The Experience, New London
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!
December 17, 2014
Joe Standart is one those success stories: a self-taught photographer who pursued his dream of taking photos and made it big. While I’ve never aspired to be a professional photographer — it’s just a fun hobby for me — it was still wonderful to hear about the steps he took to become one. Standart came to campus to speak about his project, “Portrait of America,” and portraits of our very own New London. Beginning in 2004, he pulled individuals off the street as they were and took elegant portraits of them. Photographing his subjects from all walks of life in the same studio setting served as an equalizer. Their profession or income was of no matter; each person was photographed the same way. The description of the project explains, “The Portrait exhibitions hold a mirror up to a community to reveal what's already there — the inherent dignity and promise of its people.” The exhibition was not held in a museum, but rather the streets of New London. Large portraits were hung on the sides of buildings and in windows, thus providing a “mirror” for the community. Looking through his photos, I see New London in a new way. I get a glimpse into the lives of its residents.
December 10, 2014
When you tell people you’re staying on campus over Thanksgiving break, you get a sad ‘that’s too bad’ sort of look. But for me, there wasn’t a whole lot sad about it (aside from not getting to see my family, that is) because I got to stay with my three best friends. Taking over the halls of Knowlton, we dragged pillows, blankets and junk food down to the common room for movie marathons, dyed my hair blue in a tiny sink, slid along the wooden floors in our socks, drew on the chalkboards and sang at the top of our lungs. It felt like we had the entire campus to ourselves. The quite was a refreshing change of pace. And when Thursday evening rolled around, we made our own Thanksgiving meal using the kitchen in the basement of Lazarus. First venturing to Fiddleheads for provisions (as featured above), we spent the afternoon prepping and cooking. And once we sat down over our home cooked meal, we toasted to how grateful we are to have each other.
November 28, 2014
TEDxConnecticutCollege, a student-run organization, organized the first TED Youth Event on Saturday. As a precursor to the main TEDxConnecticutCollege, local middle-schoolers were invited to give a presentation on the theme "Worlds Imagined." Some took on the role of technology in our lives and the detrimental effect it can have, while others discussed the continuing problem of racism and discrimination present even in a middle school setting. Having given my own presentation at last year's TEDxConnecticutCollege, I loved seeing younger speakers taking on the same challenge I did, asking themselves how best to convey a message in a creative and entertaining medium. After the conference, the kids took part in activities and workshops supervised by the TEDx staff. There were tables full of Rubik's Cubes and plenty of paper available for painting and drawing.
November 27, 2014
The College's Physics Department is home to one of the largest telescopes in New England, a state-of-the-art wave fume and a one million-volt particle (ion) accelerator. It's one of just four at undergraduate schools in the United States. We have many science resources at Conn, but the accelerator is the one thing that most are unaware of.
Students who study physics, geophysics and chemistry, however, know the particle accelerator well. The machine is currently processing a program called PIXIE. It analyzes the chemical composition of objects without having to use traditional chemistry techniques that could damage or destroy artifacts. By firing a beam of protons at an object, the resulting X-rays are analyzed to decipher the exact chemical composition of an object.
At Conn, PIXIE is helping professors and students study historical Native American trade routes from the New London region. By analyzing the chemical composition of historic clay pots discovered nearby, my classmates have been able to track where these clay pots were made by comparing them to mud samples. On Mamacoke Island, part of the College campus, classmates have uncovered large collections of clay pots, preserved by time. Of the many that originated on the island, some were found to have originated in Hartford and Long Island. By using PIXIE, we have found concrete evidence of intertribal trade between Native Americans in Connecticut. So far, more than two research papers have been published in scientific journals as a result of PIXIE, both written by undergraduate science students at Conn.
November 14, 2014
This past weekend, I went to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, a museum of Native American culture that is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe and located only about 20 minutes from campus. Despite its close proximity to Conn, I had never been to the museum before. Unity House, the multicultural center on campus, sponsored the day trip, so I decided to go and check out some of the museum's exhibits on the Pequot War, life on a reservation and the contemporary Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
The day of our visit, the museum was also hosting a Veterans Powwow to honor those who have served in the armed forces. There was music, dancing and feasting. One of the dances was performed by the "tiny tots" — the children of the tribe. Audience members were invited to learn the steps and perform in the Powwow, but I was mesmerized watching others. Being able to witness another culture's traditions is a valuable and precious thing, and I feel privileged to have been part of this day.
