Getting back into things

- The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

A view of Connecticut College in the snow, from the 4th floor of New London Hall

It’s hard to get back into the cycle of going to class and turning in work after a lengthy vacation. That's especially true when the break is of summer length, or even a semester abroad. 

Folllowing my return from Scotland, I was confident that I would make the adjustment back into college life easily. I was back early because of track and field, and I was excited to be back at the place I had called home for two years. Much to my surprise, however, the transition has taken longer than I realized. What do I blame? The snow — and maybe that fact that I decided to take on extra responsibilities this semester and enroll in more courses than required.

But really, it's the snow.

For the first few weeks of this semester, we didn't have a full week of classes, which made reentry and adapting to a new routine very difficult. All the while, I had three lengthy writing assignments due all on the same day, which immediately sent me into an intense prioritization mode.

This upcoming week seems to be looking normal so far, but the snow and wind blowing around my building appears somewhat threating. It seems that this may the first time in my entire educational life that I am not hoping for a snow day, just so I can get back into regular Connecticut College life.

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Boston Weekend

- The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

Following the weekend of Jan. 31, I can proudly say that I have now actually been to Boston and walked around it.

Technically, I have been to Boston many times, but those were all for Connecticut College track meets, and I don’t count seeing the Tufts or MIT indoor tracks as really "seeing Boston." Last weekend, I didn’t have a meet, so I jumped in a car and went to Boston, both for my own enjoyment and also to see some Conn alumni friends who had gathered there. Our campus is about two hours from Boston, making it an easy trip. (There's also the Amtrak line that stops in New London and connects directly to Boston as an option for students.) The weekend was fun, filled with pre-Super Bowl predictions, Indian food, Cards Against Humanity and a memorable picture made better by the Conn-In-A-Box party favors that the Office of Alumni Relations sends out to Camels who host parties.

The highlight for me might have been seeing the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Boston Public Gardens, which had been one of my dreams since childhood. Now I can only say that I can’t wait to go back!

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Working at the Academic Resource Center and picking up some study advice

- The Experience, Allison Mitobe '17

As a transfer student getting used to Connecticut College, "New" is a big part of my vocabulary: a new school, new schedule, new professors and new jobs. I am fortunate enough not only to work as a blogger for The Experience, but also as an office assistant for the College's Academic Resource Center (ARC).

I absolutely love working at the ARC because of all the new faces I get to meet. Students stop by for tutoring sessions and to become tutors themselves. They stop by to meet with academic counselors about time management skills, to get presentation advice, to polish their interviewing skills and to get papers edited. All a student has to do is ask for some help or advice and, with that, a tsunami of support will eagerly rush in.

As a student staff member of the ARC, I reap the benefits of working around the informative professional staff. For me, like many college students, procrastination haunts my good intentions of studying. Sometimes when I sit down to study, something averts my focus from homework, like Netflix, a nap or sounds from down the hallway.

While in the office recently, I asked Chris Colbath, a learning specialist and coordinator in the Center, for a simple tip to improve my study habits. His No. 1 piece of advice was to learn how to prioritize. He said that you should do your assignments based on which deadline comes first. Most importantly, he advised me to do homework outside of my dorm room. There are so many distractions (like sleeping and computers) in the our rooms that removing ourselves to the library or other spaces on campus will help remove temptations.

Taking the advice to heart, I decided to implement all of his suggestions. I have been prioritizing my work better and doing much more of my homework in library spaces. Not surprisingly, the amount of work I get done is astronomical in comparison.

 

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Fifty Shades of CONNunity

- The Experience, Allison Mitobe '17

My Valentine's Day was a memorable one, and not in the way you’d expect.

A friend of mine and I had planned on seeing a very specific and highly-anticipated movie that would premiere on Feb. 14 — "Fifty Shades of Grey." All of our ducks were in a row: We bought our tickets, chose our seats and planned what time we'd meet at the Camel Van. The one thing we did not calculate was a blizzard.

The blizzard impeded our well-thought-out plans because the Camel Van, due to poor weather conditions, could not make its usual trips. Panic shot through our bodies but our tenacity prevailed over this calamity. With only 30 minutes remaining until showtime, my friend and I eagerly dialed for a taxi. When we called, telephone lines were either busy, calls weren’t going through, or we would have to wait an hour for the next available taxi. Our hopes of getting to our destination dwindled as time progressed. Right when I was about to give up, I saw a taxi pull onto campus and ran for it. Fortunately he saw me, brought us to the Waterford movie theater, and we were on time.

