Marina Stuart is an environmental studies major and English minor from Philadelphia. On campus, Marina writes for The College Voice and is a member of the track and field team. She is also part of the Sustainability Representatives Program, a student organization that fosters a culture of sustainability on campus. Marina aspires to have a career as a science writer, ideally in journalism. In her free time, Marina reads a combination of fantasy fiction, science books and novels about the World War.
The new topper of my “Super Stressful But Rewarding Things I’ve Done” list is helping to host the recent Student Sustainability Leadership Symposium. The Office of Sustainability had been planning this symposium all summer and this fall semester, and I had been helping since my return to school this fall. The two-day event had me up at 9 a.m. on Saturday, running around to hang posters, mingling with students from about 20 different schools, and mixing hot chocolate with coffee to get a sugar and caffeine boost. It also gave me the opportunity to exchange ideas and projects with students from other colleges, provide a tour of the library and speak with Conn alumna—and fellow runner—Amanda King ’02, and attend workshops held by our office and offices from other schools focused on sustainability. Amidst all of the stress and running around, I enjoyed being surrounded by students who nerd out over sustainable clothing swaps, lending libraries and finding ways to encourage peers to take shorter showers.
In the past week, new details emerged about a new play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” I bet every kid who grew up reading the Harry Potter books and watching the movies strongly considered buying tickets and flying to London next summer. “How,” you ask? Because all of these kids are now in their 20s and can afford to recklessly fly halfway across the world for a continuing story that was as memorable in their childhoods as birthday parties and Halloween costumes.
This Fall Break, instead of going home, I took a little vacation with eight of my friends to my friend Claire’s family cabin in Harrisville, N.H. I realized on the two-hour drive up that other than a hike I did at age 14, I had never spent any extended period of time in New Hampshire. Needless to say, I am definitely going to go back soon.
I arrived on Saturday afternoon and was greeted by my friends and a gorgeous fall day with the temperature hovering around 45 degrees. Claire showed me around the house, got me settled in the loft I was going to be sleeping in, and took me down to the lake beside her house. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading one of the two books I brought: “Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro, eating French onion soup for dinner, playing Salad Bowl (a charades-based game) and watching “The Devil Wears Prada” until bed.
Many alumni have used their influence from Connecticut College to incorporate the liberal arts in their exploration of creative endeavors and career paths after graduation. One outstanding example is poet, author, editor and blogger E. Kristin Anderson '05. Upon the release of her new poetry collection, "PRAY, PRAY, PRAY: poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night," we decided to interview Anderson about Prince, her variety of inventive interests, and her skills and insight as a former Camel.
On Friday night, my roommates and I planned to go to a concert in New London. However, two of us got sick and it was pouring rain outside, so we stayed in and had an awesome time. Two of us ordered pho (Vietnamese soup) from Groton and settled in to watch “Remember Me,” a romantic comedy that we randomly selected from Netflix. It was awful. The ending was so terrible we needed to watch something more lighthearted to cheer us up.
While scrolling through Netflix again, one of my roommates commented that she had never seen “High School Musical.”
Don’t worry; we made her watch it.
I love these nights. They’re what I call “classically college,” and while they don’t seem the most memorable, they’re what I remember the most and what I’m going to miss when I graduate — hanging out with my roommates, eating takeout and watching movies.
Six weeks ago, my roommate Elena and my friend Claire decided to train for a half-marathon that happened on Halloween. Claire ran cross-country in high school and Elena enjoys long-distance running, so they decided to train together to motivate each other. We all followed their progress closely, I gave them advice about where to run on campus and helped pick them up when they completed their long runs. They trained without a coach or even a program; they just figured out when and where to run, and asked Claire’s sister—a marathoner herself—about the specific distances.
I was recently invited to a very special dinner that took place at the Earth House, one of the specialty houses on campus. The dinner is a semi-annual dinner called The Sprout Dinner. Sprout is our on-campus, student-run garden. They grow all types of seasonal edible plants, some of which are served in our dining hall. They have also recently collaborated with FRESH New London, a non-profit that aims to involve local children and the community in gardening.
