Weekend in Beijing

Author: Emily Vincent

Jake

This past weekend was the Chinese celebration of Qingmingjie (清明节), a festival which involves honoring one’s ancestors through burning offerings of paper money and sweeping ancestral tombs. While this meant hordes of Chinese people were travelling to spend time with their families, it also meant a long weekend for the students in my program! I decided to travel to Beijing for a jam-packed highlight tour, and also to visit some of my friends from summers’ past.…

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Church on Sunday

Author: Emily Vincent

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When it comes to attending mass at Notre Dame, I’m absolutely spoiled with options. In addition to Sunday mass, every dorm also offers at least one additional weekly mass that builds community through a themed social time afterwards. For example, Ryan Hall hosts Waffle Wednesday mass, where my dormmates and I can receive both a homily and a Nutella-covered waffle in a one-hour span. Dillon Hall’s Milkshake Mass is especially well-attended on campus, as you might imagine. In addition to the 60+ weekly mass opportunities that this adds up to between all the dorms, there’s also formal mass in the Basilica at a variety of different times. In the past three years, I’ve been to mass in my pajamas and in my Easter best, at times ranging from 9AM to 11PM.…

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Looking Through the Window

Author: Emily Vincent

Ciee Window

It’s been a busy first full week of classes in Shanghai which, along with academic stimulation, also brings a more subtle challenge: Where do I sit?

As any college student will tell you, establishing “your” seat early on in the semester is critical in ensuring your desired outcome from the class.…

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Study Abroad: Shanghai

Author: Emily Vincent

Ecnu River

你好 (Hello) from beautiful 上海 (Shanghai)! I’m writing this blog post from across the globe, where my study abroad adventures in China have just begun. Because of the way the Chinese New Year falls, the spring semester in China begins in late February and runs into the summer. In practice, this meant that I had a wonderful 10-week long winter break to spend with my family, but it also meant that I was waiting at home while all my friends either returned to campus for the spring semester or took off for their study abroad sessions. All that aside, I am now happily settled and (mostly) over my jet lag here at East China Normal University in Shanghai.…

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New Year's Resolutions for Prospective Students

Author: Emily Vincent

I have a bit of an unorthodox approach to New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I don’t see the appeal of setting January 1st as the first day of holding yourself to whatever overzealous goals you’ve set for the year, but are you really setting yourself up for success? Do you really feel prepared to be your best self the morning after a late night where you have most likely overindulged in the cheese platter?

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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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