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The Experience, Kirsten Forrester '17

Kirsten Forrester

Hometown: Williston, Vt.
Major: History
Minor: Art
Activities: Student blogger, administrative assistant in the Donor Relations office, volunteer at Hygienic Art and photographer for The College Voice

 

Favorite aspect of Connecticut College:
What strikes me the most about Connecticut College, besides the beautiful campus, is the opportunities available for students. These opportunities come in many forms, including the interdisciplinary centers, sophomore research seminars and independent studies. I know that if there is something I am passionate about and want to pursue, there is almost always a way to make it happen.

Favorite location on campus:
The language tables. Dining at the language-themed tables is one of my favorite things to do for lunch. Last year, when I lived only yards from the tables, it made for the perfect, cozy atmosphere to enjoy a leisurely lunch. I would sit sipping hot cocoa, listening to the different languages that surrounded me — from German to Arabic to Spanish — getting to know my professors, and chatting with friends. During the library renovation, the tables have moved from Knowlton Dining Hall to Harris.

Favorite memory at Connecticut College:
It’s too soon to tell! With two and a half years to go, who knows what will happen. In the meantime, I look forward to again attending my favorite events from last year, including dance and theater performances, lectures by my favorite professors, and Floralia, our end-of-year music festival. I can’t wait to continue late-night Oasis snack runs and pretending to study on Tempel Green, where the view makes for an easy distraction.

Favorite activity in New London or the region:
Hanging out in Muddy Waters Café and Hygenic Art Gallery in downtown New London. Muddy Waters, with its warm, eclectic vibe, comfy chairs and incredibly delicious muffins makes for a great off-campus study place. Right across the street is Hygienic Art Gallery, a former diner that now showcases local artists’ work. It’s fun to see the variety of mediums and themes present in New London, plus they bring in cool bands and performances for their art park.

Winter in the mountains, fall in the valley

An early October snowfall made for stunning views in the peaks of Vermont.

Hiking the Long Trail in five inches of snow is cold—a “wake up every morning to frozen shoes you have to pry open” kind of cold. Eleven members from the Outdoors Club braved the less-than-ideal weather conditions to backpack in Vermont during Fall Break. We traveled a total of 23 miles, beginning in Lincoln and ending at Camel’s Hump in Hunnington. It was definitely a workout. The terrain is steep—we summited six different peaks—and the snow made for slow going. Most of the time I was really cold. But every time I thought my legs were too tired or my toes too frozen, all I had to do was look around me. The landscape was absolutely stunning. Because of the early snowfall, you could see the snowy trees at the summit transition back into fall in the valley. We were in two seasons at once.

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Picasso in Three Dimensions

One of Picasso's sculptures on display at the Museum of Modern Art.

Did you know Picasso dedicated a larger portion of his career to sculpting? As an art lover, I’m disappointed to say I didn’t. Recently, the Hispanic Studies Department went to see an exhibit of his sculptures at the MoMa in New York City. It spanned several rooms as each was dedicated to a certain period in his life. What stuck out to me most was the diversity of his work. The rooms varied greatly between material and subject matter. We traveled through his early works, which were heavily influenced by African figures and made from wood and bronze, to his somber period during World War II; to a reinvigoration of somewhat erotic plaster faces and bodies inspired by his lover, to metal and cardboard cubist sculptures. It was quite the journey.

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An impromptu trip to Five Guys

The outside of a Five Guys fast food restaurant

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.

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Finding a 'friend' through Craigslist

Meet Alberta. She’s a loveseat, and the newest edition to my friend Emma’s room. Emma and I live in Knowlton residence hall, the language dorm on campus known for its spacious rooms. Looking to provide comfy seating for guests, Emma turned to Craigslist. That’s where she found Alberta, and I was recruited to help pick her up. A couple hours later, we had made an unexpected friend.

After a 20-minute drive to nearby Stonington, Emma and I found ourselves lost among the streets of a winding beachside neighborhood, so we called the woman who was selling us the loveseat for directions. I won’t mention her real name, as it would make her uncomfortable, so instead I’ll call her Marybeth. Marybeth was hesitant to let us come to her house or give us her phone number, but since she couldn’t fit the couch into a car to meet us somewhere else, she reluctantly agreed.

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Adopted for Fall Weekend

Fall Weekend at Conn has a lot of fun events. There’s Harvestfest, where a variety of campus clubs sell food and memorabilia; a cappella and music department concerts; Green Dot sporting events, which raise awareness for our domestic violence and sexual assault prevention program; and, this year, a keynote speech by Sloane Crosley, author of “The Clasp.”

If your parents are unable to visit, though, it can get a little lonely as friends are off with their families. Conn always hosts a dinner for those of us whose parents don’t attend. The meal was Jasmine Thai and Mirch Misala takeout for those of us in this situation, which is great. (I mean, who would turn down free Thai and Indian food?)

