The Experience, Academics
January 21, 2015
In my two-dimensional art class, we've been learning how to create drawings that appear more full. A lot of our still life paintings were "floating" in the middle of the page with only a thin table line to spruce up the background. Our professor has been stressing that we should add more to the drawings so that they are more interesting, or draw the things we see behind our still lifes. Despite her gentle nagging, the class as a whole wasn't really getting the concept.
To solve the issue, our professor came up with a creative way to intervene in our bad habits. She took us down to the Lyman Allyn Museum, a fine arts museum adjacent to campus with which the College has a working relationship. First, we did some critiques of the pieces because, as an art class, we can't just ignore the masterpieces when visiting a museum. Then, we were told to pick a spot in the exhibit and draw the space. We weren't supposed to hone in on any artwork, just get the dimensions and perspectives of the complex interior design.
It was frustrating trying to capture the relationship between angles and objects and such, but I found that when I slowed down and really observed my surroundings, it became a lot easier to create a realistic drawing. By the end, I was really happy with what I had created.
Our walking-distance field trip to the museum proved a unique way to improve our work and technique. During the following class, when we were back in the studio, we were given another still life to draw. Again, we were told to pay careful attention to the space around the still life. There was a clear improvement after our museum intervention. We hung all of our drawings up for a critique and each pretty accurately reflected the still life, as well as the room behind the still life.
February 24, 2015
As a transfer student getting used to Connecticut College, "New" is a big part of my vocabulary: a new school, new schedule, new professors and new jobs. I am fortunate enough not only to work as a blogger for The Experience, but also as an office assistant for the College's Academic Resource Center (ARC).
I absolutely love working at the ARC because of all the new faces I get to meet. Students stop by for tutoring sessions and to become tutors themselves. They stop by to meet with academic counselors about time management skills, to get presentation advice, to polish their interviewing skills and to get papers edited. All a student has to do is ask for some help or advice and, with that, a tsunami of support will eagerly rush in.
As a student staff member of the ARC, I reap the benefits of working around the informative professional staff. For me, like many college students, procrastination haunts my good intentions of studying. Sometimes when I sit down to study, something averts my focus from homework, like Netflix, a nap or sounds from down the hallway.
While in the office recently, I asked Chris Colbath, a learning specialist and coordinator in the Center, for a simple tip to improve my study habits. His No. 1 piece of advice was to learn how to prioritize. He said that you should do your assignments based on which deadline comes first. Most importantly, he advised me to do homework outside of my dorm room. There are so many distractions (like sleeping and computers) in the our rooms that removing ourselves to the library or other spaces on campus will help remove temptations.
Taking the advice to heart, I decided to implement all of his suggestions. I have been prioritizing my work better and doing much more of my homework in library spaces. Not surprisingly, the amount of work I get done is astronomical in comparison.
February 20, 2015
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.
February 18, 2015
As a transfer student, I am still discovering the nooks and crannies of Connecticut College.
A friend from my European Politics class introduced me to the small and homey Coffee Grounds café. When I first entered the space, the smell of fresh brewing coffee greeted me at the door. I looked around, soaking in the cozy ambiance. The window frames are painted red, making the room pop with color. The blackboard menus with chalk handwriting add a personal touch. Instead of unflattering fluorescent lights overhead, the fixtures are a warm yellow. Eclectic, calm music plays in the background.
While digesting the scene, my friend signaled me to sit on a couch before beginning our homework. After a while, she broke the silence, saying, "I don’t understand why this politics homework talks so much about economics!" I looked up and realized that another person beside me had begun to smile. I turned to face her and an intellectual conversation blossomed. After our basic introductions of names and majors, I found out the reason she had smiled was because she studies exactly the topics that my friend had lamented. She explained the interconnection of how political parties affect what economic polices are passed. Left-wing parties tend to pass policies that increase government spending and taxes, whereas more right-wing parties tend to pass polices that decrease government spending and taxes. Her economic explanations clarified the connection between politics and economics.
It was serendipitous to find myself in an unexpected conversation with a stranger, discussing the world's complexities and learning all the while.
February 16, 2015
You guys, my binder has become kind of an issue.
It's not ugly or anything; it's a plain blue one, with the syllabi and notes and doodles from all my classes clasped securely within it. It's a regular binder. But every time I open it, I want to shuck off this winter coat, put on some short shorts, and just talk to people from all over the world. The shorts just come with the territory. My binder is giving me serious wanderlust.
To be fair, it's not the binder's fault; it's the syllabi and the classes I'm taking. There's a prominent global theme amongst my studies this semester, not a surprise to those who know I'll be studying abroad next semester.
Still, the theme of courses was partially happenstance. Let me share some examples: Yesterday, I watched "Lagaan" for my Bollywood and Globalization class, after which I read about Muslim women writers in the early 20th century for my Global Islamic Studies class, after which I chose my presentation topic for my Theorizing Race and Ethnicity class, which has a specific focus on Latin America. In four hours, I covered South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
Not to mention that one of my other classes, Global Queer Histories, is metaphorically travelling through various regions of the globe to analyze queer history, traditions and prejudice. We started with the Middle East and we're moving on to Native American two-spirit traditions next week.
Oh, and I must mention my CISLA class, a required course for scholars like myself who were admitted into the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, one of the College's five centers for interdisciplinary scholarship. That course is giving me an entirely new experience: a rotation of different experiences every two weeks, from departments like geology, art and classics.
All these travel thoughts permeate my mind and I end up daydreaming half the time, reading intensely the other half. Is it a wonder, then, that my binder stresses me out? It's got half the world in it, and I couldn't be happier.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go finish a non-fiction piece about Puerto Rico for my narrative non-fiction class. Wanderlust has seeped into everything.
February 2, 2015
As an interdisciplinary course, "Introduction to American Studies" is meant to spark discussion about how we mythologize and learn about our nation. Throughout the semester, we have taken time during each class to somehow contemporize our readings, such as the play "Our Town," with current social and political topics in the media. Earlier this semester, Jim Downs, my "Introduction to American Studies" professor, invited Darcie Folsom, director of sexual violence prevention and advocacy, into class to discuss the prevalence of sexual violence in the media. Our discussion focused on the recent case of football star Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer.
Prior to Darcie’s visit to the classroom, we had read Clarence Walker’s "Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings," an analysis of the debate over the affair between Jefferson and Hemings, seeking to uncover the complexity of the relationship. It was really interesting to hear Darcie connect the historical text to a contemporary, relevant social issue. I was so interested in our in-class discussion that I attended a talk outside of class, "Sex and the Founding Fathers," led by Thomas Foster, a professor visiting from another univeristy.
As I reflect upon my semester as a whole, "Introduction to American Studies" has been one of those eye-opening classes that has changed my perspective on topics and has pushed me to become more passionate about my interests.
January 23, 2015
I declared my majors the other week. This is how it happens: You walk into the middle of Tempel Green, spin around in a circle 10 times, shouting your major and adviser while the registrar sits 10 feet away, ringing her bell, asking you to be louder.
