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HP ENVY Recline 23 and 27 TouchSmart AIO fill the gap below the desk

With the dawning of the age of touchscreen friendliness with Windows 8 in the PC world, HP has made more than one innovative move in filling every gap that appeared in usability options, this week with the HP ENVY Recline series. The ENVY Recline 23-k030 TouchSmart All-in-one, ENVY Recline 27-k050 TouchSmart All-in-One, and special Beats Audio edition Recline 23 all offer a neck and a base configured uniquely to hold up a touch display for your ever-expanding list of wants and needs in the massive display-toting PC market.

The way you use these desktop machines is up to you. HP has been clear in saying that they’ve made these machines to respond to user tests of all manner of touch and non-touchscreen devices, finding the range of positions the average person uses said devices in, and crafting a device that can do it all. What you get is a display that’s light enough to be positioned on a neck that holds it up as a base that’s heavy enough to hold the whole amalgamation up without tipping.

You can push the display up to be 90 degrees (standard, that is), or pull it down to any angle down below where you’d normally have to stop on a standard adjustable display. Here you can also pull the display down over the side of whatever surface you’re on – a table, more than likely – so you can use it in a way HP found users worked with most comfortably – on a touchscreen, that is.

The 23-inch model here works with an Intel Core i7 processor and 1920 x 1080p display resolution with 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 SDRAM memory under the hood – expandable to 16GB. Also under the hood is an NVIDIA GeForce GT 730A dedicated graphics card with 1GB DDR3 dedicated memory.

The differences between this model and the Beats model with the same size display are in the look and in the audio power they both possess. UPDATE: And the Beats Edition works with an Intel Core i5 processor rather than the standard 23-inch model’s Intel Core i5 architecture.

While the standard 23-inch model works with a dual speaker setup and an optional subwoofer, the Beats edition works with quad speakers and a subwoofer standard. Both devices work with Beats Audio software and audio enhancements. The Beats edition is also red and black while the standard edition is silver and black – one is a bit louder than the other in more ways than one.

Meanwhile the 27-inch model ENVY Recline TouchSmart AIO works with a 1920 x 1080p display backed up by 4th Generation Intel Core i5 processor technology and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 730A graphics card. This setup is paired with 1GBDDR3 dedicated memory as well as 12GB PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 SDRAM memory – that’s 8 and 4GB expandable to 16GB. This larger model also works with NFC built-in and the same speaker setup as the standard 23-inch model.

The 23-inch ENVY Recline TouchSmart All-in-one PC will be available starting on the 6th of September for a cool $1,349 USD while the Beats Edition (available on the same day) will be a bit cheaper at $1,249 – that’s what you get for knocking out a bit of processor power for a bit heftier speaker construct.

HP also notes that “other configurations” (of the 23-inch PC) will be available later this fall starting at $1,099 USD. The HP ENVY Recline 27 TouchSmart All-in-One PC will be hitting stores on the 6th of September as well for $1,399 USD.

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Do The Locomotion: 207 Tons And 4,400 Hp

by Edwin Fotheringham

You didn’t know locomotives had emissions regs? Neither did I. I assumed that the 207-ton iron gorilla of the wheeled world damn well did whatever it wished. But the new Tier II standards require substantial cuts in NOx and particulate matter, and GE, one of the world’s major locomotive manufacturers, has designed a new engine to meet them handily. The engine has an air-to-air turbocharger intercooler that lowers induction-air temperature to only a few degrees above ambient, for cleaner emissions and more power. Not only is the new GEVO 12 four-stroke diesel 40 percent cleaner than its predecessor, it’s three percent more fuel-efficient as well.

A modern locomotive is a hybrid. The diesel doesn’t drive the train; it cranks an alternator, which powers the six huge electric traction motors that actually turn the locomotive’s wheels. Each motor is set transversely between a pair of drive wheels. On an Evolution the electric motors will put out a total of almost 60,000 pound-feet of torque at start-up–the equivalent of about 120 Ferrari Enzos–good for a zero-to-60 time, unloaded, of just shy of 45 seconds. Rather longer, though, if you’re dragging a 17,000-trailing-ton coal train.

The traction motors also brake the train. When the driver (“engineer” no longer being the term) wants to slow down, he turns the motors into generators, reversing the field so they’re making electricity rather than consuming it, and are thereby magnetically resisting the turning of the wheels. This is a lot cheaper than replacing brake shoes, which won’t last long if asked to hold back a train that is as heavy as a tramp freighter. The wheel brakes are used only at slow speeds and to bring the train to a complete stop.

