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Alternative Spring Break Phoenix 2017

In 2016, I spent my spring break in New Orleans through EC Alternative Spring Break, frequently abbreviated as ASB. The trip was so transformative for me that I eagerly applied to be part of ASB once again this year. I was one of 19 students who was part of the trip, which was without a doubt one of the highlights of my college experience.

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Kazan – Istanbul of Russia


East of Moscow lies the major city Kazan, the capital of the republic of Tatarstan. Many moons ago during the 12th-century Turkish people, referred to as Tatars, settled in Russia. They have their own language, tradition and republic within Russia, so I guess you could think of it as a state, where it has its own capital but within the same country.


Going into Kazan, I knew there were two major things that needed to be accomplished: Gander at its unique architecture and eat Tatar food. Since Russian Tatars trace their roots to Turkey the religion of Islam is widely practiced in Kazan, which is why you see a lot of mosques in this city.


One of the most famous mosques in all of Kazan is the Qolsarif mosque, which is located inside the kremlin walls (yes, there are more kremlins in Russia than the one in Moscow). Its beautiful exterior was breathtaking with its white bricked marble walls and glimmering deep blue domes on top. Simply standing before its presence keeps you in awe.


It’s unique because Russia usually has such special buildings for churches, considering that a huge majority of Russians are eastern Orthodox. But to have a mosque within the kremlin walls displayed as a prestigious point of interest emphasizes the uniqueness of Kazan since it celebrates something that is non-Russian.

Aside from the mosque, other public and residential buildings within the city are more modern-Europeanized. The city’s architecture is accented with Italian and French designs that can also be found in Saint Petersburg. Of course, the entire city is not built like this—beautiful residential buildings are occupied by government officials or rich Tatars, while the average Russian still lives in the same old gray communistic apartment buildings.


But enough about buildings—let’s talk food! Since Tatars have their own culture and traditions, it only makes sense that they have their own type of cuisine as well. Tatar cuisine is similar to Russian in terms of their baked goods, where they have different types of baked breads stuffed with savory meats, cheeses or potatoes. The variety of baked goods range from Echpochmak, Balesh, Baklavesh, Chak Chak, Peremyach and Kictibi.

Everything was delicious and unique on its own, but the one thing that really got me was their sweet snack called “Chak Chak.” Even popular among Russians, Chak Chak consists of chopped-up dough that is fried and then coated with honey. It actually reminded me of my childhood. because in Taiwan we have something very similar to Chak Chak called “Sachima.” It’s so addictive that you can just eat it like popcorn!


Our time in Kazan was short-lived since we only had three nights to spend there. But it would be worth revisiting, especially in the summertime, when the weather is beautiful. This summer, the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be hosted in Kazan!

For The Kids

We were told to sleep during the day as much as possible, since from 10:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m. we would be wide-awake. This wasn’t a problem at all for me; although I remember thinking it was kind of weird to hop in bed late mid-day with my alarm set to wake me up around eight in the evening. My hands were still stained purple and pink, results of tie dying team shirts a few days before. In my head, I repeated the dance that we had to learn to be done every hour on the hour. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or even if I could make it the entire 12 hours locked inside the gym. Emmanuel College’s Dance Marathon (ECDM) had officially begun.

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Getting a Jump on Success

During the college search process, certain features of different universities stand out. The first school you toured may have the prettiest campus, but the second one definitely has the best business program. These key features are especially effective once your many college options begin to blend together; I know mine started to. For me, Emmanuel’s shining feature is one of the reasons why I decided to choose this school. Emmanuel prides itself on supporting and guiding its students to internship opportunities that lead to success (and a career!) after graduation. Internships are important for gaining professional experience, building a résumé, and networking. In order to prepare for an internship, students are encouraged to take a pass/fail pre-internship program offered through the career center. Read more

To and Fro

After all the pig’s feet, roast pork belly, braised fish and some other home-cooked meals from my mom, the day going back to the airport couldn’t have arrived any sooner, and I was looking forward to flying back – well, everything except the big layover in Amsterdam. After being a couch potato on the plane for 14 hours, spying on Instagram and filtering photos, arriving at the airport in Saint Petersburg and seeing the “dobro pozhalovat” (добро пожаловать – welcome) sign was that feeling of “YAAAAAAASSS.”

After five months of studying and living in cold and scary Russia (sarcasm), I had decided to go home and pay a visit to my family. There was excitement – from going to see my parents, my grandma and rice. But also, there was an exciting feeling of knowing I was going back to the “motherland” after what would be a short 12-day visit in the USA.

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Starting my final semester

I recently began my final semester at Emmanuel College. My courses this semester are extremely interesting to me, and per usual, they are taught by incredibly passionate faculty. The semester is off to a great start. Still, the first day of school was a bittersweet day, because I am so sad to think about graduating from the school I love calling home. But it’s hard to be too sad when I think about everything I have to look forward to before Commencement in May.

This week is Founders’ Week at Emmanuel College when we celebrate both the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and Emmanuel College. I’m part of The 1804 Society here on campus, an organization dedicated to living out the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame. We are the students responsible for planning Founders’ Week. I’m looking forward to inspirational events like the annual Follow Your Heart Dinner, where faculty and staff share their stories. I’m also excited for the fun things like a paint night we’re having. One of the highlights of the week will definitely be the 100 Days Celebration, a tradition which marks that seniors are 100 days away from graduating. As a class officer, I have been working to put this event together, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the night with my classmates.

Next week, I will travel to Washington, D.C. with EC Youth in Government for the 5th Annual Campus YMCA Congress National Assembly. Emmanuel attended this event for the first time last year, and we were extremely successful. We were named chapter of the year, and I was appointed to the 2016-2017 national board. I’ve been working hard to plan this conference with my fellow national officers, and to help prepare my fellow Emmanuel students as the chapter president. At this conference, students write and present their own bills on issues they care about. We get to meet and debate on Capitol Hill in spaces the legislature actually uses. It is such an incredible experience. We are currently one of the only Boston area schools that attend, and I am so grateful for all the support EC gives us to make our participation possible. Read more