The Whole Me

Author: Emily Vincent

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Applications are hard. I remember grappling with the challenge of college applications the fall of my senior year, and the stress it brought me. How do I pare myself down to the bare bones of test scores and scholastic awards without losing what makes me myself? My GPA didn’t tell admissions counselors that I had a killer drive on the basketball court. My SAT score couldn’t portray my ability to strike up and sustain a conversation with just about anyone, or my knack for getting people to open up. I threw my application at a handful of Ivy League schools and was disappointed, but not altogether surprised, when I received only small rejection envelopes in return. It was a game of numbers and fast facts rather than a genuine interest in who I was and what I could bring to a community.…

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A Friend of a Friend

Author: Emily Vincent

During the past eight weeks of conducting my independent research about foreign NGOs in China, I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet a number of people who are, quite honestly, really cool. It takes a certain type of person to decide to live and work abroad, especially in a place as culturally different from America as China is, but it takes several extra measures of dedication and perseverance to build an organization dedicated to helping others. Even pre-regulation, starting a foreign non-profit NGO was incredibly difficult. It required (and still requires) a delicate balance of well-placed interpersonal connections, discreet loophole finding, and a commitment to creating a way when one can’t be found.…

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Taiyuan Travels

Author: Emily Vincent

Taiyuan Church Outside Ev

This past week, my research brought me to the city of Taiyuan, the capital of China’s Shanxi province. Taiyuan is a relatively small city compared to Beijing, but its population size is still comparable to Chicago. Crazy, huh? My main purpose for this visit was to speak with an American couple who work on the head administration team for a foreign NGO operating in the area. My discussion with them was both insightful and interesting, and made my trip quite worthwhile in itself for the perspective it added to my research. However, it seemed a shame to return straight back to Beijing without first experiencing the unique character of Taiyuan.…

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A Lesson in Humility

Author: Emily Vincent

My Chinese teacher once told me that the easiest way to distinguish between a native speaker and an American who has studied Mandarin is to offer them a compliment. The native speaker will respond with “nali, nali” while an American will respond with “xie xie”. What’s the difference here?

“Xie xie” is the Chinese word for thank you – it would seem to be the obvious and correct response when someone compliments you. The word “nali” in Chinese, however, translates to “where”. When one is offered a compliment, this is the polite and humble response to defer praise, similar to responding “where? what are you talking about?” as though one could not be the object of this praise because it is too great.…

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Charting a Course

Author: Emily Vincent

Although I’ve only attended Notre Dame for 2 years, I’m already on my third major. How does this happen, one might ask? I had never truly believed the advice of people who told me to study what I was passionate about. I was convinced I could just put my head down and grind through the coursework of what I considered to be a “good” major, no matter how much I disliked it. It took a semester of Chemistry classes, followed by two semesters of International Economics classes, to finally realize that it was not worth it to spend my time fighting the natural inclination towards classes that aligned with my true passions: humans, travel, and China.…

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