Fall has arrived at Connecticut College, and we've assembled another fantastic blog team to share the student experience with you. Through photography, words and video, our blog team captures classroom discussions, trips around the region, reflections on current events and snapshots of social life on campus. Enjoy!
As a transfer student, I am still discovering the nooks and crannies of Connecticut College.
A friend from my European Politics class introduced me to the small and homey Coffee Grounds café. When I first entered the space, the smell of fresh brewing coffee greeted me at the door. I looked around, soaking in the cozy ambiance. The window frames are painted red, making the room pop with color. The blackboard menus with chalk handwriting add a personal touch. Instead of unflattering fluorescent lights overhead, the fixtures are a warm yellow. Eclectic, calm music plays in the background.
While digesting the scene, my friend signaled me to sit on a couch before beginning our homework. After a while, she broke the silence, saying, "I don’t understand why this politics homework talks so much about economics!" I looked up and realized that another person beside me had begun to smile. I turned to face her and an intellectual conversation blossomed. After our basic introductions of names and majors, I found out the reason she had smiled was because she studies exactly the topics that my friend had lamented. She explained the interconnection of how political parties affect what economic polices are passed. Left-wing parties tend to pass policies that increase government spending and taxes, whereas more right-wing parties tend to pass polices that decrease government spending and taxes. Her economic explanations clarified the connection between politics and economics.
It was serendipitous to find myself in an unexpected conversation with a stranger, discussing the world's complexities and learning all the while.
Last Saturday, our men’s ice hockey team donned green jerseys in support of Connecticut College's Green Dot program, turning their game against Tufts into an event aimed at raising awareness about issues of sexual assault and power-based violence. The Green Dot program was adopted at Conn in 2010 as a part of the Think S.A.F.E. Project, initially as a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. Today, the Think S.A.F.E. Project is very much a part of Conn culture. The program helps to train and educate students, faculty and staff about issues related to domestic, sexual, personal and dating violence, as well as stalking. This includes information about prevention and bystander intervention.
As I entered the ice rink that night, I saw a sea of green. Students wore their Green Dot training t-shirts, green pucks were up for raffle, green posters covered the walls, students banged together green noisemakers and the hockey team wore their special green jerseys, forgoing our usual blue and white team colors. Even our mascot showed his support by swapping out his normal shirt for the one pictured.
While we won the game that night 4-1, it wasn’t our only victory; our campus community came together in support of an important initiative.
It's not ugly or anything; it's a plain blue one, with the syllabi and notes and doodles from all my classes clasped securely within it. It's a regular binder. But every time I open it, I want to shuck off this winter coat, put on some short shorts, and just talk to people from all over the world. The shorts just come with the territory. My binder is giving me serious wanderlust.
To be fair, it's not the binder's fault; it's the syllabi and the classes I'm taking. There's a prominent global theme amongst my studies this semester, not a surprise to those who know I'll be studying abroad next semester.
Still, the theme of courses was partially happenstance. Let me share some examples: Yesterday, I watched "Lagaan" for my Bollywood and Globalization class, after which I read about Muslim women writers in the early 20th century for my Global Islamic Studies class, after which I chose my presentation topic for my Theorizing Race and Ethnicity class, which has a specific focus on Latin America. In four hours, I covered South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
Not to mention that one of my other classes, Global Queer Histories, is metaphorically travelling through various regions of the globe to analyze queer history, traditions and prejudice. We started with the Middle East and we're moving on to Native American two-spirit traditions next week.
Oh, and I must mention my CISLA class, a required course for scholars like myself who were admitted into the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, one of the College's five centers for interdisciplinary scholarship. That course is giving me an entirely new experience: a rotation of different experiences every two weeks, from departments like geology, art and classics.
All these travel thoughts permeate my mind and I end up daydreaming half the time, reading intensely the other half. Is it a wonder, then, that my binder stresses me out? It's got half the world in it, and I couldn't be happier.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go finish a non-fiction piece about Puerto Rico for my narrative non-fiction class. Wanderlust has seeped into everything.