The excess current produced is dissipated by a series of big, fan-cooled “dynamic-brake grids,” effectively the world’s largest hair dryer, near the top of the car body, toward the back. Does the grid actually glow, I ask lead systems engineer Mike Schell? “It does when it catches fire,” he says with a straight face. But even with the blowers at work, you wouldn’t be able to tolerate the compartment where the grid lives.

The accountants in a railroad company hate hard braking, especially if it means replacing tracks scalloped by sliding steel wheels. But almost every day it happens somewhere in the country, typically at grade crossings. The biggest danger a loco crew faces, up there on the pointy end of the engine, is not the high-speed Casey Jones crash but the drunk in the pickup truck trying to weave through the crossing gates at three in the morning. “People think trains can stop like cars,” says GE product-line manager Peter Lawson. Clearly people are not thinking. It can take half a mile to panic-stop a loaded train.

Since four-bar crossing gates that completely block the road are roughly twice as expensive as the standard two-bar gates, railroad companies are loath to install them. Indeed, many rural crossings are still totally ungated, which means that a train has to stop so the driver’s helper can climb out and physically halt traffic. There’s nothing much a loco driver can do when approaching a gated crossing but blow the horn, particularly if he’s ballin’ the jack to stay on schedule. And with increasing numbers of municipalities passing no-horn-blowing-after-midnight noise-pollution regulations, even this weapon is being disarmed. Granted, a train weighing thousands of tons is going to turn even a 4-ton dually pickup into shrapnel, but the front end of a locomotive is not a nice place to be when the blast goes off.

The Evolution driver sits in a kind of glass cockpit, behind two large CRT monitors upon which he can call up some 30 different graphic pages of instruments, gauges, graphs and information, with a separate monitor for the helper. Every aspect of the engine’s health can be tracked, and GE monitors most of its locomotives remotely, via GPS and an OnStar-like link to the Erie factory. The telemetry will spot a fault and transmit data to the closest service shop, telling the technicians what the problem is. They will alert the crew to stop if the problem is urgent.

Toughest duty for a crew is not a zillion-ton coal drag two miles long. No, the worst kind of trip features a bunch of ungated crossings as well as car exchanges that require the drivers to constantly climb in and out of the train.

Still, between each of the alerter resets, humans are in control, and they can lose control. GE’s short test track in Erie ends “in a pile of dirt and a nice old lady’s yard,” says Lawson, “which we’ve needed to landscape a couple of times.”

The Fate Of Pcs At Hp: 10 Questions

How’s that for a heady Thursday: HP –the world’s largest PC manufacturer– announces that they aren’t really into the whole “building PCs” thing anymore, thanks to double-digit profit margins in many of the other facets of their corporate portfolio. It’s a sensible (albeit dramatic) decision, but one without a conclusion: options are being mulled, while foundries continue to crank out desktops and laptops that could very well need a new logo within the next year or two. This leaves lots of questions on the table.

If HP’s brand power is off the table, where will consumers turn? Is this IBM 2.0?

Spinning off their still-profitable PC business will help the company “focus on enterprise and SMB [small and medium-size business] segments where we can best leverage our value-add.” That’s a fair approximation of HP CEO Leo Apotheker’s statement during Thursday’s earnings call, in response to why HP is considering ditching the PC business. Only that quote comes from IBM CFO Mark Loughridge from a conference call back in 2004, when IBM announced they were leaving the PC business for the greener pastures of Enterprise support and software development.

That deal proved to work out in the long run for both IBM — who has gone on to make strides in supercomputing and AI development — and Lenovo, who has since become an international player in the PC market. If HP does sell off their Personal Systems Group, will their future be as bright?

Who would buy HP’s PC division, anyway?

Back in March, the rumor mill was buzzing (briefly) that HP was planning to sell off its PC business, with Korea’s Samsung as the most likely candidate to make an offer. Those rumors were quashed as merely rumors by all parties involved, but, in light of yesterday’s announcement, could a deal be back on the table? It would make sense for Samsung — the corporation has made a strong showing with its laptop wares, with machines like the Samsung Series 9 ultraportable making a strong impression. Snapping up a juggernaut like HP could make a lot of sense for Samsung.