The above is decidedly not true. It's just something a professor told me when I came to her with the declaration that I was finally, after months of indecision, declaring two decisive majors. She looked me up and down; I was excited, like I was declaring a big secret. It really is not that big of a deal. She sarcastically joked that I was making a ritual out of it; most students get so stressed about majors, they forget about classes. I agree with her now, I think.
After declaring my majors, I felt no difference. No history or art god descended from the heavens to bless me or take me into their secret society. On paper, I simply declared a major, which did make me feel better. I had goals to work toward.
I think the reason this professor said this to me is because she could see the fear in my eyes. Declaring your major sounds like such a big deal. It seems like you're setting yourself up in life for something so specific. Like now, I can't be anything but a historian, and I'm restricted. All these things are just untrue; I'm still taking classes I want to take, whether they relate to my major or not. I'm working with people I like working with, whether they fall into my department or not. This is what makes a small college like Conn special — because of the high number of professors, you really can, even within the confines of your major, blaze your own trail.
So I went up to Tempel Green, signed my declaration form and spun in a circle anyway, content in the knowledge that I was still free. Majors don't restrict you — fear does.
January 7, 2015
The College's Roth Writing Center offers free peer tutoring on papers and drafts for all students on campus. One becomes a tutor after being recommended to Professor Steven Shoemaker, the director of the center, after which there is an interview, a callback and a class offered in the Fall called "The Teaching of Writing." It's a 300-level English seminar. I was recommended last year by two professors, and went for my interview. (I wore my brightest paisley shirt, in an effort to be memorable.) Since English is not my first language, I want to help other non-native English speakers feel empowered through writing. I'm taking the seminar now, and as the semester winds down, the writing center is in need for more tutors. So the week before Thanksgiving, I had my first appointment. I was to tutor for the first time, finally, after the long, long process. I walked into the center five minutes early, set up my folder, took out my pen, and waited.
My first student was a first-year student who needed help with his first-year seminar. The center works this way: We ask the students to read their paper or draft out loud. If the student isn't comfortable reading aloud, we'll read it for them. The motto is to make sure the student is in the driver's seat; the tutor is a road guide, a map to the destination that the student must find themselves. I took notes as he read.
Collaborating with the tutee, working on problems, is a huge part of the job. The goal is to nudge, to prod students in a direction where their own thinking gets expanded, and to give them ideas, not to impose. This is hard for me; I love imposing myself on people most of the time. I have a specific way in which I do things, and this makes me a bit stubborn sometimes. I had to reign that in super hard when I was tutoring, and the results were a clear indication that this was the right philosophy. The student left with a better understanding of the paper, his assignment and what he might do better.
I left with an understanding of my own role in this, which is — and should be — minimal. I left with a better understanding of how my professors must feel when students don't understand what they're trying to do. Their job is hard. A teacher doesn't teach knowledge, I discovered. They teach the process of knowledge. The knowledge must be acquired oneself. I left knowing that our jobs as students are also hard: We have to come to conclusions ourselves, with the road map of learning in front of us. The destination is ours to conquer. This is a responsibility I felt heavy on my shoulders as I walked out, but it gave me more incentive to learn vicariously. If I'm being trusted as a student to make my own contribution, the responsibility also gave me agency. And students need agency to learn creatively. Most of all, I left with a giant amount of respect for this learning environment. If one doesn't take responsibility for one's own learning, everything falls apart. You can flourish or you can fail. The decision is in your hands, and that's kind of liberating. It means you're taken seriously. That's the path to adulthood, not regurging knowledge. It felt good to know.
January 5, 2015
What better thing to do on a Friday ... than visit the United Nations?
Recently, I, along with around 30 other gender and women's studies and public policy students and professors, spent Friday morning with a tour of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Walking through the headquarters — listening in on multilingual meetings, traipsing through grand conference rooms and photographing famous artwork — felt like a dream.
After the tour, we attended a debriefing session with representatives from UN Women, during which we discussed the organization's recent feminist movements and iniatives (including Emma Watson's recently-launched HeForShe campaign).
The trip was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And certainly not a bad way to spend my Friday.
January 2, 2015
The Sophomore Research Seminar I'm taking this semester has been rife with interactive learning. Titled "Visioning the Invisible," the course focuses on secrecy, power and privilege as it relates to studio art and art history. It's funded by the Mellon Mays foundation and two professors, Denise Pelletier from Studio Art and Chris Steiner from Art History, teach it together. Already this semester, we've had a magician in our class and a professor from UConn talking about surveillance and pornography. We've also been working on small projects that will add up to a larger research paper/studio art project that we submit at the end of the semester. The best part of the seminar was, no doubt, a trip to New York City to look at "invisible" or "secret" art; I've been excited for this trip for a while.
We gathered outside Cummings Art Center at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to catch a bus to the city; our first stop was the Museum of Sex, curated by Sarah Forbes, who happens to be a Connecticut College graduate. The many exhibitions on display included one about non-heterosexual behavior amongst animals, chastity devices from the 19th century, and a critical look at Linda Lovelace (the first mainstream pornstar) and her involvement in the anti-pornography movement.
The most interesting exhibition, to me, was an interactive one, where spectators had to walk inside a mirror maze and climb a wall, where instead of rocks, one had to grab various human body parts (made of foam, of course). After we were finished at the museum, we went for lunch (generously paid for by the Mellon Mays foundation) in Chinatown, where we met "Inspector Collector" artist Harley Spiller, who collects and exhibits take-out menus, coins and plastic spoons, finding the beauty in the ordinary. We talked to him about the history of Chinatown and visited what was once a place where rival Chinese gangs used to fight each other in the early 20th century.
We also visited the Mmmuseumm, which is a museum built in an abandoned elevator in Chinatown; the museum itself is kind of secretive and only known to those told about it. It houses a collection of forgotten art objects: soil from Auschwitz, plastic spoons from the '70s, kitsch art objects that were not remembered. I spoke with the person there; everybody volunteers to work there, and has other jobs. It's a collection of fairly young college graduates who hope to make seen the unseen.
We ended with a trip to the art supply store and various bookstores, where both Denise Pelletier, my professor, and I gushed over art supplies. We got back to campus around 10 p.m., exhausted, but filled with knowledge. Not only was this great for my class, it gave me a chance to get to know my professors a little better, go to secret places I would never have discovered otherwise, and explore, in life, art. One can't truly study art without being in its presence, and I'm glad to have taken a class that understands and reinforces that. It was a pretty fantastic experiences.
December 24, 2014
I never meant to take this class.
I'm an art and history double major, and as I entered my sophomore year, I realized that I hadn't taken many classes in either. I told myself that I was going to make my requirements a priority, take classes I needed to, and expedite the process. No extra classes, no outstanding interests.
It didn't work out that way.