I have never seen such a beautiful theater before. Hardwood floors and big spacious reclining chairs made the struggle worth it. After the movies, the effect of the blizzard had not melted away. A new problem arose: How do we get back to school? Like before, taxis were either unavailable or the waiting line would be hours long.

Thankfully, another Conn student was there seeing the same movie, except her show started 30 minutes after ours. My friend knew the other Conn student, texted her, and asked if she wouldn't mind giving us a ride back. She agreed and drove us back safely to campus. I couldn’t have been more grateful. Her benevolence showed me how the Conn community extends beyond campus. No matter where they are, Conn students constantly look out for one another; she certainly looked out for my friend and me.

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Learning how to cook and making fun of friends who burn their sandwiches

- The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

Grilled cheese sandwich

If you're like me, you have a solid background in cooking, baking and such. If you're like my friend Emma, you might claim you do.

Freeman dining hall, one of my favorite places to eat, has weekly cook-your-own-food events. Tuesday nights are stir fry nights and Thursday nights are burrito nights. As of last week, Mondays are now grilled cheese nights! Obviously I attended the opening night because ... grilled cheese (YUM).

Emma, who's a vegan, made a grilled cheese using rye bread, a tomato slice, and vegan cheese — which, we learned, does not melt; it just burns. I, on the other hand, made a professional grilled cheese with bread and a nice helping of cheese and apple slices. Not to judge, but mine may have come out a teensy bit better.

Regardless of results, we both enjoyed experimenting with our sandwiches, and look forward to many more Mondays with this new tradition. It was really nice to be able to cook, even if all I made was a grilled cheese. There are kitchens scattered around campus, in a few residence halls and in apartment residences usually occupied by older students, but my opportunities to cook are infrequent (and I don't usually have many of the ingredients needed). Being able to prepare some food for myself, even if it's just a little bit, in Freeman is a nice change of pace.

Plus, if you bring a friend, there's a chance you can make fun of them for burning their sandwich, which is always a good time! 

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A Happy Valentine's Day

- The Experience, Kirsten Forrester '17

Frosted heart shaped cookies

I’ve never been one to brag, but it’s official: My mom is the best care package-giver ever. Last year for Easter, she sent me my very own “basket,” a box brimming with green confetti, fun Easter-themed sparkly stickers and three chocolate bunnies for me and my two roommates. But the best part was the 30 pastel-colored plastic eggs filled with my favorite candies. Naturally, my roommates and I asked a friend to hide them around the dorm for us and we had our own miniature Easter egg hunt! This year for Valentine's Day, The Coolest Mom Ever sent a homemade cookie decorating set, which included heart-shaped sugar cookies, premade frosting in a fun assortment of colors and funky candies.

I had to throw a cookie decorating party! My friends and I gathered in the Knowlton common room, jammed out to our favorite songs and frosted some cookies. They tasted delicious and we had plenty left over. Not even I, the owner of the world’s largest sweet-tooth, could consume them all. Instead, we walked around the dorm, knocked on doors and handed them all out. Hopefully we made someone’s Valentine’s Day a little bit sweeter. 

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Academics from across the pond

- The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

Edinburgh academic buildings

The academic structure was one of the reasons I was excited to start my spring semester at Conn, following my semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh. The British education system is very different from what we're used to at Connecticut College, and the idea of coming back to a school where I actually understood and liked the education system was relieving.

At Edinburgh, I was taking three classes, and they only met twice a week for 50 minutes. The courses were 100-person lectures where there was no discussion or student input. Outside of class, we did have tutorial — a small discussion of 12 students — but instead of being led by a professor, it was led by a graduate student. None of my professors knew my name or who I was during the entire semester.

In total, my educational commitments were three 50-minute sessions, three times a week, with no homework. None.

My grades were determined by an essay and a final exam, and that was it. One might think that this sounds awesome (and it was for a while), but the lack of structure and the stress of having only two factors determining a grade started to take its toll by the end of the semester. At Edinburgh, the courses were not within a liberal arts system, and students are generally expected to take courses within their major (or degree, as they call it). Students might take an occasional course or two outside of their degree but, unlike at Conn, interdisciplinary is not a regular concept.