If a foreign company did take the reins, what happens to the HP brand and employees?

When Lenovo purchased IBM’s PC business, IBM received a chunk of cash and an 18.9 percent stake in Lenovo. Lenovo took over manufacturing the hardware, while IBM remained the “preferred services and customer financing provider.” Lenovo also got to keep the IBM branding for 5 years, as well as absorbing 10,000 IBM employees. What would the future hold for so valuable a brand?

What happens to my warranty?

When Lenovo took the reins of IBM’s PC business, IBM stuck around to offer technical support customers who suddenly found themselves owners of a Lenovo IBM PC. I can’t speak to the fates of the relative handful of hopeful consumers who grabbed an HP TouchPad or WebOS smartphone. But HP’s PCs are in millions of households around the world — there would be a lot of angry consumers if HP didn’t follow suit and offer warranty and technical support, in addition to driver updates so that folks don’t find themselves holding an orphaned PC.

Can HP’s PSG group survive as its own entity, on the strength of its products? Will whatever remains of the PSG take the same approach toward forward thinking, with Synergy and WebOS? What happens to the TouchSmart? And more specifically, TouchSmart software?

The All-in-One is what’s next for desktops. Large, lush, multi-touch screens coupled with massive hard drives and plenty of connectivity ports deliver the flexibility and performance we’ve grown to expect from large, stationary PCs. And you’d be hard pressed to find a similarly specced laptop that can compete on price, leaving room in your wallet to pickup an inexpensive All-Purpose laptop for on-the-go computing — or even one of those new-fangled tablets everyone’s talking about.

But the TouchSmart line stands out. Even if they didn’t always top the charts, I could count on TouchSmart All-in-Ones to be doing something different in the space. The TouchSmart software package made great strides towards making sense of Windows 7’s multi-touch gestures, giving users a legitimate reason to set the keyboard and mouse aside and get hands-on with their PC. Beats audio offered a legitimately improved aural experience — often a sore point for the All-in-One form factor. And then there’s the HP TouchSmart 610, equipped with a unique mechanism that slides the 23-inch screen down to a 30-degree angle, encouraging use of its multi-touch screen like never before.

But more importantly, TouchSmart PCs got better and better with every update. PC manufacturers are… stubborn. Case in point: Laptop manufacturers’ struggle to compete with Apple’s Macbook Air. HP bucked the trend here. Other companies (Apple included) leave their All-in-Ones largely unchanged — a slimmer chassis here, a curvier bezel there. HP consistently sought out ways to change and improve the user experience on their machines, from a software and hardware perspective. I can’t say they were always successful, but at least it gave us something different to look at down in the PCWorld labs. Would an independent PC division have the drive (or more importantly, the research and development resources) to carry on this tradition?

Is this (finally) the end of Compaq?

Oh right, Compaq. A familiar tune: they went from being the largest supplier of PCs in the world to being picked up by HP for $25 billion back in 2002. Their technology and products were shuffled into the PSG group’s various product lines. With HP’s PC business in limbo, what will become of this vestige of a vestige?

Should consumers steer clear of HP’s products?

Hp Laptop Computers And 2

All performance specifications represent the typical specifications provided by HP’s component manufacturers; actual performance may vary either higher or lower.

Multi-core is designed to improve performance of certain software products. Not all customers or software applications will necessarily benefit from use of this technology. Performance and clock frequency will vary depending on application workload and your hardware and software configurations. Intel’s numbering is not a measurement of higher performance.

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4G LTE module requires separately purchased service contract. Check with service provider for coverage and availability in your area. Connection speeds will vary due to location, environment, network conditions, and other factors. 4G LTE not available on all products, in all regions.

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NVIDIA® Max-Q Design can help reduce system heat and noise in thinner form factor PC’s.  Form factor design and thickness of the system will vary. Overall graphics performance may be lower than alternative graphics solutions that do not utilize Max-Q design.

Windows 10 and Windows 11/MM18: Battery life will vary depending on various factors including product model, configuration, loaded applications, features, use, wireless functionality, and power management settings.  The maximum capacity of the battery will naturally decrease with time and usage. See chúng tôi for additional details.

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Battery life tested by HP using continuous Netflix video playback, Windows 10 Netflix app, 150 nits brightness, system audio level 17%, headphone attached, played full-screen, wireless on. Actual battery life will vary depending on configuration and maximum capacity will naturally decrease with time and usage.

