My English class is usually taught by a visiting professor and published author, Conn alumna Jessica Soffer '07. But my most recent class was guest-taught by another English professor, Blanche Boyd, the College's writer-in-residence. After learning our names, she started listing story titles and asking us if we had heard her read them to us before. After settling on a piece, she started reading, occasionally stopping and rereading a particular line to us. We spent most of the class absorbing every word she said.
This was a little different than the way my class usually runs. Sometimes, my professor will read to us, but we usually also do a writing exercise, free write, or we critique a story. One memorable day, my professor brought her dog to class and we all worked together to write a short story about her dog’s morning and what she did.
I find it kind of amazing that even though a class is the same in essence, when two different professors teach it, it can be totally different. I understand now why some Conn students elect to take the "same" class twice, because every professor who teaches provides a whole different experience.
Ok, fine, it's not quite maple tree tapping season anymore. The season is still ripe, however, for my newfound obsession with maple syrup tapping — which, admittedly, may or may not be irritating my parents.
A little while ago, there was some advertising around the school for a lesson on maple tree tapping. I had mixed feelings about attending. I assessed the likelihood that the session would be two hours of hellish tedium. I also assessed the likelihood of the program allowing me to take home a giant bucket of free maple syrup. Fortunately, and unfortunately, neither of my prophecies came true.
The event was hosted by the Connecticut College Arboretum and open to students and the community. Jim Luce, the head of grounds, led the session and told us that anyone who can boil water can make their own maple syrup.
And it's true. Basically, all you have to do is stick a tap in a maple tree and then boil the sap down. It doesn't even have to be a sugar maple tree! Your syrup might be kind of icky if you use different types of trees, but that's your call.
You don't even need any real equipment to start tapping maple trees. Jim taught us that you can get creative and use things like paint buckets and plastic pipes to get the job done. If you do want real equipment, though, taps are pretty cheap.
As it should, knowing that I could theoretically make my own maple syrup and eat it by the spoonful excited me. I started pestering my parents over text about tapping the maple tree in my front yard. Meanwhile at school, my friend Emma and I started pointing out maple trees and making stupid jokes about being able to draw syrup from various types of plants, bushes and such.
I may have missed maple season this year with my passivity, but tapping a maple tree has definitely been added to the bucket list. I would highly recommend taking one of the upcoming maple syrup classes and, if you're ambitious enough, you can tap a tree on campus! (Just ask Jim Luce first.)
My biggest fear coming to college was not being able to get the help I needed in class. My public school classes were never bigger than 17 students, and teachers were always available before and after school. Had it not been for teacher availability, I would not have done as well and probably wouldn't be writing this blog post. After these past two semesters, my worries have finally been put to rest.
As one might imagine, the science fields require a lot of memorization and abstract understanding. I am an astronomy major and need to have a strong physics background, so I bravely took an advanced introduction to physics course last semester. After a few weeks, I found myself struggling with the material. Sitting in front of problem sets for hours never seemed to help me figure out how to go about solving a problem.
Desperately wanting to do well on my second problem set — and in the class as a whole — I snapped a picture of my hairbrained, barely cohesive work and dropped it into an email. Within the hour, my professor had emailed me back, outlining a structure I could follow for figuring out the problem and ending his email with a suggestion that I set up a regular time to meet with him. I ended up going to his office for two hours every week to talk about physics and have my many questions answered. I eventually passed the class with a grade I could be proud of.
Fast forward to this semester. I found myself struggling in a 200-level astronomy course one day. The problem sets were really tricky and I found myself unsure of how to do double derivatives. Professor Brown, whom everyone calls "Doc Brown," ended up sitting with me for four hours and even ate her lunch while we were working. I turned in my problem set and, while I've yet to see the results, I’m sure I haven't done too badly. I now meet with Doc Brown every Monday for an hour so I can make sure I’m answering the questions correctly.
College is absolutely difficult academically. I’ve had my share of late nights. I’ve learned, though, that professors are there for students at every turn, as it's their desire to have students succeed. They understand that everyone is made differently and may need help in different areas, so they make themselves available before and after classes to help their students learn.
I recently celebrated my 19th birthday. Well, actually, it was my 4¾ birthday. I was born on Leap Day.
