Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hey everyone!

This is my first time contributing to a blog and it feels a lot more formal than the other internet alternatives…like twittering or updating your status on facebook…but very cool nonetheless! Props to Meredith for setting this up!

My name is Andrew, from Beijing, China. I am currently in Guangzhou, China, studying Chinese literature-related subjects as an auditing student at Jinan University. It may not be as cool as Wushu or Calligraphy, but it is just absolutely fascinating to learn of the forces that have shaped Chinese history and the reflections of history through literature. I chose to take a gap year for multiple reasons: to volunteer, to study Chinese literature-related subjects, and to better understand the society as a whole.

This is my second stop during the gap year. I spent the first 8 weeks as a volunteer for the Qianqiu Reading Aid Project ( in Mao County, Sichuan. It’s been only a year since the disastrous earthquake struck the region but the recovery has been impressive. I was in charge of delivering the donated books and other materials from the project to the surrounding villages and organizing activities to get the villagers borrowing books. It actually turned out to be much more difficult than expected. Some of them had a completely different notion of studying, in the sense that to them, every extra month spent studying is lost income. Nonetheless, most villagers fervently welcomed the idea and their friendliness was just touching. As of this point, the libraries are maintained by local villagers and I will probably return next year to check on the situation.

Though I am thousands of miles away from Palo Alto, I cannot contain my excitement every time I think about Stanford. (or hear about the alums, like Brook Lopez, who absolutely kicked butts in the first NBA game of the season). I lived near Palo Alto (Concord) during my four years or so in the States and Stanford was the only university I had ever visited. I was in elementary school when I first visited and was quite surprised to find students reading books on the grass in…a relaxing manner. Studying…is FUN?! That was quite inexplicable to me, but the aura of mystery around it has cleared up over time. I can’t wait to see everyone there!

Hope all of you are having a fantastic gap year

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Article

This time a little bit different. Someone sent this to me and I had to laugh (I fit about 80% of the descriptors on Stuff White People Like, I guess I am officially a yuppie). Enjoy, or disagree vehemently and get violently offended.

I especially like the part about haggling with street vendors.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chris' Article

Hi Chris, thanks for sending along the article. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about all the opportunities i will be loosing by going to an institution like Stanford. Definitely puts things in a different perspective.

Living in China i feel so incredibly stupid most of the time, which is both a little frustrating and wonderful. For a while, i didn't know the adress of my apartment because i couln't read my contract. This made getting home by taxi a little difficult. It took me two days to figure out how to connect to the internet because the installation was all in chinese, and my computer would just show it as seemingly random symbols. I still haven't figured out my washing machine. that's next on the to-do list haha here i have to spend so much more time thinking about the little things in life, like how to buy a small clothesline. right now, my extra ipod cord is acting as a nice subsitute.

I think just about every high school student has full-heartedly criticized the college admission process. I know I hated it when kids signed up for ap courses and extra curriculars just to bulk up their resumes. But although we all complain about the inherent unfairness of the system, and the way we end up playing it in order to be sucessful (well sucessful by general society's standards), can you think of a better solution? obviously a random selection would not be pleasing to our ssense of meritocracy. Did any of you recieve the books stanford sent out to this year's freshman? i was taken off the list a little late, so i stilll got them. I found The Outlier's especially interesting and would love to talk to someone about it.

it's so true that it's too easy to loose sight of the fact that our education can be so much more than a platform for college or a profession. the professor writing the article probably justly criticizes the complacency of students, and universities' lack of encouragement on education as an intellecutal journey. looking back to my experience in what could probably be described as a mediorcre public highschool, i think that although most kids had no interest in doing so, if you wanted to explore different academic passions, it was possible. Although i found many of my teacher's lack of interest in this frustrating, there were also a few teachers who helped me study their subject beyond the curriculum independently simply because i wanted to. So, i definitely think that no matter what the institution, or lack there of, your education is entirely what you make of it.

Meredith, i too would love to hear more about egypt! Chris, that's amazing that your mom dogsleds. maybe it just seems amazing to me because in ct, i can't say we have many dogsled races around haha.

Alright, i'm off to buy a bicycle. wish me luck

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thanks Meredith! :)

I wish comments were more visible, but they're pretty inconspicuous, so I'm making a new post :)

I'm really happy you read the article and gave a thoughtful answer, thanks!

I'm supercurious about what you're doing and experiencing in Egypt...are you keeping track of it all in any way, or posting photos anywhere? I think I really want to just get to another country, but I can't really leave until March, because I'm flying up at the beginning of March to see my mother start the Iditarod (dogsled race) in Willow, Alaska. So everyone who's on a year-long exchange, I really envy you! You had a smart idea. On the other hand, you have a little less opportunity to wildly change plans halfway through your year...