On Saturday afternoon, a few of my friends and I went to Fiddleheads Natural Food Co-op in New London to buy ingredients for a dinner we were going to cook later that night with a friend who lives in Earth House. Earth House, a seven-person house for students interested in issues of sustainability and the environment, is one of the residences on campus with a full kitchen. Sophomores, juniors and seniors have the flexibility to live in more places around campus, including a variety of College-owned houses and apartments, as opposed to just the dorms.
The walls of Earth House's first floor are covered completely in paint, as it is an Earth House tradition to leave quotes, pictures and other designs on the walls. Around 6 p.m., we all gathered in the kitchen and began to prepare our feast of falafel, roasted zucchini and a cherry tomato salad. After we finished cooking, we sat around the wooden dining room table and ate; most of us remarked that we wanted to live in Earth House next year!
Outside my window stands a sculpture. Can't say I know the name and Google-ing around a little didn't help too much, but I see it every day when I leave for classes and come back to work. It sort of acts as one of those hokey "magical weather string" things that say stuff along the lines of, "If the string is wet, it's raining. If it's swaying, it's windy." Well, a few days ago, I looked out and the sculpture seemed to be holding a little icicle. It dripped little by little and I could watch a consistent flow develop over the next day or so. It seemed to signal the melting snow, slowly but surely.
Last Thursday, I went to the best dance I have ever attended in college. There were two DJs, free cupcakes and four hours worth of dancing in the college center. The room was nearly silent. And did I mention that the music was all wireless?
This "headphone disco" required all those in attendance to wear large wireless headphones. The DJs spun different tracks, and you got to control which playlist you wanted to hear by simply pressing a button. One moment, I was singing Aretha Franklin; the next, it was the Cha Cha Slide. It was so entertaining trying to guess what everyone else was listening to based on their dance moves. The best part, however, was taking the headphones off and simply watching everyone dance to music you couldn't hear.
Sure, it was a bit ridiculous, but that's what made it fun.
Every year, TEDxConnecticutCollege (of which I am an executive board member) holds a TED-affiliated local conference with speakers from our campus, the New London community and the world (by way of webcast). The event lasts several hours and includes a breakfast snack, lunch, and a wine and cheese reception afterward. As such, it is not very accessible to children, so this year we joined with the greater TED organization and held TEDxYouthDay2015.
As a chance for local elementary and middle school students to voice their ideas and visions for the world, YouthDay2015 was a rousing success. There were more than 20 kids from nearby Clark Lane Middle School, The Country School and The Williams School who participated by giving talks to an audience comprised of teachers, parents and Conn students. Their talks ranged from "Rectangulum," a vision of an alternate universe, to the difficulties of discrimination. Some were hilarious, others were incredibly moving. Audience members were seeing a clear and unimpeded view of the future because they were hearing the innocent thoughts and beliefs of those not yet influenced by society. Far too often, we forget that unchecked ambition that we too held tightly as children.
After their talks, the kids got involved in a variety of activities, from flower pot painting to storytelling. One station gave them the chance to imagine their future selves. It was a fantastic morning of activities, great ideas and friendships. We will continue holding YouthDay conferences in the coming years, but, in the meantime, you can get a sense of this moment with the community by visiting www.tedxconnecticutcollege.com to see the inspiring talks from this year’s event.
One of the great things about college — besides the interesting classes, independence, etc. — is the time off. It's the epitome of the "work hard, play hard" saying. After short periods of intensive study, there are so many ways to spend our month off in winter and three months off in the summer, from internships to traveling. For me, I received the good news that I was accepted into Connecticut College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, or CISLA. The goal of this center is to internationalize one’s major. Mine being history, my research proposal involves studying art that was produced under the strict censorship policies of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, exploring topics such as propaganda as art and “cultural wastelands.” So next year, I will be studying and interning abroad in Spain. This means, however, that I have to get my Spanish in gear. My favorite part of the program is its emphasis on language learning, which inspired my recent trip to Guatemala.
