Fall has arrived at Connecticut College, and we've assembled another fantastic blog team to share the student experience with you. Through photography, words and video, our blog team captures classroom discussions, trips around the region, reflections on current events and snapshots of social life on campus. Enjoy!
One of the great things about college — besides the interesting classes, independence, etc. — is the time off. It's the epitome of the "work hard, play hard" saying. After short periods of intensive study, there are so many ways to spend our month off in winter and three months off in the summer, from internships to traveling. For me, I received the good news that I was accepted into Connecticut College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, or CISLA. The goal of this center is to internationalize one’s major. Mine being history, my research proposal involves studying art that was produced under the strict censorship policies of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, exploring topics such as propaganda as art and “cultural wastelands.” So next year, I will be studying and interning abroad in Spain. This means, however, that I have to get my Spanish in gear. My favorite part of the program is its emphasis on language learning, which inspired my recent trip to Guatemala.
Not having spoken Spanish in about a year, it's safe to say my language skills were pretty rusty. So for winter break, I headed off to Don Pedro de Alvarado language school in Antigua, Guatemala. Trying to play catch up, I studied for six hours a day with two different tutors. Contrary to what you might think, the time flew by, especially since the emphasis of my one-on-one tutoring was conversational skills. Every day, I simply spoke with my teachers about my life, their lives, and everything else in between. By the end, I can safely say they became more than just my teachers, they became my friends. They would take me around the city and show me cool art galleries, restaurants and church ruins. My afternoon teacher, Lidia, and I even took a day trip to El Lago de Atitlan. A three-hour trip on Guatemala’s famous “chicken buses,” the day was certainly an experience, from riding on a boat across a beautiful lake to having the man who was sitting next to me on the bus try to baptize me.
During my time in Antigua, I was staying with la familia Darce Pineda, my host family. I was one of five students staying with the family. The atmosphere was so warm that all of us were truly welcomed into the family — from attending their 3-year-old son Renecito’s birthday party to supporting them at their gigs (they are a family of musicians). The picture at the top left of this post is the view from their house’s terrace. In the background, el Volcan de Fuego (the volcano of fire) is erupting. Not to worry — it wasn’t a major eruption, but it is highly active and spurts smoke and ash on a daily basis. Pretty cool, huh? The second photo is of me and some fellow students at the top of Pecaya, another nearby active volcano we climbed one Saturday. While Pecaya is also not majorly active, we did get to roast marshmallows over lava. Yes, I know it sounds a little far-fetched, but really it did happen. It was also probably the best smore ever. While the lava has cooled and hardened, there are cracks that run though it, exposing hot coals exactly the same as what we would see in a dying fire, making for the perfect place to roast a marshmallow.
If I were to ever give advice to a college student, it would be to take advantage of all the time off. It gives us a freedom to study, travel and explore in a way that a full-time job does not. I got to connect my studies at school with an incredible culture opportunity. My Spanish improved greatly, I can happily say I feel more prepared for CISLA, and I got to have some cool adventures along the way.
We are living during a time filled with opportunities for social justice in America. Conn students have always been up-to-date with current events and fought for what they believed in. This was true in the 1970s, when students demanded action from the College and initiated a takeover of a building on campus; it's still true now. With everything going on in the media, Conn students again decided to stand up for justice. At the end of last semester, students participated in two different events meant to honor those who have been victimized.
You may be aware that there are 43 missing students in Mexico. To honor them, as well as many others who have gone missing in Mexico, several Unity House organizations worked together to plan a moment of silence. I, along with many other students, made a banner and stood in front of Cro, our student center, to show our support.
A similar event took place again a few days later in honor of black people who have been killed in instances of police brutality in the United States. Also organized by Unity House student groups, a vigil in front of Cro honored the lives that have been lost. I stood, despite the rain, alongside my peers in solidarity with those around the country doing the same thing.
When you go to college, you don't know who will have the same views as you. People from all over the world come together on a single campus. How can you know that someone else will share the same passion for social justice? As I stood in silence during these events, I thought about what my presence meant. I thought about what the presence of my peers meant.
