Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Experiencing Abroad

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

As a sophomore, the past week or so my Facebook newsfeed has been littered with classmates’ statuses, rejoicing their acceptance to study abroad in the fall.  It has made me wonder: what is the real deal about going abroad?  How do you pick which program to attend? If you were wondering the same thing, you are in luck.  Thanks to the lovely student advisors at the Bing study abroad programs, who have volunteered to share a little bit about their study abroad experience in order the demystify it for the rest of us, I will be highlighting 2 programs every so often. So you will eventually get a peek into every study abroad program (except the Barcelona consortium cuz they don’t have peer advisors). Soooo to all you students thinking about applying second round to go abroad in the fall and don’t know if you should, this is for you!


How Stanford is Redefining Cool

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The $2.8 billion tank top? High-grossing Avatar brought Stanford's "cool cachet" to the silver screen.

Stanford has pretty impressive street cred.

I started to catch on to this when I watched Avatar for the first time.  James Cameron’s carefully-crafted CGI masterpiece may be one of the most meticulously constructed cinematic works of our generation.  Which is why I was so surprised to encounter a truly glaring instance of product placement: Sigourney Weaver‘s avatar wears a bright red Stanford tank top.

It’s easy to write this off as clever marketing (though the University was in no way involved) or simply an homage to Weaver’s alma mater.  But it’s not actually that simple.  Stanford has unquestionable purchasing power: not just as a highly-valued institution, but as a cultural symbol of an almost paradoxical confluence of brainpower and, well, coolness.

In this instance, Stanford is identified with the environmentally-conscious “good scientist,” with a confident and powerful female protagonist who is literally trying to save her world.  To those familiar with the Farm today, these are certainly resonant themes on campus which validate our claim to  “coolness.”

But Avatar is only the tip of the iceberg….  (Get it?  James Cameron directed Titanic….)

The Ubiquitous Stanford T-Shirt:

Just like Weezer, we're doin' things our own way and never giving up.

Primed by the Avatar incident, suddenly I was seeing Stanford T-shirts everywhere.  This is almost no surprise, as few universities have a T-shirt design as consistent and uniquely identifiable as ours.  But the numbers are staggering: there are 828,000 Google hits for “Stanford T-shirt” and only 269,000 for Harvard and 694,000 for Princeton.  Google doesn’t lie.

The cultural icon: The Blues Brothers shows how the Stanford T-shirt's cool power spans generations.

The unifying theme I noticed was the context in which the shirts appeared: Stanford T-shirt wearers are cool.  In the case of Sigourney Weaver, it’s a badass scientist working with state-of-the-art technology to revolutionize the way we interact with the world.  In The Blues Brothers, Mr. Stanford Shirt and his fellow concert attendees are, by and large, a bunch of young, fun-loving twenty-somethings rocking out for charity.  (Dance Marathon, anyone?)  The presence of the Stanford T-shirt in Weezer’s “Troublemaker” music video is yet another perfect distillation of Stanford’s pop culture power.  In the video, Weezer and their fans seek to break numerous world records, pushing the boundaries of the possible and having a blast while doing it – a parallel to Stanford’s prominence as a research institution.  On a more obvious level, the lyrics of “Troublemaker” can be seen as an analogy to the Stanford entrepreneurial attitude.  As the bold West Coast foil to the traditionally-grounded Ivies, we are indeed “doin’ things [our] own way and never giving up.”  You’re right, Rivers Cuomo.  “There isn’t anybody else exactly quite like [Stanford].”


A Final Plea for Sudan

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Tensions run high in the southern regions of Sudan

Sudan is less than 48 hours from a historic precipice.  Depending on whether the Southern Sudan referendum passes on January 9th, Sudan will either descend into renewed anarchy or emerge triumphant with the hope and promise of a more peaceful future.

As you may remember from my earlier article when George Clooney and John Prendergast visited Stanford, the current referendum in Sudan proposes the splitting of Sudan with the hopes of preventing future religiously and economically motivated violence.  With very high stakes in the form of oil-rich regions, this option is one of the few viable solutions for finally obtaining peace in the tumultuous Darfur region.  In a frantic, last-minute push, Prendergast and Clooney have returned to Sudan to implore the Sudanese government to seriously consider the referendum and begin taking the necessary steps to protect all Sudanese people.

Supporters of secession

If you’re writing the Sudan issue off as another distant tremor in war-torn Africa, please think again.  Consider for a moment the movie Hotel Rwanda.  Just a decade ago, during our lifetimes, genocide in Rwanda led to the death of 800,000 citizens.  Not combatants.  Not soldiers.  Men, women, and children who were raped, shot, and slaughtered by machete.  In Sudan, we have a new Hotel Rwanda waiting to happen.  The very thought that something like that could happen under our watch is truly bone-chilling.

