Finding your voice, like John Mayer

October 22, 2014  |  The Experience, Alex Breakstone '16

Over the last two years, I have been waiting for that moment: when a class or teacher would somehow leave me walking out the door with a new perspective.

Last week, as I sat in the second row of my "Introduction to American Studies" class, Professor Jim Downs did just that.

“Can we all just take a few minutes to listen and appreciate the beautiful lyrics created by John Mayer?” Professor Downs announced as he walked through the door. For the next few minutes, my class of 30 students sat in darkness, staring up at the projector screen as we watched John Mayer’s live performance of “Covered in Rain."

For class that day, we had read "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which tells the story of a Nigerian emigrant who critiques America and the American dream. It was hard to see where Professor Downs was going with the soulful voice of John Mayer as an introduction.

As the lights came back on, Professor Downs asked us to think about finding our own voice like John Mayer does through his lyrics or Ngozi Adichie does in her novel. We further discussed the novel and how Adichie’s voice is heard in her personalized immigrant narrative. It was interesting to see how Professor Downs used different types of mediums and contemporary examples to help us further understand the shaping of an immigrant narrative and the history of the American dream.

After the class discussion, I thought more about my voice in my community and on campus. While I have made an effort to get involved on campus, I'm still working to establish my passions and find my own voice. With the help of other students, I am now working to create a movement on campus that would help showcase students' artwork throughout campus.

While I may not be a famous musician or best-selling novelist, the art movement is a step in the right direction as I determine my real passion and voice.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Academics  |  The Experience, On Campus


Fall, food and friends

October 21, 2014  |  The Experience, Jordan Thomas '15

Last Wednesday, a few friends and I headed downtown for the annual New London Fall Food Stroll. Local restaurants and shops opened their doors and provided samples of some of their select dishes. For the cost of a $10 admission button, we sampled from as many restaurants as we liked! Options ranged from kale cake to shrimp creole to macaroni and cheese and more. It's hard to pick a favorite food from the night, but the pumpkin-pie-flavored milkshakes (complete with crushed-up pieces of homemade waffle cones) from Berry's Ice Cream may have stolen my heart.

Tags:   |  The Experience, New London  |  The Experience, Photography


Japanese Ikebana demonstration

October 20, 2014  |  The Experience, Dana Sorkin '16

Fall Weekend is one of the busiest weekends on campus, with no shortage of events, lectures and activities. The East Asian Studies Department hosted renowned Japanese floral artist Yuji Ueno, ateacher at the Nagaoka Institute of Design in Tokyo. Ueno demonstrated his craft for courses during the day and then in a most unusual location: President Bergeron's front lawn. The event drew a large crowd of onlookers who watched in silent amazement as his stone sculpture grew to be even taller than he is.

Tags:   |  The Experience, International  |  The Experience, On Campus  |  The Experience, Video


A musical weekend

October 20, 2014  |  The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

Music was in the air last weekend.

Fall Weekend kicked off with a Musicians Organized For Bands' Rights on Campus (MOBROC) concert. The event gave student bands an opportunity to show off their musical abilities and gave the audience a chance to show off their '90s grunge-inspired dance moves. The lineup included student groups Canopy, the SB's and Montreal Protocol, but the real treat came at the end of the show: We got to hear our beloved President Bergeron sing. When she and her husband, Butch Rovan, got on stage, the audience began to chant "Queen B" and bow down.

It was quite the experience. Needless to say, "Queen B" gave a flawless performance.

It was interesting, although not very surprising, to see a lot of faces from MOBROC groups performing one night later during the weekend's other huge musical event — the annual Fall Weekend a cappella shows. For years, the seven a cappella groups have performed together during Fall Weekend, and the crowds have grown so much that two shows are needed. The pinnacle of the night might have been when the ConnArtists performed "Fix You" by Coldplay. It was so moving that the audience was completely silent.

Other groups lightened the mood with some humor: Vox Cameli performed a zealous Lady Gaga mashup, the Williams Street Mix drew inspiration from SpongeBob and the ConnChords pulled out some unexpected dance moves.

It was such a musical start to the weekend, with tons of talented Camels involved.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Clubs & Orgs  |  The Experience, On Campus  |  The Experience, Traditions


Foraging in the Arboretum

October 17, 2014  |  The Experience, Anique Ashraf '17

My friend Chloe Jones '15 recently brought a basket she'd woven for an ethnobotany class to dinner. I was fascinated to hear her describe the process of its creation. She extracted strips of bark from a tree, then learned how to soak and weave the strips together from a member of the nearby Mohegan tribe. In the process, she learned about the pawpaw — tiny, green, tropical-tasting fruit native to Central America, the Midwest and the Great Lakes region.

Chloe thought she might have seen some in the Arboretum. I suddenly had a great idea: What if we went and foraged for pawpaws in our own Arbo and collected them in the basket? For some reason, the prospect of foraging our own fruit got us really excited and, right after dinner, we walked to the Arbo.

We found only one pawpaw tree, and it was pretty tall. Chloe and I aren't very tall, so we came to the logical solution of using found sticks to fish the fruit from the tree. We could see about five bunches of fruit on the tree, so we quickly got to work. Chloe held down a branch (the branches are pretty flexible) with a long, forked stick while I knocked the pawpaws off the tree with the branch I was holding. We then celebrated the fact that should an apocalypse strike, we'd be the first to find fruit for survival.