October 27, 2014
What do October and the color purple have in common? Both are associated with domestic violence awareness, education and advocacy. In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I recently went to a domestic violence awareness walk and rally in nearby Groton, Conn. The event was co-sponsored by Safe Futures, the domestic violence center in New London, and was appropriately titled "The Power of Purple."
All of us donned purple shirts and walked a 2.5-mile route in historic Groton. Some passersby applauded us, and a few cars even honked to show their support. During the rally portion, some survivors of domestic violence shared their stories. Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney also spoke about the culture of violence in and beyond the southeastern Connecticut community. The rally ended with a final call to action on what we can do to change the future.
As Catherine Zeiner, the executive director of Safe Futures, said in the final moments of the event, "I see a safe future for southeastern Connecticut." With dedicated advocates, organizations like Safe Futures, and events like this walk and rally, I do, too.
October 23, 2014
Last Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to visit "Lost At Sea: Shipwrecks of the Ancient World," an exhibit presented through the Classics Department. The exhibit is currently up at the Lyman Allyn, an art museum next to campus that the school works closely with. The exhibit consists of amazing, ancient artifacts that until recently remained, well, lost at sea. Also featured are some of the nifty-looking tools used to find artifacts, as well as some short videos about artifact-hunting.
The exhibit room that interested me the most, though, was a room full of live feeds from the Nautilus, a ship currently exploring undiscovered U.S territories in the Caribbean and Pacific. In front of the room, there is an iPad where you can type a question to a scientist on board the Nautilus and get a live response.
After a guided tour of the exhibit, I attended a talk by Dr. Robert Ballard, who led the team that discovered the Titanic. All of the artifacts in the exhibit were discovered by Dr. Ballard, who has a strong connection to the local community and the College. At the talk, he told us about how his fascination with the ocean began, how he fell into his career and, of course, how he found the Titanic. Dr. Ballard was an excellent speaker, and his exhibit was very interesting. I'm glad that I was offered the opportunity to attend.
October 23, 2014
Enjoying a beautiful fall day, my friends and I headed to the Book Barn in Niantic for a picnic. After stopping at Fiddleheads to buy fruit, bread and cheese, I found myself completely enchanted with this used book store. It very much has a ragtag, fairy tale feeling. There are paths through overgrown gardens, pink flamingo statues, interestingly shaped buildings and eclectic furniture amongst stacks and stacks of inexpensive books in every genre. I dined atop an oversized checkers table, read in the shade and added a few new books to my collection for the next rainy day.
October 22, 2014
October 21, 2014
Last Wednesday, a few friends and I headed downtown for the annual New London Fall Food Stroll. Local restaurants and shops opened their doors and provided samples of some of their select dishes. For the cost of a $10 admission button, we sampled from as many restaurants as we liked! Options ranged from kale cake to shrimp creole to macaroni and cheese and more. It's hard to pick a favorite food from the night, but the pumpkin-pie-flavored milkshakes (complete with crushed-up pieces of homemade waffle cones) from Berry's Ice Cream may have stolen my heart.
October 17, 2014
My friend Chloe Jones '15 recently brought a basket she'd woven for an ethnobotany class to dinner. I was fascinated to hear her describe the process of its creation. She extracted strips of bark from a tree, then learned how to soak and weave the strips together from a member of the nearby Mohegan tribe. In the process, she learned about the pawpaw — tiny, green, tropical-tasting fruit native to Central America, the Midwest and the Great Lakes region.
Chloe thought she might have seen some in the Arboretum. I suddenly had a great idea: What if we went and foraged for pawpaws in our own Arbo and collected them in the basket? For some reason, the prospect of foraging our own fruit got us really excited and, right after dinner, we walked to the Arbo.
We found only one pawpaw tree, and it was pretty tall. Chloe and I aren't very tall, so we came to the logical solution of using found sticks to fish the fruit from the tree. We could see about five bunches of fruit on the tree, so we quickly got to work. Chloe held down a branch (the branches are pretty flexible) with a long, forked stick while I knocked the pawpaws off the tree with the branch I was holding. We then celebrated the fact that should an apocalypse strike, we'd be the first to find fruit for survival.
This image is our handiwork — both Chloe's basket and our collective forage. You can't eat more local than this.
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 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!
September 9, 2014
Last Saturday, some friends and I spent the entire day listening to live music at the eighth annual I AM Festival in downtown New London. In between band performances, we decided to cool off in the Whale Tail Fountain, a sculpture located in front of the New London train station. Live music, water splashing and good friends — what could make for a better weekend?