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Hp Chromebook X2 Review: A Better Bet And Bargain Than The Google Pixel Slate

HP Chromebook x2 specs and features

The Chromebook x2’s specs are not quite as fancy as the Pixel Slate’s, but as you’ll see later in the performance section, they keep up impressively well with Google’s pricier offerings. Here are the highlights: 

CPU: Intel 7th-gen Core m3-7Y30

Memory: 4GB LPDDR3-1600

Display: 12.3-inch 2400×1600 IPS WLED backlit

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615

Storage: 32GB eMMC

Ports: Two USB 3.0 Gen 1 (5Gbps) Type C

Wireless: 802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2

Cameras: Front 5MP, rear 13MP

Battery: 4-cell, 48Whr lasts up to 10 hours

Dimensions and weight: 11.5 x 8.32 x 0.33 inches, or 0.6-inch thick with keyboard 

Clunky and chunky with lots of logos

Despite offering a similar screen size as the Pixel Slate’s, the HP Chromebook x2 is quite different from Google’s tablet. For one, the bezels around the screen are noticeably wider, so the device is a bit larger all around. HP has used the extra room to put its logo on the front, which detracts from its orientation-agnostic aesthetic.

The Chromebook x2 is about a millimeter thicker than the Pixel Slate, but its flat sides make it feel even thicker. While that apparently wasn’t enough room to include a fingerprint sensor, we appreciate the headphone jack (missing on the Pixel Slate). The pair of Bang & Olufsen speakers that visibly jut into the left and right sides of the bezels sound fantastic.

Christopher Hebert/IDG

A hefty hinge on the keyboard ensures the Chromebook x2 won’t topple over.

The nicest part of the Chromebook x2 is the tablet’s back, which is made of white matte ceramic and feels smooth and polished when held. Detracting from the minimalism, however, is, you guessed it, another giant HP logo. 

A bundled keyboard that doesn’t match

Realistically, most of your work on the Chromebook x2 will be done using the keyboard base, which is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, HP has built a fantastic hinge that lets you use the Chromebook x2 like a bona-fide laptop, much like the Brydge keyboard for the Pixel Slate. Attaching it is super-easy, with pogo pins and a pair of support tabs. It feels sturdy when locked into place, and it works well on a table or a lap. 

Christopher Hebert/IDG

The Chromebook x2 is a little too big to use comfortably as a tablet for very long.

But even though it’s nearly as heavy (about 1.5 pounds) as the tablet it accompanies, HP’s keyboard feels somewhat flimsy. When the tablet extends steeply, the attached keyboard feels less stable. It also looks cheap, with a textured faux black-leather finish that’s somewhat reminiscent of a car dashboard. Finally, users may be aesthetically conflicted about the keyboard’s underside, painted Oxford Blue (as HP calls it), because it introduces a third major color to the design. 

Christopher Hebert/IDG

The Chromebook x2’s bundled keyboard has two tabs that hold the screen in place.

Christopher Hebert/IDG

That loop isn’t for carrying—it holds the bundled stylus.

Along with the keyboard, the Chromebook x2 bundles a stylus powered by a AAAA battery. You can draw, write and navigate with it, but there aren’t any S-Pen-style tricks, nor does it have the pressure sensitivity of the HP Envy x2’s extra-cost Digital Pen. There’s a fabric loop for it on the side of the keyboard, a good, if inelegant solution. 

Mid-range chip offers plenty of power

The Chromebook x2 is powered by a Core m3 processor. It might make for a slow PC, but it’s pretty perfect for a Chromebook, especially one that doubles as a light-work tablet. We weren’t surprised that it outpaced lower-cost models, but we were impressed with how well it kept up with Google’s far pricier Pixel Slate and Pixelbook.  That’s good bang for buck. (Remember, Google updates Chrome OS constantly, so it’s always a variable in our test results.) 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The HP Chromebook x2’s Core m3 chip kept up surprisingly well with the faster Core CPUs in the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate in mainstream tasks.

Running the Cr-XPRT performance benchmark (above), which measures everyday tasks such as web browsing and video playback, the x2 was nearly as fast as a Core i5, and handily bested a Celeron Chromebook.