Our generation can do better.  Our generation can stop genocide before it begins.

The clock is ticking, but the battle’s not over yet.  If you care about the people of Sudan, if you empathize with the thousands of displaced refugees and heartbroken widows this conflict has produced, please consider doing the following to make your voice heard:

  • Sign a petition at  ask Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough (Obama’s point person inside the White House on Sudan) to “make sure Sudan’s leaders fully comply with the benchmarks for progress in both Darfur and South Sudan before any incentives are granted by the U.S. Government.”
  • Write a personal letter to Obama himself:  ask him to remember the January deadline.
  • Join STAND, Amnesty International, or any of Stanford’s other anti-genocide groups on campus.

Vanishing Act: Amelia Earhart Mystery Solved?

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

"Queen of the Air"

If you were ever a second grade girl, chances are good that you once wrote a report about Amelia Earhart.  If you were anything like me, you were really, really excited to read about this pioneering aviatrix whose daring transatlantic and record-setting flights shattered early 20th century misconceptions about the role of women and earned her the nickname “Queen of the Air.” And then you were promptly really, really bummed when you read that she disappeared in her prime while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.  Sigh.  You finished your report, gazed briefly at the speculations surrounding her untimely disappearance, and started your fractions homework.  You moved on.

Like you, the world had largely forgotten about Amelia since her 1937 disappearance.  That is, until December 14th, 2010, when researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) announced their possession of a fragment of what they believe to be Amelia Earhart’s finger bone.

After 22 years of rigorous research and 10 grueling expeditions, we can say that all of the evidence we have found on Nikumaroro is consistent with the hypothesis that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan landed and eventually died there as castaways.”  – Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR Executive Director

2001 satellite image of Nikumaroro Island - Earhart's final resting place?

Since the 1980s, TIGHAR’s Earhart Project has conducted global satellite sweeps in hopes of finding clues to Earhart’s death.  Back in 1940, a British colonial officer found a partial skeleton along with a woman’s shoe, a wooden box that once contained a sexton, and discarded remains of turtle shells, clam shells and birds in what appeared to be a campsite on the uninhabited coral atoll of Nikumaroro Island.  Tragically, these traces were lost over time, but because Nikumaroro lies close to where Earhart disappeared, TIGHAR chose to focus on this site starting in 1989 and sent 10 investigatory exhibitions to the island in the years to come.


Star Power for Social Good: Clooney and Prendergast Speak Out on Sudan

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Usually at the start of an event article such as this, I’d provide some background, some details on the event, maybe a few witticisms, and wrap up with some related resources.  And I will.  Just not yet, because that is not the point.  If you take nothing else away from this article, give this sentence your full attention:

Sudan is at the precipice of civil war, and YOU can do something to prevent the next genocide.


  • A Sudanese child soldier: the very real human consequence of inaction in Sudan

    Sign a petition at  ask Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough (Obama’s point person inside the White House on Sudan) to “make sure Sudan’s leaders fully comply with the benchmarks for progress in both Darfur and South Sudan before any incentives are granted by the U.S. Government.”

  • Write a personal letter to Obama himself:  ask him to remember the January deadline.
  • Join STAND, Amnesty International, or any of Stanford’s other anti-genocide groups on campus.
  • Participate in Stanford’s Darfur Fast:  Nov. 17th, all-day, with breaking of the fast 6-7:30 p.m., 1st floor Tresidder Union.  Register here, suggested donation $10.  Proceeds benefit the Darfur Stoves project.
  • Purchase a STAND Beat Cal Sudan T-shirt:  30% of proceeds go to the Darfur Stoves project.
  • Buy food at Jamba Juice between November 10 and 19, mentioning STAND or Darfur Fast, and a portion of the proceeds will go to Darfur Stoves.
  • Use social media to spread the word!

Our generation can reverse the tide of racial genocide and use creative diplomacy to prevent future atrocities.  Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?


Stanford… where opportunity knocks (you out)

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

When I work my tour guide shift at the top of Hoover Tower, I’m often reminded of the scene in The Lion King where Mufasa shows Simba the view from Pride Rock.

“Everything the light touches is our kingdom.”

