I went to a small, private high school in East Providence, Rhode Island, where I had countless tools and people who helped me and guided me through the college process. I am forever grateful for their support. Despite this, I could not seem to figure out what I wanted and what I didn’t want in a college. I had toured multiple schools and thought they were all fine, but I hadn’t had that “falling in love” feeling every high school senior talks about when they find their new home.
Last spring I began my search for a summer internship. I was studying in Vienna for the semester, which meant I was unable to meet potential employers for in-person interviews. I applied to several historic preservation organizations, which is something I am interested in pursuing after I graduate, and was offered an internship with Connecticut Landmarks, an organization based in Hartford, Connecticut, that runs several historic properties around the state.
I skim every email I receive, even newsletters that seem to come into my inbox solely for me to delete them. However, in a recent copy of “What's New at Shain Library,” a weekly newsletter detailing events, lectures and exhibits taking place at the College’s library, an announcement for a community reading of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” in honor of Banned Books Week piqued my interest. I contacted Carrie Kent, who organized the reading, and volunteered to read for 20 minutes near the end of the day.
Fall Weekend is Conn’s version of a parents weekend, homecoming and alumni reunion rolled into one. It’s the most recently graduated class’s half-year reunion and it’s the first weekend parents of first-years can come and experience Conn without the stress of Move-In Day. However, what happens when your mother lives a 24-hour plane ride away?
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.