Spotlight: David Loughery

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Notre Dame boasts a slate of highly motivated and interesting students who often meld multiple academic passions. This month’s spotlight, David Loughery, a CSLC Peer Tutor in Chinese, is certainly no exception. Professor Liangyan Ge of the East Asian Languages Cultures’ (EALC) Chinese department nominated our current spotlight because Loughery has uniquely combined his majors of Civil Engineering and Chinese language. Under the tutelage of Professor Ge, Loughery has translated a professional engineering article about recycling concrete from Chinese into English. He is currently translating a Notre Dame engineering article on the same topic. This time, Loughery is translating the article from English into Chinese to submit for publication in a Chinese engineering journal.

From Lansdale, PA, a suburb of Philly, Loughery has a certain motivational spark that stands out. He is a student in the Reilly Arts & Letters/Engineering dual-degree program, which typically takes five years to complete. Impressively, David will graduate in 4 ½ years, even after spending an entire year studying and working abroad in Beijing. One of his motivations for overloading each semester (20 credit hours to him is a “light” load) and graduating early is to return to Beijing in January before he enters graduate school next Fall. “I have housing arrangements starting in a few months, and I want, desperately, to go back again soon.”

International Resume

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For a busy student from the suburbs, Loughery has built a fairly inspiring international resume of experiences. He has traveled in England, Canada, and Japan. Linguistically, Loughery is proficient enough to “speak and understand a smattering of German,” a skill which he credits his three years of high school German and his childhood years spent with his “Pennsylvania Dutch grandparents who spoke low German.” Chinese, however, is a profound passion that Loughery discovered when he began his journey at Notre Dame. He did not think twice about the incredible commitment and demands of adding Chinese to his already busy Civil Engineering schedule.

“I started studying Chinese freshman year because it seemed interesting and a challenge...I basically fell in love with it, went abroad, discovered that it can be quite a benefit along with my other major (civil engineering)...”

Besides eating “congee” regularly on the streets of Beijing, Loughery’s most memorable cultural experience occurred during Chinese New Year:

“I'd literally JUST touched down in the [Beijing] airport, coming back from Christmas at home, when I was met by a friend at the gate who told me we'd...been invited to join some acquaintances for dinner and a party overnight. I'd been awake for about 36 hours at this point and was feeling none too confident about my ability to actually talk to people who spoke little or no English, but I went along with it. As it turns out, it was one of the most enjoyable nights of my life. Mountains of good home-cooked food...and when midnight hit we stepped out onto a pedestrian footbridge to watch the sky literally light on fire; 360 degrees of amateur fireworks.”

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Outreach: Local and International

Loughery personifies the humanitarian ethos that many Notre Dame students demonstrate: generosity of spirit and caring. In high school, he volunteered and worked at the local Catholic homeless shelter in Philadelphia as a tutor and mentor. Also, with his rowing crew teammates, Loughery volunteered at the local food kitchen. When funding for the team’s volunteerism ran out, the team members pooled their own funds to buy and deliver food. In his freshman year at Notre Dame, Loughery earned a research grant to work on the summer’s sustainability project for the Civil Engineering Department. In Beijing, Loughery was an ESL instructor at a school that primarily served the disadvantaged children in the area.

University Experience: Combining Arts & Letters and Engineering

To the linguistic and cultural University neophytes, Loughery offers practical advice: explore every option. Speak with professors, become familiar with various University programs, and take advantage of all the University resources. For Loughery, the CSLC is a resource that has played a special role:

“The CSLC has been a way of staying in practice, making friends, and passing on whatever knowledge I can to the students who are going through the same struggles I did freshman and sophomore years. If I weren't working here I doubt I would still be able to speak or read half so well as I can.”

He also encourages students to study for an extended period of time abroad to gain greater language proficiency and confidence. “At a certain point, when you get competent enough at a language, you stop viewing interactions as a challenge and start looking at them as an invitation; I'm glad I took the invitation that night [on Chinese New Year].”

Loughery’s extended time and academic and work experiences in Beijing have certainly advanced his Chinese language and civil engineering goals. In his first semester in Beijing, Loughery knew he wanted to combine his Chinese language goals with his civil engineering goals. He studied for another semester in Beijing as well as worked as a college-prep counseling aid for Chinese students the following summer. The additional time in Beijing allowed Loughery to pick up “specialized vocabulary” for his civil engineering major and to increase his conversational skills. Loughery’s commitment to learning Chinese has already garnered him recognition. Professor Liangyan Ge states of Loughery:

“He has always been a diligent and conscientious student in our language classes with different instructors, but I want to nominate him because of the way he makes use of his language skills--he is now translating his Engineering professor's paper into Chinese to get it published in a Chinese journal. I think that is remarkable and exemplary for all foreign language students at Notre Dame.”