But I lucked into an even better deal: My friend Miranda and her mother invited me to hang out with them on Saturday. The highlight was a classy meal at the Norwich Inn and Spa. I was treated to a decadent dinner of green salad, tiramisu, filet mignon and molten chocolate lava cake. We sat for hours taking about art history, life in Portland (they’re from Maine), and our latest romantic interests. It was nice to dress up, get off campus and catch up with a good friend. So, an utmost thank you to the Shinns for taking me in for the weekend — I had a lovely time.  

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A happy Halloween

A Pokemon-inspired pumpkin

Halloween is great. Ever since I was a child, it’s been one of my favorite times of year. There are fun costumes, pumpkin-carving and the ridiculously amazing consumption of large quantities of candy. What’s not to love? And since Halloween was on a Saturday this year, I got to have a weekend full of festivities. 

Friday evening, my friends and I went in search of the perfect pumpkin to carve. We found one at a nearby patch and returned to my room. Using an odd variety of utensils we managed to find, we commenced a pumpkin-carving competition. I may be slightly biased, but I’m pretty sure mine won. I mean, it’s Gengar from Pokemon and I’m pretty proud of my rendition. I lit it and kept it in my window for the evening. Afterward, we baked the pumpkin seeds in Earth House and watched “Sweeney Todd.” As a person who is not a fan of horror movies, “Sweeney Todd” was the scariest my friends could get me to watch. It was definitely creepy, but interestingly full of social commentary. And thankfully, I didn’t have any nightmares!

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CISLA U.N. Trip

- The Experience, Kirsten Forrester '17  The Experience, Mike Wipper '17 

UN Trip CISLA

New London seems as if it might be in the middle of nowhere. It's easy to forget, however, that we’re actually quite close to major New England cities; we’re less than an hour to Providence, two hours to Boston and two and a half to New York City. All of these places make for great day trips, as well as cool opportunities for class field trips. Most recently, Mike and I headed to the United Nations with our CISLA class where we met with the delegations from France and Iran. 

The delegations are inconspicuously housed across the city. As we entered what appeared to be an ordinary office building, I found myself temporarily confused — where were we heading? Forty-two floors up, I found myself at the New York home of the Iranian delegation, a simplistic office with white walls featuring photos of Ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Kahmenei, the Supreme Leaders of Iran. Ushered into the library, a representative from the delegation gave us a brief introduction to Iran’s history and current foreign policy. The gist: Iran is not perfect, but they’re working on it. “We are the most stable country in the Middle East,” the delegate told us. Our course instructors encouraged us to respectfully ask difficult questions, and we found ourselves inquiring about the right to organize within Iran, the Houthi movement in Yemen and the implications of the nuclear deal with the United States. It was interesting to hear how his responses aligned with the official view of the Iranian government. It was a contrast to the French delegation, whose delegate met with us in the “parlor,” an ornate ballroom with tapestries, hardwood floors and a chandelier. He answered with his personal perspectives about social tensions, the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the potential use of secularism as a guise for the social exclusion of Islam.

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Ideas worth spreading

You may have heard of TED talks. Technology, Entertainment, Design is a global conference series and "Ideas worth spreading" is their slogan. You may not have, however, heard of TEDxConnecticutCollege.

Every year we hold our own TED conference. The idea behind the TEDx program is for individual organizers to spark conversation on a local level. It's entirely student-organized and brings together speakers from within and beyond our community. This year, the theme was “genius loves company.” Upon entering Cummings that morning — and after enjoying the Panera bagels and homemade donuts — we each received a nametag featuring a silhouette of either Sherlock or Watson. I was a Watson and the goal was for me to find a Sherlock to converse with. To help with this, each person wrote a topic of conversation on his or her nametag. Some people wrote “talk to me about anything,” while others wrote “arts and museums” or “traveling.” Mine was “ask me how to pronounce my name.”* I was hoping it would be an interesting conversation starter. The talks of the day were great. Among many, we heard from a mushroom-foraging student about understanding where our food comes from (as featured in the above photo), the editor of Fast Company about technology and digital media, and an art history professor about the mythologies of the “Artist-Genius.”  

*Kirsten is pronounced Kur-sten. It is often mistaken for Kiersten, which is pronounced Keer-stin, or Kristen, which is pronounced Krihs-ten.  

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Hello, spring

Students relax on a field

Spring has arrived! We have been blessed with sunny, high 60-degree weather for the past couple of days, and it's beautiful. Students have broken out their shorts, sunglasses and flip-flops and have flocked to Tempel Green for sunbathing, relaxing and sports.  It feels like everyone has suddenly come out of hibernation. The Green seemingly transformed from a cold, snowy landscape to a lively hangout spot in just a short number of days. Yesterday, my friends and I took a study break to toss around a football one of us had won at Bingo Night. It’s important to note that none of us actually knew how to throw a football … it was great fun, nonetheless.

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Art in Cummings

Prints are hung up on a wall in an art building

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. 

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A brand new Shain

The exterior of the newly renovated library

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. 