Last year, my friends took a class called "Narrative Non Fiction" with Professor Blanche Boyd; it's a creative writing class. Although I've been writing since middle school, I'd never taken an English class at Conn. I really couldn't envision myself writing stories; primarily because I'd seen some friends in high school do a much better job than me and I was scared. Plus, I kept telling myself, writing wasn't sustainable for me. Ironic, since I'm an art major, but we all delude ourselves sometimes. Through some weird twist of fate, however, the class I was planning to take filled up before I registered, and it was in the exact time slot as Blanche's short story writing class. I scrambled to send her an email, since a writing sample is a requirement for this class. A day before pre-registration, I got the email that I'd been accepted into the short-story writing class.
I had no idea what I was signing up for.
The class is more of a conference, with a lot of writing, critique and support. It's a very organic way of learning, where your brain begins to comprehend it's own problems. In many ways, it's more challenging than being told what to do, or what you're doing wrong. You have to realize it yourself. Blanche is always there to help you, and will nudge you, but she herself claims that you can't learn writing through someone else's efforts. It's different from information being disseminated, it comes from within. That's hard to confront, but it's so, so rewarding.
The one event we had to attend on the very minimal syllabus was the Klagsbrun symposium, which is an event Blanche has been organizing for a while. We've had great writers come to campus as part of the symposium, from Jhumpa Lahiri to Michael Cunningham, and Art Spiegelman to David Sedaris. This year, we got an extra; we had two writers join us. Conn alumna and professor Jessica Soffer '07 and her writing mentor, Colum McCann, spoke about their work and we had dinner together. Afterward, there was still half the symposium left, and I was sitting on a bus with my friends on my way to watch the premiere of Mockingjay Part 1.
I couldn't go. I thrust my ticket into my friend's hand, walked off the bus and went back into the symposium.
Colum McCann reads like a god. His reading is theatrical, interspersed with slight Irish brogue, emotions coming through like waves as he stresses and de-stresses some words, changing their meaning. One of the excerpts he read was a piece about a dancer in the '80s, and he wrote 40 pages without a full stop. Seeing that made my brain explode. Here we were, not knowing how to write with given structure, and this man sat casually on a stool, decimating every rule with absolute panache. Soffer's reading was more subdued; her clear, quiet intonation reflecting the tightness of her sentences, the sheer structure of her words. Everything counted. Emotions resonated from the words themselves, as she read everything at the same pace. In it's own way, it was as immersive as McCann's.
I left the symposium with nothing; no signed books, no selfies, no ticket stub, no name tag. But in my mind, a tiny dent was filled with possibilities, with ideas and with futures. I wrote well into midnight that night, and signed up for Blanche's non-fiction class the next day.
December 22, 2014
Have you ever walked into a classroom expecting to take a quiz, only to realize that your quiz has been replaced by a naked middle-aged man?
Me neither. Well, not until a few days ago.
What does this mean? It was figure drawing week in my two-dimensional art class! This came as quite the surprise, since we had totally different plans for that class.
It only took a few seconds for faces to light up in shock as my classmates started walking into the classroom. Our professor, however, was, appropriately, very nonchalant about the whole thing, particularly since she has more experience with figure drawing. I won't lie, it was pretty uncomfortable at first. I was not alone; there were many glances of discomfort exchanged around the room. Once in the drawing process, though, we became more accustomed to the situation. In order to draw something, you have to visually break up the form into shapes. Instead of drawing a figure, it was more like we were drawing shapes that happened to connect into a figure. That helped lessen the awkward tension in the room.
Despite the initial unease, one has to appreciate the opportunity to be able to draw nude models. In high school, we did figure drawing, but we used clothed models. This can highly distort the perception of human anatomy. That's an unfortunate reality for artists, since proportions are so important. Working with nude models is also helpful for creating shading and forms, because the model is, of course, three-dimensional. If you use something two-dimensional, like a photograph, you'll never develop the skills to be able to transform a 3D form onto your 2D paper. It was helpful to have the model in the classroom, and our progress was very quick and very noticable.
One word of advice I'll give you from this experience: avoid eye contact with the nude model at all costs, because if you're not careful, it will happen and you will feel awkward about it.
December 19, 2014
December 17, 2014
Joe Standart is one those success stories: a self-taught photographer who pursued his dream of taking photos and made it big. While I’ve never aspired to be a professional photographer — it’s just a fun hobby for me — it was still wonderful to hear about the steps he took to become one. Standart came to campus to speak about his project, “Portrait of America,” and portraits of our very own New London. Beginning in 2004, he pulled individuals off the street as they were and took elegant portraits of them. Photographing his subjects from all walks of life in the same studio setting served as an equalizer. Their profession or income was of no matter; each person was photographed the same way. The description of the project explains, “The Portrait exhibitions hold a mirror up to a community to reveal what's already there — the inherent dignity and promise of its people.” The exhibition was not held in a museum, but rather the streets of New London. Large portraits were hung on the sides of buildings and in windows, thus providing a “mirror” for the community. Looking through his photos, I see New London in a new way. I get a glimpse into the lives of its residents.
December 8, 2014
The weather has been absolutely gorgeous this semester. Right at the end of November, the weather was still lovely. Friends and I have even been studying outside without coats to soak up the last of these sunny days before snow. Polar vortex this week? Nah, I'd rather it stayed in the mid-50s.
November 29, 2014
On Wednesday, I drove more than two hours to the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., for a four-day student conference entitled, "The Politics and Policy of Crisis Management." Connecticut College sends two students every year, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the conference this year. We spent each day discussing policy with students from across the globe and West Point cadets, ambassadors and policymakers.
My group focused on coups and constitutions in the developing world, and we made policy recommendations based on our predictions. For our nights at the conference, we stayed in the barracks with cadet hosts and started our days at 6:30 a.m. to the sound of Taps. We ate nearly every meal in the mess hall and learned about the various rules each cadet has to abide by. For instance, freshmen, or "Plebes" as they're called, are not allowed to talk when outside, must hold their hands in tight fists when walking and, when eating, must stare only at the top rim of their plates.
Learning about cadet life and acting as real policymakers was incredible. Working with such a diverse group of students from around the world — one student in my group took part in the protests in Egypt during the Arab Spring — gave each of us new and valuable perspectives to bring back to our home campuses.
November 27, 2014
The College's Physics Department is home to one of the largest telescopes in New England, a state-of-the-art wave fume and a one million-volt particle (ion) accelerator. It's one of just four at undergraduate schools in the United States. We have many science resources at Conn, but the accelerator is the one thing that most are unaware of.
Students who study physics, geophysics and chemistry, however, know the particle accelerator well. The machine is currently processing a program called PIXIE. It analyzes the chemical composition of objects without having to use traditional chemistry techniques that could damage or destroy artifacts. By firing a beam of protons at an object, the resulting X-rays are analyzed to decipher the exact chemical composition of an object.
At Conn, PIXIE is helping professors and students study historical Native American trade routes from the New London region. By analyzing the chemical composition of historic clay pots discovered nearby, my classmates have been able to track where these clay pots were made by comparing them to mud samples. On Mamacoke Island, part of the College campus, classmates have uncovered large collections of clay pots, preserved by time. Of the many that originated on the island, some were found to have originated in Hartford and Long Island. By using PIXIE, we have found concrete evidence of intertribal trade between Native Americans in Connecticut. So far, more than two research papers have been published in scientific journals as a result of PIXIE, both written by undergraduate science students at Conn.
