Every Thursday at 2:30 p.m., I make my way to the 1973 Room in Harris Refactory. Often dubbed the “antisocial room” by Conn students, the room is anything but antisocial as droves of middle school students excitedly pour in and greet us members of ENRICH, a program that offers academic, extracurricular and leadership guidance to New London youths.
The students are part of a special leadership program at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, and despite the seniority of us Conn students, they are often the ones teaching us new ways to think and approach problem-solving. During our last session, we started off with an interview activity. My partner was an ambitious, hard-working sixth-grader who aspired to be “the best student and singer in the world.” Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself wishing I could maintain her level of confidence and energy in my own abilities.
I've returned to Conn for my senior year after studying abroad in Paris, France, for seven months. Although happy to return, I did not want to leave my Parisian lifestyle completely behind. Luckily, I have been able to keep French language and culture in my life through the Language Fellows program.
Every language department (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish) has two language fellows. As a French language fellow, I help to plan French-speaking events on campus. On Friday, I posted flyers advertising the upcoming French film festival in students’ mailboxes. Then, dodging raindrops, I dashed to a French department meeting with about 10 others students of French. At the meeting, Professor Nathalie Etoke, the chair of the French Department, encouraged us students to take initiative in order to sustain an active and well-connected French department. “I want YOU to guide ME," she told us.
Every student has his or her own favorite spot (or spots) on campus. A lot of people like the Arboretum, which confuses me because there are so many creepy-crawlies there. Other, saner students like the library, which I can appreciate.
My favorite place on campus, though, is Coffee Grounds, a student-managed, organic fair-trade coffee shop that runs out of Katharine Blunt residence hall. It gives off an interesting, homey ambiance. I once described being in Coffee Grounds as being in a large, comfortable, British telephone booth, but my friends thought that comparison was ridiculous. I’ve also never been inside a telephone booth, so who am I to judge?
This year, my favorite spot on campus became my place of employment. I’ll admit: The ambiance changes a bit when you’re behind the counter, but not in a bad way. It’s interesting to watch people come and go, and to observe as the mood in the room shifts throughout the day. Sometimes people come to get serious work done, but other times people come to relax and socialize. As a barista, it’s easy to distinguish the “I-NEED-COFFEE-TO-STAY-AWAKE-AND-WORK” types from the “Hey-I’ll-have-some-coffee” types. I really enjoy working when things are more relaxed; things get so calm that I’ve even seen people taking afternoon naps on our couches.
Coffee Grounds becomes a sanctuary for people. When students need a quiet and serious study space, the shop follows suit. When people need breaks from studying, Coffee Grounds becomes a lively, social space. It’s strange because the students who visit and work in Coffee Grounds change constantly. Since students run the shop, management shifts every year (or more often, if managers study abroad). Yet, despite these ever-changing circumstances, Coffee Grounds has its own persistent, accommodating personality. I find that endearing about Coffee Grounds and I’m glad that I’m now able to be so involved with my favorite place on campus.
College can be a lot. Your social life and school work are no longer separate entities. You spend a few hours in classes, a few hours in dining halls, a few hours doing homework, a few hours relaxing, a few hours socializing, and then — BAM! — before you know it, you lose track of what's happening in the outside world.
I don't have a TV in my dorm room, nor do I have live-in parents to report recent happenings. I've found myself getting breaking news from Facebook and Twitter, which leaves something to be desired. What I've found here at Connecticut College, though, is that there are so many professors willing to incorporate recent events into their lessons, which helps me keep in touch with the goings-on of the world.
In high school, this would rarely happen. Coming from a public school, teachers were held to very strict, state-mandated guidelines, so they had little opportunity to veer away from the syllabus. In college, we take breaks from the syllabus all the time. In my American Studies class, for example, we were emailed to keep an eye on the events unfolding in Baltimore. We then discussed Baltimore in class — not as a way to abandon the lesson plan, but as a way to draw topical events into our lessons. I also had a friend tell me about a social justice class that discussed the way that Bruce Jenner's transgender announcement has been received by the public and by the media.
Even professors of classes that aren't quite as directly related to the news will reference recent events as a way to make their classes more relevant and applicable to the real world. Professors don't just lecture us about recent events, they create a dialogue. We are prompted to find our own connections between current events and syllabus work in a collaborative setting in real time.
While the school offers many forums and events relating to recent events, it's often easy to develop tunnel vision for your own busy schedule. The inclusion of news in the classroom is both convenient and educational. It's nice to be able to take a step back and tune in to what's happening around us in the present, as opposed to letting these events pass by and learning about them as part of a history class.
