College can be a lot. Your social life and school work are no longer separate entities. You spend a few hours in classes, a few hours in dining halls, a few hours doing homework, a few hours relaxing, a few hours socializing, and then — BAM! — before you know it, you lose track of what's happening in the outside world.
I don't have a TV in my dorm room, nor do I have live-in parents to report recent happenings. I've found myself getting breaking news from Facebook and Twitter, which leaves something to be desired. What I've found here at Connecticut College, though, is that there are so many professors willing to incorporate recent events into their lessons, which helps me keep in touch with the goings-on of the world.
In high school, this would rarely happen. Coming from a public school, teachers were held to very strict, state-mandated guidelines, so they had little opportunity to veer away from the syllabus. In college, we take breaks from the syllabus all the time. In my American Studies class, for example, we were emailed to keep an eye on the events unfolding in Baltimore. We then discussed Baltimore in class — not as a way to abandon the lesson plan, but as a way to draw topical events into our lessons. I also had a friend tell me about a social justice class that discussed the way that Bruce Jenner's transgender announcement has been received by the public and by the media.
Even professors of classes that aren't quite as directly related to the news will reference recent events as a way to make their classes more relevant and applicable to the real world. Professors don't just lecture us about recent events, they create a dialogue. We are prompted to find our own connections between current events and syllabus work in a collaborative setting in real time.
While the school offers many forums and events relating to recent events, it's often easy to develop tunnel vision for your own busy schedule. The inclusion of news in the classroom is both convenient and educational. It's nice to be able to take a step back and tune in to what's happening around us in the present, as opposed to letting these events pass by and learning about them as part of a history class.
One of my favorite places on campus is the Arboretum — a beautiful place to reconnect with nature. After looking at pictures of the Arbo from Conn’s website, I knew that when I arrived on campus, visiting it would be one of my first priorities. When I first visited the Arbo, it was during mid-year transfer orientation; I went alone to see this captivating sight. At that time, it was winter and the water had frozen over. Trees were naked and revealed their skeletons. The frosty air nipped at my nose and I gravitated to the serenity.
I got to revisit the Arbo during springtime thanks to ArboFest, a sort of precursor to the highly anticipated Floralia. There was live music, dancing, people relaxing on the huge lawn, and perfect weather. While listening to the live singers perform, I sat with my friends, chatted and laughed. What made the whole thing special, besides hanging out with friends, was being in nature and sharing that moment of sheer bliss. After the music was done, everyone started packing up to leave.
I asked my friend if she would join me on a walk on one of the trails. Walking around, what really shocked me was the Arbo’s transformation from when I had seen it during winter. The water in the pond had liquified; the buds on the trees had blossomed; the sun was out. Spring was back in action. Just minutes from the center of campus, I felt completely sheltered from outside distractions.
Every day, I’m surrounded by invasive technology and I forget to relish simplicity and be in the moment. For some reason, nature always puts me in a pensive mood — and I love it. I loved being able to talk to my friend while she and I strolled along the trails. I will forever cherish the Arboretum, because it is the one place on this campus that never fails to remind me to stay grounded despite life’s pandemonium.
Fridays are usually Netflix days for me, but last Friday, I ventured out of my cozy nest and into the real world. I wound up going to two different a cappella concerts, two receptions, a floor party and a campuswide dance. It was a busy day, but really fun.
First were the a cappella concerts, which were the last concerts of the year, so I got to see some of my soon-to-be-graduated friends sing. Then there was some party-hopping with the aforementioned a cappella friends. The highlight of the night was the '90s dance. Sideways caps, M.C Hammer pants, and choker necklaces haven't been as ubiquitous on campus in decades. My friend Emma and I went in matching overalls, though she dresses like she lives in the '90s on a daily basis.
After a night of dancing like sullen, grunge teens from the '90s, a small group of my friends hung out in Cro, the student center. This hangout session later migrated to my room where, pooped out, everyone lounged around quietly listening to music.
It was an exhausting night, but so much fun. I wouldn't necessarily want to participate in all of those activities every day, but it's nice having the option to go out and be social when I'd like to.
When you attend Connecticut College, it's impossible to escape the buzz surrounding Floralia. The crescendo of excitement becomes contagious as the number of days to Floralia decreases. So, what is Floralia? Think of Floralia as Conn College’s Coachella — Connchella, if you will. It is a music festival and a favorite annual tradition. Rain or shine, Floralia looks good on everyone. Students wake up early, set up canopies on the library green to claim their spots, bring out sofas and folding chairs, dress festively, dance and hang out with friends. In other words, Floralia is to Conn students what Christmas is to children. In fact, on the day of Floralia, everyone greets each other with a "Happy Floralia!"