November 23, 2014
On Nov. 11, 2014, outside Harris Refectory, the Connecticut College Chamber Choir and Orchestra gave the community an unexpected treat. Passersby were invited to try their hand at conducting the Hallelujah Chorus, a preview for the choir and orchestra's concert that weekend.
Video edited by Dana Sorkin '16
November 21, 2014
As part of the Connecticut College experience, it is common for students to study away during a semester or summer. Last week, I was accepted to study abroad in Milan, Italy, for the spring semester! I will be spending the whole semester abroad, studying at the Universita Boccini and living in an apartment in northern Italy.
I grew up in an Italian household, so I am looking forward to being further immersed in my heritage. At age 4, I learned my first grammatically correct Italian sentence — maí basta. It translates to "never enough" in English. Between the ages of 6 and 8, I was trained to taste the difference between Swedish and Italian meatballs.
As a self-designed new media studies minor, I am looking forward to taking full advantage of multimedia courses and opportunities outside of Conn. As a part of the business studies program in Milan, I will be able to attend Milanese Fashion Week in March and a taping of a Milan TV news series. I have even registered for the course "Culture and Cuisine of Italy," which includes cooking lessons led by the Casa Buitoni chef at the Buitoni headquarters, a major pasta trademark recognized around the world.
I am most excited to immerse myself in the culture and travel around the rest of Italy and Europe. My study away program has already planned two field trips, including skiing in the Alps and swimming off the coast of Cinque Terre.
When I return, I'm sure that I'll bring new perspectives to my class discussions and assignments at Conn but, for the moment, I'm just excited to go on this new adventure!
November 19, 2014
Last year, as a first-year student, I tried hard to get involved in any and every activity I could find — a conquest that quickly overwhelmed me. I've continued with some activities and dropped others, but one notable activity I found myself involved with last year is still important to me now: I became an amateur telescope maker.
The story starts when a professor asked me if I was interested in getting involved with a peculiar project: I would be making my own telescope. At first, I didn’t really know what to expect, but took the two-credit course because I wanted my own telescope to look at the night sky. I signed up, paid for a telescope mirror blank and jumped right in, not knowing what I was getting myself into.
Our class met in the basement of Olin, one of science buildings on campus, and I was one of six or seven students who were given card access to a special room downstairs, usually used for processing images from the main, roooftop telescope on campus. There, I met Jay Drew, an amateur telescope mirror grinder who would be our instructor for the class. He proceeded to tell us all about how to turn a mirror blank for a telescope into an accurate imaging device. The thing that stuck in my mind was how many hours it would take — upwards of 100 hours.
Fast forward to the end of the course. Now, I have a beautiful, 8-inch mirror for the telescope I've yet to build. It is more accurate than something you can buy online for thousands of dollars and I got to make it with my own hands. Carving the concave glass with a convex tool night after night was tedious, but seeing the progress I made was incredible.
I ended up really enjoyed making something beautiful, and gained an appreciation for the delicacy of imaging instruments like cameras and telescopes. I’ll be building the rest of the telescope later this year, but, until then, I have something beautiful to show for my hard work. There is nothing like seeing a product come to fruition, particularly one that you made with the sweat of your own palms.
November 13, 2014
Turning down a dark and graffitied alley in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City, I saw a bright light. There, tucked away in a freight elevator, was a museum. And on its shelves were collections of oddities: plastic spoons, Saudi Arabian pool toys, business letters, plastic eggs and bacon, a leather shoe supposedly thrown at the head of George W. Bush at a press conference in Baghdad, and jars with rubble/dirt/ash from Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz, and someone’s father. All of this was a mere sampling of the variety of strange objects the museum hosts. This experience was one of many during my sophomore research seminar’s field trip last Saturday. We began with the Museum of Sex, worked our way to Chinatown for a very tasty lunch and a tour with Chinese takeout menu collector Harley Spiller, and eventually to this tiny museum. All three events had a thematic connection: the invisible. Each hidden in their own way, these places connected to my class’ studies of secrecy, power, privilege and the invisible.
November 10, 2014
I'll admit, my title is a little misleading. Restaurant proprietor and College Trustee David Barber '88 and Sean Barrett, co-founder of Dock to Dish, hosted a discussion about what they envision as the ideal future of the fishing industry in the United States. While they both explained what they are working toward — fostering a culture of sustainable fisheries — what stood out to me was the appalling state of the current system of commercial fishing. David gave an explanation of how, due to tariffs and working costs, it's cheaper for a company to fish in local East Coast waters, freeze and ship the fish to China for processing, and ship the fish back to the United States, than it is to process in the same region where the fish was caught. Even with all this travel, the fish can still be legally called "locally caught." It's certainly reassuring for me to know that people like David and Sean are working to change this model by supporting and buying directly from fishermen who prepare the fish in the same local waters from which the animals are found.
November 7, 2014
On Oct. 29, Connecticut College students stood in solidarity with Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University student who is protesting the way her report of sexual assault was handled on campus. Students from the SGA Public Art Task Force, the College's Think S.A.F.E. Project, and the sophomore seminar class “Art of Protest: Occupy ___” collaborated to carry the mattress to different locations around campus every hour and students were encouraged to sign it.
Learn more: Read "#ConnCollCarries: Bringing the #CarryThatWeight movement to campus," a guest blog post by Bettina Weiss '15.
November 6, 2014
Last Saturday, the Hispanic Studies Department hosted a trip to visit the new Goya exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Francisco Goya (1746-1828) is a well-known Spanish painter and printmaker. While I originally associated him with the stiff portraiture of the royal court, I was pleasantly surprised to see the wide variety and versatility of his art. Court culture was merely one aspect of society reflected in his paintings. The influence of the Enlightenment, the Peninsular War, the War of 1812, the American and French revolutions, the church, the Inquisition and much more can be seen within his art; he lived at an extremely interesting time in Spanish history. My favorite is his series of prints, Los Caprichos. A satirical critique of Spanish culture and society, they have a dark humor and informality that contrasts with his paid portraits. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed at the exhibit, but I thought this 7th century glazed earthenware camel from the Sui Dynasty exhibit would make a nice replacement.
November 3, 2014
Each semester, the College's chapter of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society of Psychology, inducts new members. The mission of Psi Chi is to encourage, stimulate and maintain excellent scholarship and to advance the science of psychology as a whole. Psychology students here are invited to apply for Psi Chi membership if they have achieved a certain level of academic excellence in psychology and have demonstrated a true commitment to the field.
As a member of our chapter's six-person executive board, I assisted in this fall's Psi Chi induction ceremony. Nine psychology students were accepted. During the ceremony, inductees signed a pledge to symbolize their commitment to both our campus chapter and the national Psi Chi organization. New members then lit a candle and recited the organization's mantra: "Honor is the reward of merit."
November 1, 2014
“Hey, is it alright if we call our professor in here?”
