The class of 2020 is having an unusual final semester, to say the least. While it is no replacement for a graduation ceremony, we thought it would be nice to have a little feature for each of our graduating seniors.
Today’s featured student is Nick Meissner from Seabrook, New Hampshire. Nick is a History and International Relations double major.
What are your favorite hobbies or activities?
I enjoy going on hikes, working out at the gym, running, traveling, reading, cooking breakfast, and playing the piano.
Why did you become a history major?
I have always been interested in history since high school. My favorite aspect about history as an academic study is the diversity of it; you could be studying a specific year in a specific country and realize how many other events occurred that same time elsewhere – or perhaps how one event can lead to many others. There’s never a limit to what you can learn in history.
What is one book from a history class that will stick with you?
One book that I will always remember is To Live by Yu Hua. I read it for Modern China with Professor Masur. It is a historical fiction novel about the life of a farmer named Fugui from China. He and his family experienced dramatic changes among themselves throughout the twentieth century including the Communist takeover in 1949, the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, and the Cultural Revolution in 1960s. The son of a landlord who lost it all, Fugui ended up an honest and caring peasant. Despite all the pain and hardship he endured, Fugui harbors no sense of “resistance” in his mind since he lives simply to live.
What is a fond memory you will have about your time as a history major?
A fond memory I have as a history major is when I presented my thesis in Fall 2019. After devoting months researching my topic and writing out a long essay about it, nothing felt more rewarding as I shared my most important findings to an audience at the student center. My thesis topic was the United States’ involvement in the counterinsurgencies during the Guatemalan Civil War in the 1960s.
Who was the most interesting or intriguing historical figure that you learned about while at Saint Anselm?
Perhaps the most intriguing historical figure I learned about – and that I didn’t know already – would be Hong Xiuquan (1814-64). We learned about Hong both in Modern China and Asian Civilizations. He was the messianic leader of the Taiping Rebellion in southern China who believed himself to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ and who designed a pseudo-Christian religion with Chinese trappings. What made him stand out for me was how close the Taiping rebels were in overthrowing one of the world’s most powerful imperial dynasties. What is noteworthy about Hong’s story is, after the Taiping’s defeat by the Qing Dynasty, the emperor had most records about him and his movement destroyed. As a result, there isn’t a lot of contemporary information about the man who nearly reversed centuries of imperial rule.
If you could live in a time and place that you studied, what would it be?
I would live in Meiji Japan during the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. It would have been eye-opening to witness the rapid industrialization and Western-styled modernization that transformed Japan from a series of feudal domains to a centralized parliamentary state recognized by the rest of the world. Moreover, one would have certainly viewed the growth of Japan’s empire that made it the first outside Europe to do so.
Do you have any plans after graduation?
My plan is to attend graduate school for Foreign Policy next spring, and in the meantime find a part-time job teaching nearby as specialist in history.