Last year, I spent the entire summer working at ETS in Princeton, New Jersey, which is very close to home. Planning for summer 2011, I knew I wanted two things 1) travel farther 2) focus on architecture. The answer was MISTI.
MISTI (The MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) matches MIT students with all-expenses paid internship and research opportunities at various top universities, institutions, and companies around the world. Currently, there are 11 branches of MISTI (China, Japan, France, Brazil, Italy, Germany, India, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Africa). This summer, I have friends going to India, Japan, China, France, and Spain.
As for me, I’ll be going to Beijing, China. I’ve been looking at MISTI since CPW/orientation days, and it’s always been between China and France (although it’s actually possible to do MISTI multiple times!). You see, there is usually a language requirement to the MISTI programs and the two languages I’m really interested in are Chinese and French. Since I ultimately decided to concentrate in Chinese , MISTI-China was the logical follow-up. From mid-June to mid-August, I will be working with a professor in the architecture department at Tsinghua University (colloquially called China’s MIT), helping with public facility projects like schools – which is a hugeeeee contrast from normal coursework at MIT.
In a few days, I’ll be turning 20 years old. In my last days as an official “teenager”, I’m preparing all I can to travel alone internationally for the first time. Of course I’m excited about experiencing a different stream of architecture than what I’ve been exposed to at MIT…the food…the attractions…the shopping…and everything distinctively-Chinese China will have to offer. But as I anticipate the trip, I find myself looking forward most to reaffirming the reality of certain memories. So far, I’ve lived half of my life in China and the most recent half in America. But for some reason (probably by the essence of how memory functions), my memories of “China” are blurred. I recall images and dialogues sometimes…only to find that my immediate attempt to grasp harder leads to doubts of whether the memory had been real or just some vivid dream sequence from the past. So I’m interested in finding authenticity – the feeling of being in a completely different world…that’s also completely tangible… where my memories may have actually happened.
Hoping for favorable Internet conditions in China so I can blog there. :)
Edit: I just read Jess Kim(’10)’s entry about MISTI Japan, and I really appreciate her point about valuing the ethnic diversity in America. That’s something I think about all the time and recognize as uniquely-American. I haven’t really tried to articulate this thought in anticipation of my trip to China other than blurting out randomly “There will be Chinese people… in China… speaking Chinese…all the time…” My friends look at me with the no duh face…but what I really mean to say is Jess’s point about how homogeneity vs. diversity is such a strong force. I’ve grown to like being just another ethnic flavor in America. Homogeneity is so unfamiliar to me now – I can’t imagine living in a country composed of predominantly one kind of people, one shared heritage. But that is what I’m expecting to see in China and I can’t wait to see how reality measures up.