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Wilfrid Laurier University Centre for Student Success
December 6, 2016
 
 
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A Personal Essay on Grad School Proposals

A Personal Essay on Grad School Proposals
by Eric Vero

You look at the blank word document, and ask yourself: "Well, how difficult can it be to propose my research interests for grad school?" But, the cursor blinks, almost mocking you.

You have done so much thinking, postulating, and weighing your research options that you have a finely pointed idea, a gap in your discipline's knowledge. And, let's not forget, it's pretty exciting. So, now it's just a matter of inciting that same enthusiasm in a committee. With your words.

But, why is it so difficult to do that?

It's like trying to act natural, posing in a picture. What do you do with your hands? How do people even smile? How can you explain the obvious importance of your research topic after doing so much deliberation?

But, you write that first draft, because, darn it, you have a great idea, and passion for your work. You print it, and holding it in your hands, you can't help but be proud of all the work you've done.

But, you certainly don't have the hubris to think that it's perfect, because nothing ever is, and this thing that will decide the next year of your academic career is far too important. So, you send copies everywhere. Your profs, your peers, and even your mom, because why not.

You hold your breath, and brace yourself.

You're happy to receive criticism, and that's a good thing, because buckets of red ink splatter your draft. How could you have been so blind to these flaws? Because now it's so obvious.

Even your mom hides her criticisms, because she got list in your liberal use of jargon.

So, you go back to the drawing board, inspired by new ideas. You take out stacks of books to beef up your historiography sections. You pin outlines, notes, writing samples to your wall. You place a meticulously planned schedule on your fridge. You've created a cocoon. Congratulations! Your life is now writing the proposal.

So, you rewrite. Again, and again. You can only laugh at the absurdity of the myth of Theseus' ship. If you take a sentence away, is it still the same proposal? But, what if each proposal sentence has been gradually replaced, until now no original remains? Is it still the same idea? You've deconstructed it, and then have put back all the pieces together so many times, that you no longer know what you're trying to get at, and you no longer understand the concept of words.

This is all new to you. You're used to writing essays, in which you convince someone of an argument. This is where you try to convince someone to give you money to research something. And the stakes are high, because your readers are professional academics outside of your field. And there are hundreds of other applicants. All you can do right now is write, write, write.

Until the deadlines is around the corner. Maybe you'll be on top of things, or maybe you'll be polishing it the night before. But, once you click the submit button, it flies into invisible cyberspace. Relief floods through your body, as a great weight is lifted of your chest.

But, it is quickly followed by the looming anxiety of receiving an acceptance (or not). And, it's gonna be a while. But, at least you're done. Now sleep! Party! Do whatever you need to do. Because, if you should continue on in the sparkling ivory towers, you'll be writing many more of these.

If that helps.

A Tasting Tour of China

By: Guanglong (Zack) Pang

I have been asked questions by many people such as: “Do you think the Chinese food in Canada is AUTHENTIC?” and “What exactly is authentic Chinese food?” When I was a kid, my parents owned a restaurant for more than ten years. I put on quite a few lovely pounds by eating their food so I have developed sensitive radar for good Chinese food. By eating Chinese food everyday for 18 years (before I came here), my tongue also made me realize that many distinctive cooking styles and major ingredients have been adopted by different cuisines within the big category of Chinese food. I think it would be interesting for me to write this blog so I can take your taste buds on a “Tour of China”, while doing Chinese food some justice.

Within Mainland China, Chinese cuisines are diversified and have been fostered through thousands of years of history based on various geographical locations. Generally speaking, the most representative cuisines are the northern, southern and southwestern ones. Hold on to your taste buds because the tour of China first stops in the north. I was born in the northeastern part of China, bordering the mysterious North Korea. In the wintertime, northern China gets just as cold as Canada, therefore crops cannot be grown year-round. Instead of eating fresh vegetables, our smart ancestors invented a whole variety of pickled or dehydrated vegetables.

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vegetables

Surprisingly, in dishes they taste just as good as juicy fresh veggies and offer a different texture. Wheat, rather than rice, became the main staple of the north region because rice paddies were rendered useless in cold temperatures when technology did not exist. In addition, northern Chinese ancestors needed hot food to fight off the cold weather, therefore hot stews and sizzling stir-fries were especially adored.My must-order dish is literally translated as fish-smell pork. This wonderful creation has the ingredients of sliced pork, peppers, carrots and wooden ear (black fungus) and is brought to life by a special fermented spicy bean sauce and finished up with a kiss of cilantro.I still don’t know why people name it “fish smell” because I think it smells much better than fish.

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fish smell pork

Next stop, you’re brought to the south of China to indulge your taste buds. Canton and Fujian are the top provinces representing southern Chinese cuisines. The most famous foods include Char siu, which is pork grilled in plum sauce and honey, and the steamed goodness such as meatballs with whole egg inside.