One of my favorite activities growing up was apple picking with my family in Chester, Pa. Since arriving at Connecticut College, I’ve only gone apple picking once, and that was when I went home for a weekend. This year, however, I visited Holmberg Orchards in nearby Gales Ferry, Conn., about 20 minutes from campus.
Four friends and I set out on a Saturday: three of us from the East Coast who have picked apples many times, and one from California who had never visited a fully-functioning orchard. Together, we drove to Holmberg Orchards, and we were not disappointed.
Fall Weekend at Connecticut College is a time for celebrating the fall and seeing your parents, all while trying to attended every event the College puts on. This year was only the second time my family came for Fall Weekend; their first visit came during my first year.
During my first year, I was craving some mothering and TLC while also trying to prove to my family that I was a successful college student. This year, I was trying harder to savor my last Fall Weekend by balancing my event attendance with time spent simply hanging out with my family.
There was a specific moment recently when it hit me: I'm about to be a senior in college.
That moment came unexpectedly, when I was accepted to live in a Winchester House with my three friends next year. (We applied through the College's common interest housing process.) Our theme is zero-waste and composting, and we have been describing our plans to anyone who will listen. The idea of being seniors was also reinforced when the rest of the friends received their housing assignments for next year. Somehow, the idea of knowing exactly where you are going to be living next year really makes the idea of senior year a reality.
In addition to knowing where my close friends are living next year, at this point I know all the other people who are going to be living in "The Village," the term that combines our non-residence hall options, like the 360 Apartments, Earth House, Abbey House, Ridge Apartments, Winchester Houses and 191 Mohegan. Since finding out who my neighbors are, we’ve already started developing the sense of community most people associate with The Village. We have had passing conversations about meals we’ll all have and gatherings that will take place; someone mentioned to me a move-in block party for all the houses to meet one another, which I thought was a great idea.
I think living in The Village will have the vibe of living off campus in our own apartments, but also have the feeling of being in a close-knit community that our College already has.
This past weekend was one of my favorite meets as a track athlete: the Silfen Invitational or, as I call it, the Conn Home Meet! Conn only puts on one home meet every year and it also serves as a chance for our families and friends to see us compete. Also it means no travelling, which is awesome.
This meet is always especially important to me because I am from Philadelphia. Like many Conn students, it's hard for my family to attend my regular meets, but they make an effort for the Invitational. In addition to my immediate family coming to this meet, some of my extended family comes as well. This year, I had one aunt, two uncles and my grandfather to cheer for me as I do what I love.
I also had friends who came to support me. I was pleasantly surprised when they came because there was another all-day event happening on campus and I wasn’t sure they would make it. With competitions all over the East Coast, it's unusual for my friends to see me compete, but this weekend was a great exception. There were many alumni who visited as well, friends who I'd competed with in years past.
This was my third home track meet and it is different every year. (It was actually the first year we competed at home with decent weather.) It was so sunny that I actually got a bit of a sunburn. It was worth it.
At Connecticut College, the journey for your junior year internship starts during orientation with the first workshop. Throughout this journey, I have taken seven workshops ranging from how to write a cover letter or résumé to interview prep. I have sent countless emails to my CELS adviser and have met with her many times.
This past semester has been the most exhaustive of all my CELS training. This was when I put everything I knew to the test in order to secure my junior year internship. I am very happy to say I succeeded and I will be spending 10 weeks this summer working as a communications intern at Environmental Defense Fund.
It was not an easy process; as my friends and I joke, applying for internships should be a class. I spent countless hours researching internships, writing cover letters for each application and drafting emails to send to potential employers. I think one of my most valuable assets were my two friends, CELS Fellows Natalie Calhoun and Mike Amato.They would look over my emails and cover letters whenever I needed their help. One memorable time was sitting down at lunch, sliding my phone over to one of them and asking, “Is this an OK email?” Without hesitation, they advised. I don't think I would have gotten the internship without them.
The internship process is difficult at any school, but I'm so glad that Connecticut College provides these kinds of resources (and I happen to make friends with the resources) so that I can get all the help I need while applying to internships.
As an athlete, it's rare that I get to spend a full Saturday at Conn during my season. I'm usually at a track meet or competition and don’t get back until 7 or 8 p.m. This past weekend, however, I was at Conn instead of my meet, thanks to a sprained ankle. It was fortuitous timing, though, because I got to see some friends I had not seen since my semester abroad.
