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Curb Scholar Blog: Creativity through World Cultures and Languages

Posted by on Monday, November 10, 2014 in 2012-2015 AY, Uncategorized.

This blog post was written by Disa Yu.

Hello and welcome to our Curb Scholars blog! My name is Disa and I’m a junior from Potomac, Maryland. I’m majoring in mathematics, and minoring in scientific computing and Chinese language and culture. I enjoy running, reading the news, and travelling and learning about world cultures and world events. In the near future, I hope to improve my cooking abilities by practicing cooking vegetarian and pescatarian entrees and fruit-based desserts; grow a garden with vegetables and herbs and fruit (my ideal-model-garden is the Washington Youth Garden in the National Arboretum in DC, where I worked a few summers ago); learn the Indian philosophies enlivening yoga and practice physical poses of yoga; and running a half-marathon would be really cool too. I’m also going to be studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia next semester, which I’m really excited about. I’m looking forward to experiencing Australia– living its way-of-life, exploring Sydney and Melbourne, and hopefully learning how to surf!

An amazing aspect of the Curb Scholars program is that all of us express creativity in unique and personally-meaningful ways. While many Curb Scholars are most comfortable creating through music, writing, art, computer programming, theatrical productions, cooking, and many other activities, I am most comfortable creating through learning about world cultures and learning a world language.

Vanderbilt offers many living-learning communities, where students live together in dorms with a structured learning environment and a tight-knit community. In my opinion, McTyeire International House is the best living-learning community! The McTyeire program gives students the opportunity to practice speaking a world language in a casual and supportive setting. The language halls include Spanish hall, French hall, Chinese hall, Japanese hall, German hall, and Russian hall. There is also an International hall which speaks English and focuses on current events around the world. During weekly dinners, students in each hall eat together and converse in their world language. Each hall also has weekly student-led study breaks when they explore the culture of the places associated with their language. As an additional bonus, McTyeire definitely has the best food on campus and is the only buffet-style dining experience on campus (which means unlimited access to ice-cream and Nutella at every meal!).

I’ve been living on Chinese hall in McTyeire since sophomore year. It’s been a really great experience. It’s a close and supportive community, with wonderful people who care about the global-world outside of their own individual-world. Through our dinner conversations, I’ve gained more confidence in my ability to hold a conversation in Chinese. I’ve also expanded my awareness and appreciation for Chinese culture through our weekly study breaks involving a variety of engaging and amusing activities: playing Jeopardy with trivia on Chinese history, Chinese geography, Chinese language, Chinese food, and, of course, Mulan; playing “Go,” a popular Chinese strategy game; learning about Chinese artists I. M. Pei and Ai Weiwei; watching documentaries about Chinese food such as “A Bite of China”; watching Chinese entertainment shows involving celebrity fathers spending time with their adorable kids (called 爸爸去哪儿?).

McTyeire hosts many creative events involving world cultures. Every Halloween we have a pumpkin-carving contest; each hall carves images associated with their language-culture onto a pumpkin. This year, we won the pumpkin-carving contest with our pumpkin carved with a meandering dragon and the Chinese character for “luck” (福). The annual McTyeire dessert night is next week. For dessert night, each hall makes a dessert from their language-country, and then we feast on all of the desserts. Chinese hall is planning to make a coconut-milk tapioca dessert with bananas and possibly mangoes and persimmon. I’ve been asked to lead our dessert-making efforts; I’m feeling a bit apprehensive about leading the cooking-effort for something that I’ve never made before, though at the same time I’m excited about taking on the challenge of making a Chinese dessert to share with everyone.

I would definitely consider choosing to live in McTyeire as one of the best decisions that I’ve made at Vanderbilt. Living in McTyeire has cultivated my awareness and understanding of the world around me, and the living-learning experience has deepened my determination to become bilingual in Chinese. I have really enjoyed sharing culturally-motivated creations, like dragon-pumpkins and coconut-milk desserts, as a way to experience world cultures. A creative and stimulating environment like McTyeire has helped me develop my own creativity.

If you end up here at Vanderbilt, I wholeheartedly recommend for you to consider living in McTyeire!