Dealing with stress
College can be a stressful time. There are tests, homework, athletic obligations, etc. Right now, it's midterm season. The midterm bells are ringing in the streets, and professors are singing carols of molecular biology and behavioral neuroscience.
This week in my psychology class, however, we've been discussing health and wellness. We talked about the effects of stress and some ways that we can lower stress levels. One way: sleep. My professor reminded us to prioritize sleep, but she also reminded us that it's sometimes OK to put fun, social activities ahead of work, because those are the things that we'll remember in 20 years.
On Saturday, I decided to follow this advice. I had an overwhelming amount of work to do this weekend, but I told myself that I was only allowed to work on Friday and Sunday. Saturday, I would leave to myself. It was during this day of relaxing that my friends and I attended a "Destress Fest," an event developed and run by my floor governor, Sarah, and her friend, Brenna. There was ornament-making, cookie decorating and a Gak station. Yes, Gak; apparently, a strange rubbery concoction that helps your mind wander and spark creativity. And, of course, there was also food.
I, personally, did not make any Gak, but I did try my hand at ornament-making and cookie decorating. My ornament was a bit of a disaster, but my cookies were pretty awesome. I made a sunset cookie and a cookie that looked like Earth, which I'd like to think was to scale. My years of art classes served me well.
After the Destress Fest, I hung out with friends and took a breather from the stress of school. On Sunday, I still managed to finish all of my work, which served as a good reminder that a break once in a while is always a good idea.Continue Reading
A taste of cadet life at SCUSA 66
On Wednesday, I drove more than two hours to the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., for a four-day student conference entitled, "The Politics and Policy of Crisis Management." Connecticut College sends two students every year, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the conference this year. We spent each day discussing policy with students from across the globe and West Point cadets, ambassadors and policymakers.
My group focused on coups and constitutions in the developing world, and we made policy recommendations based on our predictions. For our nights at the conference, we stayed in the barracks with cadet hosts and started our days at 6:30 a.m. to the sound of Taps. We ate nearly every meal in the mess hall and learned about the various rules each cadet has to abide by. For instance, freshmen, or "Plebes" as they're called, are not allowed to talk when outside, must hold their hands in tight fists when walking and, when eating, must stare only at the top rim of their plates.
Learning about cadet life and acting as real policymakers was incredible. Working with such a diverse group of students from around the world — one student in my group took part in the protests in Egypt during the Arab Spring — gave each of us new and valuable perspectives to bring back to our home campuses.
TEDx Youth Event
TEDxConnecticutCollege, a student-run organization, organized the first TED Youth Event on Saturday. As a precursor to the main TEDxConnecticutCollege, local middle-schoolers were invited to give a presentation on the theme "Worlds Imagined." Some took on the role of technology in our lives and the detrimental effect it can have, while others discussed the continuing problem of racism and discrimination present even in a middle school setting. Having given my own presentation at last year's TEDxConnecticutCollege, I loved seeing younger speakers taking on the same challenge I did, asking themselves how best to convey a message in a creative and entertaining medium. After the conference, the kids took part in activities and workshops supervised by the TEDx staff. There were tables full of Rubik's Cubes and plenty of paper available for painting and drawing.Continue Reading
Using a particle accelerator to learn about local Native American trade
The College's Physics Department is home to one of the largest telescopes in New England, a state-of-the-art wave fume and a one million-volt particle (ion) accelerator. It's one of just four at undergraduate schools in the United States. We have many science resources at Conn, but the accelerator is the one thing that most are unaware of.
Students who study physics, geophysics and chemistry, however, know the particle accelerator well. The machine is currently processing a program called PIXIE. It analyzes the chemical composition of objects without having to use traditional chemistry techniques that could damage or destroy artifacts. By firing a beam of protons at an object, the resulting X-rays are analyzed to decipher the exact chemical composition of an object.
At Conn, PIXIE is helping professors and students study historical Native American trade routes from the New London region. By analyzing the chemical composition of historic clay pots discovered nearby, my classmates have been able to track where these clay pots were made by comparing them to mud samples. On Mamacoke Island, part of the College campus, classmates have uncovered large collections of clay pots, preserved by time. Of the many that originated on the island, some were found to have originated in Hartford and Long Island. By using PIXIE, we have found concrete evidence of intertribal trade between Native Americans in Connecticut. So far, more than two research papers have been published in scientific journals as a result of PIXIE, both written by undergraduate science students at Conn.Continue Reading
Diwali at The Pink House
One of the hardships of coming to a college so far away from home (I'm from Pakistan) is the strange limbo I find myself in during holiday time. I don't really celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hannukah, and I knew my peers wouldn't really celebrate Eid or Diwali, which is the Indian festival of lights.