June 18, 2014
At the beginning of June, I was one of 40 students who returned to campus for Reunion 2014. As student hosts, Sam Santiago ’17 and I had the pleasure of working with 15 ladies from the Class of 1959 who returned for their 55th reunion. (For historical reference, it would be another 10 years after these ladies graduated before Connecticut College would accept men.) Sam and I also served as hosts to a 100-year-old member of the Class of 1935 who returned to celebrate.
At Reunion, most returning alumni stay in the residence halls. For the weekend, the Class of 1959 called Wright dorm home. With cookies, the 1959 yearbook, posters of celebrities of the era and decorations, Sam and I transformed Wright’s common room into a “hospitality suite” fit for reminiscing. Our alumni called us “house mothers,” a dated reference to the young, female professors who used to live in the residence halls and tend to the students.
Highlights of the weekend included a “blue-book quiz” that tested the ladies’ memories of their college years and a class dinner at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum that featured a vocal performance by the talented Nancy Savin ’59.
Most of all, I simply enjoyed talking with the alumni, learning about their lives during and after college. An alumna named Gail described how each student used to take a required final examination in their area of study. If they failed it, even if they had a 4.0 GPA, they could not graduate! Gail also described how the number of people in a particular class used to diminish greatly, as women left to marry men from the Coast Guard Academy, Yale, Wesleyan and other schools.
Members of the Class of 1959 have a deep love for their alma mater. Despite the College’s changes and renovations over the years, the 55th reunion class kept saying that what never changed about Connecticut College is the truly wonderful people.
May 23, 2014
During finals, it's easy to spend hours and hours in your room or the library studying, writing papers and completing final projects. May is one of the most beautiful months at Conn, and it's nice to step outside, even for a little bit, and enjoy the warm weather and beautiful trees. Matteo and I took a break from studying to drive into New London and spending some time by the Thames River, visiting our favorite spots in town before we head out for the summer.
May 12, 2014
When I came to Conn, I didn’t know what to expect at Relay for Life. Here, it’s an event spearheaded by students, but open to faculty, staff and the New London community. In fact, many of the walkers are teams from New London.
I have participated in Relay for Life for the past three years and, although I was away at college for the first time, I continued walking with the same mission. I walked for my grandpa, my friend’s mom, for those I don’t know personally, for those who survived and for those who did not.
It's more than just walking; our Relay has dance workshops and live music to keep people upbeat and energized and snacks to keep us fed. My favorite concessions included Chipotle and Girl Scout Cookies. The local food trucks also made appearances.
To see so many people walking was wonderful. This was my first Relay experience at Conn and I really enjoyed it. I'll be back at it next year, too.
April 2, 2014
One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned this year is how to organize: how to organize an event, how to organize people and how to manage down-to-the-detail. I was responsible for organizing a community service day for 50 volunteers. It’s a lot more complicated than you might think.
The community service day I organized was part of a class project within the College’s Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, and the 50 people were my teammates from the Conn College Track and Field team. The job? Clearing invasive species and brush from two preserves managed by Avalonia Land Conservancy in nearby Mystic, Conn.
For my Goodwin-Niering Center project, an academic center at Conn that focuses on the environment, I’m working to broaden Avalonia’s member base and get more young people involved with the organization. Since the track team does a community service project every year, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Since the team is large, we decided to split up and spend two days working at two different preserves run by Avalonia, both in the Stonington area about 20 minutes north of campus. The most challenging part of organizing the whole event involved gathering the equipment we needed to clear the heavy brush. To do that, I reached out to the geology department and the Connecticut College Arboretum; who each kindly lent me clippers, loppers, shovels and gloves.
Both days were great successes. The activity also seemed to provide a fun break for the athletes. I loved being able to connect two of my passions in such a productive way, and I look forward to using this new knowledge to create other such experiences.
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!
March 17, 2014
Ok, I’ll admit it...I’m a francophile. A “frenchie”. A French fanatic.
As such, I organize French Club events on campus. Andrea, a Conn student who volunteers in French classes at New London High School, asked me if French Club would be interested in hosting a class of New London students studying French.
"Absolutely!" So, on Wednesday, Madame arrived with a busload of her French students. Madame had already decorated the room to celebrate Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and served us jambalaya and a galette des rois (pre-Lenten Kings’ cake). While feasting, we watched the film “Cyrano” on a large screen. We were more interested in chatting with each other, however, than watching the film.
After exchanging the polite ca va? (how are you?), we launched into discussions about snow days, robotics, and the humorous connection between analyzing literature and trapping butterflies. I look forward to continuing the conversation at our next rendez-vous, whether at Conn or at the high school.