Not having spoken Spanish in about a year, it's safe to say my language skills were pretty rusty. So for winter break, I headed off to Don Pedro de Alvarado language school in Antigua, Guatemala. Trying to play catch up, I studied for six hours a day with two different tutors. Contrary to what you might think, the time flew by, especially since the emphasis of my one-on-one tutoring was conversational skills. Every day, I simply spoke with my teachers about my life, their lives, and everything else in between. By the end, I can safely say they became more than just my teachers, they became my friends. They would take me around the city and show me cool art galleries, restaurants and church ruins. My afternoon teacher, Lidia, and I even took a day trip to El Lago de Atitlan. A three-hour trip on Guatemala’s famous “chicken buses,” the day was certainly an experience, from riding on a boat across a beautiful lake to having the man who was sitting next to me on the bus try to baptize me.
During my time in Antigua, I was staying with la familia Darce Pineda, my host family. I was one of five students staying with the family. The atmosphere was so warm that all of us were truly welcomed into the family — from attending their 3-year-old son Renecito’s birthday party to supporting them at their gigs (they are a family of musicians). The picture at the top left of this post is the view from their house’s terrace. In the background, el Volcan de Fuego (the volcano of fire) is erupting. Not to worry — it wasn’t a major eruption, but it is highly active and spurts smoke and ash on a daily basis. Pretty cool, huh? The second photo is of me and some fellow students at the top of Pecaya, another nearby active volcano we climbed one Saturday. While Pecaya is also not majorly active, we did get to roast marshmallows over lava. Yes, I know it sounds a little far-fetched, but really it did happen. It was also probably the best smore ever. While the lava has cooled and hardened, there are cracks that run though it, exposing hot coals exactly the same as what we would see in a dying fire, making for the perfect place to roast a marshmallow.
If I were to ever give advice to a college student, it would be to take advantage of all the time off. It gives us a freedom to study, travel and explore in a way that a full-time job does not. I got to connect my studies at school with an incredible culture opportunity. My Spanish improved greatly, I can happily say I feel more prepared for CISLA, and I got to have some cool adventures along the way.
We are living during a time filled with opportunities for social justice in America. Conn students have always been up-to-date with current events and fought for what they believed in. This was true in the 1970s, when students demanded action from the College and initiated a takeover of a building on campus; it's still true now. With everything going on in the media, Conn students again decided to stand up for justice. At the end of last semester, students participated in two different events meant to honor those who have been victimized.
You may be aware that there are 43 missing students in Mexico. To honor them, as well as many others who have gone missing in Mexico, several Unity House organizations worked together to plan a moment of silence. I, along with many other students, made a banner and stood in front of Cro, our student center, to show our support.
A similar event took place again a few days later in honor of black people who have been killed in instances of police brutality in the United States. Also organized by Unity House student groups, a vigil in front of Cro honored the lives that have been lost. I stood, despite the rain, alongside my peers in solidarity with those around the country doing the same thing.
When you go to college, you don't know who will have the same views as you. People from all over the world come together on a single campus. How can you know that someone else will share the same passion for social justice? As I stood in silence during these events, I thought about what my presence meant. I thought about what the presence of my peers meant.
It is easy to grow comfortable in a space when you do not face an immediate threat; being on campus has created that level of comfort for me. To see so many students come together to care about events beyond our campus made me proud. I go to a college where students aren't afraid to say that they want change and are willing to fight for it.
As an interdisciplinary course, "Introduction to American Studies" is meant to spark discussion about how we mythologize and learn about our nation. Throughout the semester, we have taken time during each class to somehow contemporize our readings, such as the play "Our Town," with current social and political topics in the media. Earlier this semester, Jim Downs, my "Introduction to American Studies" professor, invited Darcie Folsom, director of sexual violence prevention and advocacy, into class to discuss the prevalence of sexual violence in the media. Our discussion focused on the recent case of football star Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer.
Prior to Darcie’s visit to the classroom, we had read Clarence Walker’s "Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings," an analysis of the debate over the affair between Jefferson and Hemings, seeking to uncover the complexity of the relationship. It was really interesting to hear Darcie connect the historical text to a contemporary, relevant social issue. I was so interested in our in-class discussion that I attended a talk outside of class, "Sex and the Founding Fathers," led by Thomas Foster, a professor visiting from another univeristy.
As I reflect upon my semester as a whole, "Introduction to American Studies" has been one of those eye-opening classes that has changed my perspective on topics and has pushed me to become more passionate about my interests.