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

In the broad Basemark test, the HP Chromebook x2 once again kept up well with its pricier Google rivals. 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Running Kraken JavaScript tasks, the HP Chromebook x2 trails the leaders slightly but is still a solid performer.

On the JavaScript front, the Chromebook x2 again placed behind the Pixel Slate running the Kraken benchmark above, where shorter bars are better.

While the JetStream benchmark below shows longer bars are better…

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Jetstream JavaScript benchmark shows the same result as Kraken for the HP Chromebook x2, just in reverse scale (longer bars are better): It’s the slowest of the fastest, still a good score.

…the result was about the same: The Chromebook x2 kept up pretty well with the Googles and lapped slower Celeron-based Chromebooks.

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The HP Chromebook x2 has a projected battery life of 12.5 hours according to CrXPRT, jibing with our usage experience.

The Chromebook x2’s performance numbers tell a compelling story. It might not be quite as powerful as the Pixel Slate, but it keeps up surprisingly well. HP could have crammed a Core i5 into the x2 and jacked up the price by $200, but the m3 is a nice tradeoff. An option to upgrade to a better processor would be nice, but for the money, the Core m3 Chromebook x2 is just the right about of speed and power for the vast majority of buyers.

Tripped up by the tablet interface

The Chromebook x2 only recently adopted a true tablet interface with the Chrome 70 update, and I have the same problems with it here as I do with the Pixel Slate. Mainly, the two interfaces don’t gel as well as they should, and switching between them is clunkier than it is on other 2-in-1 devices, namely the iPad Pro and Surface Pro.

Christopher Hebert/IDG

The trouble begins when you detach the Chromebook x2 from its keyboard base.

I had fewer problems with the Chromebook x2 than the Pixel Slate when it came to crashes and bugs, and Android apps ran as well as Chrome extensions. That could have something to do with the version number—the x2 is still running version 70, rather than version 71 on the Slate—or the simple fact that HP’s Chromebook has been on shelves longer, but whatever the case, the stability makes tablet mode feel more polished than it does on the Slate.

Christopher Hebert/IDG

The HP Chromebook x2 looks and acts like a standard laptop with docked.

Some changes need to be made before Chrome on a tablet can be taken seriously. The first change I’d make is to open the multitasking screen when switching to tablet mode. Going from floating windows to full-screen ones is a jarring transition. Jumping straight to the multitasking screen would better telegraph the interface changes. I’d also like to see Chrome adopt a version of Android Pie’s gesture navigation and picture-in-picture, two features that would be right at home on Chrome.

Should you buy an HP Chromebook x2?

The HP Chromebook x2 has its shortcomings, but compared to the pricier Pixel Slate, it’s by far the better bet and bargain.

Christopher Hebert/IDG

The HP Chromebook x2 sounds great thanks to a pair of Bang & Olufsen speakers.

At $600, the Chromebook x2 certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s far more affordable than the Pixel Slate. The Core m3 version of the Pixel Slate has a newer 8th-generation processor, and twice as much RAM and storage as the Chromebook x2, but it costs $200 more—and that’s without a keyboard a stylus. Add those things and you’re looking at nearly $1,100. To match the Chromebook x2 in pricing, you need to go all the way down to the slowest Celeron configuration of Pixel Slate, but again, that’s without a keyboard and pen.

Putting A Gap Semester To Good Use

Putting a Gap Semester to Good Use

At home in Mexico City, incoming BU student Inés Santacruz (CGS’22) with preserves from her company De Hogar a Hogar, the venture she started to help struggling women in nearby Las Perìtas. Photo by Maria Paula Villavicencio

Student Life

Putting a Gap Semester to Good Use  Undaunted by the pandemic, these four CGS students found ways to pursue their passions, help others

There are a million ways to spend a gap semester. 

In recent years, entering College of General Studies students—who take a gap semester in the fall before coming to Boston University in the spring—have climbed Mt. Fuji, produced films, even joined the Boston Celtics dance squad. 

In a pandemic, however, options are more limited—but that didn’t stop this year’s 611 incoming students from finding creative ways to spend their fall. 

BU Today spoke with four incoming CGS students about how the pandemic forced them to jettison their original plans and pivot. From Chicago to Hong Kong, here’s how they made the most out of their pandemic gap semesters. 