February 17, 2014
The cast of the Vagina Monologues recently initiated a flashmob as part of the global One Billion Rising Campaign. The flashmob was one of thousands taking place on around the world on February 14th to end violence against women. In fact, one billion people (both men and women) from 207 different countries rose to dance on this day. Events like these are constantly happening on campus by various clubs and organizations, and some are even collaborations between organizations. Not only are these kinds of events fun to participate in and watch, but are also for a good cause.
February 13, 2014
Pictured is my friend Gaby, a senior, working as a community service assistant in the Office of Volunteers for Community Service (OVCS.) OVCS is a great way for students to go into the New London community and volunteer at sites including day cares, soup kitchens, and senior centers. Apart from connecting students to the community and providing transportation to these sites, OVCS offers work study jobs to students in the form of community service assistants and community site drivers. The office is a professional yet relaxed setting. We are able to sit in the office and work on homework, read, or talk and joke amongst ourselves while we wait for our next ride.
January 30, 2014
With my love of creative writing and my interest in serving the community, I have begun volunteering at Sound Community Services, a non-profit organization that helps individuals with behavioral needs gain independence. It’s a place where I continue to learn about New London and individuals with behavioral health needs.
The College’s OVCS (the Office of Volunteering and Community Services) helps match students with volunteer opportunities and arranges for vans to transport volunteers to and from their sites. For the first time last semester, the van dropped me off at Sound Community Services. Cynthia, the program director, greeted me warmly. Having told her I intend to major in English, she suggested that I help out with Friday morning creative writing workshops.
I had no idea that, only one week later, I would lead the workshop single-handedly. Fortunately, I had arrived prepared, and I handed out a poem, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, to the five participants. We read the poem aloud, then we each wrote poems describing where we come from, both literally and figuratively. These poems conveniently helped the group get to know one another. As much as I love learning about the backgrounds of the patients, I also enjoy hearing their fiction pieces.
On Halloween, I copied an exercise that Professor Boyd (an author and professor of English at Conn) uses in her creative writing courses. I prompted my students to invent the age, profession, and gender of an imaginary person, to write these traits on the page, and to share the page with a partner who would then write a story about the fictive person.
The stories that came out of the exercise were out of this world. Outer space, God, free weights, after-work rituals and, yes, a few ghosts all came into the mix.
The workshop took another festive turn with the approach of Thanksgiving. I prompted participants to make a list of what they were thankful for. Friday mornings at Sound Community Services made the top of my list.
January 28, 2014
I’ll forever remember March 16, 2013: It was the first time I pole-vaulted competitively. It was about 30 degrees, and snow started falling halfway through the meet. When I cleared the first height, I was surprised to see that among those cheering for me were two pole-vaulters from the Coast Guard Academy.
Our team practices at the Coast Guard Academy’s indoor track. The Academy is just across the street from campus, only a few hundred feet away. Sharing their track gives us a sense of camaraderie, even though we’re also hometown rivals.
Those of us who practice at the Academy get to know a side of the Cadets that many Conn students don’t see. At track meets, our Coast Guard rivals are also our supporters and friends with whom we chat with while warming up. As a first-time pole vaulter (and as last semester’s only female vaulter from Conn,) I especially appreciate the new friendships I have found with our neighbors across the street.
January 23, 2014
Every Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fiddlehead’s, New London’s organic food co-op, sets up a booth in Cro, our student center. They sell all sorts of fresh and organic fruits, vegetables and sweets. (I’m known to buy their raspberries, apples and mangos.) Having Fiddleheads and other groups visit campus is perfect for stocking up on healthy food before finals or late-night study sessions.
December 18, 2013
I’ve read the Hunger Games series religiously and when my friends and I heard that Conn was sponsoring a trip to see the latest movie, Catching Fire, I do remember squealing loudly. We had already planned to buy tickets to the premiere, but going with Conn made it easier.
Seeing the movie through the College’s trip was really helpful. For starters, it made our tickets cheaper and guaranteed us entry. It is usually my luck that premiere tickets are sold out when I go to buy them… even in advance. Then, transportation was included to and from the theater, making our movie viewing experience tress free. I really didn't think I could be much happier about this endeavor until we showed up at Cro to board the bus for the theater.
As I got on the bus, I discovered several other friends were also signed up to see this movie, in addition to the friends I had purchased tickets with. For movies, a big group is always more fun. In my mind, this outing was going to be rated 7 out of 10 in terms of fun anyway, but between the Conn transportation, cheap tickets and additional friends, the rating scale just broke. It was incredibly fun!