This was my first birthday away from my parents. I remember, before college started, wondering what I’d do on my birthday away from home. I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t have anyone to spend it with. However, it turned out to be one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. I’ve had good birthdays and bad birthdays, teary-eyed birthdays and sick birthdays. (I wasn’t sick for this birthday and no one cried, so it was already shaping up to be one of the better ones.)
I planned everything out in the week preceding the big day with my friend Emma and with the assistance of some Conn students and alums. People threw out all sorts of ideas, from toy stores in Mystic to nearby beaches in Rhode Island. Emma and I wound up using a Zipcar to go to Mistick Village, which is a quaint collection of shops and eateries about 10 minutes from campus. Then we explored historic downtown Mystic and visited a few stores, eventually stopping to eat at a little Thai restaurant.
Before returning, we went to Big Y, our local grocery store, so that I could pick up some snacks to offer to friends back on campus, in the hopes that food offerings would force quality birthday bonding. We drove back with a car full of groceries, dorm decorations and fudge. I invited some people over to my room and we spent the night eating, listening to music, and talking about women’s rights. Some of my friends even surprised me by coming with incredibly thoughtful gifts.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that this tops the birthday when my parents surprised me with a Rugrats tent, but it’s definitely up there. I’d have to say that this was the best birthday I’ve had since, at least, middle school.
Last week, I became involved with a coveted and illusive concept: Connecticut College's common interest housing.
What I realized is that no one really talks about this because it is extremely complicated, but I’ve managed to make sense of it. Common interest housing is apartment style housing that (mostly) resides on the other side of Mohegan Avenue, near the Athletic Center. It consists of the Winchester Houses, Ridge Apartments, and 360 Apartments (which are actually located on the main campus and, unlike the rest of the dorms at Connecticut College, come with a kitchen and living room and are made for 2-6 people.)
The common interest aspect is that each group applies for their housing with a theme, which is what my three friends and I were working on last week. We had to put together an application that explained what our theme was, how it coincided with the College’s goals, the purpose of the project, how it would benefit the larger community, how we would work with our adviser (whom we also had to nominate), and why our specific housing choice was integral to our project.
Since my friends and I all have environmentally focused majors and three out of four of us are vegetarians, we knew we wanted a sort of environmentally based food theme. We also incorporated my friend Natalie’s interest in waste management and my interest in sustainability to add a composting aspect to the project, which we can hopefully expand to include the rest of the Winchesters and Ridges. While we did get an interview for our housing, we have a long application process ahead of us before a decision will be made about our housing. Common interest housing is very competitive and I know many people who are applying for it. It just shows how much our educational interests get combined with other aspects of our College lives.
The other day, I got the monthly email from CELS, our career center here at Conn. An item in this month's issue caught my eye: "Attention First-Year Students and Sophomores: US-UK Fulbright Commission 2015 UK Summer Institutes."
Inside were details about a Fulbright opportunity to apply for one of a handful of summer fellowships in the U.K. In most cases, these fellowships include round-trip airfare, meals and some even give students a daily allowance. As someone who's never really had enough time or disposable income to leave the country, that's a big deal. Also, while you're there, you learn about the culture of the country you're in and take classes on the subject of your particular fellowship's theme. One of the fellowships is about how culture affects one's sense of self which, coincidentally, is exactly what I've been studying since coming to Conn.
Sounds incredible, right?!
The catch? It's extremely competitive. Like... EXTREMELY competitive.
That factor worried me. I wasn't sure I even wanted to apply to the program. The application was slightly daunting and the probability of success would surely be minimal. An opportunity like this, however, is nothing to scoff at. So, I decided it was time I turned to my resources.
I first met with Deb Dreher, associate dean for fellowships. Dean Dreher is very talented in her field. Because of her — and, of course, the talent of our students — Conn has one of the highest numbers of Fulbright scholars among liberal arts schools. She gave me the advice to just "attack" the application, and helpful tips about how to phrase things on my form.
After meeting with Dean Dreher, I made an appointment to meet with my CELS adviser, Dot Wang. She, too, was very helpful. I asked her specifcally about the resumé section of the application, and she offered up advice about how to format my resumé and which activities I should emphasize.