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Char Siu

Sugar is used much more frequently in the southern cuisine than anywhere else in China. My favorite is the stretchy sweet potatoes, in which sweet potato wedges are deep fried more than just once with the perfect timing so that the outside is golden brown and crispy and the inside is as creamy as butter. A coating process of caramel sugar then synergizes with the wedges. Although people from the south have warm weather 365 days a year, which means an endless supply of fresh veggies, they still decided to make a variety of sweet pickled veggies, which shows how much those southern residents love sweet stuff.

Now you need some hot stuff to wrap up your tour. I present the southwestern Chinese cuisine, in another name you may know as Sichuan spicy food. This is not your regular spicy food you can find anywhere in an American-adapted Sichuan restaurant. They will lose their business if they didn’t warn you to eat at your own risk.Take a look of the picture of Sichuan hotpot. This boiling heaven doesn’t have rules, which means you have absolute freedom to decide what you want put in your pot and binge on when it’s ready. You can put in sliced lamb, beef, pork or any meat. Trust me that vegetables and mushrooms in the hotpot will revolutionize your traditional thoughts for their tastes. The core for the hotpot is of course the soup. The soup is a stock made from boiling pig bones. Under low temperature but prolonged simmering, all the essence and flavor will escape from the bones and swim into the stock. On top of that, the soup is harmonized with a huge load of super hot peppers that are rinsed by extremely hot oil beforehand and the peppers are cooked immediately. You think that sounds hot enough? How about some more help from the prepared spicy sauce. That’s how you make the authentic Sichuan hotpot. Although Sichuan people don’t eat hot pot 365 days a year (but probably 250 days), most all of the foods they eat have to be spicy.

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Sichuan hotpot

This “Tour of China” by no means is enough to show you the broadness and diversity of Chinese food. There are even more branches within the northern, southern and southwestern cuisine. I guess the only way to find out and truly experience those Chinese cuisines is by flying yourself to China and judge for yourself the amazing foods. What do you think?

This Sentence Has Five Words

This Sentence Has Five Words

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Where Can I Practice "Good" Writing?

Where Can I Practice “Good” Writing?

By Nicole Gatchene

Good writing is like riding a bicycle, except that the bicycle is your pen and the pavement beneath your wheels is a road of ideas.

It’s a cheesy phrase, but it took writing that sentence to realize the comedy of the phrasing.The point is: good writing takes practice.

Students may struggle to write academic papers after going an extended period of time of not writing. This is especially prevalent after returning from holiday breaks or being in an assessment-heavy program that seems to suddenly start assigning essays where they were never required before.

So how can you keep up your writing skills polished all-year-round and be ready to tackle written assignments?

It takes practice and, perhaps, a change in how you define “writing”.

There is a misconception that when a student is not writing essays, they’re not writing at all. This is not the case whatsoever.

In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary (10th ed.) the word “write” is defined as “to form (as characters or symbols) on a surface with an instrument (as a pen),” (Merriam-Webster, 1999, 1367).

When you think of writing this way instead of it being something that strictly pertains to the creation of essays, you’ll notice that you’re actually doing a lot of writing; you just didn’t realize it.

Writing does not have to be formal. It can be anything from crafting an email to writing a diary entry. When you’re writing an email, you’re constructing a communicative piece intended for other readers to understand; this is almost like a persuasive or informative essay. When you’re writing a diary piece, it’s reflective writing.

So with a new definition of writing, the next thing you can do is make a commitment to practicing. Whatever type of writing you do in your spare time, it will help to maintain the skills needed for completing assignments such honing your communication skills or increasing your vocabulary.

Ultimately, you should do something you enjoy. For me, that’s writing diary entries. This will be different for everyone, and that’s okay. You might be interested in writing: short stories, poems, blogs, or “refrigerator” memos. As long as you’re putting ideas to some kind of surface using characters or symbols, you’re writing.

So get on that bicycle and go on a literary adventure of your creation. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Don't be Afraid. It's Never Too Late to Try.

Don’t be Afraid. It’s Never Too Late to Try.

by Guanglong Pang

Some of us appreciate the beauty of determination for a life changing transformation. Some of us may have learned examples teaching us the principle that it’s never too late to try. This blog post takes you on a third person perspective to take a look into the life episodes of a chubby Chinese boy who grew up outside of Canada. He went through the same growing journey that many boys and girls may experience at some points in their lives. That is life; lots of times life is harsh and we get frustrated. Indeed, the chubby boy got frustrated so many times because he had a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. He learned his valuable life lesson from his transforming experiences that it’s never too late to give something a shot and make a change. He needed to fight for a change, for the people he loved and for himself.