My Floralia experience started on Floralia Eve. I had some friends stay over in my room in Harkness House. I told everyone to arrive at my place with their Floralia regalia so that we could all see what everyone would be wearing for the next day. I smiled at my friends' creativity — a bit of something borrowed, something new and whole lot of Floralia! As I looked around the room, I realized how far I had come from being a transfer student who, just a few month ago, knew no one. Suddenly, the people in my room were friends. As the early Floralia wake-up crept closer, we found ourselves exhausted but excited for the big day.
With only four hours of sleep, I jumped from my bed so that my friends and I could set up our canopy. It was only 7 a.m. when we arrived behind Crozier-Williams, but already there were canopies set up all around us. As we struggled through the embarrassment of not knowing how to set up our canopy's legs and attach its fabric roof, our group’s effort and tenacity prevailed. Lo and behold, we had ourselves a lovely canopy.
Everyone migrated back over to my place to get ready for the busy day. We all dressed up, had breakfast and finally arrived back at our canopy. There was so much happening around us. We stuffed our faces with cotton candy and freshly baked donuts, took rides down the inflatable slides, got ourselves airbrush tattoos, danced by the stage and enjoyed the sun. As the day was expiring, so was our energy. The sun set and the featured performers took the stage. After so much socialization and dancing, I went back to my place and fell quickly asleep.
There was a specific moment recently when it hit me: I'm about to be a senior in college.
That moment came unexpectedly, when I was accepted to live in a Winchester House with my three friends next year. (We applied through the College's common interest housing process.) Our theme is zero-waste and composting, and we have been describing our plans to anyone who will listen. The idea of being seniors was also reinforced when the rest of the friends recieved their housing assignments for next year. Somehow, the idea of knowing exactly where you are going to be living next year really makes the idea of senior year a reality.
In addition to knowing where my close friends are living next year, at this point I know all the other people who are going to be living in "The Village," the term that combines our non-residence hall options, like the 360 Apartments, Earth House, Abbey House, Ridge Apartments, Winchester Houses and 191 Mohegan. Since finding out who my neighbors are, we’ve already started developing the sense of community most people associate with The Village. We have had passing conversations about meals we’ll all have and gatherings that will take place; someone mentioned to me a move-in block party for all the houses to meet one another, which I thought was a great idea.
I think living in The Village will have the vibe of living off campus in our own apartments, but also have the feeling of being in a close-knit community that our College already has.
As an athlete, it's rare that I get to spend a full Saturday at Conn during my season. I'm usually at a track meet or competition and don’t get back until 7 or 8 p.m. This past weekend, however, I was at Conn instead of my meet, thanks to a sprained ankle. It was fortuitous timing, though, because I got to see some friends I had not seen since my semester abroad.
Two of my friends from my abroad program, IFSA-Butler Scotland, were visiting Conn as competitors in a tennis match against the Camels. I set out to the tennis courts around 10:30 a.m. and got to see my friend Mei Lin finish her doubles match while I talked with my other friend from abroad, Ian. After her match, Mei Lin and I went up to the center of campus and I showed her around before getting lunch with her and two other friends who go to Conn and were also on our program. It was so fun and exciting to show her so much of what I had told her about in Scotland. After lunch, we watched more tennis before heading to ArboFest, a yearly music event in the Arboretum with free food, live music and great company. We walked around the Arbo, catching up quickly on everything we had done since leaving Scotland.
When I was abroad, I made a ton of friends, but since we all live so far from each other, I was unsure if we'd ever reunite. This weekend showed that sometimes the odds work out unexpectedly. I am kind of grateful to my sprained ankle, because I got to see my friends again.
New London seems as if it might be in the middle of nowhere. It's easy to forget, however, that we’re actually quite close to major New England cities; we’re less than an hour to Providence, two hours to Boston and two and a half to New York City. All of these places make for great day trips, as well as cool opportunities for class field trips. Most recently, Mike and I headed to the United Nations with our CISLA class where we met with the delegations from France and Iran.