Two of my friends from my abroad program, IFSA-Butler Scotland, were visiting Conn as competitors in a tennis match against the Camels. I set out to the tennis courts around 10:30 a.m. and got to see my friend Mei Lin finish her doubles match while I talked with my other friend from abroad, Ian. After her match, Mei Lin and I went up to the center of campus and I showed her around before getting lunch with her and two other friends who go to Conn and were also on our program. It was so fun and exciting to show her so much of what I had told her about in Scotland. After lunch, we watched more tennis before heading to ArboFest, a yearly music event in the Arboretum with free food, live music and great company. We walked around the Arbo, catching up quickly on everything we had done since leaving Scotland.
When I was abroad, I made a ton of friends, but since we all live so far from each other, I was unsure if we'd ever reunite. This weekend showed that sometimes the odds work out unexpectedly. I am kind of grateful to my sprained ankle, because I got to see my friends again.
Late last month, I was leaving a class around 8:30 p.m. when my friend Natalie asked if I wanted to come along with her to an event our other friend Claire was putting on. I immediately agreed and we headed to Knowlton House, the language dorm. I had not been there since I took the Haunted Tour of Connecticut College my freshman year, but we went in and went to the common room where Claire was putting on an East Asian Studies’ Student Advisory Broad (EASSAB) Karaoke Night.
Just so we’re clear: I do not sing. Not in English, or any other languages for that matter.
But I went in as a spectator and was rewarded with a super fun night I was not expecting to have. A bunch of students went up and sang, including my friend Claire. One memorable performance was a student who sang “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid in Japanese, which included all of Ariel’s little side notes and emotions. We also got performances from a professor who sang an amazing lullaby song, and Natalie got up and sang a song in Spanish! One really amazing moment was when I suggested to Claire that she sing “Let it Go” in Chinese, and she pulled up the lyrics on her computer. Everyone (including me) gathered around and sang along as best we could, and then sang it again in Japanese! After that, we digressed into looking up our favorite songs in other languages and singing along.
I guess I should change my earlier assertion that I don’t sing ever — I do sing, but only with people that I feel comfortable around, which I was able to find at this small, spur-of-the-moment event.
As a certificate student in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I get to do a lot of amazing things. Last year, I worked for a conservancy group, organized field work days, met farmers and activists in the community, and made some truly great friends in the center. This past weekend, I was reminded just how lucky I am to be part of the center when I got to participate in the Feeding the Future Conference, which took place on campus. The two-day event included speakers like Dan Barber, executive chef at Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns; Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist and author of "Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and the Way We Live;" and Malik Yakini, founder and the executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. In addition to these speakers that are doing great things in the world of food, I also got to host and introduce Zuk at the conference, a daunting but exciting task. I have to admit I was pretty nervous but it went well and was a hugely rewarding experience for me.
The networking opportunities for me and my classmates were plentiful, an experience I couldn't ha
ve had at any other time or place. I had a great conversation with a journalist who was writing about the conference for CC:Magazine, and I connected with the president of Food Tank who asked some of my friends and I to write about how we are going to live in a zero-waste house next year on campus.
I had a fascinating conversation with David Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill and founding partner of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. He's also a Connecticut College alumnus and a trustee of the College. My friend and I asked him about the food that does not make it to restaurants and is wasted in the delivery process, since his New York City restaurant recently had an event focused on just that topic. He showed us a picture of a monkfish, which has very delicious meat in its head but is not usually shipped to restaurants because the small quantity doesn't justify the cost.
The attendees also got to experience a lot of local foods and sushi that help support the ideas of feeding the future. I think the highlight of that was eating cricket sushi from Miya’s Sushi in New Haven. (Yes, that's cricket sushi in the photo.)
As college students, we are encouraged to make connections and network, but it's not always easy or accessible. Events like these are different, bringing together many people who are an integral part of the college experience and help prepare us for life after graduation.
Who doesn't like to talk about food? As a member of the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, one of the centers for interdisciplinary scholarship on campus, I was closely involved with the Center's recent, massive Feeding the Future conference. I got to take an active role in the planning, too, by being part part of a small team of students that planned a pre-event kickoff meal. Our event was centered around food, but also discussion about food globally, and the differences in food culture across the globe.