This image is our handiwork — both Chloe's basket and our collective forage. You can't eat more local than this.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Academics  |  The Experience, New London  |  The Experience, On Campus


Mental health at Conn

October 16, 2014  |  The Experience, Laura Cianciolo '16

Recently, Conn hosted "Fresh Check Day," a mental health fair with food trucks, music and interactive booths. The goal was to get students talking openly about mental health issues. I am a member of the College's chapter of Active Minds, a club that promotes mental health resources, so I participated in Fresh Check Day by serving as a photographer for our new "I Have a Therapist" campaign. 

Tags:   |  The Experience, On Campus  |  The Experience, Photography


Collaborative learning

October 16, 2014  |  The Experience, Oliver Ames '17

One Wednesday evening, I found myself preparing for the first exam of the semester. I’d been dreading this moment for a week, so I tried to figure out a way to ease the pain: I tried something new and studied with Kim, a classmate. We settled into the Branford House common room at 7 p.m. and began our calculus preparation. I had blocked out three hours that night for studying and had prepared myself by bringing all my notes, my textbook and a Vitamin Water. As the night began to unfold, I quickly discovered three things.

First, I realized that studying with a friend from the same course can be highly effective. Often, Kim would understand the concept of a certain problem better than I would, and other times I would have a better understanding than she did. Having an extra brain is incredibly helpful, especially when you both can bond over a common desire: getting through the next exam.

Second, I realized that we were not defined by our notes. The resources of the College stretch very far in all directions and easily provide us with more than enough help. This particular night, Kim and I explored the helpful information available on our class Moodle site, a handy webpage that serves as a reference, curated by the professor, for each course. Our professor had provided helpful links to resources online, scanned resources from different textbooks and helpful solutions to difficult problems. These extra resources often go unnoticed. There were so many resources at our fingertips, fully understanding a topic was easily within our grasp.

Finally, I realized how valuable professors are. My math professor encourages us to take a photo of the problem we are working on and send it to her with questions. She can glance over our work and tell us what we're doing wrong. This is not uncommon for Conn professors. In another class, I had not yet learned good time management and would often find myself up doing homework later than I would have liked. Even in that case, when I sent the professor a photo of my work, I would often get a response late at night with helpful hints. Professors are highly accessible here and they define my experience.

I came to college expecting a struggle and, in some senses, I was right. You are challenged as an individual in many ways but, if you reach out to find the resources, it's hard not to come out of the struggle wiser and smarter. I’ve discovered that working with my classmates and struggling through the material together, reaching out to professors with each and every question, and using the resources provided helps me succeed and thrive.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Academics  |  The Experience, First Year Experience  |  The Experience, On Campus


A bit of Pakistan in New London

October 15, 2014  |  The Experience, Anique Ashraf '17

Last Wednesday, I was one of a few lucky people invited to have dinner with Rob Richter, director of arts programming, and Khumariyaan, the band that he helped bring from my home country of Pakistan to perform in the U.S. I ran into quite a few familiar faces at the dinner, including friends and faculty, and I was introduced to some new professors and the band members themselves.

I was excited to meet the artists from back home, and I asked to go to the dinner because I couldn't attend their onStage concert during Fall Weekend. In Lahore, the city that I'm from in Pakistan, I'd only heard of Khumariyaan in passing; they usually perform at a city about five hours away from mine and they sing in Pashto, a language I don't speak.

It was kind of surreal to be introduced to this folk-rock band that I'd only heard of — not from my friends back home, but at Connecticut College — 7,000 miles away. Rob told us about the process of finding bands and artists in different countries and how this international program was sponsored by the State Department to bring in artists from other countries to broaden the American perception of that country's people.

What's strange to me is that the program brought a culture that I probably would not have been introduced to. I don't usually listen to folk music and I rarely visit Islamabad, the city this band is from. I am kind of giddy over what a treat it was. Having dinner with the band and their awesome tour manager, as well as a several friends, a professor who's probably going to be my adviser, and another professor whose work I'm very interested in felt like a personal gift.

To anyone curious about Khumariyaan, I'd definitely recommend them. Their music will make professors and parents dance, as I witnessed that evening, and it'll probably make you dance, too.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, International  |  The Experience, New London  |  The Experience, On Campus


Voter registration with Connecticut's Secretary of State

October 14, 2014  |  The Experience, Laura Cianciolo '16

Last week, Chakena Sims '16 led a very successful voter registration effort with the help of the Office of Volunteers for Community Service (OVCS). Denise Merrill, Connecticut's Secretary of State, was in attendance to congratulate new student voters.

Tags:   |  The Experience, New London  |  The Experience, On Campus  |  The Experience, Photography


Spending time in the MOBROC Barn

October 13, 2014  |  The Experience, Kurt Reinmund '15

One of the most unique places on campus is the Barn, a former squash court where MOBROC — Musicians Organized for Band Rights On Campus — bands can practice and perform. I hung out with Canopy as they practiced. Check it out!

Tags:   |  The Experience, Clubs & Orgs  |  The Experience, On Campus  |  The Experience, Video


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