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In elementary school, he never had real interest in any subject. He was horrible at math and miserable in English class. Chinese as his mother tongue was the only subject he was ok with. In his school, getting good grades were above everything else. Sports and Phys Ed classes were minimized and for some semesters they didn’t exist at all.Even if there was a sporting event, it wouldn’t be his turn to shine. Teachers always wanted to discuss his school work with his parents when school was done. He was always the last one to get dismissed because his parents and teachers seemed to always have endless conversations and to give concerned sighs. At home, he had his Nintendo GameBoy in his hands all the time and eventually, his parents had to hide it away from him in order for him do better at school. His parents enrolled him in after school study sessions on the weekend. He didn’t like those sessions and was forced to go and sometimes, he would escape right after his parents dropped him off at the place. He hated school and the fact that he couldn’t just play games all day long, but he was a big dreamer.

His parents owned a restaurant and he liked to eat very much so he was a little bit overweight. Adults pinching his round face joked around with him telling him that he was cute, but deep down inside he knew his peers wouldn’t think the same way as those adults.Day by day, instead of thinking about math, he increasingly disliked his body and wished he was born in a slim body, like the slim character from the anime he watched.

When he got into middle school, school work became more intense. The size of his school was so huge and over one thousand students from different classes sometimes had to do group exercises together. This could get awkward for him as he was an extreme introvert with low self-esteem. He made some friends who were in the same shape as him and played the same video games with him. His mind was even more occupied by those video games, leaving less room for studying. Almost the same style of life repeated for most of his middle school years, but things slightly changed when he was fourteen.

One day he woke up from sleeping in his English class. He was observing his English teacher explaining grammar with his half-opened eyes. Out of nowhere from his sleepy and blank mind, he had a flash in his head, a thought that he wanted to learn English and be at least good at one thing. He went to the English teacher’s office with the courage he never had before. He gulped a mouthful of air and told his teacher he needed attention from the teacher in his class and he would try hard. Almost all teachers would say the same thing: “I will help you if you try”. The chubby boy knew that his teacher was being nice and didn’t actually have much expectation for him. That night, he started marking his English textbook with Chinese definitions for those words he didn’t know. That was a huge project because he only knew yes, no and one sentence, “I like bananas”. He tried to memorize the stories from his English textbooks. From that time till he graduated from middle school, all his English books were marked with intense clusters of words that no one else would like to read except him. All students had to take the High School Entrance Exam at the end of middle school. For English, the chubby boy scored 127 out of 150, which confirmed his hard work. He never felt so accomplished before and he realized he had English as a starting point to try even harder in high school.

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In order to keep himself from thinking about playing video games, he reached an agreement with his mom to attend a private boarding high school. Every week, he left school on Saturday night to go home and went back to school on Sunday night. He continued improving his English, and his confidence was lifted because of his English. He started giving a great deal of his attention to math and other subjects. Teachers noticed his dedication and he steadily improved his academic performance. What’s more, a school track coach told him he had potential to run competitively. He was overwhelmed by that compliment and decided to train himself hardcore. When his friends were playing, he was either studying or running. He took his summer breaks as opportunities for training. As you might have expected that intense training will make a person lose weight. He lost 40 pounds by the end of his second year of high school. He was good enough to run for the school track team and made it into the provincial competition. He was satisfied enough and devoted more of his attention to his academics. At the end of his high school, he earned respect from teachers by his high academic achievements.

In the national University Entrance Examination, which determined which university high school students could attend, he made his whole family proud, especially for English where he scored extremely high. His grades were high enough to apply for most of the top universities in China, but his mom surprised him one day by telling him he could try to study in Canada. A shivering feeling pulsed though his body. He didn’t expect that at all and never thought about studying abroad. His mom asked him if he wanted to take the chance and grant his life an unforgettable and meaningful change. He was confident in his English but come on, studying abroad? Just thinking about using English every day, not to mention using English in lectures, made him nervous. You know what, people always dare to do scary things even when they know it will be tough. The high school graduate said yes to his mom and started using his English on a whole new level. He was not sure where his future would direct him if he left home and ventured to Canada, but one thing he was sure about was that at that time, he needed to work so hard so that he could find the answer in the future.

I hope you are enjoying what you’re reading and have guessed who the chubby boy was. I came to Canada to study at Laurier only six months after I graduated from high school. I came here alone to seek a better education. I wanted to make myself grow not only personally but professionally. I knew it would be very challenging to study in a country where people speak another language, but I was willing to take the chance because I wanted to expose myself to more opportunities. The memories that I had when I got off the plane in Canada are still fresh in my mind. So many times I doubted myself for my capability, and I ran into so many frustrations during my journey studying abroad. I had times when I tried so hard that I burned myself, and I had times when I didn’t work hard enough that I had regrets. A valuable lesson, however, I have learned from my experiences and the same lesson I’m still learning is not to be afraid to make a change because of the negative aspects of your childhood or your past experiences. It’s never too late to try.

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