The Lion King - clearly the best Disney movie of our generation

From my wind-chilled vantage point atop Stanford’s most prominent landmark, this is practically the case.  When I gaze from the faint tree line of SLAC to Campus Loop and back around to the Dish, I’m constantly reminded of how lucky we are to be here.  As Stanford students, we are blessed with the world’s third-largest contiguous university campus.  With 8180 acres (96 times the size of Disneyland Park!) to explore, we enjoy an almost overwhelming abundance of physical resources.

I’m writing this blog to encourage YOU, Stanford students, to take advantage.

We’ve got just four years on this slice of paradise, and to prevent you from suffering an acute case of FOMO (in addition to mono from FMOTQ, God forbid), I’m beginning a blog series on some of the most incredible resources at Stanford that you’re probably not taking advantage of.  Read up, choose your favorites, and bask in the benefits of a Stanford-enriched existence.  I promise you will not be disappointed.


Dalai Lama Sand Mandala in Arrillaga (say that five times fast!)

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Tibetan monks work steadily at their sacred art

Five Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in south India are creating a beautiful table-sized sand mandala in the lobby of the Arrillaga Alumni Center.  This mandala-in-progress, which began construction on Thursday, is being created to honor the current visit of the Dalai Lama.  Anyone and everyone is welcome to watch the masterpiece in action today through 5 p.m., Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday, Oct. 19, 9 a.m. to noon.

The creation of a sand mandala is a meditative process for those involved

I stopped by this afternoon to check out the meditative artwork, and it’s definitely well worth the visit.  “Mandala” is a Sanskrit word meaning cosmogram or “world in harmony.”  According to UNI, Buddhist sand mandalas are “sacred designs created by hand using compasses and chalk lines, which are filled in, grain by grain, with colored sand.”  Accordingly, mandalas had been a closely guarded secret visible for centuries only in Buddhist monasteries to those who had completed a twelve day initiation ritual.  Fortunately for us, in recent years, monasteries and other groups have made mandalas more accessible to the general public.  Mandalas are intended as vehicles to generate compassion, to remind us of the impermanence of reality, and to create a social and cosmic healing of the environment.


The World According to San Francisco

Friday, October 15th, 2010


Click the image for a larger version.

I say “Dalai,” You say “Lama”

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that I am woefully ignorant when it comes to the Dalai Lama (although less full of woe thanks to Kristi’s great background post on His Holiness), but I was still jittery with excitement as I flocked to Maples Pavilion this morning with hoards of students and visitors.  I was eager to hear the man himself speak, and in my opinion, he did not disappoint.  After a brief introduction by President Hennessy, the Dalai Lama began to address the packed arena (but not without a bit of jovial debate beforehand about whether he should sit or stand while speaking.  For those of you salivating to know, he did, in fact, stand)

Although flanked by his long-time interpreter, His Holiness spoke to the crowd in English in a low, raspy voice.  During his lecture – entitled “The Centrality of Compassion in Human Life and Society” – His Holiness discussed both the religious and secular justifications for compassion in life.  He argued that regardless of faith, there are numerous reasons to engage in compassionate behavior (my favorite being low blood pressure).  The Dalai Lama stressed that in order to achieve happiness for ourselves, we must incorporate not only compassion, but also trust, into our lives.   The argument was simple, but the message powerful.  In our wildly complicated world, the Dalai Lama can serve as a reminder that sometimes the path can be clear and simple – even if following it isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

While I could go into more detail about the specifics of what was said during the lecture, I’m sure a script will soon be available online for the interested, so I’ll defer.  His Holiness’ talk was followed by a question-and-answer session led by James R. Doty, Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research (CCARE), which hosted the event along with the Stanford School of Medicine and the Office for Religious Life.   Questions were submitted by attendees prior to the event, and included topics such as “Does scientific research on human qualities such as compassion reduce human morality to mere chemical reactions?”  To which the Dalai Lama replied that the mind, at least at the moment, appears to be a far more complicated thing than simply the combination of physical occurences.  How else, he pointed out, could different emotions – happiness, laughter, sadness – result in the same physical reaction of tears?

Although many interesting things were said during the talk, the most striking part of the experience from my perspective was His Holiness’ absolute lack of pretense.  I find it amazing that as renowned and revered a man though he his, his demeanor is completely free of pomp or stiffness – his shoulder sans chip, you could say.  Even from my seat way in the upper deck, I could easily feel his famed humility and good humor.  From unabashedly asking to be reminded the title of his talk to happily recounting anecdotes about his childhood, the Dalai Lama managed to set a informal tone without compromising the sincerity of his message.  His entire attitude was that of someone who doesn’t take himself overly seriously – a true anomaly at a place like Stanford, where taking ourselves seriously just might be a prereq for admission.

