At Connecticut College, the journey for your junior year internship starts during orientation with the first workshop. Throughout this journey, I have taken seven workshops ranging from how to write a cover letter or résumé to interview prep. I have sent countless emails to my CELS adviser and have met with her many times.
This past semester has been the most exhaustive of all my CELS training. This was when I put everything I knew to the test in order to secure my junior year internship. I am very happy to say I succeeded and I will be spending 10 weeks this summer working as a communications intern at Environmental Defense Fund.
It was not an easy process; as my friends and I joke, applying for internships should be a class. I spent countless hours researching internships, writing cover letters for each application and drafting emails to send to potential employers. I think one of my most valuable assets were my two friends, CELS Fellows Natalie Calhoun and Mike Amato.They would look over my emails and cover letters whenever I needed their help. One memorable time was sitting down at lunch, sliding my phone over to one of them and asking, “Is this an OK email?” Without hesitation, they advised. I don't think I would have gotten the internship without them.
The internship process is difficult at any school, but I'm so glad that Connecticut College provides these kinds of resources (and I happen to make friends with the resources) so that I can get all the help I need while applying to internships.
Last week, I went to a birth contol panel in the Women's Center run by a representative from Planned Parenthood, a group of students and a women's health specialist from Student Health Services. I didn't really know what the expect from the panel, but I felt a duty to go as someone who's mainly been educated about birth control by MTV.
Sure, I've had health classes before. I know what birth control is, but knowing what it is isn't enough. It's kind of an important thing — and not just because of the controlling births part. Certain types of birth control can also help to regulate hormones and menstrual cycles. It's also necessary to know which types of birth control will prevent STDs and STIs and which will not. In addition to all of this, women need to know what their options are (there are bunches) and how their bodies will be affected by each of these options.
Sure, it's a topic that creates giggling, but it's a topic that needs to be discussed by both women and men so that everyone can have control over their reproductive organs, and be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
I ended up learning a lot at the panel. We started off by making a list of all the types of birth control we'd heard of. Ok, that's a lie — we started off by eating Indian food, but list-making was the second thing we did. Then we all wrote down questions anonymously. The rest of the time was spent answering those questions and any questions that came up in the meantime. Throughout the panel, we learned about our resources for feminine health here on campus and in the New London area.
It was a very informative event, and it reflects an overarching theme on our campus: No matter how hard it is to talk about something, there will be a space for it to be talked about. With everything, but especially with issues related to health, this type of openness is paramount. I highly recommend that everyone (yes, males too) attend next year's birth control panel.
I’ve always had grand ambitions for myself; I’m always looking ahead, wondering what the next phase of my life will look like. College was no exception. Starting in the early days of high school, I formed an image of what my life might be like in college and dreamed about green quads and the friendships formed in residential halls. Coming up with a mental image of what that future may be helps me work towards it. The result was that the minute I stepped foot on campus, the image I had created began to be challenged.
After my first few weeks on campus, I found myself signed up for 10 clubs, involved with student government and performing with two different musical groups. I had many more activities planned for the next few years. I was swamped immediately. My first semester was crammed full and anyone who glanced over my shoulder at my calendar was immediately surprised. A cornucopia of colors, all associated with different events, meetings, classes, tasks, etc., was what they saw. To me, it all made sense but most wondered why I was putting myself through such an ordeal.
The truth is I’ve always been interested in many things and college was the opportunity I had been looking for to explore them all. By getting involved in so many things, I was learning where my interests really are. Eventually, though, they all tired me out and I slowly began to prioritize. It's amazing how exhaustion can make you focus on what really matters.
Advisers, professors and parents may all warn you about taking too much on but I entirely disagree. By taking too much on, you learn what really works for you. I would not be where am I today, picturing a life after college, if I had not piled so much on in the first place.
Today I’m the producer of TEDxConnecticutCollege, a tour guide, a volunteer at the Mystic Seaport, a floor governor and a writer for this blog. While I haven’t reached the perfect balance yet, I know I’m close. Next semester will be the most interesting one yet.
Late last month, I was leaving a class around 8:30 p.m. when my friend Natalie asked if I wanted to come along with her to an event our other friend Claire was putting on. I immediately agreed and we headed to Knowlton House, the language dorm. I had not been there since I took the Haunted Tour of Connecticut College my freshman year, but we went in and went to the common room where Claire was putting on an East Asian Studies’ Student Advisory Broad (EASSAB) Karaoke Night.
Just so we’re clear: I do not sing. Not in English, or any other languages for that matter.
But I went in as a spectator and was rewarded with a super fun night I was not expecting to have. A bunch of students went up and sang, including my friend Claire. One memorable performance was a student who sang “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid in Japanese, which included all of Ariel’s little side notes and emotions. We also got performances from a professor who sang an amazing lullaby song, and Natalie got up and sang a song in Spanish! One really amazing moment was when I suggested to Claire that she sing “Let it Go” in Chinese, and she pulled up the lyrics on her computer. Everyone (including me) gathered around and sang along as best we could, and then sang it again in Japanese! After that, we digressed into looking up our favorite songs in other languages and singing along.
I guess I should change my earlier assertion that I don’t sing ever — I do sing, but only with people that I feel comfortable around, which I was able to find at this small, spur-of-the-moment event.
Since I'm a chronic overachiever and don't know when to quit, I decided to take six four-credit classes this semester. In all honesty, it wasn't that bad of a decision; I love all of them and my professors have been a lifeline for me. On top of it all, I sometimes visit a seventh class on Mondays and Wednesdays. It's called South Asia in the Post-Colonial world and I've taken it before. My adviser teaches it and it's usually so dynamic that it's exactly what I need to get motivated sometimes.
