October 15, 2014
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.
October 14, 2014
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.
October 13, 2014
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!
October 10, 2014
Every Friday, the Fiddleheads Food Co-Op, based out of New London, visits Conn and sets up a farmers market for students and staff to buy fresh food and snacks. Alissa Siepka '17 (left) volunteers at the stand (and, for her time, receives 10 percent off her purchases). I stopped by with Jake Summers '16 and Jasmine Massa '17 to inspect some of this week's offerings, which, in this case, included pomegranates and local cheese. For my study snacks tonight, I'll be enjoying fresh bread and grapes!
October 10, 2014
Last Thursday, a last-minute plan to go to the movies with one of my friends became a giant adventure to the beach. It was reminicsent of the local exploring I did with my high school friends during the summer. It's always nice to be able to explore and get a sense of one's community. Adventures are also great bonding activities.
It all started when I was looking up movie times with my friend. We discovered that it was the last day the movie we wanted to see was playing, so, "Let's go see it some time," became, "WE NEED TO GO SEE THIS MOVIE IN AN HOUR!" We caught the Camelvan, the College's shuttle system, and collected friends (as well as some new people I hadn't met yet) along the way. Over time, our plans and group grew and evolved.
A ride in the CamelVan, a taxi trip and a few changes of plan later, we arrived at Ocean Beach in New London. The moment we got to the beach, everyone immediately kicked off their shoes and ran towards the water to start building a communal sand castle. As the sun set, we took a walk on the boardwalk before just sitting and talking.
It turns out that when you go on an impromptu beach trip with some people you met earlier that day, you end up knowing them pretty well by the time you get back to campus. As a plus, I ended up with some seashells for decorating my room, too!
October 9, 2014
Remember those old skates in your closet? Take them out and bring them to college! We are going roller skating!
I had no idea it was possible to create a roller rink on campus, but Conn made one night of disco-themed, four-wheeled madness happen. To clarify, we don't usually have roller skating on campus, but one recent event produced by the Office of Student Life turned the largest room on campus into a roller rink, with skates provided too! I never would have expected to see so many of my friends go to a roller skating event. Everyone had a good time, from those who had never skated before to even the most expert and acrobatic skaters.
That evening, I'm convinced everyone shared one goal: Don't fall. While some succeeded and some didn't, it was definitely a great way to start my weekend and an event I'll remember for many years.
October 8, 2014
October 7, 2014
As part of my two-dimensional art class, I recently participated in the Art Department's seventh annual charcoal drawing marathon this past Sunday. Our assignment was very broad: We were told to use a variety of shapes, color tones and depth to fill the very large, intimidating blank pieces of paper in front of us. Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., we drew without stopping. We had no specific subject to work with, we simply had to respond to our environments and the music that was playing.
The presiding art professors encouraged us to think of our pieces as completely mutable. We were encouraged to draw over things, erase our work and paint over large sections of our pieces to work, then rework, the charcoal. As someone who has taken many art classes, the process was a challenge. I'm used to crafting my pieces carefully, focusing on intricate shading and minute details. Inevitably, I get attached to my art and I'm reluctant to change anything more significant than those tiny details.
This experience made me explore a very different technique: a "kill your darlings"-type of technique, where you have to get rid of some of the bits of your work that you're attached to in order to improve the piece as a whole. While this was difficult, it helped me loosen up and go with the flow of things.
By the time 4 p.m. arrived, it seemed that there was more charcoal on my face, hands and arms than on my actual canvas. Despite the mess and a very sore drawing arm, I was very happy with my piece. Looking around the room, I was pleased to see that others found the process — and final results — to be successful.
October 6, 2014
Last week, Fresh Check came to campus for a day. Fresh Check is an organization that travels from college to college, promoting mental health awareness. Booths included Love is Louder Than, a project emphasizing the positivity of love and healthy relationships; Be Yourself, a project that encourages self-acceptance in the LGBTQ community; and Paint Your Art Out, a project that sponsors art as a means of self-expression and stress reduction. These booths and others filled Tempel Green with information and activities about the issues and available resources regarding mental health. This photo comes from my 9 Out of 10 Pledge. One out of 10 college students contemplates suicide, but nine out of 10 college students can serve as sources of support and education. My signature, the light blue one in the center of the photo, is my pledge to help take action if a friend or peer may be struggling.
October 6, 2014
Following the success of a community discussion about issues of race in Ferguson, Mo., our Office of Residential Education and Living (REAL) decided to continue the conversation, this time bringing the discussion closer to home. The event, titled, “How Not to Talk About Race at College,” included a panel led by professors Sunil Bhatia (human development), David Kim (religious studies), and Rosemarie Roberts (dance), as well as students Ramata Diallo '17 and Maurice Tiner '17. The discussion sought to answer a number of questions: Why do conversations on race become deadened in the classroom and amongst students? What is that block that’s created that prevents people from expressing their feelings? How do we generate a more open environment in which race can be talked about, not as an abstract concept but as a real, human experience that a lot of people have to deal with.
I don’t know if the panel completely answered all these questions, but the audience was spirited and engaged on that Wednesday evening. As 70 students and faculty members informally gathered in a circle, students shared personal stories about experiencing racial prejudice in their lives.
The event was illuminating on so many levels. After the event ended, I was approached by a professor I’d never met — she teaches French and Africana studies, departments I've never taken courses in. She stood next to my friend and I, put her hands on our shoulders and told us that although she had to run, she'd love to continue the conversation, passing along her name and email address. David Kim also made himself available after the panel so students who didn’t have a chance to speak would be able to in a more personal way.
Professor Audrey Zakriski from the Psychology Department had some choice words to say about approaching one’s own racial biases and confronting them, and Dean of the College Caroline Denard proposed a “color-brave” narrative performance piece, that would bring together art, dance, music and monologue to share stories about discrimination and acceptance. Another student proposed “issue-tables” in the dining halls where you could move to and from different topics of discussion. I suggested there be a disclaimer in every class' syllabus about any incident of prejudice a student might face and a third party to contact — just as the syllabus already has an addendum about sexual misconduct, resources available in the Office of Accessibility, and the drug and alcohol program.
On our campus, the difficult issues of sexual violence prevention, disability and personal health are already part of conversations we have openly and often. The leaders of offices that work with students on these topics are are incredibly engaged, and are often on a first-name basis with most of the campus, helping to create a lively, open and honest community. This event was an attempt to do the same with issues regarding race.