Crash Course: the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

So we all know that the Dalai Lama is a really big deal.  But do most of us know exactly why?  Probably not.  Have no fear; here’s a primer on everything you need to know tomorrow to understand and appreciate the importance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

What’s in a name?

The literal derivation of the phrase “Dalai Lama” comes from a combination of the Mongolian word Далай “Dalai” meaning “ocean” and the Tibetan word བླ་མ “Blama” (the b is silent) meaning “chief” or “high priest.”

The meaning behind the name is more complex.  The Dalai Lama is the head Buddhist leader of the religious officials of the “Yellow Hat” branch of Tibetan Buddhism.  He is believed to be the rebirth of a long line of tulkus – high-ranking lamas, or spiritual teachers on Dharma (duty) – descending from Avalokitesvara, “the Lord who looks down” and the embodiment of the compassion of all of the Buddhas.

Becoming the highest lama:

The current Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Thondup on July 5, 1935 to a poor farming family in Tibet.   He was barely three years old when a search party sent out by the Tibetan government to find the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama arrived and swept the young boy off to Kumbum monastery where his training would begin.  He began his monastic education at the age of six, when he began studies in logic, Tibetan art and culture, Sanskrit, medicine, Buddhist philosophy, poetry, music and drama, astrology, motre and phrasing, and synonyms.


The Rice is Right: Why We Should Follow the Ambassador’s Ideas for Sudan Policy

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

By Marloes and Judith Sijstermans, student anti-genocide activists

UN Ambassador Susan Rice '86 has followed through with the advice she gave at her commencement address. (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

When U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice (Class of ’86) returned to Stanford to deliver the 2010 commencement address, she urged graduates to work towards positive change in the world. This week, she has backed up those words.

When General Scott Gration, US Special Envoy to Sudan, proposed a policy towards Sudan that would sideline Darfur completely, Rice spoke out as the lone dissenting voice defending millions of Sudanese people. Activists around the country have joined Rice in standing against the proposed plan, which continues the use of only positive incentives rather than consequences in dealing with Khartoum. Anti-genocide activists, including us students, are calling for President Obama to live up to his promises and to make this critical choice a positive turning point in Sudan policy. He has said, “I don’t intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye to slaughter.”

But Gration’s proposed plan for Sudan does just that. This new policy proposal deemphasizes the genocide in Darfur and contains few solid consequences. Like the World War II era policy of appeasement, Gration supports positive incentives for the Sudanese government if the January referendum goes smoothly. However, negotiation with Khartoum has proven to be an ineffective method in curbing violence, genocide and, corruption.

This year’s April elections were neither fair nor free, reelecting Omar al Bashir through a flawed and corrupt process. The Sudanese government has broken peace agreements time after time, and the violence and destruction continues in Sudan.

Is it Okay to Want North Korea to Lose at Soccer?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This puppet commits severe human rights violations when he's not coaching his national soccer team via invisible earpiece.

North Korea is a terrible place for human rights, and there’s a macabre irony to their inclusion in the “Group of Death.” At the same time, however, they are the underdogs of the tournament: today they held steady against Brazil, the best soccer-playing country of all time, before falling 2-1. It’s really hard to root for a team representing a country that epitomizes much of what is wrong with the world, but it’s also hard not to root for a gritty team of soccer unknowns facing huge odds. What’s a political idealist/sports fan to do?

North Korea’s soccer team, like the country, is shrouded in secrecy. The team is ranked 105th in the world by FIFA, a mere ten spots higher in the rankings than Cape Verde, an archipelago country off the coast of Africa with 500,000 people and whose Wikipedia section on soccer lists all of the great players who did not play for the country and decided to play for European countries instead.

One of the reasons North Korea is ranked so low is that nobody knows anything about their team due to the complete isolation of the country. And despite the accomplishment of the team making it to the Cup for the first time since 1966, the people in North Korea will not see, hear, or know anything about what happens:

Unfortunately, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has banned coverage of the World Cup in North Korea unless their team wins the tournament, meaning that even if they perform well against Brazil, the citizens of North Korea will likely never hear of their side’s performance.

But what about those North Korean fans at the stadium dressed identically and cheering loudly for the team? Those, it turns out, are actors from China. North Korea gave them tickets to pretend to be fans of North Korea.

The North Korean fans in South Africa are paid actors.

At the World Cup, the North Korean soccer team mostly reminds you of North Korea itself. They have essentially no contact with any other team. The team tried to add an extra striker by listing him as a goalkeeper; then, when FIFA pointed out the rule that players listed as goalkeepers can only play that position, the team claimed that the player wanted to play goalkeeper and the team was doing him a favor. And the coach’s answers to press conference questions included angrily rebuking a reporter who did not call the country “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” and answering a question about the team’s prospects against Brazil by saying:

This will bring a lot of joy to the Great Leader, it will show that North Koreans have great mental strength.