Well, I was wrong.
This year, ATLAS, the international student organization, organdies a Diwali celebration in The Pink House, which is home to the Gender and Women's Studies Department. Religious studies professor Dean Accardi explained the festival and ATLAS provided Indian food for everyone to enjoy — some of which was home-cooked, the rest ordered from a nearby restaurant in Groton. I ran into the most unlikely professors there: from Sunil Bhatia in human development, to Priya Kohli from mathematics (whom I had never met), to Blanche Boyd, my fiction teacher this semester. The event seemed truly familial. The students argued loudly — in Hindi and Urdu and Punjabi and English — on who had to serve the food, who could lounge around and who got cleaning duty. It was a truly south Asian experience, with multi-linguality, camaraderie and a good amount of fun bickering.Continue Reading
Dinner and a show
On Nov. 11, 2014, outside Harris Refectory, the Connecticut College Chamber Choir and Orchestra gave the community an unexpected treat. Passersby were invited to try their hand at conducting the Hallelujah Chorus, a preview for the choir and orchestra's concert that weekend. Video edited by Dana Sorkin '16Continue Reading
Off to Milan!
As part of the Connecticut College experience, it is common for students to study away during a semester or summer. Last week, I was accepted to study abroad in Milan, Italy, for the spring semester! I will be spending the whole semester abroad, studying at the Universita Boccini and living in an apartment in northern Italy.
I grew up in an Italian household, so I am looking forward to being further immersed in my heritage. At age 4, I learned my first grammatically correct Italian sentence — maí basta. It translates to "never enough" in English. Between the ages of 6 and 8, I was trained to taste the difference between Swedish and Italian meatballs.
As a self-designed new media studies minor, I am looking forward to taking full advantage of multimedia courses and opportunities outside of Conn. As a part of the business studies program in Milan, I will be able to attend Milanese Fashion Week in March and a taping of a Milan TV news series. I have even registered for the course "Culture and Cuisine of Italy," which includes cooking lessons led by the Casa Buitoni chef at the Buitoni headquarters, a major pasta trademark recognized around the world.
I am most excited to immerse myself in the culture and travel around the rest of Italy and Europe. My study away program has already planned two field trips, including skiing in the Alps and swimming off the coast of Cinque Terre.
When I return, I'm sure that I'll bring new perspectives to my class discussions and assignments at Conn but, for the moment, I'm just excited to go on this new adventure!Continue Reading
My Anaconda Don't
750 acres of exploration
When I first learned about Conn's Arboretum, well before I became a student here, I thought, "OK, trees."
As someone with a tremendous fear of bees and a general dislike for a significant portion of things one might find in nature, exploring a forest didn't strike me as fun. Since becoming a student, however, I have become more comfortable with the idea of spending time in the Arboretum. After all, it's kind of hard to avoid: the 750-acre Arbo encompasses the entire campus and expands for acres in each direction — nearly a mile to the north — as a natural land preserve.
Entering the wilderness proved to be a slow process, like dipping your toe in a cold pool to test it out. The first time I went inside the natural land preserve-portion of the Arboretum, I saw a giant bee and ran away. The next time I went in a little further. I made it to a little gazebo, where I sat with some friends for a while. The next time, I didn't venture any farther, but I did stay longer to do some landscape drawing.
Then came Arbofest, our annual student-organized bluegrass and country music festival. I knew it was kind of a big deal, and I knew there would be food and music. The food was really the selling point, plus it was a stunningly beautiful day. I had to go.
So, I made my way into the Arboretum, going deeper into it than I ever had before. There was indeed music and food, as well as a giant crowd of students lounging on the grass. The bands were playing right in front of the water, and it was actually very lovely ... despite some close calls with bees.
Near the end of the festival, one of my friends asked if I wanted to take a walk with her. I agreed, and we walked along a path that led us deeper into the Natural Plant Collection (the area of the Arboretum most frequented by students and the community, just across Williams Street from campus.) To my surprise, it was actually a very cool walk. Hidden in the Arboretum are all sorts of paths, gazebos and benches, along with a cabin, Buck Lodge. I found myself wanting to explore deeper when my friend was ready to turn back.
I've also heard there are cliffs and a small waterfall hidden somewhere back there. So, that's something to look into for a future trip. In retrospect, I sort of wish that I had realized how interesting the Arboretum is before, since it's starting to get chillier now. I'll resume my exploration in the spring.
Lesson learned, though: the Arboretum is not just a bunch of trees.Continue Reading