Inés Santacruz (CGS’22), Mexico City, Mexico

At home in Mexico City last spring, Inés Santacruz couldn’t help but feel lucky. Her family had been largely spared the economic devastation wrought by COVID-19, but she was keenly aware that families across her country were struggling. Mexico, with already high rates of poverty, was hit hard by pandemic-related job losses. Government relief proved sparse and slow to launch, leaving many households in dire circumstances, with rural communities feeling the worst of the effects.

Santacruz wanted to do something to help. In late spring she learned about a Santander Bank competition inviting high schoolers to submit proposals to help offset the economic impacts of COVID-19. She and her friend Sofia decided to enter—but they needed a concept. Santacruz thought back to a conversation she’d had with her family’s cook, Nadine, who’d told her that her home state of Michoacán was rife with unemployment, especially among women. The two young women wondered, what if they could hire women in Michoacán to make a product they could sell? 

Once the jars—which contain jams and preserves like strawberry-chia and pickled cactus—arrive from Las Perìtas, Santacruz sells them on an online marketplace. Photo by Maria Paula Villavicencio

They hatched a plan to create an organic jam and preserves venture. They didn’t win the competition, but the two launched their business anyway, De Hogar a Hogar, last summer. Santacruz secured funding from a family friend and within weeks, women in Nadine’s hometown, Las Perìtas, were making and canning jam from the produce growing in their yards. “Jam is one of the easier organic products to make,” Santacruz says.

“We ended up with 26 women, most of whom hadn’t worked before and depended on their husbands, who were now unemployed, for income,” she says. So they became the main source of income for their families. It’s been pretty empowering.”

Running a business at 18 has been a real learning curve, Santacruz acknowledges. She took a couple of courses in entrepreneurship and online marketing, which helped her organize the operation and widen her customer base. She received an offer to include her jams in a local company’s Christmas baskets recently and was invited to participate in a holiday bazaar. She plans to continue the company while at BU, with the help of friends and colleagues on the ground back home.

“These women depend on me,” Santacruz says. “This took us all out of our comfort zones. A lot of the impact of the operation, they’ve told me, is them finding out that they can be more than just housewives, and discovering new abilities and a perspective on life that involves them working. So they have a way to live now, with a source of income during COVID-19. It’s really cool.” 

David Yeung (CGS’22), Hong Kong, China

Yeung had so many plans. He took a full year off after graduating from high school in May 2023, planning to fill it with traveling, interning, and volunteering. He spent a couple of weeks visiting family in Guangzhou that summer, and even came to New York in early 2023 to participate in a six-month gap-semester program at the New York Times. Then COVID-19 hit the United States and it was game over. 

“All my plans had to change when the pandemic hit,” Yeung says. “I had to leave New York as soon as I could, and after that just go with the flow.” 

The thing is, Yeung was never particularly good at going with the flow. By his own admission, he’s always been a “structure” guy who thrives on schedules and productivity. Back home in Hong Kong, he was less than thrilled to find himself with no clear plans. 

“A lot of the internship was helping the editorial staff with whatever they needed, things like research and transcriptions,” Yeung explains. “But I also got to write my own pieces and pitch articles during the editorial meetings every month—my boss really threw me into the deep end once I started.” He ended up writing guides to neighborhoods and local hiking trails, doing field research when he could.

“When I was in high school, I was always busy with school stuff, so I didn’t have time to go out and explore,” he says. “The internship really helped with that. There are lots of places I haven’t been—it was really interesting and a good experience to get to know the city I grew up in.”

Looking back on his year, Yeung is philosophical. “I learned that there are other, bigger things in play than what I want or expect, and a lot of them are out of my control,” he says. “I can’t beat myself up over something I can’t control.” 

And, he did end up mastering the art of going with the flow. “You have to appreciate what you have in front of you,” Yeung says,  “and, you know, just chill.”

Sarina Zaparde (CGS’22), South Brunswick, N.J.

When the pandemic hit, Zaparde already knew exactly what she’d do during her gap semester: continue running the nonprofit she started when she was 13. 

Yes, 13.

Sarina Zaparde (CGS’22), here with some of the girls her organization helped, started Dress to Learn, a nonprofit that provides orphaned girls in India with free school uniforms and shoes, after observing a staggering gender imbalance in rural Indian schools. Photo courtesy of Zaparde

Growing up, Zaparde visited her father’s home village in central India every year, where she observed the obstacles girls her age faced to attend school. That’s if they could even go in the first place—in rural India, it’s not uncommon for families to finance a son’s education, but not a daughter’s, keeping girls at home for house and farm work. There’s also the threat of being sold into sex trafficking or servitude, which poor, isolated women and girls are particularly vulnerable to. Having access to education, Zaparde realized, could greatly impact a girl’s future.