I absolutely see the one-sided focus of the article on English, the liberal arts, lonely freedom, pondering great books in silent study, blah blah blah, and I definitely have a weakness for all that because I can relate to it. HOWEVER, what about science, what about social geniuses who really aren't interested in solitude but can motivate the masses, what about math...although he mentions "multiple intelligences", he really focuses on the forms of intelligence reflected by his own strengths. Which is a very human weakness, to conflate your inner life with the lives of everyone on the planet.
A final thought: I think it's OK to criticize your institution. Even though we are "damn lucky to be going to Stanford" -- only a few people get that privilege, it is an expensive privilege, etc. -- self-congratulation is something we want to avoid. Especially if the name of an institution becomes a substitute for self-esteem: it's our talents and (often) academic leanings that matter, not the college admission they delivered. You are you, not the college hoodie you wear.

Hope everyone who's already begun their gap year is loving it. I'm still working and saving money, which is maybe why I still have time to post on the blog :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Disadvantages of an Elite Education

So Chris sent the link to this article, which I found really interesting even though I disagreed with parts of it...I'll share it here in case anyone wants to discuss it.

My take: I thought the bulk of the article was really interesting, but I did feel it romanticized the idea of the liberal arts education while simultaneously treating the pre-professional approach with derision. I feel that ultimately the point of education at any university is as a means of exploration, but the liberal arts approach isn't the only way to achieve this, and that the author's bias as an English professor factors into his unilateral praise of liberal arts. I definitely agree with the author in that I don't feel that the college admissions process is necessarily indicative of intelligence, just the ability to "play the game", so to speak. I also agree that the elitism associated with university education is off-putting to say the least, and though I feel it is less prevalent at Stanford than in the Ivy League, it still exists. For those of you who went to Admit Weekend, there was a good dose of "You are the chosen ones" ego-stroking. In Egypt I eat a large slice of humble pie almost every day, and it's refreshing in many ways to have my ego diminished. One of my non-academic goals for this gap year is to explore my interests because I am passionate about them, not because they were assigned to me (someone said something to that effect in an earlier post). After "playing the game" for so long, it's nice to be in a place where I'm still learning the rules.

Hope that was coherent! Ramadan is altering my circadian rhythm...I'm not really sure what time/day this is anymore.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I posted a comment to olivia's post, in case you don't see it!

< /selfpromotion >

Monday, August 24, 2009


Hi everyone! Thanks for setting this up. I've never actually blogged before, so i'm not sure if this is the right place to put this.

I'm olivia and i'm going leaving for the airport to fly to china in about an hour. For the first semester I will be living in beijing taking a language class at peking university. It's a four hour course in the morning, so my afternoons will be free. I'm hoping to find some kind of volunteer teaching job or tutoring to do in the afternoon. I'm also hoping to travel a lot while i'm there. I'm not sure what i'm going to do for the second semester. Most likely, i'll stay in China. I would like to get a job teaching English, preferably outside of beijing.

I chose to take a gap year because studying abroad for an extended period is definitely something i wanted to do. Of course Stanford has the bing overseas program, but there is so much offered at Stanford, i wasn't sure i would be willing to leave for so long. it seems to me that the year between highschool and college is one of the most flexible, and a great time to do this. I'm hoping that during my gap year I'll meet lots of different people and see things that wil give me many different perspectives even beyond the typical college experience. I think that living on my own, i'll become much more independent which will help me make the most of all stanford has to offer. Afterall, most of us will only get to do the college experience once.

I decided to go to China because not only is it a fascinating place, but in many ways, it was the easiest for me to set up. My brother has been living in china for the last 10 years, so having him there definitely helps, although he currently lives in shanghai. I took Chinese in highschool and studied there for a month once before, so it was the logical choice. Also, the living is pretty inexpensive and because it is still very much a developing country, I think that there will be more chances to volunteer at something like teaching english than in other countries.

Before making my decision to take a gap year, I talked to a lot of people about whether it was something that i wanted to do. It was an idea that had been playing around in my head since the beginning of junior year, but it took me until the end of senior year to make a definite decision. The vast majority of people i talked to said that it was a great option and many of them wished they had taken a year between highschool and college. My dad definitely wanted (and still wants) me to go straight to stanford. I think that he sees the gap year option as a good idea for students that are burnt out after highschool and not fully happy about going off to college. As I was neither of these things, he sees my gap year as an unecessary biding of time. So, although he made it clear that it was my decision, it was difficult to go against my dad's wishes, because I usually respect his opinions.

Despite this, I am satisfied with and excited about my choice. Although it is a little hard to watch all of my friends' pre-college preparations and think how different my year will be from their's, i can't wait to start!
So this turned out to be a longer post than I anticipated. I hope i didn't bore all of you.:)