Liz Casey ’14: Nihao Beijing

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Liz Casey ’14, Scranton, Pennsylvania

Two weeks after finals in May, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime (or at least of my undergraduate experience). I was selected to take part in a field study that was fully funded by a Swarthmore research grant. Having taken a class in Governance and Environmental Issues in China last spring, I created my own independent research topic with regards to the class and traveled to Beijing with two professors and four other students to conduct first-hand interviews and research. This was the first field study of its kind that Swarthmore had ever funded and an opportunity rarely granted to undergraduates. Throughout the semester, I read about the growing number of environmental protests erupting throughout China and how they were completely organized by students on social media outlets like Weibo and RenRen. Social media has always fascinated me. All over the world, it has changed the way public policy is made and how government officials conduct themselves. Therefore, I chose to research the connection between Internet activism and the growing environmental movement in China. I wanted to measure the impact of Chinese social media on actual environmental policy change. Is the Chinese collective voice strong enough and united in such a way that it could actually challenge Beijing, forcing the communist regime to evolve. Through interviews with students, professors, environmental activists, and renowned journalists, I started to answer that question. However, I feel as if I have just scratched the surface. The question is still evolving as new protests erupt everyday and new activists maneuver around censorship to have their voices heard in China. 

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Tiananmen Square

My time in China was absolutely exhilarating. I conducted most of my student interviews in Chinese, in little coffee shops in the Chaoyang District. I would sit across from these students, one moment discussing the impossibilities of a democratic China, the next talking about how shows like Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl translated into Mandarin. It was surreal. The trip also came with difficulties. We had little to no Internet access in our dorm rooms. My Ethernet cable never worked. I had to sit in coffee houses, buying their ridiculously expensive lattes so that I could use their sketchy WiFi. I was also faced with the impossibility of censorship. China is known for its great Internet Firewall, but I never realized just how annoying it would become. My research was mainly concerned with uprisings and protests— not information that was sanctioned or easily accessed in China. On June 4, the anniversary of Tiananmen, my Internet was shut down completely and I wasn’t able to do any online research. Needless to say, I won’t be complaining about Internet at Swarthmore anytime soon. 

In addition to all of our work, we were extremely touristy. This was mainly for my benefit. Although I am a Chinese and Political Science major, this was my first trip to China. My professors therefore made sure I took ridiculously cheesy photos absolutely everywhere. Strangely enough, Chinese tourists kept asking to take pictures with me. There are probably about twenty to thirty Chinese cameras floating around out there with pictures of me giving a peace sign in front of the Forbidden Palace.  Nihao Zhongguo! 

ImageOur hosts also delighted in introducing me, an American on her first trip to Beijing, to authentic Chinese cuisine. I am an extremely picky eater and prior to my trip had never even eaten Chinese food in the States. Much to my dismay, I quickly realized that forks and knives were not available. I came out of our first dinner with a growling stomach: I didn’t know how to use chopsticks and was unable to pick up any of the food on my plate. For sanitary reasons, water was also not available. Rather, I had to choke down blueberry juice or lime juice. Our government hosts also enjoyed introducing me to bai jiu, a distinct Chinese liquor that reminded me of lighter fluid. 

The rest of my summer was spent cultivating the Political Science end of my education. I worked as an intern in my Congressman’s District Office in Scranton. Although it wasn’t quite as exciting as attending government banquets in China and being force-fed Beijing culinary delicacies like fish eyes and sea cucumbers, I managed to get some really great work experience. Coffee runs and faxing seemed simple compared to navigating the Beijing subway at rush hour.

Can’t wait to see everyone next week!

TLAM,

Liz

Eileen McHugh ’15: 4K for Cancer

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Eileen McHugh ’15, Chatham, NJ

Last summer I worked at a financial firm, a windowless box where I faxed documents and made copies all day. This summer I was looking for an adventure and I really lucked out! Image

I’m riding my bicycle 4000 miles across the country with a program called the 4k for Cancer. It was started about 12 years ago at Johns Hopkins as a ride from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to San Francisco. 4 years ago a non-profit called the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young adults adopted it and the ride expanded. Now there are trips, all starting in Baltimore, heading to San Fran, San Diego, Portland, and Seattle.

