April 17, 2015
I started swimming when I was about 4 years old, and since then I've continued once in a while. I was on my high school's team for a bit, but I knew that I'd never want to be on a college team. I didn't want to give up on swimming — it's the only exercise I can bear, because I'm not sure I'm actually a land creature — but the idea of being on a team was terrifying.
I went into college thinking that I'd swim on my own terms during open pool hours. A lovely thought, indeed, and one I followed through on... once. I underestimated the power of my sedentary nature. What free-thinking human being would willingly jump into a cold pool, while half naked, and then proceed to flail their limbs until fatigued? Not this gal.
There was a pervading sense of guilt that came with this passivity, but it went unattended to until I happened to notice that there were swimming classes in the course catalog. I thought that signing up could be risky because I really had no idea what proficiency level the other students in the class would be on.
It's been a relief, however, to find that the course is adjusted for each student. Everyone's on a different level, and there's really no pressure. It's taught by Matt Anderson, our water polo coach, and there are only six students in the course, so there is ample individual attention. It's been a great way to improve my stroke, force myself to work out and also score an extra course credit.
If swimming isn't your thing, there are other single-credit athletic courses, as well. If you're really ambitious, you could even go for something like scuba diving.
April 15, 2015
Cummings is my favorite building on campus. It's got a quirky design and layout of classrooms, but it has an atmosphere that's especially fitting for the art that's created within. I love Cummings because art is everywhere. As an art center, this shouldn't be surprising, but it goes beyond the expected.
The Joanne Toor Cummings Gallery on the main floor showcases student and faculty art in an official, formal manner, but it’s the first and third floors that I like the most. There, the works of art are scattered about. In the printmaking room, each student has a section of the wall where they hang up all of their drafts and brainstorms. Walking to my drawing class this semester, I pass through a corridor where art hangs along the walls and changes constantly. Right now, it’s the work of the large format painting class. Before, the same wall showcased the results of an eight-hour drawing marathon. This same corridor showcases sculptures, as well.
Art of all shapes, sizes and materials is scattered throughout the passages. One sometimes must weave through them in order to get to the other end. With so many things covering them, the halls and walls of Cummings become works of art in and of themselves. As an art lover, that makes it a pretty cool place to be.
April 13, 2015
There are lots of class projects in college: papers are due, lab reports must be handed it, dioramas carefully constructed. These assignments are usually an exciting opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in class and show a professor how you really feel about a topic. Recently, I put together an intriguing project I’m sure you’ll all be interested in: I converted Dorothy’s Kansas farmhouse into a house museum for the 21st century.
Now, of course I didn’t actually have the house that flew to Oz in L. Frank Baum’s "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," but I was tasked with stepping into the shoes of a director of a museum who has just received a gift of the actual house that went to Oz. What I came up was a house museum/ tourist trap.
These are the creative and unusual projects that Museum Studies students like myself get to be involved in. We get to be very creative and imaginative, but the lessons we learn are very applicable to the field.
As guests arrive at my museum, they are brought into a state-of-the-art visitor’s center, which set back from the actual property Dorothy’s house is located on. Here, they can get a bite to eat, rent a tablet for the day, or watch a 35-minute film introducing them to L. Frank Baum’s work. Then, they make their way via horse-drawn wagon to the property where they can check out the exhibits in Dorothy’s house and then buy artisan crafts in the barn nearby. With period activities for kids, in-depth information for parents, and something unique for every guest, my museum appeals to a broad range of visitor types.
Inside Dorothy’s house is where the real fun begins. At "Dorothy’s Museum of America and the West," we ignore the existence of any movies. Instead, we rely only on L. Frank Baum’s series on Oz. In-fact, we use "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" as a frame to look back on American life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, the squeaky Tin Man represents the big industry of the northeast. He runs on oil (as many of those companies did) and is searching for a heart (many companies were criticized for not having any heart for their workers). Another example is the Wicked Witch of the West who can be killed with a splash of water. Imagine she represents the western United States, bringing bad fortune to farmers: when water is thrown on her, all the drought she caused goes away.
The museum also looks at how women are represented in the book. The main character is Dorothy, of course, and she does not need help from anyone! She is a good learner in a world where there are few female mentors and in which she must push through a male-dominated culture. She helps three lost souls and defeats a smoke-and-mirrors wizard to bring the reign of the kingdom back under the rightful rule of Princess Ozma. Think of Dorothy as the American Alice from "Alice in Wonderland." Dorothy has no father figures to reconcile with and no prince who rescues her. Instead, she goes out and strikes her own fortune.
Doing the research for my project reminded me of what a fantastic series L. Frank Baum put together. There are so many parts of his work that connect back to the United States and the values that we have put in place. It highlights the good in our society and challenges the bad. I want "Dorothy’s Museum of America and the West" to really exist so that everyone can learn about Dorothy and her adventures and how they reflect American culture.
April 11, 2015
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.
April 9, 2015
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.)
April 7, 2015
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’m not so worried about astronomy anymore.
April 5, 2015
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.
April 2, 2015
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.
March 31, 2015
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!
March 29, 2015
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.