Smith Dining Hall: a gem hidden in plain sight

- The Experience, Oliver Ames '17

The dining hall within Smith House is one of those gems that hides in plain sight. I’d call Smith the most intimate dining hall on campus, one where you really know the employees and the people that frequent the tables every morning. Smith serves breakfast and a sandwich/salad lunch, which is perfect. I usually arrive between 8:30 or 9 a.m., although, as a regular, I've determined that 9 a.m. really is the perfect time of day to enjoy the environment. Those who rush too quickly to grab a quick bite before their 9 a.m. class have all left and those who have a 10:25 a.m. class haven’t arrived for breakfast yet (or, for that matter, woken up). Those left during that perfect moment between 9 and 9:45 a.m. are the kind of people that sit and slowly enjoy their breakfast over a good book, some last-minute homework, or that day’s New York Times (which, by the way, is waiting for students — for free — right in the lobby).
These casual mornings remind me a lot of Sunday mornings at home — everyone is clearly relaxed but they are all excited for the day ahead of them. That atmosphere helps me prepare for my long and busy days filled with classes, clubs and study groups.
I should also mention that early in the mornings, right when Smith opens, the employees sit at a table near the entrance and chat, listen to music softly and welcome the regulars by name. Their morning prep work is done for the moment and there is a brief window where they can sit and relax. During this time, most students swipe their own Camel Cards to enter. It's a moment when the Honor Code is in action, and when common courtesy and a "thank you" make for a great start to the day. 
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- The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

Lyman Allen Shipwreck Exhibit

Last Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to visit "Lost At Sea: Shipwrecks of the Ancient World," an exhibit presented through the Classics Department. The exhibit is currently up at the Lyman Allyn, an art museum next to campus that the school works closely with. The exhibit consists of amazing, ancient artifacts that until recently remained, well, lost at sea. Also featured are some of the nifty-looking tools used to find artifacts, as well as some short videos about artifact-hunting.

The exhibit room that interested me the most, though, was a room full of live feeds from the Nautilus, a ship currently exploring undiscovered U.S territories in the Caribbean and Pacific. In front of the room, there is an iPad where you can type a question to a scientist on board the Nautilus and get a live response.

After a guided tour of the exhibit, I attended a talk by Dr. Robert Ballard, who led the team that discovered the Titanic. All of the artifacts in the exhibit were discovered by Dr. Ballard, who has a strong connection to the local community and the College. At the talk, he told us about how his fascination with the ocean began, how he fell into his career and, of course, how he found the Titanic. Dr. Ballard was an excellent speaker, and his exhibit was very interesting. I'm glad that I was offered the opportunity to attend.

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A picnic at the Book Barn

- The Experience, Kirsten Forrester '17

Stacks of books and the checkout out line at a used book store

Enjoying a beautiful fall day, my friends and I headed to the Book Barn in Niantic for a picnic. After stopping at Fiddleheads to buy fruit, bread and cheese, I found myself completely enchanted with this used book store. It very much has a ragtag, fairy tale feeling. There are paths through overgrown gardens, pink flamingo statues, interestingly shaped buildings and eclectic furniture amongst stacks and stacks of inexpensive books in every genre. I dined atop an oversized checkers table, read in the shade and added a few new books to my collection for the next rainy day.

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Volunteering at the Treworgy Planetarium

- The Experience, Oliver Ames '17

mystic planetarium
If you’ve read my bio or seen my past blog posts, you’ll notice I am very passionate about science and education. If you haven’t, that's OK — I’ll fill you in. I love science because of how romantic it can be. The idea that there is an infinite cosmos or that there are single-cell organisms wows me. It blows my mind that we have been to the moon and mapped Mars when only a few hundred years ago Lewis and Clark were exploring the vast wilderness of North America. As such, it has been a longstanding desire of mine to share my enthusiasm for science. I want to teach people why science is so fantastic and make them equally excited and awed by the world around us.
If it wasn’t for my professors, I might never have connected my interests of education and science. I knew in high school that I loved to present and I know that teaching comes naturally to me, but I had never thought about applying those skills towards a subject I love so much. My astronomy professor pointed me in the right direction. Aligning my passions of presenting and astronomy, she suggested I volunteer at the Treworgy Planetarium, part of the nearby Mystic Seaport. She recommended me to the director of the planetarium and, within a few weeks, I was learning how to give my own shows. 
While we have telescopes and viewing opportunities on campus, having a planetarium near the College is an incredible resource. The night sky not only allows us to understand the history of cultures on Earth, but also helps us understand the origins of our solar system, stars and much more. I don't believe any education is complete without an understanding of what is above us at all times. We often get trapped in our little worlds as we go about our day-to-day life, and it is important to look up and realize what is just beyond our grasp.
After watching two shows every Saturday for the past three weeks, I’m beginning to get the hang of things. This Saturday will be my first solo show in the Treworgy Planetarium. I’ll be giving half of a 35-minute performance (as I like to call them). I plan on making my shows theatrical in nature, as those seem to be the performances that grip people the most. I’ll be doing so in a way that takes the audience on a journey through the stars. 
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Finding your voice, like John Mayer

- 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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Fall, food and friends

- The Experience, Jordan Thomas '15

Fall food stroll picture stitch

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.

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Japanese Ikebana demonstration

- 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.

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A musical weekend

- The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

Fall Weekend A Capella

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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Foraging in the Arboretum

- The Experience, Anique Ashraf '17

foraged fruit from the arboretum!

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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Mental health at Conn

- The Experience, Laura Cianciolo '16

freshcheck, activeminds

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. 

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