All in all, this experience did give me interesting insight into how different countries' education systems work, but it also gave me an appreciation for my liberal arts education that exceeded the appreciation I already had.

Just so no one is confused: I loved my study abroad experience and would not have changed it for the world, but in going abroad, I was able to better understand how I prefer Conn's education system to that at the University of Edinburgh’s. As someone who is combining science and English in her education, I've come to realize I would not have been able recreate the connections between my studies like I get to do back in New London.

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Spreading some Valentine's Day cheer

- The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

After 18 years, one sort of knows what to expect from Valentine's Day. You've got your icky couples spreading PDA like a contagious disease; single people who are proud of the fact that they are strong independent "plates of hot rice that don't need no side dish;" single people who are going to spend the day trying to forget that they're single; and some stragglers who sit somewhere in between one of these groups.

I guess this year I could be considered one of those stragglers. I'm not really sure where I fall, but I'm fully aware of the fact that whatever group I'm in, I have a different perspective than I've ever had before. I've spent my fair share of Valentine's Days in each of the aforementioned categories, but this year I'm just really happy to be able to spread some philanthropy.

About a month ago, I bought boxes and boxes full of Valentines in preparation for the day. You know, the kind of cards you used to give out to your classmates in second grade. Well, my Valentines are pirate-themed and spy-themed. Each kind comes with temporary tattoos and riddles to be decoded respectively, and I am SO EXCITED.

Being in college means that it will be so easy to force my affectionate crafts on friends. In fact, not only do I plan to give my Valentines out to friends, but I'd like to tape them to everyone's doors in my dorm, or at least on my floor. I'd also really like to give them out to random people, if I can work up the courage. I'm very in favor of the idea of random acts of kindness, and recently I've been trying to do more of that, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone to do so. College offers so many opportunities for this, and Valentine's Day gives me the perfect excuse.

So, no, I may not fit into any of the Valentine's Day archetypes exactly, but I'm super stoked for it. The couples will be off doing couple-y things; the strong independent men and women will be off declaring this independence; the lonely singles will be saying depressing things and counting all the cats they have; and the people in complicated situations will be confused. I will be happy in the spot I am in, whatever that spot may be, while handing out awesome cards. And, hopefully, I can make some other people happy in the process.

I'm also excited for our Valentine's dance and the potential for lots of free pink-colored baked goods — but that's beside the point. 

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100 days and counting...

- The Experience, Jordan Thomas '15

Photo from the 100 Days Party for Class of 2015

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this is the beginning of the end.

Last Friday marked 100 days until graduation for the Class of 2015. To both celebrate (and commiserate) our upcoming entrance into the "real world," the 2015 Class Council hosted the traditional 100 Days party for seniors at Bulkeley House, a bar and restaurant in downtown New London. The evening was filled with dancing, drinks and desserts, all to celebrate the impending close to our senior year.

As fun as the night was, it is slightly terrifying to think that only a few short months separate us from our degrees. At least we've still got another 98 days ... not that anyone's counting! 

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A first visit to Coffee Grounds

- The Experience, Allison Mitobe '17

As a transfer student, I am still discovering the nooks and crannies of Connecticut College.

A friend from my European Politics class introduced me to the small and homey Coffee Grounds café. When I first entered the space, the smell of fresh brewing coffee greeted me at the door. I looked around, soaking in the cozy ambiance. The window frames are painted red, making the room pop with color. The blackboard menus with chalk handwriting add a personal touch. Instead of unflattering fluorescent lights overhead, the fixtures are a warm yellow. Eclectic, calm music plays in the background.

While digesting the scene, my friend signaled me to sit on a couch before beginning our homework. After a while, she broke the silence, saying, "I don’t understand why this politics homework talks so much about economics!" I looked up and realized that another person beside me had begun to smile. I turned to face her and an intellectual conversation blossomed. After our basic introductions of names and majors, I found out the reason she had smiled was because she studies exactly the topics that my friend had lamented. She explained the interconnection of how political parties affect what economic polices are passed. Left-wing parties tend to pass policies that increase government spending and taxes, whereas more right-wing parties tend to pass polices that decrease government spending and taxes. Her economic explanations clarified the connection between politics and economics.

It was serendipitous to find myself in an unexpected conversation with a stranger, discussing the world's complexities and learning all the while.

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