Student Sightings: From the People's Republic to Paris
Former Ledecky fellows blog about college counseling in Shenzhen, China; and about language, tourism, and advertising in Paris.
Two of the magazine's former Berta Greenwald Ledecky Undergraduate Fellows are writing blogs about their experiences abroad.
Brittney Moraski ’09, a fellow for the 2008-2009 academic year, is currently in Shenzhen, China, working as a guidance counselor for Chinese high-school students hoping to attend American universities. Her blog, College Counseling with Chinese Characteristics, is filled with observations and reflections drawn from her experiences so far. Her most recent post, "The Crisis Among Crises", is a somber reminder of China's continuing difficulties in dealing with mental-health issues, horribly dramatized recently by a spate of attacks on school children. "Testing Blues" should be required reading for American high-school students who complain about their workload; preparation for the gaokao, China's college entrance exam, is taken to extreme lengths. The reason for this is simple, Moraski informs us:
The higher you score, the more prestigious the school you will be able to attend. The better the university you attend, the likelier you are to get a good job from, say, a multinational or financial corporation upon graduation. As a result, two days spent sitting for an exam as an 18-year-old have the potential to set the financial trajectory for the rest of your life.
What has become more troubling to me, though, is the handful of students who write of dreams they have had but have let go because they are “far from reality.” I wish that these students had permission from themselves, from their parents, and from their society to believe in dreaming as an exercise in possibility.
Moraski's work for Harvard Magazine includes columns on libraries and nostalgia, a previous China experience and her own Harvard dreams, and her last weeks of college.
Spencer Lenfield ’12, a fellow for the 2009-2010 academic year, is spending the first part of the summer in Paris on a traveling fellowship, before heading to a summer study program in Cambridge, England. His blog, Up and Over in Paris and Cambridge, is engaging and engaged—one of his most recent posts is titled Word of the Day—"porte coupe-feu" (the word literally means cut-fire door), and tells of having to make an emergency exit from the Louvre. Other subjects include a humorous observation of McDonald's French advertising, death tourism, and une tartelette aux fraises. Reflecting on the language, Lenfield asks, "Why is it that I can get through pages and pages of Proust with only occasional recourse to a dictionary, but the simplest 'C'est gentil, merci bien' from an older lady on the subway takes me five seconds to parse?" In another post, Lenfield discovers the Orangerie museum:
The Orangerie is a small museum compared with the Louvre or d'Orsay—in fact, I'm not sure it's all that different in size from the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts at home—but it's pretty stunning if you like French Impressionism. The lower level alone would earn this: it has an amazing collection, consisting entirely of paintings, progressing in a more or less chronological fashion from Renoir to Cézanne, briefly highlighting the little-known and underappreciated Marie Laurencin (don't worry—I had no clue who she was until this afternoon either, though the paintings on display are actually pretty captivating), before plunging onward into a showy display of alternating Picassos, Modigilianis, and Derains that flows into Soutine and Utrillo at the end. It turns out that some of my favorite Cézannes—the ones I spent hours looking at in art books from the library in seventh grade, before it even occurred to me that I actually really liked looking at paintings—are in the Orangerie. Go figure.
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