One of my favorite places on campus is the Arboretum — a beautiful place to reconnect with nature. After looking at pictures of the Arbo from Conn’s website, I knew that when I arrived on campus, visiting it would be one of my first priorities. When I first visited the Arbo, it was during mid-year transfer orientation; I went alone to see this captivating sight. At that time, it was winter and the water had frozen over. Trees were naked and revealed their skeletons. The frosty air nipped at my nose and I gravitated to the serenity.
I got to revisit the Arbo during springtime thanks to ArboFest, a sort of precursor to the highly anticipated Floralia. There was live music, dancing, people relaxing on the huge lawn, and perfect weather. While listening to the live singers perform, I sat with my friends, chatted and laughed. What made the whole thing special, besides hanging out with friends, was being in nature and sharing that moment of sheer bliss. After the music was done, everyone started packing up to leave.
I asked my friend if she would join me on a walk on one of the trails. Walking around, what really shocked me was the Arbo’s transformation from when I had seen it during winter. The water in the pond had liquified; the buds on the trees had blossomed; the sun was out. Spring was back in action. Just minutes from the center of campus, I felt completely sheltered from outside distractions.
Every day, I’m surrounded by invasive technology and I forget to relish simplicity and be in the moment. For some reason, nature always puts me in a pensive mood — and I love it. I loved being able to talk to my friend while she and I strolled along the trails. I will forever cherish the Arboretum, because it is the one place on this campus that never fails to remind me to stay grounded despite life’s pandemonium.
Fridays are usually Netflix days for me, but last Friday, I ventured out of my cozy nest and into the real world. I wound up going to two different a cappella concerts, two receptions, a floor party and a campuswide dance. It was a busy day, but really fun.
First were the a cappella concerts, which were the last concerts of the year, so I got to see some of my soon-to-be-graduated friends sing. Then there was some party-hopping with the aforementioned a cappella friends. The highlight of the night was the '90s dance. Sideways caps, M.C Hammer pants, and choker necklaces haven't been as ubiquitous on campus in decades. My friend Emma and I went in matching overalls, though she dresses like she lives in the '90s on a daily basis.
After a night of dancing like sullen, grunge teens from the '90s, a small group of my friends hung out in Cro, the student center. This hangout session later migrated to my room where, pooped out, everyone lounged around quietly listening to music.
It was an exhausting night, but so much fun. I wouldn't necessarily want to participate in all of those activities every day, but it's nice having the option to go out and be social when I'd like to.
When you attend Connecticut College, it's impossible to escape the buzz surrounding Floralia. The crescendo of excitement becomes contagious as the number of days to Floralia decreases. So, what is Floralia? Think of Floralia as Conn College’s Coachella — Connchella, if you will. It is a music festival and a favorite annual tradition. Rain or shine, Floralia looks good on everyone. Students wake up early, set up canopies on the library green to claim their spots, bring out sofas and folding chairs, dress festively, dance and hang out with friends. In other words, Floralia is to Conn students what Christmas is to children. In fact, on the day of Floralia, everyone greets each other with a "Happy Floralia!"
My Floralia experience started on Floralia Eve. I had some friends stay over in my room in Harkness House. I told everyone to arrive at my place with their Floralia regalia so that we could all see what everyone would be wearing for the next day. I smiled at my friends' creativity — a bit of something borrowed, something new and whole lot of Floralia! As I looked around the room, I realized how far I had come from being a transfer student who, just a few month ago, knew no one. Suddenly, the people in my room were friends. As the early Floralia wake-up crept closer, we found ourselves exhausted but excited for the big day.
With only four hours of sleep, I jumped from my bed so that my friends and I could set up our canopy. It was only 7 a.m. when we arrived behind Crozier-Williams, but already there were canopies set up all around us. As we struggled through the embarrassment of not knowing how to set up our canopy's legs and attach its fabric roof, our group’s effort and tenacity prevailed. Lo and behold, we had ourselves a lovely canopy.
Everyone migrated back over to my place to get ready for the busy day. We all dressed up, had breakfast and finally arrived back at our canopy. There was so much happening around us. We stuffed our faces with cotton candy and freshly baked donuts, took rides down the inflatable slides, got ourselves airbrush tattoos, danced by the stage and enjoyed the sun. As the day was expiring, so was our energy. The sun set and the featured performers took the stage. After so much socialization and dancing, I went back to my place and fell quickly asleep.
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.
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.
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.