After hearing that odd request in the late hours of the night, I continued working on my homework in one of the Cummings Art Center classrooms, sharing the study space with others. Promptly, three girls began video chatting with their art history professor in preparation for a test. They spent the next hour asking questions and having a conversation with the professor.
I had never met these students, but I found it interesting to overhear their deeply intellectual conversation. It was not surprising that a professor put such effort into helping students better understand the subject.
This summer, as I was interning in New York City at a boutique public relations firm, I ran into a past professor of mine, Sunil Bhatia, in the middle of Manhattan and we ended up grabbing a cup of coffee during my lunch break. He was able to provide helpful advice as I continued my internship. Recently, he wrote a recommendation on my behalf for my study abroad application to Milan.
Professors, it seems, have a way of helping to challange and educate students, regarless of where you might run into them or how you might communicaticate with them.
October 29, 2014
Recently, professors, community activists and service members from our neighbors at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy recently met with Conn students to discuss a wide range of topics related to immigration in the United States. After giving a brief description of their role in the issue, the panelists met with students to hear their perspectives on immigration in a more casual environment, fostering dialogue and sharing of ideas. I spoke with Dr. Evan Haglund of the Coast Guard Academy. Working as a consular officer at the American Embassy in Ghana, Dr. Haglund was able to offer a unique perspective on being on the front lines of the immigration process into the United States. It was a great experience to have roundtable discussions with people holding such varied backgrounds and experiences with immigration.
October 25, 2014
There are two extraordinarily busy times during the fall semester: midterms and finals. October is the month for midterms. Last year, as a first-year student, I was still adjusting to college life in October, occasionally getting lost and still learning all the Camel lingo. Having a midterm so soon into the year was surprising, as they approached faster than I expected.
Fast forward a year: Midterms? They still are — and will always be — stressful, but this year, I was ready. I knew that as October approached, I would be forced to hunker down and study more, and I adjusted my plans accordingly. A year makes all the difference, better preparing me for the four exams I'll be taking over the course of two weeks.
I admit that midterms and I will never be friends, but they are no longer an unexpected guest.
(In case you were wondering: A year later, I do know most of the Camel lingo, but there are still moments where I learn about a new phrase, building or acronym. That's better than getting lost, right?)
October 22, 2014
October 22, 2014
Over the last two years, I have been waiting for that moment: when a class or teacher would somehow leave me walking out the door with a new perspective.
Last week, as I sat in the second row of my "Introduction to American Studies" class, Professor Jim Downs did just that.
“Can we all just take a few minutes to listen and appreciate the beautiful lyrics created by John Mayer?” Professor Downs announced as he walked through the door. For the next few minutes, my class of 30 students sat in darkness, staring up at the projector screen as we watched John Mayer’s live performance of “Covered in Rain."
For class that day, we had read "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which tells the story of a Nigerian emigrant who critiques America and the American dream. It was hard to see where Professor Downs was going with the soulful voice of John Mayer as an introduction.
As the lights came back on, Professor Downs asked us to think about finding our own voice like John Mayer does through his lyrics or Ngozi Adichie does in her novel. We further discussed the novel and how Adichie’s voice is heard in her personalized immigrant narrative. It was interesting to see how Professor Downs used different types of mediums and contemporary examples to help us further understand the shaping of an immigrant narrative and the history of the American dream.
After the class discussion, I thought more about my voice in my community and on campus. While I have made an effort to get involved on campus, I'm still working to establish my passions and find my own voice. With the help of other students, I am now working to create a movement on campus that would help showcase students' artwork throughout campus.
While I may not be a famous musician or best-selling novelist, the art movement is a step in the right direction as I determine my real passion and voice.
October 17, 2014
My friend Chloe Jones '15 recently brought a basket she'd woven for an ethnobotany class to dinner. I was fascinated to hear her describe the process of its creation. She extracted strips of bark from a tree, then learned how to soak and weave the strips together from a member of the nearby Mohegan tribe. In the process, she learned about the pawpaw — tiny, green, tropical-tasting fruit native to Central America, the Midwest and the Great Lakes region.
Chloe thought she might have seen some in the Arboretum. I suddenly had a great idea: What if we went and foraged for pawpaws in our own Arbo and collected them in the basket? For some reason, the prospect of foraging our own fruit got us really excited and, right after dinner, we walked to the Arbo.
We found only one pawpaw tree, and it was pretty tall. Chloe and I aren't very tall, so we came to the logical solution of using found sticks to fish the fruit from the tree. We could see about five bunches of fruit on the tree, so we quickly got to work. Chloe held down a branch (the branches are pretty flexible) with a long, forked stick while I knocked the pawpaws off the tree with the branch I was holding. We then celebrated the fact that should an apocalypse strike, we'd be the first to find fruit for survival.
This image is our handiwork — both Chloe's basket and our collective forage. You can't eat more local than this.
October 16, 2014
One Wednesday evening, I found myself preparing for the first exam of the semester. I’d been dreading this moment for a week, so I tried to figure out a way to ease the pain: I tried something new and studied with Kim, a classmate. We settled into the Branford House common room at 7 p.m. and began our calculus preparation. I had blocked out three hours that night for studying and had prepared myself by bringing all my notes, my textbook and a Vitamin Water. As the night began to unfold, I quickly discovered three things.
First, I realized that studying with a friend from the same course can be highly effective. Often, Kim would understand the concept of a certain problem better than I would, and other times I would have a better understanding than she did. Having an extra brain is incredibly helpful, especially when you both can bond over a common desire: getting through the next exam.
Second, I realized that we were not defined by our notes. The resources of the College stretch very far in all directions and easily provide us with more than enough help. This particular night, Kim and I explored the helpful information available on our class Moodle site, a handy webpage that serves as a reference, curated by the professor, for each course. Our professor had provided helpful links to resources online, scanned resources from different textbooks and helpful solutions to difficult problems. These extra resources often go unnoticed. There were so many resources at our fingertips, fully understanding a topic was easily within our grasp.
Finally, I realized how valuable professors are. My math professor encourages us to take a photo of the problem we are working on and send it to her with questions. She can glance over our work and tell us what we're doing wrong. This is not uncommon for Conn professors. In another class, I had not yet learned good time management and would often find myself up doing homework later than I would have liked. Even in that case, when I sent the professor a photo of my work, I would often get a response late at night with helpful hints. Professors are highly accessible here and they define my experience.
I came to college expecting a struggle and, in some senses, I was right. You are challenged as an individual in many ways but, if you reach out to find the resources, it's hard not to come out of the struggle wiser and smarter. I’ve discovered that working with my classmates and struggling through the material together, reaching out to professors with each and every question, and using the resources provided helps me succeed and thrive.
October 7, 2014
As part of my two-dimensional art class, I recently participated in the Art Department's seventh annual charcoal drawing marathon this past Sunday. Our assignment was very broad: We were told to use a variety of shapes, color tones and depth to fill the very large, intimidating blank pieces of paper in front of us. Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., we drew without stopping. We had no specific subject to work with, we simply had to respond to our environments and the music that was playing.