Arriving back home after one such trip in middle school, Zaparde had an idea. With her parents’ help she established Dress to Learn, a nonprofit that provides free shoes and school uniforms to orphaned girls around rural India. As its website explains, schoolchildren in India are required to wear uniforms to ensure fair treatment of all pupils, and the price of uniforms is often a barrier for girls, especially if they’re orphaned.

“I thought the least I could do was to try to get uniforms [for these girls], so that they would be able to complete their education within their village,” says Zaparde, explaining that just donating money or school supplies, isn’t helpful because villagers will often sell donated items or use funds for other purposes. “This way, they have to use a uniform because it’s for their own specific school.” 

The cost of a uniform and shoes is $7. Since 2024, Dress to Learn has partnered with approximately 75 school clubs around this country to hold fundraisers—like walkathons, car washes, and talent shows—and has donated uniforms to more than 1,000 girls. The uniforms are commissioned from local tailors, “so we help the village economy as well,” Zaparde says. Shoes are measured on-site and distributed from Dress to Learn’s supply. Because children grow, she does her best to ensure that the same groups of girls get bigger sizes every couple of years. 

Zaparde at work in her room in New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Zaparde

She typically travels to India every year to distribute uniforms. But when the coronavirus made that impossible, Zaparde spent her gap semester at her computer in her bedroom at home, helping high schoolers raise money for Dress to Learn in their individual communities. (No car washes during COVID-19, she says.) She’s holding onto all funds raised amid the pandemic until it’s safe to restart operations.

In the future Zaparde hopes to partner with other nonprofits that help young women in developing countries, and says she’d like to implement a scholarship program to support ambitious students pursuing higher education. But those are long-term goals. 

“We’ve helped over 1,000 girls so far, and made a huge difference in their lives,” she says. “There was no numeric goal I set—I just had a mission in mind, which was making sure that girls actually got an education, and got something out of it. And the other part was making sure that kids here in America have empathy for people around the world. So I think it’s made a huge difference for both the girls we help, as well as everyone involved.”

Olujimi Taiwo (CGS’22), Chicago, Ill.

Taiwo was supposed to go to London for his gap semester.

He was set to intern for BenTV, a British TV channel serving expatriate Africans living in Europe. When coronavirus hit the continent, Taiwo’s internship became impossible. So instead, he spent his gap semester at home in Chicago.

“The first couple months were pretty brutal, mentally,” Taiwo says. He spent his days around the house, “basically trying to get off my ass and look for a job.” 

Olujimi Taiwo (CGS’22) on the job at the Amazon warehouse he worked at during his gap semester. Photo courtesy of Taiwo

Fortunately for Taiwo, a family friend eventually offered him an office gig with his company, the Nigeria Global Chamber of Commerce (NGCC). The NGCC is a network of businesses and industry experts in the Chicago area with Nigerian ties. It works to promote and grow members’ businesses through special events and seminars. Taiwo, who comes from a Nigerian family, helped with the administrative side of things. 

He took calls, sent communiqués to members, wrote bios for virtual event speakers, and in a couple of instances, designed posters for events. Although it wasn’t the glamorous experience he had hoped for in London, it was a paid position (he also later took a job at an Amazon warehouse), and a career-builder to boot.

Taiwo had originally considered majoring in film at BU, but since his time at the NGCC, he says, “I’ve been thinking a bit about entrepreneurship. I’ve been having thoughts about starting a clothing company that takes more traditional Nigerian clothing and gives it a modern feel.” He’s taking an innovation entrepreneurship class at the BUild Lab this spring. Also on the docket: a philosophy class, to “see how it goes.”

Taiwo finally got a chance to see BU this fall for the first time. He wasn’t able to visit campus before accepting admission, so he rented an Airbnb and snuck in a weeklong trip to Boston in October. His verdict? Excellent. 

“That trip made me so excited to come here,” he says. “The architecture was beautiful, and the other college campuses were gorgeous, too. I couldn’t really meet up with people or anything, but everyone seemed nice and friendly. I was also blown away by how compliant everybody was in the city—everyone had their masks. That visit really got me hyped.”

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