The Experience, First Year Experience
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 16, 2014
One Wednesday evening, I found myself preparing for the first exam of the semester. I’d been dreading this moment for a week, so I tried to figure out a way to ease the pain: I tried something new and studied with Kim, a classmate. We settled into the Branford House common room at 7 p.m. and began our calculus preparation. I had blocked out three hours that night for studying and had prepared myself by bringing all my notes, my textbook and a Vitamin Water. As the night began to unfold, I quickly discovered three things.
First, I realized that studying with a friend from the same course can be highly effective. Often, Kim would understand the concept of a certain problem better than I would, and other times I would have a better understanding than she did. Having an extra brain is incredibly helpful, especially when you both can bond over a common desire: getting through the next exam.
Second, I realized that we were not defined by our notes. The resources of the College stretch very far in all directions and easily provide us with more than enough help. This particular night, Kim and I explored the helpful information available on our class Moodle site, a handy webpage that serves as a reference, curated by the professor, for each course. Our professor had provided helpful links to resources online, scanned resources from different textbooks and helpful solutions to difficult problems. These extra resources often go unnoticed. There were so many resources at our fingertips, fully understanding a topic was easily within our grasp.
Finally, I realized how valuable professors are. My math professor encourages us to take a photo of the problem we are working on and send it to her with questions. She can glance over our work and tell us what we're doing wrong. This is not uncommon for Conn professors. In another class, I had not yet learned good time management and would often find myself up doing homework later than I would have liked. Even in that case, when I sent the professor a photo of my work, I would often get a response late at night with helpful hints. Professors are highly accessible here and they define my experience.
I came to college expecting a struggle and, in some senses, I was right. You are challenged as an individual in many ways but, if you reach out to find the resources, it's hard not to come out of the struggle wiser and smarter. I’ve discovered that working with my classmates and struggling through the material together, reaching out to professors with each and every question, and using the resources provided helps me succeed and thrive.
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 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 5, 2014
As I write this, it's the first day back from Fall Break. Many of my friends were excited to go home for the long weekend, specifically to see their various breeds of furry creatures. I wanted to see my family, swap stories with my friends and, most of all, have my bedroom to myself. Having roommates is fun, but being back in your own room is definitely a welcomed bit of quiet.
Despite the immediate comfort of being home, I found myself missing Conn. I missed being able to roam around the campus, having food available to me at (almost) all times of the day and seeing all the familiar faces. Part of me felt like I didn't fully belong at home. I've now spent a month here on campus and, in that time, I've made a new friendships and experienced so much that's new and different. It makes sense that, at least partially, Conn is becoming my home more and more.
After a brief weekend away, I'm back home at Conn. Sure, I have homework, tests and, yes, I'm again sharing a room. But I'm happy to be back in the routine here.
I'm also happy to have access to the abundance of ice cream in Harris once more.
September 23, 2014
I recently attended my first Camelympics. You may be wondering, "What on earth is Camelympics?!" Imagine if the Olympics were held on a college campus and included activities like board games and hula hooping. That should give you the gist of Camelympics. Different houses compete in games to get points and, at the end of the day, only one house is declared the winner — a coveted title.
Of all the activities I found myself participating in — including Apples to Apples and Catch Phrase — Quidditch was certainly my favorite. I lack the coordination usually required for sports but, as a huge Harry Potter fan, I volunteered to play. I was the Keeper (basically, a goalie) for Johnson House, and our house ended up winning fourth place.
At the beginning of the game, no one was quite sure how the game would work when the brooms did not begin to fly. The confusion was brief and, after the first round of games, people started getting very into it. There was a lot of cheering, a lot of running, a little bit of tackling and a dash of screaming to distract opponents. Players also started growing attatched to their positions. The passion for Quidditch that developed over the course of roughly 20 minutes was pretty surprising.
The most entertaining part about Quidditch is how the role of the Snitch is adapted when playing without magic. In Harry Potter, the Snitch is a little golden ball that, when caught, ends the game instantly. In Muggle (non-magical people) Quidditch, the Snitch is a bystander who volunteers to wear a yellow shirt and run around campus to avoid being tagged by the Seeker. In one of the final games, as the Snitch was about to be caught, he tripped and fell. As others jumped over the Snitch to avoid landing on him, the opposing Seeker snuck up from behind and fell onto the Snitch, winning the game. It was surprisingly intense.