The presiding art professors encouraged us to think of our pieces as completely mutable. We were encouraged to draw over things, erase our work and paint over large sections of our pieces to work, then rework, the charcoal. As someone who has taken many art classes, the process was a challenge. I'm used to crafting my pieces carefully, focusing on intricate shading and minute details. Inevitably, I get attached to my art and I'm reluctant to change anything more significant than those tiny details.
This experience made me explore a very different technique: a "kill your darlings"-type of technique, where you have to get rid of some of the bits of your work that you're attached to in order to improve the piece as a whole. While this was difficult, it helped me loosen up and go with the flow of things.
By the time 4 p.m. arrived, it seemed that there was more charcoal on my face, hands and arms than on my actual canvas. Despite the mess and a very sore drawing arm, I was very happy with my piece. Looking around the room, I was pleased to see that others found the process — and final results — to be successful.
October 6, 2014
Following the success of a community discussion about issues of race in Ferguson, Mo., our Office of Residential Education and Living (REAL) decided to continue the conversation, this time bringing the discussion closer to home. The event, titled, “How Not to Talk About Race at College,” included a panel led by professors Sunil Bhatia (human development), David Kim (religious studies), and Rosemarie Roberts (dance), as well as students Ramata Diallo '17 and Maurice Tiner '17. The discussion sought to answer a number of questions: Why do conversations on race become deadened in the classroom and amongst students? What is that block that’s created that prevents people from expressing their feelings? How do we generate a more open environment in which race can be talked about, not as an abstract concept but as a real, human experience that a lot of people have to deal with.
I don’t know if the panel completely answered all these questions, but the audience was spirited and engaged on that Wednesday evening. As 70 students and faculty members informally gathered in a circle, students shared personal stories about experiencing racial prejudice in their lives.
The event was illuminating on so many levels. After the event ended, I was approached by a professor I’d never met — she teaches French and Africana studies, departments I've never taken courses in. She stood next to my friend and I, put her hands on our shoulders and told us that although she had to run, she'd love to continue the conversation, passing along her name and email address. David Kim also made himself available after the panel so students who didn’t have a chance to speak would be able to in a more personal way.
Professor Audrey Zakriski from the Psychology Department had some choice words to say about approaching one’s own racial biases and confronting them, and Dean of the College Caroline Denard proposed a “color-brave” narrative performance piece, that would bring together art, dance, music and monologue to share stories about discrimination and acceptance. Another student proposed “issue-tables” in the dining halls where you could move to and from different topics of discussion. I suggested there be a disclaimer in every class' syllabus about any incident of prejudice a student might face and a third party to contact — just as the syllabus already has an addendum about sexual misconduct, resources available in the Office of Accessibility, and the drug and alcohol program.
On our campus, the difficult issues of sexual violence prevention, disability and personal health are already part of conversations we have openly and often. The leaders of offices that work with students on these topics are are incredibly engaged, and are often on a first-name basis with most of the campus, helping to create a lively, open and honest community. This event was an attempt to do the same with issues regarding race.
September 30, 2014
Visiting Italian artist Paola Ricci has, quite literally, taken over the first floor of Cummings Arts Center. For three days of last week, she worked on an experimental piece: a large drawing taped to the floor that represents her interpretation of the universe. Her performance art has inspired and intrigued students and professors passing by, and a number of classes interacted with and watched her work progress.
September 27, 2014
In the last week, I've noticed some unusual additions to Cummings Arts Center on campus. First, a wooden chair appeared in the middle of the lobby. The next day, another chair appeared. Then a table. Then an embroidery wheel with felt letters sewn onto it that read, "I *heart* BEING A MAN." Strange, I thought.
I soon learned that all of these installations were part of an upcoming art show, "Welcome to Hard Times," by artist Dave Sinaguglia, an adjunct professor here at Conn. I attended the opening of his exhibition, which included a lecture, and came to appreciate his artwork much more.
Before attending Dave Sinaguglia's talk, I was unaware of the depth of his work, most of which is commentary on masculinity. I gathered as much from the embroidery wheel, but I didn't really know the context. Dave Sinaguglia explained that he was raised in a very "stereotypical" family in terms of gender and familial roles. Now, he uses tongue-in-cheek concepts to push the ideas associated with gender. For example, one of his projects involved living alone in a homemade log cabin. While building the cabin, he made sure to wear flannel and pose with power tools (as stereotypical "manly men" do). Another one of his carpentry projects was titled "My trouble with women, is my trouble with Music, I love this one song, I listen only to it. For weeks, I never stop loving it — I just stop listening."
This gender aspect of Dave Sinaguglia's art is very interesting because it's an atypical take on a very "complicated topic," as Sinaguglia called it. Of course, this is not the only characteristic of his art projects. They also deal with ideas about socialization versus isolation, independence and precision.
I'm glad that I was able to attend the gallery opening. It offered some new perspectives on gender and got me thinking about other innovative ways in which people can express ideas through art.
September 26, 2014
As a sophomore, I'll soon need to declare my major. At the beginning of this year — only three weeks ago — I was panicking, trying to pinpoint an answer to the question, "What interests you?" Before the summer started, I thought I had my plans worked out but, suddenly, I wasn't so sure. When I began to feel unsure about the path I was taking, I turned to almost every professor I had ever connected with. I received incredible support, and I'm again confident in my next steps.
Professor of Physics Leslie Brown had some great advice for me. She listened to my concerns about my challenges with physics. I had begun to feel that lab work, which lacks communication, was too dull and the classroom felt too conventional. “Doc” Brown suggested that I continue to minor in astronomy but think about self-designing a major that incorporates multiple areas of physics and science education, which made me think further about the possibility of also pursuing the Museum Studies Certificate program. I quickly set up an appointment with the program's director, Professor Chris Steiner, and he welcomed the idea of a science-oriented person joining the program. Doc Brown and Professor Steiner also connected me with staff at the Treworgy Planetarium at the Mystic Seaport, only a few miles away, so I could include practical work into my self-designed education.
In a matter of weeks, I have gone from panic to excitement, feeling like I once again have a strong path to follow. At the moment, it looks like the education plan I'm developing will include a self-designed major in science education, a minor in astronomy and a certificate in museum studies, along with volunteer work at the planetarium. With help from my professors, I've bent the definition of museum studies and altered the stereotypical path of a science student to fit my own interests in a hands-on and unconventional way.
September 22, 2014
"Put on some gloves and grab a brain." Those were the words I heard my instructor say as I walked into my Psychology 100 lab today.
Yes, today we dissected brains. "Whose brain?" a friend asked before lab. "Do you remember the guy who used to live across the hall?" All humor aside, though, the lab was quite interesting. (It was the brain of a sheep.)
Working in pairs, we located some of the outer parts of the brain, a process which involved cutting the item in half. I felt surprisingly grown up, using the scalpels, dissection scissors and various sharp, scientific tools we had been given. As we cut open the brains, the thalamus, hypothalamus and corpus collosum all became visible. These are structures found in the center of the brain, which some of you "brainy" readers probably already knew.