The food that we got was from local restaurants: The Spice Club (Asian/Thai) in Niantic, The Pita Spot (Mediterranean/Labanese) in Mystic, and The Seehund (German) and Osmino’s (El Salvadorian), both from New London.
Our aim for the event was to create some meaningful discussion before the conference started. The conference was mainly lectures, so we wanted to have some talking to start off the conference. The 1962 Room in our student center was filled with students, who happily ate and chatted with friends. At my table, we discussed various populations and how their food culture differs from American culture. We raised the question, "Is there even a food culture in America?" I brought in an international perspective from Scotland, referencing my semester abroad, but we also talked about the southern United States, China and South America.
Overall, it was a hugely successful event with everyone leaving with minds and stomachs fed by the conversation and cuisine we served.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone always says it is easy to find live music and productions on a college campus; you just have to look for them.
One recent weekend, however, I didn’t even have to look — they were staring me right in the face, so I indulged myself and took advantage of them.
In just three days, I saw a modern dance performance, which also included tap dancing and a pretty amazing dance to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” I attended Burning Camel and saw many student bands perform across campus. Finally, I was a guest at "James Joyce is Dead and so is Paris, the Lucia Joyce Cabaret."
As most know, I am a huge supporter of the dance community at Connecticut College — I lived with a student dancer for a year — so I am a usual show-goer at the Myers Dance Studio, but I don't remember a show being as impactful as this one. Additionally, I got to see my friends dance and see the dances that my friends choreographed — it was amazing to see their work come to life.
My attendance at Burning Camel was half support, half convenience. A friend of mine was playing in the show, but it was also taking place in Coffee Grounds, a café in my dorm, Katharine Blunt House. So I was able to listen comfortably to the musicians while lounging in my slippers and doing work at the same time.
My reason for going to "James Joyce is Dead and so is Paris, the Lucia Joyce Cabaret" was in support of a friend who was the stage manager, and another friend who was preforming. Upon entering the theater, I confronted with a most unusual scene and a most unusual performance: A group of institutionalized people, led by the amazing character of Lucia Joyce, on put on a memorable and slightly scary cabaret show.
It’s slightly overwhelming to be surrounded by so many talented students, but I love that fact that I can get so many different genres of art simply by living on a college campus.
As part of Connecticut College's career program, the career office offers a number of workshops to help students prepare for internships and jobs. When students take the workshop about personalities, they find out what Myers-Briggs personality type they are. When I first took this, I distinctly remember being told that my personality type was one that did not take criticism well ... which I took as a personal criticism, thus fulfilling what the test had just concluded. Since then, I have been working on trying to take everything less personally, especially when it comes to my essays and any sort of constructive criticism. This challenge was put to the test last week in my "Writing the Short Story" class, when the short story I wrote was “workshopped” by my classmates and professor.
How a workshop works: The person whose story is going to be worked on sends out that story the week before, then everyone reads it and makes comments over the weekend. On Tuesday, everyone comes in already having read the story, then discusses the story while the author sits there silenty, taking notes. When it came to be my turn, I was scared that no one would like my story and anything critical they said about it would feel like a personal attack. To combat my fear, I had several (very critical) friends read my paper and give me comments on it so I would feel better prepared for my workshop. We kept joking all week that this was going to be my exposure therapy, but even with all that preparation, I was still terrified when the day arrived. Despite my worrying, however, my classmates and professor we’re very respectful when it came to critiquing my story (as they are with all of the stories in the class) and I received very positive feedback.
Now, I will say, I have not mustered up the courage to go through all the individual written comments they made and gave to me about the story. That will come soon and be round two of my therapy session.
Valentine's Day weekend was also the last weekend of regular-season indoor track meets. From here on out, it's championship season until we return to school following spring break. You might think that for the last weekend of the regular season, it would be nice to have a normal meet where the athletes can just work on trying to qualify for the upcoming meets over the next three weekends.