It is easy to grow comfortable in a space when you do not face an immediate threat; being on campus has created that level of comfort for me. To see so many students come together to care about events beyond our campus made me proud. I go to a college where students aren't afraid to say that they want change and are willing to fight for it.
As an interdisciplinary course, "Introduction to American Studies" is meant to spark discussion about how we mythologize and learn about our nation. Throughout the semester, we have taken time during each class to somehow contemporize our readings, such as the play "Our Town," with current social and political topics in the media. Earlier this semester, Jim Downs, my "Introduction to American Studies" professor, invited Darcie Folsom, director of sexual violence prevention and advocacy, into class to discuss the prevalence of sexual violence in the media. Our discussion focused on the recent case of football star Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer.
Prior to Darcie’s visit to the classroom, we had read Clarence Walker’s "Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings," an analysis of the debate over the affair between Jefferson and Hemings, seeking to uncover the complexity of the relationship. It was really interesting to hear Darcie connect the historical text to a contemporary, relevant social issue. I was so interested in our in-class discussion that I attended a talk outside of class, "Sex and the Founding Fathers," led by Thomas Foster, a professor visiting from another univeristy.
As I reflect upon my semester as a whole, "Introduction to American Studies" has been one of those eye-opening classes that has changed my perspective on topics and has pushed me to become more passionate about my interests.
It seemed as if the show had pushed most students to stay indoors this Saturday afternoon. As I walked around and took a look at what the sky had left over the night, I was struck by the quiet tranquility of the buildings, the trees and the campus as a whole. The sky was still overcast, so, unfortunately, a fog obscured the Long Island Sound, which I could only imagine would have looked so pretty after the recent snow fall. Either way, the campus still held a gentle beauty in face of all the gray skies.
To acknowledge World Aids Day, sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt came to campus in early December. The quilt was on display for three days in Tansill Theater, our black-box performance space, and students, faculty, staff and members of the community were invited to come in and quietly reflect on those affected by HIV/AIDS.
"Synergy" by Frances Pratt stands tall and strong in the face of storm Juno, or whatever I've noticed people calling it on Facebook. This photo was taken before the full force of the storm presented itself, with classes not yet cancled and people unsure the full extent of what was to come. The peaceful skies began to grow darker and darker and soon the winds picked up aswell. The storm was coming ... You could just feel it!
Today a couple of my friends and I grabbed brunch in Harris and trekked over to Tempel Green, all of us clad in at least three layers of snow pants. We fell back into a fluffy three feet of snow and made snow angels until we were all too cold to move. Afterward, we retreated to a friend's room for hot chocolate, popcorn, and lots of blankets.
I waited till nightfall to really get the full scale of the recent snow storm. There's something about checking out the snow at night that really enhances the scale and makes the white-crusted landscape that much grander. There's something about the darkness and the inability to discern anything more than just a white expanse, tinted gold by the street lights, that really made me think just how much snow fell upon our little Connecticut Campus.
Being from Vermont, I’ve had my fair share of sledding experiences. But sledding today in the Arbo has got to be one of the best. Students from all over campus congregated on the big hill, laughing and sharing the random objects brought for sledding, a variety of accessories that included skis, snowboards, cardboard boxes, trays borrowed from the dining hall and, or course, actual sleds.
We all worked together to pack the feet of powder down into a trail, and then took turns going down, giving each other pushes to gain momentum. People tried all sorts of techniques including standing up on trays and hooking sleds together to form a long train. It was most definitely one of my best Conn College experiences to date.
It’s the snowpacolypse! When leaving my dorm this morning, I was greeted with a wall of snow. Forging our way through in order to get to Harris, my friends and I were delighted in the dramatically changed scenery, so much so that the first thing my friend did was jump into the snow and make a snow angel.
Banks of snow up to my knees are everywhere; haphazard piles and trails wind their way through the campus as we embarked on the cold trek to the dining hall. Classes have been canceled for the day, and I hear the shouts and laughter outside my window as students, reverting into our child-like selves, play in the snow.
My friends and I have signed out our house's sled and later today, we will take to the Arbo, the most popular place for sledding on campus. Sledding down the hill in the Arboretum has been on my Conn Coll bucket list since I arrived in my first year and I just cannot wait. Snow days are the best.