The delegations are inconspicuously housed across the city. As we entered what appeared to be an ordinary office building, I found myself temporarily confused — where were we heading? Forty-two floors up, I found myself at the New York home of the Iranian delegation, a simplistic office with white walls featuring photos of Ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Kahmenei, the Supreme Leaders of Iran. Ushered into the library, a representative from the delegation gave us a brief introduction to Iran’s history and current foreign policy. The gist: Iran is not perfect, but they’re working on it. “We are the most stable country in the Middle East,” the delegate told us. Our course instructors encouraged us to respectfully ask difficult questions, and we found ourselves inquiring about the right to organize within Iran, the Houthi movement in Yemen and the implications of the nuclear deal with the United States. It was interesting to hear how his responses aligned with the official view of the Iranian government. It was a contrast to the French delegation, whose delegate met with us in the “parlor,” an ornate ballroom with tapestries, hardwood floors and a chandelier. He answered with his personal perspectives about social tensions, the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the potential use of secularism as a guise for the social exclusion of Islam.
This past weekend was one of my favorite meets as a track athlete: the Silfen Invitational or, as I call it, the Conn Home Meet! Conn only puts on one home meet every year and it also serves as a chance for our families and friends to see us compete. Also it means no travelling, which is awesome.
This meet is always especially important to me because I am from Philadelphia. Like many Conn students, it's hard for my family to attend my regular meets, but they make an effort for the Invitational. In addition to my immediate family coming to this meet, some of my extended family comes as well. This year, I had one aunt, two uncles and my grandfather to cheer for me as I do what I love.
I also had friends who came to support me. I was pleasantly surprised when they came because there was another all-day event happening on campus and I wasn’t sure they would make it. With competitions all over the East Coast, it's unusual for my friends to see me compete, but this weekend was a great exception. There were many alumni who visited as well, friends who I'd competed with in years past.
This was my third home track meet and it is different every year. (It was actually the first year we competed at home with decent weather.) It was so sunny that I actually got a bit of a sunburn. It was worth it.
There is something amazing about the East Coast: spring weather. Every native I’ve met has always confessed to me that spring and fall are what make this side of the country worth it. I'm from California and living on the East Coast has been a new experience.
I live in the southern part of our small campus, which is a beautiful, vibrant place to live. Outside my window is a view of Tempel Green, where lots of students lounge around to soak in the sun, converse with their friends, listen to music and more. For a more active experience, students play soccer, frisbee, lacrosse and croquet. When the sun is out, so are the people. The atmosphere is carefree, tranquil and happy. This one spring day, it was so beautiful that I decided not to punish myself by reamining indoors while the sun was shining. Like most people who have been sun-deprived during the long East Coast winter, any time the weather permits us to wear summery clothes, we are more than enthused. I had always seen people on Tempel Green and found it to be a great people-watching scene. I decided that I was done watching from the sidelines and wanted to actively be part of the larger scene.
I called up a friend of mine and asked her if she wanted to do homework on the green. She excitedly agreed and we met. When I called her, I reminded her that we would needed a towel of some sort; she brought with her a big comforter, which was perfect. She also brought her journal, in which she could document her creativity, and I brought a book to read for a class. Although we arrived on the green with good intentions of working hard, we hardly worked. In fact, it was one of those moments where it was almost inappropriate to do anything extremely productive. We lounged in the sun dispelling our worries of what ought to be done and instead relished the moments of sheer bliss.
College isn’t only about grades and class work. The key to being happy, I realized, is knowing when to separate your work time with your play time. That spring day called for me to just enjoy my community and my friends.
What’s amazing about the newly renovated Shain Library is that the Academic Resource Center (ARC) is now more accessible than ever for students. When I first started working at the ARC at the beginning of this semester, we were located in the Plex, above Harris Refectory, a temporary location which was a less recognizable location than Conn's main library. Needless to say, I love the new space! We are located in a beautiful glass office on the second floor. There are so many white boards, desks and study spaces at the students' disposal.
I work a night shift at the front desk of the ARC and ever since being relocated to the library, so many more students come into the ARC and collaborate on work and get academic assistance. From my seat at the front desk, I can watch the scenes unfold: Groups come in to collaborate on projects together, friends meet up for homework and students come in for appointments with the ARC counselors (who, by the way, are amazing and informative). There's a social element, too: As students study, they update each other on their lives and classes. It makes me happy to see the ARC so active and constantly moving, even at night.
The best part about my job is the interactions I have with the visitors who come through our glass doors. No matter if they'e requesting a form to request a tutor or a form to sign up as a tutor themselves, I enjoy every second of getting to meet new faces. A student once came in and we just started talking about social complexities. I had never even met him before, yet here we were, having a discussion about contentious subjects. Working at the ARC is a thrill because it is a vehicle for exposing me to the eclectic students here on this campus; it's like I'm making up for lost time.