Camelympics may be about fun and games, but there was true competition amongst Camels. There was a very strong sense of community. As houses came together, there was a chance for students to intermingle and meet one another, and the traditional event also gave me the chance to act out my favorite, magical sport.
September 27, 2014
In the last week, I've noticed some unusual additions to Cummings Arts Center on campus. First, a wooden chair appeared in the middle of the lobby. The next day, another chair appeared. Then a table. Then an embroidery wheel with felt letters sewn onto it that read, "I *heart* BEING A MAN." Strange, I thought.
I soon learned that all of these installations were part of an upcoming art show, "Welcome to Hard Times," by artist Dave Sinaguglia, an adjunct professor here at Conn. I attended the opening of his exhibition, which included a lecture, and came to appreciate his artwork much more.
Before attending Dave Sinaguglia's talk, I was unaware of the depth of his work, most of which is commentary on masculinity. I gathered as much from the embroidery wheel, but I didn't really know the context. Dave Sinaguglia explained that he was raised in a very "stereotypical" family in terms of gender and familial roles. Now, he uses tongue-in-cheek concepts to push the ideas associated with gender. For example, one of his projects involved living alone in a homemade log cabin. While building the cabin, he made sure to wear flannel and pose with power tools (as stereotypical "manly men" do). Another one of his carpentry projects was titled "My trouble with women, is my trouble with Music, I love this one song, I listen only to it. For weeks, I never stop loving it — I just stop listening."
This gender aspect of Dave Sinaguglia's art is very interesting because it's an atypical take on a very "complicated topic," as Sinaguglia called it. Of course, this is not the only characteristic of his art projects. They also deal with ideas about socialization versus isolation, independence and precision.
I'm glad that I was able to attend the gallery opening. It offered some new perspectives on gender and got me thinking about other innovative ways in which people can express ideas through art.
September 25, 2014
People spend four years at college exploring many different paths but, at Conn, these years are also spent learning how to be a Camel. There are many ways to embrace your Camel identity, connecting with your peers and your community. The number of ways to spend time are plentiful, including playing sports, volunteering in the community or joining student clubs and activities.
Last year, my first year at Conn, I joined a few clubs. I went to several meetings and decided what worked and what didn't. By the end of the year, not only had I found groups and causes that I cared about, but I had taken leadership positions for the upcoming year. I've become an active member of Umoja — the Black Student Union — and I've met close friends in the process. I also attended Green Dot training, a program dedicated to ending sexual assault and power-based violence on college campuses. I'm also now the vice president of Eclipse, an annual, student-produced dance show.
Now, I have a chance to represent these clubs — the activities that I love so much and that helped me feel at home here — publicly as a spokesperson at the annual Student Involvement Fair. I distinctly remember the fair from my first year and how that one event helped me choose my path. Leading up to this year's fair, I was excited to be on the giving end of the process, helping new students find their passions and activities.
Something surprising happened: I found myself signing up for new clubs, as well. A good walk through the fair presented clubs and groups that I hadn't seen before, along with activities I had previously overlooked. I'm someone who loves to be active and have lots do to over the course of a week. As I go through my four years, I will probably join more clubs, change the activities I'm involved in and find other ways to be involved on campus. That's part of the joy that comes with finding a Camel identity.
September 23, 2014
“One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four …” The voices are in unison. I stare around me; these are the people I’ve known for a year. We’ve met three times every week in the College Center at Crozier-Williams to practice improv. We’re N2O, the short-form improvisational comedy group at Connecticut College and it’s our first show of the year.
The warm-ups are done and the rituals begin: we sit in a circle and talk, and have quiet moments to prepare. Each one of us is nervous — this is also our first combined show with the long-form comedy group on campus, Scuds. A lot rests on this show because we have auditions the day after and we want a good turnout. We want some of the spectators to show up because the people who often think they’re not funny are actually the funniest.
I joined N2O last year in the beginning of September. I heard about the auditions from a friend and almost didn’t make it. In those first few days after Orientation, you run around like a headless chicken and want to join everything — and that’s good, because that’s how you discover things you never knew you were good at. How was I to know that my inherent awkwardness and desire to engage with even the most minor of things would translate to improv? I got to the auditions, however, and I was scared. So many people were so good. The members of the group were informal, though. They could have been ruthless but instead, they were the kindest, nicest people I’d met yet. I got called back and I joined improv.