I'm sure some students might have found this lab slightly nauseating, but, as a psychology major, I thought it was fascinating. My psychology professor walked around and helped when necessary, but for the most part we were given freedom to figure things out on our own. It was a vastly different experience from my previous high school science labs. After hearing about various brain structures in the course's lecture, we were able to match functions and locations during the lab. Suddenly, the concepts became less abstract. It sounds utterly cliché, but today's class made learning fun.
After dissecting brains on day two of the lab, I have very high expectations for the rest of the year.
September 17, 2014
This semester, I am studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. While most of my friends at Conn have been at school for almost three weeks now, I have only just completed my second day of classes. Not only am I studying in a new setting, but this new environment may or may not become its own country in just two days.
Scotland is holding a referendum that could result in its separation from the rest of the United Kingdom (made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.) Since arriving, I have made sure to look at all the campaigns with an open mind and purely as an observer.
I see campaigning every time I walk outside. There are signs for both parties in the windows of houses, and people are handing out leaflets in the squares and on the streets. Recently, there was a march for the "No" campaign on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, and a booth was set up on the university campus encouraging undecided students to ask questions and get involved.
The referendum is mentioned frequently on campus, but many of the students here aren’t even Scottish and those who are have already cast their vote. Yesterday, there was a referendum debate at the Student Union (the Scotish version of our College Center at Crozier-Williams) and this week I have seen quite a few students with pins and stickers on their jackets.
The referendum has provided an exciting environment for learning. This semester, one of my courses is economic and political geography and, on the first day, my professor joked that she might have to change a section of the course depending on the referendum's outcome. Being here at this exciting and politically important time is only confirming that I made the right decision to study in Scotland this semester.
Marina Stuart '16 is currently studying away at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Throughout the semester, she will occasionally provide updates on the experience of studying away from campus.
"No" and "Yes" signs supporting and opposing Scottish independence dot windows in Edinburgh, Scotland.
May 23, 2014
During finals, it's easy to spend hours and hours in your room or the library studying, writing papers and completing final projects. May is one of the most beautiful months at Conn, and it's nice to step outside, even for a little bit, and enjoy the warm weather and beautiful trees. Matteo and I took a break from studying to drive into New London and spending some time by the Thames River, visiting our favorite spots in town before we head out for the summer.
May 19, 2014
The year has now ended, but those last few weeks are arguably the most busy moments of the entire school year. With finals looming, deadlines for next year’s leadership positions arriving and beloved friends preparing for graduating, the last weeks of the year beg great balancing acts. Though I am no acrobat, I have found a way to keep my sanity: by singing.
Before the semester ended, I reflected on how important singing has been for me during this entire year:
I sing on Mondays and Thursdays in Chamber Choir. We begin our rehearsals with massage trains (very relaxing) and warm-ups. Then we sing. Whether classical or modern, the music relaxes and rejuvenates me. For example, when the choir sings “Ubi Caritas,” a beautiful Gregorian chant, in Harkness Chapel, I can’t help but feel at peace. The livelier song “Wanting Memories,” also helps me let loose. Accompanied by African drums, we move to the beat while singing. Last Sunday, we showcased our talents at our Spring Choral Concert, “Vive l’Amour”. Before we performed, Professor Moy, our choir director, compared singing in a concert to taking the SATs: at a certain point you have to stop practicing, trust yourself and go for it. We went for it and the audience loved it.
On Tuesdays, I enjoyed singing individually. This year, I took voice lessons with the amazing Jurate Svedaite-Waller. Voice lessons are free at Conn for students. I am happy I’ve taken this opportunity because Jurate has revolutionized the way I think about singing. Just like running, singing is a sport. One must exercise muscles throughout the body to produce a beautiful sound. Similarly to running, singing helps me relax and enjoy the moment.
May 16, 2014
As we come to the end of this amazing year, many of my graduating friends are preparing their theses and final projects, showing the campus what they’ve put so much hard work into all year long. I have seen quite a few projects in the sciences and in the arts.
Although the chemistry department seminar series usually features visiting faculty or professionals from other colleges and businesses, the final event of the year featured our very own students presenting their research. It was quite interesting to finally find out what my senior tutors do in their off-time, when they’re not helping me learn the ins and outs of chemistry. I’m excited to see myself in their shoes, completing research with a faculty member, when I am a senior.
On the completely other side of the academic spectrum, I also attended a senior capstone project in our very own Tansill blackbox theater. I’m not normally one to dabble in theater, but last Friday night I heard that a friend’s senior, independent project was being performed, so I gave it a shot. I can honestly say it was time well spent. The performer, my friend Jacob Rosenbaum ‘14, performed the entire 45 minute play, “Barely Naked,” entirely by himself. He humbly graced the stage every moment of the show. By integrating dance, theatre, vocals, and witty humor, Jacob captured my mind with this theatrical story.
Between science and theater, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to see what my friends have been up to all year. It’s amazing to witness their hard work come to life.
May 14, 2014
The heavier my workload, the earlier I wake up. In the midst of finals, I wake up around 6:30 a.m. Others are up early in the dorm, too, some exersizing to work out videos, others already studying or meeting with classmates. I find myself often studying in the same, cozy corner of Knowlton, at the end of the corridor near Knowlton Dining Hall. Because the dining hall only opens for lunch, I can count on the hallway to be quiet.
Last time I studied there, a wonderful member of the kitchen staff noticed me, still in my PJs, sprawled out on the ground with my books. When she approached me, I expected her to ask me to move since I might be obstructing the hallway. To my pleasant surprise, however, she offered me tea and coffee. She even opened the dining hall to me and invited me to eat some breakfast. When I entered the dining hall, a wave of calmness rushed over me. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the normally bustling room. I sat at the Russian language table even though I speak French just because I could. After eating, I slowly sipped my coffee while reading “The Turn of the Screw” until the time came to head, with renewed calmness, to class. It was a gentle, caring staff member from the dining hall who made all the difference that day.
May 2, 2014
Kurt Reinmund, a videographer for the ConnCollegeLive Experience, is currently spending this semester abroad. He is studying at the CET Film Production program and producing a movie through the FAMU film school in Prague. Kurt took a moment to write about his experiences away from campus.
“Dobrý den. Jsem Kurt. Promi?te, nemluvím ?esky.” In case you do not speak Czech, I just said, “Hello. I am Kurt. Sorry, I do not speak Czech.” After living in Prague, Czech Republic for the past three months and taking Czech language classes twice a week since my arrival here, I’m embarrassed to admit that those three sentences are the extent of my Czech speaking abilities. I did not come to Prague to learn a language that only 10 million people speak; I came here to make a film.
As a film studies major with a concentration in production, I knew I wanted an abroad program that allowed me to make film. It turns out, making a film in a foreign country whose language I don’t speak is extremely difficult and often times awkward. My film is titled Jirí, and the actors and crew in my film spoke about as much English as I speak Czech. Luckily, I’m a master of the “point-and-grunt” technique when trying to tell Czech people what I want, so I found a way around the severe language disparity. For example, if I point and grunt at the couch while making eye contact with an actor, that means I want him or her to walk to that couch. The “point-and-grunt” technique is universal; Francis Ford Coppola used it when filming Apocalypse Now.