After getting the body of the application attended to, it was time to think about recommendations. I asked two of my professors for (rush) recommendations, hoping that they would have the time and energy. Despite busy schedules and other obligations, they both agreed to help me, which I'm very grateful for.
Now everything is all set and it's time to wait. I know that I put my best foot forward with this application and I used some of the most valuable resources on campus to assist me. Despite a crunch for time, all of the Conn faculty I reached out to was able to help me greatly. All that's left to do is cross my fingers and toes!
After being abroad for the semester, I was particularly excited to return and see the The Barn, the practice and performance space for MOBROC (Musicians Organized for Band Rights On Campus.)
I had been to a few MOBROC shows last year, but never in the Barn because of the space constraints. Over the summer the College renovated the building and in the three weeks I've been at on campus so far, I’ve been to two shows. Both shows were amazing and each drew significant crowds, which gave a great vibe to the overall experience. In addition to enjoying the music and energy at the concerts, it's great that there is now a venue for Connecticut College students to regularly hear live music, for free, performed by their own classmates.
Here at Conn, there are a lot of resources that students can use to find out about the goings-on both around campus and the New London area. I often scan our online calendar to see if anything interests me. I usually flick past the various sports events and briefly consider going to a yoga class, but then succumb to my laziness.
Last week, however, I saw a reflexology event. I'd never heard of "reflexology," so I did some googling, and decided to take a chance and email the director of the program, Rebecca Posner of Master Healing Reflexology. She was very nice, and responded with a long email explaining that reflexology is a technique that uses pressure points (usually in the feet, sometimes in the ears or hands) therapeutically.
I was fully aware of the fact that, were I not in college, I would never seek a reflexologist. It's just something that wouldn't cross my mind and, if it did, I wouldn't act on the thought. This is what made me want to try it all the more. Since starting school, I've tried to be a lot more open to new experiences so that I can really get the most out of my affiliation with the College (and, I guess, my youth, as well). I've also been trying to learn as much as I can, in and out of class. Given all this, I decided to give reflexology a try.
I went to my appointment, excited to experience something new. I learned a lot about the practice, which was really intriguing. The appointment was also interesting because not only do Rebecca and I share the same name, we also share an interest in psychology. She majored in psychology in college, used to be a psychotherapist, and worked with art therapy. Eventually, she found a niche in aromatherapy and reflexology. As someone just getting started in the field, it was cool to hear from a psychologist who tested out different practices out until she found the one she loves. I went to learn about reflexology, and I ended up learning even more than I thought I would.
I'm glad I went out of my comfort zone to do this. I think that trying to absorb as much as you can in college is important, so I'll definitely continue to keep an eye out for unusual events. I mean, after all, it's these unusual experiences that I'll be looking back on after I graduate.
This week the College's calendar told me about an introductory class to maple syrup making. Next adventure? I think so.
What's one of the best things about having your three best friends live in the same hallway? Impromptu outings, which in our case are mostly food-related. One moment we’ll be studying in the common room, and the next we’ll be in a 24-hour diner satisfying a craving for chocolate chip pancakes.
All it takes is someone saying, “You know what would be really good right now?” Most recently, we headed to Five Guys, located only minutes away in Groton, to fulfill a hankering for French fries. It’s on these nights that we have the best, albeit odd, conversations. Whether it’s the lack of sleep or the consumption of high-calorie foods, I’m not sure, but we’ll somehow manage to discuss the strangest things, from llamas wearing hats to the proper pronunciation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. These trips are some of my best memories at Conn.
My old go-to study spot is back, and it’s all shiny and new.
“No Pain, No Shain,” was the slogan we heard all year during our library’s renovations, and while there were certain times when I truly, dearly missed the library, the $9 million dollar project was completed five months ahead of schedule and we now have a spiffy new study space for the last two months of school. The interior was best described to me by one student as “how the future was imagined in the '70s.” It’s true; there is an interesting balance between modern and retro design. Given the original '70s architecture of the building, I think it works. There are a number of new study spaces on all four floors. Every nook and cranny is filled with new comfy chairs and desks, a nice touch considering how packed the library becomes during midterms and finals.
What I’m most excited about is the light. There’s so much of it! Old Shain, with its tiny windows, was dark. New Shain, on the other hand, has much larger windows, making for much happier studying as the light pours in and brightens up the space.