16569_10200357833448084_1226008824_nThe trip is 70 days, there are about 30 kids per team, and we all have to fundraise for the Ulman Cancer Fund in order to ride. I’m still working on fundraising, the link to my page is www.4kforcancer.org/profiles/eileen-mchugh

 

The trip so far has been awesome, we’ve seen some fantastic scenery! We’ve pedaled around the Great Lakes, through some National Parks including the Badlands, Yellowstone, and Glacier and climbed some ginormous mountains ranges like the Appalachians, Big Horn, Rockies and Cascades!

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We’ve done some service events as well. We’ve stopped at Hope Lodges and Ronald McDonald houses along the way. With the money we fundraised, Ulman elected a candidate and we awarded a scholarship (a giant check!) to a young adult with cancer!

Fun fact: we ride in all kinds of weather and average about 80-100 miles a day!

TLAM,

Eileen

Emily Caldwell ’14: Summer 2013

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Emily Caldwell, ’14, Charlotte, NC

One of the benefits of having a summer that runs from mid-May through the end of August is the abundance of time to engage in many experiences.  This is my last summer before graduation in the spring, and I have been staying busy.  After spending a short time at home recharging, reflecting on my summer to-do list, and many early mornings at the gym I left for Hanover, New Hampshire where I was a student at the Tuck School of Business for four weeks.  The four week business “bridge” program is a crash MBA course in subjects such as marketing, corporate finance, and managerial economics.

While in Hanover I had the great good fortune to be able to spend some time with Deb Carney, and meet another Theta alumna, Kirsten Teevens, whose husband is my brother’s football coach at Dartmouth.  It was wonderful to meet such an accomplished and interesting Theta, especially with such an unexpected connection to my family!  Though I was thrilled to be able to meet new Thetas, I was also excited to get to know my classmates at Tuck, and have the chance to catch up with some old friends from high school over the Fourth of July.

I left Hanover on the seventh to move into a dormitory at Suffolk University in Boston to start an internship at a financial institution located downtown.  The location of the dorm is fantastic because it is close to everything.  I can walk to Faneuil Hall in ten minutes, or the Charles River in twenty, and Boston Commons and the Boston Public Gardens are a quick walk across the street!

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Rowing on the Charles River

I am excited to have the opportunity to row 3-4 times a week on the Charles River, and the boathouse isonly a 15 minute walk from the dorm.  I can take a single scull out on the water Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30am (6:30 on Saturdays, hooray for sleeping in!).  It is really wonderful to be in a boat again, and it is an excellent learning experience as I improve my skills in a boat I am relatively unfamiliar with.

On the eighth of July, I started a two month internship in the Investment Management and Trust division of a Boston financial firm. I am working with both the Operations, and Compliance/Regulations   areas within the division.  It is interesting to see and learn about the different kinds of work that go into supporting the smooth functioning of a financial institution.  I have been involved with a number of projects that include consolidating account models (from eighteen to six), reviewing approvals for disbursements from pledged accounts, and reconciling naming standards for accounts on the east and west coasts, and then creating a new naming standard.

While I learn a lot working on these projects, the most interesting part of the week is attending the IPC (Investment Policy Committee) Meetings on Tuesday mornings.  The meeting involves multiple offices of the firm , and covers events from the past week in municipal markets and equity markets, as well as discussion on how current events, such as the Federal Reserve’s intent to taper its purchases of bonds in 2013, or who President Obama will nominate as chairman of the Fed , affect markets.

When I am not rowing or working, there is quite a lot to do in Boston.  My roommate, Laura, who is a Spanish medical student studying in Barcelona, and I take full advantage of the free fitness classes on the Esplanade by the Charles River on weekdays.  And, just this past weekend, we went to Gloucester, MA with a few other girls from Barcelona, also medical students, to go whale watching.  I will never have difficulty remembering the Spanish word for whale again!  And, believe me when I say that speaking whale in Spanish is as entertaining as in English (is anyone else ready for Finding Nemo 2?).

I will return to Swarthmore after my internship ends on August 30th.  I am looking forward to seeing all of you again!  Enjoy the rest of the summer!

TLAM,

Emily Caldwell