I chose Connecticut College for many reasons. One aspect that caught my eye when scrolling through the website my senior year of high school was the College’s Connections curriculum, specifically Pathways. Pathways help you build on your major by connecting the coursework in your major, the required coursework outside your major, your study abroad experience, your internship and your senior capstone. Pathways seemed right up my alley since they are an interesting way to connect multiple interests, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to major in. When I was in high school, talking about college, and going on college tours and having to introduce myself always freaked me out. I tended to be the only person in the group saying that I was “undeclared.” Everyone seemed to have a plan. Even at the start of my first-year at Conn, I felt everyone knew what they were doing but me. Turns out this wasn’t true at all and I soon met many other students who were undeclared as well.
Anyone who knows me knows I have never really been a cat lover. Cats are incredibly unpredictable and more aloof than dogs. I’m also highly allergic to them, and that basically has given me the only reason I needed to never be near them. Last weekend, however, I was provided with the opportunity to catsit for my faculty adviser, Alison Andersen, a professor in the theater department.
Each year the College celebrates the beginning of fall with Fall Weekend, when parents of current students, as well as many alumni, visit campus for a weekend full of events, performances, lectures and more. This year I helped run a booth at HarvestFest, an annual event where clubs and organizations on campus raise money by selling apparel, baked goods, or crafty items. My dad was able to come on Saturday and my mom came on Sunday. It was nice to be able to see both of them and to catch up in person instead of just on the phone. I was also able to reconnect with friends who graduated, it is always nice to see them as well. I was not the only one who appreciated the weekend. Check out this video of students, parents, alumni and friends who enjoyed it as well.
Many news articles told me that culture shock has four stages: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance. I think I skipped over the first two, disregarded the last two and created my own label: panic. I knew it was coming. But I thought I would be able to handle it as I had already lived in an international boarding school in Swaziland for two years.
I do not like not knowing what to expect–and going into your first year of college is basically jumping into a new experience completely blind. As the fall of my first year at Connecticut College approached, however, three student advisers reached out to me. These advisers were rising sophomores who dedicated their year to making mine better. I immediately connected with one over email and bombarded her with questions throughout the summer, trying to prepare myself as much I could for this new place. Once I arrived I continued to text her throughout the year with questions or opinions on different classes, and more. My particularly outstanding student adviser made my transition to college so much less terrifying. She also became someone I looked up to. After meeting her and getting a sense of her interests, I realized we were very similar in that sense. She was also a tour guide, something I wanted to be a part of at some point during my time here. She helped me choose my classes. She also picked up my application to be a tour guide, always being the person to set me up to succeed. This made me feel at home because these were not things she needed to do. And she was doing it because she genuinely cared. I felt comfortable and often asked her to meet me for lunch during stressful times, (such as mid-year when it came time to choose classes). She took the time to talk everything out with me and helped me organize myself, leaving me feeling so much more in control. All of this made me decide to become an SA, to give back, and try to make another student feel as at home as she made me.
Studying away in Vienna was my first experience living in a big city. Although it’s among the world’s most livable cities, I often found getting out of Vienna satisfying and part of what makes it livable. I chose to study away at IES Abroad’s Vienna Center in part because of the great musical and cultural offerings, but also for a personal reason: I am half-German and grew up in a bilingual German-English speaking household. My family regularly vacations in Bavaria and Austria with the German-side of my family. Given my familiarity with German-speaking areas, I wanted to make my travel experience more than the stereotypical city-hopping on budget airline flights every weekend. On days off I would take a train an hour or two outside the city just to explore a new town.
Maryum Qasim '20 is an international student from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She is an International Relations major on a pre-law track and is also a CISLA scholar. Maryum is the Student Government Association's Chair of Equity and Inclusion and is also an executive board member of the Muslim Student Association.
Little did I know that a research paper for my first-year law class taught by professor Peter Mitchell would eventually take me to the tribal areas of Waziristan, a military controlled drone warzone cut off from the rest of developed Pakistan. My primary research paper for the class explored the legality of the employment of drones. I felt so passionately about the subject that when I became a scholar with the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) I decided to conduct my senior project on it. My CISLA project, guided by former CISLA Director and Professor of History Marc R. Forster, aimed to explore the psychological impacts of drone strikes on young adults. This summer I was awarded the Stephen and Pamela Rearden '67 Travel Fellowship to conduct research in Pakistan on the psychological impacts of drones for my project. I arrived in Bannu, a city about 200 kilometers away from the military-controlled areas of Waziristan. These areas are highly secured with multiple military check posts monitoring any and all movements in and out. Due to security concerns, I decided to stay in Bannu to meet my point of contact Farooq Mehsud, a local journalist from North Waziristan. Mehsud coordinated interviews for me with other journalists and university/college students in Bannu.
On my very first night at Conn I found myself in The Barn, a student-run practice and performance space for musicians on campus. I’m no music major, nor do I sing well or play an instrument with any measure of talent. But one thing that I am is musically aware. That first night in The Barn initiated me to Conn’s robust music scene, which blossomed throughout my four years here. I spoke with Matt Allen ‘20, who has made a large impact in all things music, about how the music scene has changed at Conn. The following is our interview:
Coming into my first semester at Conn, I had my mind set on majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience. I told all my friends, family members and high school teachers I would go on to medical school after graduating from Conn and study neuropsychology. That same semester, I took on the normal four-course load with Cell Biology, Chemistry, Toxins and The Nervous System (my First-Year Seminar) and a Chinese philosophy course. As we inched closer to winter break, however, I realized that I, in fact, did not want to major in Behavioral Neuroscience. I normally like to be certain about major things in my life, so being unsure about my major was more than unsettling.
Editor's Note: Guest blogger Ashley Myers '19 of Winchester, Massachusetts, is majoring in English with a concentration in fiction writing, and minoring in Classics and Psychology. She is the president of Cadenza, the literary magazine on campus, a member of Relay for Life, and is an intern at SWAAY, an online media platform that is empowering women in business. Writing is her passion, and she wouldn't want to pursue it anywhere other than Conn.
Last week, I left the long-awaited spring sunshine and entered Tansill Theater, the black box theater on campus. Contrary to my usual aversion to being stuck inside when the weather is fine, this was a welcome shift to darkness; soon I was raptly listening to dramatic readings of the Greek tragedies I’d been studying in class. The dim-lit setting reflected the grim nature of the tragedies. It would feel wrong to discuss infanticide, deserted soldiers and mourning sisters in the pleasant glow of May light. The event itself was titled: “Truth, Lies, and Deceit in Greek Tragedy,” a collaboration between my “Greek Tragedy” class, taught by professor Nina Papathanasopoulou, and professor David Jaffe’s class “Acting II: Play Analysis.”