Joining a club is not just a time commitment, it’s a commitment of spirit. In an English seminar I’m taking this semester, “The Teaching of Writing,” I had to analyze my own writing process in a fair amount of detail. When I got to the end of the paper, I realized that my writing is influenced by improv. I’m committed to the principles of “yes” “and” (agreeing and adding on, to make the scene work) and it’s honestly made me a better writer and storyteller. Even in my personal life, improv has made me more direct, but also better able to engage with the absurd and the fantastical. Between the number-counting and the limb-shaking of a warm-up before a show, I feel immensely glad that I tried something completely new and it paid off.
September 22, 2014
"Put on some gloves and grab a brain." Those were the words I heard my instructor say as I walked into my Psychology 100 lab today.
Yes, today we dissected brains. "Whose brain?" a friend asked before lab. "Do you remember the guy who used to live across the hall?" All humor aside, though, the lab was quite interesting. (It was the brain of a sheep.)
Working in pairs, we located some of the outer parts of the brain, a process which involved cutting the item in half. I felt surprisingly grown up, using the scalpels, dissection scissors and various sharp, scientific tools we had been given. As we cut open the brains, the thalamus, hypothalamus and corpus collosum all became visible. These are structures found in the center of the brain, which some of you "brainy" readers probably already knew.
I'm sure some students might have found this lab slightly nauseating, but, as a psychology major, I thought it was fascinating. My psychology professor walked around and helped when necessary, but for the most part we were given freedom to figure things out on our own. It was a vastly different experience from my previous high school science labs. After hearing about various brain structures in the course's lecture, we were able to match functions and locations during the lab. Suddenly, the concepts became less abstract. It sounds utterly cliché, but today's class made learning fun.
After dissecting brains on day two of the lab, I have very high expectations for the rest of the year.
September 10, 2014
A few weeks ago, as I headed out the door to college for the second time, a few things ran through my mind. "OMG, I'm a sophomore … can time stop moving so quickly?!" I probably had that thought a few times, actually. It is scary when you realize how quickly time passes and how fast your four years go. After I came to peace with the notion that time stops for no one, I thought of all the positive things this year would have in store for me.
Your first year is a time to explore (and learn … but you are always learning). You go to almost every club meeting on campus at least once and you can try activities and courses just to see if you like them. By your second year, you find a few projects that interest you and you are able to hone your passions. It is an amazing feeling to come back to campus and know what you are excited for.
I arrived back to campus feeling just exuberant. I was ready to be a Student Adviser, to be a more active member of the clubs I really connected with my first year, and, especially, to be on the executive board of the largest student-produced performance on campus. I'm now a student leader, an active learner and an engaged member of the student body. Now, I attend lectures and go to the events hosted by the Student Activities Council with excitement. These activities, I’ve realized, keep me busier than ever.
The first few hours on campus reminded me of what I missed over the summer. The year is only just beginning and I can't wait to see what sophomore year will bring.
August 27, 2014
“Once a Camel, always a Camel.” The return to Camel Land, as we lovingly call campus, is always anxiously awaited. This year, I moved in early because I completed a week of training to prepare me to be a student leader on campus. While there are several ways to be a student leader on campus, I chose to be a Student Adviser, an important part of Orientation.
Being a Student Adviser entails working closely with a handful of first-year students to help them acclimate to campus, both during Orientation and in the days and weeks that follow. I went through a week of training to be sure that I would best be able to help our newest Camels.
Preparing for Orientation is just as much fun than the actual events. Watching and participating in all of the hard work that goes into Orientation was incredible: There’s the beautiful summer weather, productive meetings in which everyone is working toward a common goal, and good friends who make an early return to campus exciting. All student leaders who were back on campus early had a chance to bond as we all excitedly awaited the arrival of the first-year students. We discussed Orientation events over dinner and spent our free time enjoying the sun. As a student leader, you really get to know the campus in ways that you might not otherwise.
Returning to campus and helping new students get adjusted was a great way to end the summer. I was able to move in early, get settled and then give back to new students, answering their questions and helping them get around campus. I gave them the same royal treatment that I was given a year ago when I arrived on campus for the first time.
August 26, 2014
I returned to campus a few days early to help capture Arrival Day for the Class of 2018 and transfer students. It was a long day and brought back many memories of my arrival four years ago. Take a look!
April 29, 2014
Sometimes it is easy to forget what life was like before college. Once you're acclimated to college life and get a schedule going, the past is a distant memory.