 

 

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As Told By Vaginas

Students take a bow on stage after performing monologues written by their peers about the female experience

For the past thirteen years, the female students of Connecuticut College have performed "The Vagina Monologues," an episodic play written by Eve Ensler, to raise money for sexual assault survivors. This year, however, the students and community decided to create a production that better speaks to the experiences of women on our campus. They titled the new show "As Told by Vaginas," and the show is now comprised of student-written monologues from within our community. As I sat in the audience and listened to friends and peers perform these monologues, I appreciated the candor in which these stories were told. They were true, honest and real. Some were funny, some were serious, and others empowering. Most of all, I could feel the sense of community among the female performers. In the photo above, they take a group bow together. 

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Camels go green to raise awareness

Conncoll's camel mascot wears a green jersey to raise awareness about sexual violence

Last Saturday, our men’s ice hockey team donned green jerseys in support of Connecticut College's Green Dot program, turning their game against Tufts into an event aimed at raising awareness about issues of sexual assault and power-based violence. The Green Dot program was adopted at Conn in 2010 as a part of the Think S.A.F.E. Project, initially as a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. Today, the Think S.A.F.E. Project is very much a part of Conn culture. The program helps to train and educate students, faculty and staff about issues related to domestic, sexual, personal and dating violence, as well as stalking. This includes information about prevention and bystander intervention.

As I entered the ice rink that night, I saw a sea of green. Students wore their Green Dot training t-shirts, green pucks were up for raffle, green posters covered the walls, students banged together green noisemakers and the hockey team wore their special green jerseys, forgoing our usual blue and white team colors. Even our mascot showed his support by swapping out his normal shirt for the one pictured.

While we won the game that night 4-1, it wasn’t our only victory; our campus community came together in support of an important initiative. 

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A Happy Valentine's Day

Frosted heart shaped cookies

I’ve never been one to brag, but it’s official: My mom is the best care package-giver ever. Last year for Easter, she sent me my very own “basket,” a box brimming with green confetti, fun Easter-themed sparkly stickers and three chocolate bunnies for me and my two roommates. But the best part was the 30 pastel-colored plastic eggs filled with my favorite candies. Naturally, my roommates and I asked a friend to hide them around the dorm for us and we had our own miniature Easter egg hunt! This year for Valentine's Day, The Coolest Mom Ever sent a homemade cookie decorating set, which included heart-shaped sugar cookies, premade frosting in a fun assortment of colors and funky candies.

I had to throw a cookie decorating party! My friends and I gathered in the Knowlton common room, jammed out to our favorite songs and frosted some cookies. They tasted delicious and we had plenty left over. Not even I, the owner of the world’s largest sweet-tooth, could consume them all. Instead, we walked around the dorm, knocked on doors and handed them all out. Hopefully we made someone’s Valentine’s Day a little bit sweeter. 

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A winter break in Antigua, Guatemala

A volcano in Antigua, Guatemala erupts

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.

Spanish students pose at the top of an active volcano

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. 

 

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Snowpocalypse continued: sledding in the Arbo

A student sleds down a hill in the snow

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.

And the best part: it’s still snowing! 

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It's the snowpocalypse!

Students walk out of their dorm and into 20 inches of snow

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. 

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Strolling along Bluff Point

A group of students from the Outdoors Club pose along a beach at Bluff Point, CT.

When I first think of Connecticut, I don’t think “outdoorsy.” Slowly, however, I am discovering all sorts of beautiful places around Conn. Bluff Point is one of them. Located a mere 15 minutes away, it’s a four-mile loop, a lot of which is along the ocean. I'm part of the Outdoors Club and I recently found this photo from one of our late fall hikes. The view was really quite stunning. The best part: I've met lots of new people from around campus. The mood of the day was bright and fun, and we had a perfect ending by heading to Two Wives pizza restaurant after for an Outdoors Club dinner. (They are located in downtown New London and their brick oven pizza is delicious.)

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A night of comedy

An improv groups interviews a student on stage

There is only one word to describe the Upright Citizens Brigade: hilarious. This touring improv group based out of New York City, also known as UCB, is sidesplittingly funny. Lately, they have performed at Conn each year. UCB begins by interviewing a student about life here at Conn, and this year it was a first-year student named Carson (as seen in the photo above). This interview provides the material for their set, so the show includes our college's inside jokes. And, to add to the fun, our student improv groups, Scuds and N20, opened for UCB, making it a great night of comedy.

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A wintry evening at the beach

The sun sets over the ocean

It’s funny, but I'm not much of a summer beach person. The sweat, the sunscreen and sand that somehow manages to get everywhere — I’ve never found it appealing. Visiting the beach in the fall, however, is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. And lucky for me, I’ve discovered Harkness Park. It’s just 15 minutes away in Waterford and has become my go-to, I-must-escape-from-studying location. The beach is beautiful. Before winter break, my friends and I braved the 25-degree weather to watch the sunset. Bundling up in hats, scarves, mittens and down jackets, we swung by Bean and Leaf, a local coffee shop, for chai lattes and hot chocolate. Once properly prepared for the cold, we took to the sand and watched the sky change from yellow to orange to pink. Somehow nature always manages to take my breath away. 

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