What’s more, six players play their club soccer for a team called FC April 25, the official team of the North Korean army and named after the day the North Koreans started a war against Japan.

The North Korean-ness of the North Korean team makes it fairly easy for me to root against the team. But despite all of these aspects of the team and the country, the players seem surprisingly non-North Korean and, dare I say it, likable.


Five predictions for this year’s World Cup

Friday, June 11th, 2010

How was that to whet your footy appetite? With two games already in the record books, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is upon us, and that means that everybody who doesn’t live in the United States is really excited. It also means that those soccer fans who are unable to make the trek to South Africa want nothing more than to share their World Cup predictions with you, which is why three soccer-obsessed writers–Charlie, Ryan, and Josh–have come together to share their predictions on the event that will render them completely unproductive for the next three weeks.

Prediction 1: A Stanford grad will step onto the field.*
*Disclaimer: A Stanford grad will not make it past the first round.

Josh: Sorry, Ryan Nelson ’01 (B.A. Political Science)—it’s just not happening for New Zealand this year. To reach the World Cup, Nelson and Co. defeated Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, and Bahrain—countries (except for New Caledonia, which is not even a country) whose existence I only know of because of Sporcle. New Zealand, did, however, land in Group F, which is far and away the easiest group. Italy, the name-brand soccer country of the group, is looking fairly washed-up these days; Paraguay and Slovakia, the other two teams, are not exactly teams you’d expect to waltz (or, for Paraguay, salsa) into the second round. The weaker competition, though, means that New Zealand might be able to score a point, which would save them from being the worst team in the tournament. That honor will go to North Korea, who have a painful three matches against Brazil, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast.

Charlie: I don’t foresee Paraguay and Slovakia pulling out of the tournament or getting kicked out, which pretty much means New Zealand will only have three group stage matches before heading home.  At least they can root against the Aussies in the knockout stages.  I wish Ryan Nelsen the best in the tournament, but I hope he can soak it all in quickly.

Prediction 2: Just like in the Revolutionary War, England won’t win its match-up with the United States.

8.8 Magnitude Chilean Earthquake: Santiago Students Ok; 2 M Chileans Displaced

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

chile2neic_tfan.jpgUPDATE 2: Stanford has put out this release about the students currently in Santiago.
UPDATE: One student is in the hospital with a fractured pelvis and three fractured vertebrae. These injuries were sustained jumping off of a balcony during the main earthquake. Two other students were briefly unable to leave the village they were visiting south of Santiago, but are now returning to the capital.
An 8.8 magnitude earthquake rocked central Chile yesterday, leaving at least 700 dead and 2 million displaced from their homes. Santiago, Chile’s capital and home of one of Stanford’s popular overseas programs, was significantly affected by the quake–reports have said that the city shook for almost a minute and a half. All of the Stanford students studying abroad in Chile appear to be safe and unharmed (reporting made easier thanks to social media like Facebook).
One student in Santiago described yesterday’s experience as “scary as shit.” The earthquake was the fifth-largest since 1900, but the aftermath looks to be less damaging than the recent earthquake that wreaked havoc on Haiti:
“Because of better building standards and an epicenter farther from populated areas, the scale of the damage from Chile’s significantly more powerful earthquake was nowhere near the devastation that Haiti suffered.”
Hawaii, the site of another abroad program-to-be, feared a tsunami repercussion but those fears have since passed.
Our thoughts are with everyone in Chile (and Haiti).

Les Jeux Olympiques d’hiver

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

(For those of you who were annoyed by my pretentious use of French for the title of this posting: hey, learn to deal. It’s called enforced multiculturalism.)
The Vancouverites were all in a huff about the “exorbitant costs of the hockey pavilion” and the “grotesque amount of public funding being diverted into frivolous projects”. Et cetera, et cetera.
There is a ridiculous excess of grouchy garrulous radio pundits in Vancouver. I assure you.
But now that the Games have actually begun, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain that cynicism in the face of so much glittery figure-skating costume jewelry.
Things are really starting to become intense, now that Evgeni Plushenko has sashayed his way back onto the ice.
Take a study break from the rash of week 7 problem sets. Organize some form of dorm-wide TV advertisement-appreciation party, complete with intermittently interspersed clips of spandex-bound athletic types flouncing around snow-capped British Columbian mountains.

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