The past few weeks have been full of tours and overnight visits for both accepted and prospective students. Having spent this spring hosting some of these overnight visitors, I’ve been reminded of what life felt like for me just a few years ago, as senior in high school. I remember the stress of high school report cards and college applications like it was yesterday.
With all these flashbacks come memories of the many people who helped me along the way. Friends who were already in college gave me advice about ways to improve my essays and relax for interviews. My college counselor, teachers and family members made sure I handed everything in on time and wrote my recommendations.
To be honest, after it all ends, you forget about the stress you felt. You only remember the excitement and relief of it all. You remember how happy you were to finally be done with the essays, tests, and applications. You remember senior spring because you were finally free and just waiting for responses.
The most important memory from last year is the day I chose to attend Conn. In that moment, all my hard work had finally paid off.
These past few weeks have been a very nostalgic time. While I wouldn't choose to do the process over, it certainly feels good to remember those days. To the Class of 2018 who will be on campus next year, congratulations!
April 9, 2014
This past weekend, Student Activities Council organized a free trip to New York City. At 8 a.m., sleepy Camels made their way to Cro to take a bus to the city. It was a day filled with lots of walking, lots of food and like any good visit, an unexpected pillow fight in Washington Square Park.
I went on this trip with three friends. One is from New York, as am I, and the other two are from Boston. We wanted to give our Boston friends a general idea of what the Big Apple is like, so we tried to go to all the tourist spots, including Times Square and Soho. When you live near the city, you often forget how amazing it is, especially for someone who has never have visited.
Of course, the city is full of surprises and we stumbled into a massive pillow fight in Washington Square Park. It looked like everyone in the city had come outdoors to join in.
Trips like this are not uncommon for Camels. The Student Activities Council and the art history department often offer free or cheap busses to New York, Providence and Boston. It was a nice change of pace to be able to experience a dose of city life with my fellow New London Camels.
March 21, 2014
Orientation isn't just for Conn’s newest students. A big part of what makes that week in August, the week before classes, so much fun is how students from all class years come together to help the newest Camels get to know campus. Student advisers are among the many student groups that return to campus early and help make the transition easy. Since I had a really good experience with my own student adviser earlier this year, I applied to become one for the Class of 2018.
When I found out that I was offered the position, I was thrilled. It’s a great feeling to know that I’ll play a part in a week so many students look forward to. I’m getting more and more excited for summer now, knowing that I’ll be back on campus earlier in August. I’ll be there to help the new Camels with orientation activities, picking their first classes, and getting to know campus. Welcome, 2018!
February 28, 2014
In high school, it can be very easy to tell your peers apart by their various ages. In college, I have realized, even if you know the ages of your peers, it is very easy to forget.
College life isn't determined by class year. Students of all years will be in your 9 a.m. class or in your 4:30 p.m. practice, and often, they become close friends.
Rarely do you realize the person from your science class who you eat lunch with might actually be two class years above you. The person who agreed with your point during that club meeting is actually a senior, but you both share similar interests and experiences.
The beautiful thing about college is that the friends you make are not dependent on your age. You share moments, develop bonds, and create friendships based on similarities. Friendships originate from a shared love of animal rights or a good lab experience. College let's you explore your interests, and it brings you near the people who want to explore, too.
January 2, 2014
Just before break, I attended CELS (Career Enhancing Life Services) Workshop Four, which focused on professional communication. The CELS staff showed us techniques for writing cover letters, sending professional emails, and interviewing. Each of the seven workshops have a different goal, from completing your resume to finding your internship. If we attend all the workshops and fulfill separate requirements, we are eligible for a $3,000 stipend for an internship during the summer of our junior year.
November 19, 2013
Course selection is one time where everyone on campus has the same problem. One could say that the severity of this issue varies by year and that first year students have it the worst. Since you don't have to declare your major until the spring semester of your sophomore year, the early semesters are perfect for exploration. There are tons of classes to choose from, and your studies aren’t necessarily refined yet. The possibilities are endless and, well, that can be very overwhelming. Picking courses makes me feel like a little kid exploring a new playground, you just don't know what to try first or in what order.
The good thing about being a first year student with many options comes in when it’s time to register. Since our class select their classes last, there's a chance that the class you want to take will be full. After you spend about 30 seconds being sad that you didn't get into one class, you can be excited because now you can take the other class that seemed really interesting but didn't fit into the schedule.
Course selection is so stressful. So many classes, and only 4 of them can win. It's like the Hunger Games but with more victors. Every time I think I'm ready for registration, friends keep telling me about yet another interesting class I might like. Looks like I might need to rearrange my schedule again...