Most students don't think about it too much, but professors are in a constant state of revision when it comes to classes. The syllabus of last year's class (when I took it) is drastically different from this year's. The professor covers most of the same issues — colonialism, war, history of India and Pakistan — but the readings and authors are different. This leads to a different understanding of the material, and I found myself coming across things I'd never learned before. The revised syllabus has a different book on Pakistan, which was published in 2014, and the book on India is much more user-friendly and readable than last year's.
Everything aside, it's as much about students as the professor. Because there is a different group of students this year, the class discussions, the material covered and the topics most felt and understood are different. Last year's class was more historical and local. Including myself, the class had five South Asian students, and we were familiar with the middle school understanding of our region's history. This year, it's different: Most people in the class are not of South Asian descent and there's a larger focus on imperialism, colonization and oppression, as compared to last year. I also find my understanding deepened because these students ask questions that I, having grown up in Pakistan, never thought of. They bring a fresh, unbiased perspective to class, and it's rather heartening knowing that even the same class taught at Connecticut College year after year will be different and fresh.
Recently, I found this photo of President Katherine Bergeron facing a crowd of students, staff, faculty and administrators sharing opinions and suggestions in March, while the campus engaged in dialogue about racism, equity and inclusion. I think this photo best captures the spirit we’re striving towards at Conn: groups coming together and discussing tough issues, reflecting respectful dialogue that can lead to great change. At what other school will the president join an informal meeting and hold such a candid discussion for hours on end?
We got to hit the casinos for class! Well, it’s not what you’re thinking — there was no gambling, drinking or seeing shows. As part of a trip for Professor Joyce Bennet's "Anthropology of Tourism" course, however, we did get to tour Mohegan Sun's various gaming rooms, paying particular attention to aspects of Native American culture and the way these details are utilized for aesthetic purposes. Mohegan Sun is located just fifteen minutes from campus. While I’d been to Mohegan Sun before to see Penn & Teller, getting to study the space with an academic lens was an entirely new and fascinating experience for me. The way the lights, sounds and “natural” looking decor lure gamers into a welcoming environment is incredible to study from a bystander perspective. Diligently taking notes and snapping photographs, I felt like a true anthropologist documenting the workings of a unique culture. I’ll always remember how much academic discovery can be found in a space I previously thought was just for fun and games.
As a certificate student in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I get to do a lot of amazing things. Last year, I worked for a conservancy group, organized field work days, met farmers and activists in the community, and made some truly great friends in the center. This past weekend, I was reminded just how lucky I am to be part of the center when I got to participate in the Feeding the Future Conference, which took place on campus. The two-day event included speakers like Dan Barber, executive chef at Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns; Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist and author of "Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and the Way We Live;" and Malik Yakini, founder and the executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. In addition to these speakers that are doing great things in the world of food, I also got to host and introduce Zuk at the conference, a daunting but exciting task. I have to admit I was pretty nervous but it went well and was a hugely rewarding experience for me.
The networking opportunities for me and my classmates were plentiful, an experience I couldn't have had at any other time or place. I had a great conversation with a journalist who was writing about the conference for CC:Magazine, and I connected with the president of Food Tank who asked some of my friends and I to write about how we are going to live in a zero-waste house next year on campus.
I had a fascinating conversation with David Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill and founding partner of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. He's also a Connecticut College alumnus and a trustee of the College. My friend and I asked him about the food that does not make it to restaurants and is wasted in the delivery process, since his New York City restaurant recently had an event focused on just that topic. He showed us a picture of a monkfish, which has very delicious meat in its head but is not usually shipped to restaurants because the small quantity doesn't justify the cost.
The attendees also got to experience a lot of local foods and sushi that help support the ideas of feeding the future. I think the highlight of that was eating cricket sushi from Miya’s Sushi in New Haven. (Yes, that's cricket sushi in the photo.)
As college students, we are encouraged to make connections and network, but it's not always easy or accessible. Events like these are different, bringing together many people who are an integral part of the college experience and help prepare us for life after graduation.
What I love about Conn is the plethora of activities that happen on this campus. Dances, seminars, guest speakers, clubs — the list goes on. A friend of mine asked me to attend her poetry performance and I happily agreed. Her group is called Reflexions, and what was especially fun was watching students perform their own poetry. We spend a lot of time hearing readings of poems by others, so it is a rarity to hear poets read their own work.
This event wasn’t a typical poetic reading about sappy romance. Instead, the anthology was based on the theme of love and every poet/performer offered different perspectives on the concepts of love. I got to listen to beautiful pieces about what it is like to be in love with an abusive person; what it means to love being a Haitian woman; what it is like to be in love with a person of the same sex; what it is like to be in love for the first time; what it is like to fall out of love; and what it is like to have love torn from you. Some poems had a melodic structure while other poems had a prose-like structure. Every performer offered insights into not only the idea of love, but, more interestingly, the experience of love.
Besides the actual work and material produced, what really amazed me was the community of people willing to come and support their friends. People here are willing to take time out of their busy schedules and be there for people whom they appreciate and respect. The audience engaged with their peers, often by snapping in agreement to something the poet said or nodding their heads. No one was texting or looking bored and, of course, the audience shared a loud applause to thank the poets for being brave.
This year, Connsider, the group that produces TEDxConnecticut College, put on a number of events during the weeks leading up to the full conference. Partnering with GreenDot, “Bystanders Love Company," a play on this year's theme of “Genius Loves Company,” invited students to think about what it means to be a bystander and how we can shift these normally “passive” roles into active ones by changing the climates of sexual assault, violence, discrimination and hate speech. Here, my friends Jasmine Massa ’17, Alissa Siepka ’17 and Natalie Boles ’17 all create a list of goals and ways they can work to improve the social climate at Conn and beyond.