Well, that wasn't the case for us. All across a very snowy Boston, our team had athletes competing at two different meets over two days, with some athletes competing at all the meets. On Friday, our team was represented at the first day of the Boston University Valentine Invitational, and Saturday we had athletes competing at the BU invitational and the MIT Invitational.
Needless to say, our schedule was complicated. We had a document with the order of events at each meet and a list of who was competing in each event. A separate document listed our bus schedule and who would be on which route and at what time. This was important because half of the team got to leave early on Saturday and got back to Connecticut College at 3 p.m., while those of us competing later at MIT and BU had to wait until everyone was finished before driving back.
Even though everything was so complicated, the athletes and buses got through it, even with the giant amount of snow that was falling in Boston as we departed. The late bus even made it back before 10 p.m., which was nothing short of a miracle.
I should also mention that our whole team ran great throughout the weekend. There were 35 personal records broken, 9 qualifying marks, 2 school records broken and 1 tied, and two relay teams are now nationally ranked. All in all, a very good end to the regular season — now on to championships!
It’s hard to get back into the cycle of going to class and turning in work after a lengthy vacation. That's especially true when the break is of summer length, or even a semester abroad.
Folllowing my return from Scotland, I was confident that I would make the adjustment back into college life easily. I was back early because of track and field, and I was excited to be back at the place I had called home for two years. Much to my surprise, however, the transition has taken longer than I realized. What do I blame? The snow — and maybe that fact that I decided to take on extra responsibilities this semester and enroll in more courses than required.
But really, it's the snow.
For the first few weeks of this semester, we didn't have a full week of classes, which made reentry and adapting to a new routine very difficult. All the while, I had three lengthy writing assignments due all on the same day, which immediately sent me into an intense prioritization mode.
This upcoming week seems to be looking normal so far, but the snow and wind blowing around my building appears somewhat threating. It seems that this may the first time in my entire educational life that I am not hoping for a snow day, just so I can get back into regular Connecticut College life.
Following the weekend of Jan. 31, I can proudly say that I have now actually been to Boston and walked around it.
Technically, I have been to Boston many times, but those were all for Connecticut College track meets, and I don’t count seeing the Tufts or MIT indoor tracks as really "seeing Boston." Last weekend, I didn’t have a meet, so I jumped in a car and went to Boston, both for my own enjoyment and also to see some Conn alumni friends who had gathered there. Our campus is about two hours from Boston, making it an easy trip. (There's also the Amtrak line that stops in New London and connects directly to Boston as an option for students.) The weekend was fun, filled with pre-Super Bowl predictions, Indian food, Cards Against Humanity and a memorable picture made better by the Conn-In-A-Box party favors that the Office of Alumni Relations sends out to Camels who host parties.
The highlight for me might have been seeing the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Boston Public Gardens, which had been one of my dreams since childhood. Now I can only say that I can’t wait to go back!
The academic structure was one of the reasons I was excited to start my spring semester at Conn, following my semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh. The British education system is very different from what we're used to at Connecticut College, and the idea of coming back to a school where I actually understood and liked the education system was relieving.
At Edinburgh, I was taking three classes, and they only met twice a week for 50 minutes. The courses were 100-person lectures where there was no discussion or student input. Outside of class, we did have tutorial — a small discussion of 12 students — but instead of being led by a professor, it was led by a graduate student. None of my professors knew my name or who I was during the entire semester.
In total, my educational commitments were three 50-minute sessions, three times a week, with no homework. None.
My grades were determined by an essay and a final exam, and that was it. One might think that this sounds awesome (and it was for a while), but the lack of structure and the stress of having only two factors determining a grade started to take its toll by the end of the semester. At Edinburgh, the courses were not within a liberal arts system, and students are generally expected to take courses within their major (or degree, as they call it). Students might take an occasional course or two outside of their degree but, unlike at Conn, interdisciplinary is not a regular concept.
All in all, this experience did give me interesting insight into how different countries' education systems work, but it also gave me an appreciation for my liberal arts education that exceeded the appreciation I already had.
Just so no one is confused: I loved my study abroad experience and would not have changed it for the world, but in going abroad, I was able to better understand how I prefer Conn's education system to that at the University of Edinburgh’s. As someone who is combining science and English in her education, I've come to realize I would not have been able recreate the connections between my studies like I get to do back in New London.