks convey the magnitude of worship individuals bestow on time – a golden ship, for example, evokes the idea of time as the ocean that we humans navigate on an endless passage. And who would, then, dare destroy the awe-inspiring representation before them, not just an image of human belief but a reminder of human potential for creating beauty?

Furthermore, like religion, for some people time can become a haunting, obsessive concept. What was once simply a guiding measure consumes them. Using religion as an excuse for mistreatment or even abuse of others is equivalent to justifying extreme hedonism with the idea of “our lives being short.” And just like how some people continuously impose their religious beliefs on others, some people impose their schedules on others to the extent that it becomes difficult to interact with them. “I have to make this appointment at exactly 12 pm. If I am five minutes late, then it is the end of the world.”

Time even arguably can perform the function of spiritual release. Religion brings release in that it affirms human potential but equally affirms insignificance in the eyes of a greater scheme of things. Time affirms human potential in the simplest of platitudes – “We’ve got time.” And yet, it denies it in every other facet, whether it be the incertitude of the future or the demonstration of individual insignificance in the grand scheme of eternity.
The thing I find above all intriguing, however, is that just like any religion, time is both divisive and unifying. It breaks us apart into the past and future but holds us to the present. For Westernized cultures, even in the present it carves up the world into zones but brings us back together in the fact that we are so attentive to a single numerical reading.
It is also important to note that I have been primarily describing the Western, “monochronic” view as presented in the British Museum. As there are branches within religions, there is also another “polychronic” view of time practiced by some southern European, Latin American, African, and Asian civilizations, where they prioritize experience over order. However, the presence of clocks throughout the histories of these civilizations – ranging from beautifully painted sundials, water clocks, and modern clocks alike – proves that time has always been a governing force as well throughout polychronic individual’s lives. Some may experience it differently, but it can’t be denied that everyone experiences time. [2]

Perhaps time is a hidden religion, and the only universal one at that. No one, regardless of ethnicity or personal beliefs, denies that time is ticking. Perception of time may vary slightly from culture to culture or even individual to individual, but we are all bound together by the fact that we all experience it in the first place.
[1] Featured image from https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rolling_ball_clock_in_the_British_Museum.jpg

[2] http://www.exactlywhatistime.com/other-aspects-of-time/time-in-different-cultures/

In Response To “Barking Up The Wrong Tree”

I’m not saying that it’s entirely wrong but this article seems to be pointing out something that a.) should be obvious and b.) leads to the false conclusion that to be the valedictorian means automatically that you’re a robotic, herd-loving pawn of “the system.” It’s true – valedictorians are not likely to be particularly successful. But that’s true of any individual within a large population. Including you.
The US has something like 25,000 public high schools, and that doesn’t count the private schools. You therefore have something like 25,000 valedictorians. Do you really expect that all 25,000 are going to be the next Gandhi? And given that the majority of humans – valedictorians or not – are very schedule and rule-oriented, do you really take this as surprising? Valedictorian is a title. It doesn’t make the person who received the title any more or less human. Furthermore, this article seems to state that the edgy rebels are the ones who go far. That may be the case sometimes, but it’s not because gamblers have some sort of advantage in terms of their luck. In reality the people who go far do so because of perseverance, not because of a title they did or did not achieve in an early, relatively minor point in their life. There is no real, truly quantifiable indicator of success at this point.
Also, just to refute that BS about standardized tests being a better indicator of IQ:  “How I Learned To Take the SAT Like A Rich Kid”  reveals that many if not most of the highest scorers belong to the upper rungs of society because they can afford extensive test preparation.
I fully admit that following the rules is indeed a major issue – see the book Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz. But contrary to what the article seems to imply, this phenomenon is not limited to valedictorians, nor does it mean the chances of valedictorians changing or impressing the world is especially lower simply because they have obtained such a title. It is, rather, a tragic phenomenon that applies to us all, straight-A student or not: that we, as humans, have a tendency to conform to the rules and do nothing, forsaking our ideals for comfort and never truly making our mark on the world.

The Anatomy of Friendship



Is your friendship a lie?

At one point in our lives, we all ponder the questions: what is friendship? How can we tell our true friends from those who we simply hang around for convenience? Why are we attracted to certain people and not others? Why do friendships fall apart?

It’s something that people have all tried to answer many a time before. I’ve especially been wondering this as of late because of the emotional finale to the end of high school. For me, it ended on a very sour note, and I’m sure countless of other students had the same experience. Friendships tumble, and if they don’t tear apart right after school ends, they dissipate with the tides of time. We all just want to know why.

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