One of the best decisions I made during my junior year was agreeing to apply to a Winchester House, a house that is across the street from the main Connecticut College campus.
Looking back, it was a risky move. One of the girls I knew well, one I had met two months before, and the other I knew from freshmen year, but she had been abroad in Africa and we hadn’t really spoken two years. I was also worried because of the time I had spent living in an apartment abroad. Cooking, cleaning and making sure everything was OK, on top of being a full time student, was extremely stressful. Despite my hesitations, however, my three roommates and I moved into the house when we returned to school the following September.
It’s 10:30 PM. I’m sitting in a dark room illuminated by a monitor displaying dozens of video clips. Two of my classmates—no, co-producers—sit beside me, scrutinizing the video feed for continuity errors. We’re all exhausted; it’s been hours since we booted up Adobe Premiere. And yet, there’s a palpable sense of excitement that rushes through our veins, pushing us forward.
In many ways, the Film Studies Department is one of Conn’s best-kept secrets. That’s not to say that people don’t know about it—I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me how they’ve always wanted to take a film class at some point in their college career. It’s just that, with so many opportunities and classes to choose from, those desires to take a film class are often abandoned in favor of classes that will fulfill a general education requirement or a degree prerequisite. And that’s a shame; being a part of the Film Studies Department is one of the most unique and memorable experiences I’ve had during my brief time at Conn thus far.
I took Film 101 during my first semester and was pleasantly surprised by the level of intellectual stimulation that it offered. Our goal was to engage with film on a deeper intellectual and critical level. In other words, I found myself taking an English literature course and “reading” complex and challenging films on a weekly basis. This came as a pleasant surprise; English was always my strongest academic subject in high school, so the course was comfortably familiar during my transition to collegiate academics. Actively searching for form, function and meaning within a two-hour work was engaging, and candid class discussions about themes, symbols, visual metaphors and mies-en-scene elements were guaranteed to occur during the following class. As the semester progressed, I knew I had found my niche.
Last week, I went to see the Women’s Empowerment Initiative’s show, “Coming from the Beast.” It was a performance written, produced, and performed by women at Connecticut College. Because it was probably the most badass feminist show I have ever seen, it made me question why I had never attended the annual show before.
My freshman and sophomore year, the College produced The Vagina Monologues. Last year, they put on their own rendition of The Vagina Monologues called “As Told by Vaginas.” This year’s show had a similar format to previous years, with all of the pieces written and performed by women at Connecticut College.
Saturday’s performances of “Coming From the Beast” confirmed the notion that words alone can carry immense power. The Women’s Empowerment Initiative touched upon tough topics yet carried them out sometimes with humor and sometimes with sad truths, but always with honesty. “Coming From the Beast” was a show that delved deeply into issues surrounding women and not only how they are portrayed in everyday life, but also the struggles and hardships many women face behind the unknowing eye. In my opinion, the show was a success because of the honest way that these issues were addressed. Each member of the cast was not afraid to swear, talk openly about sex, and feel deeply about what it was they were saying. The unwavering truths that were discussed helped the audience to really understand the message. If the show were a little more prudish and less honest, it would not have been the success that it was.
The show contained a whopping total of 97 Connecticut College female students. The crew had been rehearsing and getting the show together since the semester began, and their tireless efforts certainly paid off.
After living in Paris for seven months to study abroad and intern, I consider it a second home. As a result, I was thrilled to learn that Connecticut College would provide me with the opportunity to return to the city over winter break. Through The Center of International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA), I received a travel grant to conduct research for my senior honors thesis. My thesis examines representations of fallen women and prostitutes in 19th century English and French literature and visual art. I applied for the grant to visit an exhibit at Paris’ famous Musée d’Orsay, a treasure box of 19th century French art. The exhibit I was interested in focused on representations of prostitution in 19th century visual art.
The exhibit, Splendor and Misery of Prostitution, exceeded my expectations. It contained quotes about prostitution from famous writers, such as Honoré de Balzac and Emile Zola. It also presented visual art portraying various types of prostitutes—from working class streetwalkers to wealthy courtisanes who flaunted themselves at l’Opéra. Not only did the exhibit present realistic representations of women, it also portrayed fantastical images of them. For example, several paintings presented prostitutes as demons threatening male power. This resonated with the novel I am studying, Nana. Before I left the exhibit, I bought the catalog, which contains critical analyses of the artwork and articles on the history of prostitution in Paris. The exhibit will certainly benefit my thesis.
I remember where I was when my Grandma died, but not how I grieved. I was young at the time and struggled to understand what it meant to grieve. Death is part of life and learning to accept that aspect of human experience is a lifelong journey. College is a place to learn, so I decided I would explore the concept of grief at Conn, a safe place. It’s also a place where those who ask for help will receive it.
When I was looking at schools, one of the things that excited me most about Connecticut College was the fact that the College’s music program offers free lessons. Last year, I investigated this opportunity but didn’t end up taking advantage of it because of scheduling conflicts. Given how busy I’ve been this year, I did not plan to inquire about the music lessons again.
I have a good musical ear, and I’ve done well teaching myself how to play instruments and read music. I also have my guitar on campus and access to the school’s pianos, so I figured that was enough to satisfy my passion for music. I wasn’t capitalizing on lessons, sure, but I was given access to a practice room and a full piano—two things I don’t have at home. It was still a win.
As an art minor, I might as well live under one of the easels in Cummings, our music and arts center. One day, I found myself there with some time to kill, so I figured I'd ask about the music lessons. To my surprise, everything fell into place. The same scheduling issues came up, but I may or may not have found some loopholes to get past the problem.
There’s nothing quite like an impromptu photo shoot to ease your mind, I think to myself as I grab my camera bag and dash across campus.
These sorts of excursions have become relatively commonplace ever since I splurged on a new DSLR camera this past November. Photography—and art in general, I suppose—have always been cathartic outlets for me during good times and bad. This holds true in college: I savor every opportunity to take photos or doodle in the margins of my notes when inspiration strikes, even if it’s slightly inconvenient. After all, when you feel completely overwhelmed by deadlines, assignments, commitments and social drama, sometimes you just need to indulge in a beloved hobby to stay sane.
With the start of a new year, I would like to reflect on 2015. The year flew by faster than most because I traveled to various locations. Through a program conducted by Middlebury College, I studied in Paris from January to May. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to visit other countries in the European Union. For the summer, I remained in Paris to intern at a human rights organization. I then returned to the U.S. for senior year.