November 12, 2013
In the context of human development, a few questions arise. What impact did his/her culture have? How did this affect his/her experiences? These are a few topics that are often discussed in my first-year seminar. We analyze cultures and how people develop as a result of them. To create a more enriching lesson, our professor assigned an oral history project: each student was to cover a different region in the world, and, essentially, capture an immigrant experience. With people from all over the world coming to the United States everyday, learning about their now-bicultural experience would add a new layer to our analysis.
I interviewed a student who I now consider to be a close friend. The act of interviewing led me to a lot of self-reflection. As she told me about her family's journey from Colombia, I saw a different side of her. There was so much pride in her tone, in her story. I was able to learn about her perspective as someone who grew up in two different cultures. After the interview, I started to analyze my own family's history. Where was my deeply rooted pride? Why didn't I have the same bicultural perspective and sense of understanding?
College is where many people say that they discover a lot about themselves. They become more interested in the history behind who they are. They wonder more about what this history means to them and how it has impacted who they have become. These questions we are asked in class are the same questions we ask ourselves throughout our lives. We find the things that make us happy, the things we really enjoy doing, but only after we have found many things we don't like. Every new experience becomes a way to explore and figure out more of where we would like to go in life. If people say they do a lot of this soul searching and finding in college, then I have one question: At the end of all of this, what will I say was my college experience?
November 7, 2013
At Conn, every new first-year student enrolls in a first-year seminar. I am taking a very interesting course on culture and human development, but I find myself doing the work of two classes.
My best friend is in a seminar about feminism and, although I’m not enrolled, I love it. I do the homework for my class and then, for fun, I do the homework for her course. I get the experience of two different seminars just by doing the readings and analyzing them with the assigned questions. How did this all start, you ask? Let me explain...
After doing her own homework one day, my friend asked me my thoughts on something she and classmates had read. She and I ended up having a very long discussion about feminism and how it relates to us on a personal level. This made me even more curious and I began to read the books she was assigned for class. Now, I think I might be more excited about her coursework than she is. My interest in this class even led me to attend a lecture and performance by Sabrina Chap, an author being studied by the class. Anyone who has read Chap’s “Live Through This” can attest to how amazing the compilation of stories about self-destruction is.
Call it a little weird, but I consider myself to be in two first-year seminars … and it is awesome.
October 14, 2013
Though I transferred to Conn a mere month and a half ago, it already feels as comfortable as home thanks to the royal wonders of Knowlton House.
Running upstairs and knocking on Joanna’s door for that much-needed dose of chitchat and chick-flicks (most recently, "27 Dresses"), gabbing with Peruvian Gabby (in between brushing teeth) at 7 a.m. about our intended morning workouts, and cooking crepes in Knowlton’s pantry to prep for French Club with club co-head and floor neighbor, Emily.
Personal faves include the baked mac n’ cheese and pork dumplings. Not to mention those chocolate chip toffee Heath bars... Mmm...
3. Language Lunch Tables
Gotta love discussing French popular films and joking about the stereotypes of northern Frenchmen with Professeur Chalmin. En francais of course!
4. Roommate Amanda (Jixuan)
A sister to come home to, though an ocean divides our hometowns.
5. Location: South Campus, on Temple Green
Classes a minute’s walk across the Green, delicious soup and artisanal bread in Freeman dining hall a few doors down, the start line of women’s cross country practice at the tree out the back door.
A grand staircase fit for a cliché ballroom entrance, crowning bedroom ceilings, rich hardwood floors, a fireplace. Not surprisingly, Knowlton began life as the campus hotel for the (once all-female) students’ male suitors.
Perhaps honoring Knowlton’s historically male guests, Knowlton Knights attend a dinner sporting mustaches and fancy attire.
Across the street from Gallows Lane, Knowlton conjures up its spirits to throw down a killer haunted house. For those easily spooked, pumpkin carving’s also a golden option as part of our Fright Night series.
8. The Piano
A trusty friend when the time comes to plunk out that music theory homework. A godsend when the lunch hour pianist (a talented and surprisingly consistent Conn student) lays his fingers on its ivory keys.
Juan saves the day with his cheery “good morning,” spotless cleaning, and spare set of room keys if one helplessly finds oneself locked out of one's room. Not that I have ever been locked out ;) ;)
Who won the Camelympics chant? KNOWL-TON! Who won? KNOWL-TON! Frankly, who else?