I have not spent all of my time relentlessly working on my film; between my numerous meetings with very important film people, I have found some time to explore the city in which I live. Upon first arriving in Prague, I noticed that no building, church, park bench, traffic sign, nor playground was safe from the copious amounts of graffiti that plagued this once-Communist city. But as the weeks flew by, I realized that the graffiti is what makes this city so delightfully unique. While some people may see the graffiti as vandalism, I choose to believe that the graffiti serves as a rebellious reminder to the Czechs that they are no longer under Communist rule. While this belief may just be one of my pretentious theories, there must be some reason why the city does not clean up the graffiti, and I do not think it is out of laziness.
I only have a few weeks left here in Prague before I return to the States, and I must say that I am going to miss this city. Prague may be a permanently overcast city with people who never smile, but there is an irrefutable energy here unlike any I have ever seen. Founded in 1993, Czech Republic is still a new country. I know I’ve only lived here a few months, but I can tell that the Czech Republic has a very bright future ahead of it. I’m just glad I was able to capture its culture on film.
Kurt poses with his star actor, Miroslav Hrabé
April 30, 2014
Last week, the East Asian studies students hosted a poster session -- where students share their research and answer questions about their work. I went to support a friend, to cover the event for The College Voice and, in large part, because of my own personal interest in studying abroad.
Two East Asian studies classes presented posters about their spring break trips to Okinawa and Taiwan, respectively. While in Asia, each student conducted an individual research project.
As I wandered around the room, notebook in one hand and sushi in the other, I asked students about their experiences. I was struck with how much these students were impacted by their trips abroad. When I asked a friend what her favorite part of the trip was, she responded with, “Can I say the most profound part?” She went on to describe the moment she met a survivor of the Battle of Okinawan who worked as nurse in caves that were constantly being bombarded by bombs and gunfire.
These stories make me even more excited about my own study abroad plans for next fall. The stories also remind me that opportunities like spring break trips allow students who might not spend a whole semester abroad to experience life-changing opportunities around the world.
April 24, 2014
With the year coming to an end, the studio art majors, like myself, must prepare for the Senior Thesis Exhibition on May 2, 2014. When art majors reach senior year, we spend the year producing a cohesive body of work that explores a central theme. Seniors work on their collections at all hours of the day and night and, as such, we are provided with access to a private senior studio where we can work and store pieces throughout the year.
As the Senior Thesis Exhibition nears, here are some scenes from our recent days in the studio:
April 23, 2014
As most people know, Connecticut College has an arboretum. Sometimes, however, guests and even students don’t realize the whole scope of what we lovingly call the “Arbo.” The protected lands extend across Route 32, along the side of the athletic center. The arboretum even includes an island -- Mamacoke Island -- and it’s where I spent most of my Friday afternoon hiking.
Glenn Dreyer, director of the Arboretum and executive director of the College’s Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, led an informative hike around Mamacoke, telling us about it’s history and geology. I had been to the island once before, for a geology lab, but I attended on Friday afternoon because I was interested to learn more about the history of the island.
I had no idea that, many years ago, Native Americans lived on Mamacoke. Students in the Anthropology Department are currently mapping out areas where they may have lived. Just a few years ago, two Native American skeletons were found in the area. They’ve also found places where they Natives shucked and cooked oysters.
There are also deer and various animal predators on this island, and during our hike we were being scouted by some turkey vultures, and we even found the wing of a turkey — maybe their lunch?
Overall, it was great to get out of a classroom and just walk around, talk to my friends and professors and learn about an important part of our campus history.
April 18, 2014
Last Wednesday, I woke up at 5:20 a.m., destined for the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Giddy with fatigue and excitement, a group of us from Knowlton House met in the foyer and jaunted over to our bus, complementing one another on our business-casual attire on the way.
I sat with my friend Leela. Both French fanatics, we chatted in French as we ate a breakfast of bagels, muffins and croissants. A snooze and a few traffic jams later, we arrived at the United Nations.
We first entered the building for the United States mission to the U.N. There, we met with Alexis Wichowski, a Connecticut College alumna from the Class of 1993. She transitioned from a Chinese major in college to a graduate program in information technology to a job at the U.N. related to IT diplomacy. She also works as a professor at Columbia University. In addition to describing her career path, she quizzed us on the U.N. How many member states compose the U.N.? 193! When was the U.N. founded? 1945! She insisted we understand the U.N. as a collection of entities that include its six deliberative councils and non-governmental organizations among others.
Isaac, an intern at the U.S. mission to the U.N., left us with a final note: “Don’t start at the bottom, start at the top.”
Some people took Isaac’s advice when attacking the buffet at the Delegates Dining Hall, starting with dessert and ending with lunch. No matter our dining approach, we ate more like kings and queens than like delegates.
Fortunately, a grand tour of the U.N. helped us work off the decadence. A Swedish tour guide led our group, which pleased Julia, a Swedish Conn student studying human rights and the media. Our guide showed us the rooms where the General Assembly and other branches of the U.N. convene. In fact, we witnessed the Economic and Social Council in action!
We also had time to engage in conversation with delegates while visiting the Iranian Mission to the U.N. After an informational video and some Iranian snacks, we showered the Iranian delegates with questions: How does Iran portray women in the media? What is Iran’s stance regarding the war in Syria? What would Iran prioritize in a security council meeting? Do women participate as actively in society as men? In response to our questions, one of the delegates urged us again and again to visit Iran and to discover the answers to our questions first-hand and individually.
After collecting food-for-thought at the Iranian mission, we headed out for a delicious French meal and met up with some NYC-based Conn alums.
After a day like Wednesday, Conn’s commitment to an international education certainly takes on a magic meaning for me.
April 11, 2014
Since I was a kid, I have loved writing. Originally, I wanted to write fiction and would come up all these different characters and settings. (Plots were not my strong suit.) I had all these notebooks filled with lists of characters, their ages, likes, and dislikes, which, I guess, explains why I was so excited when my English professor approved my idea for my final class project. In fact, I found myself with a sense of giddiness that college student’s rarely have before attempting an 11-page paper.
Our final English paper involves comparing The Canterbury Tales, which we are reading in Middle English, to modern versions of the stories. I was struck, however, with an idea in class about setting Canterbury Tales as a movie about college kids on spring break who get into a storytelling contest. My paper would outline the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales as modern college student stereotypes and then explain how they relate to their Middle Ages counterparts. It might well turn out to be a paper in which I get to do exactly what I love: develop characters, decide what they look like and choose their interests. It’s wonderful that even when your academic interests change (as I’ve become more interested in science writing in recent years,) there are times when college classes afford you the opportunity to just do what you love, what inspires you.
April 10, 2014
I try very hard not to take night classes.
Not that there aren’t good classes being held at night, but as a track athlete whose practice regularly goes to 6 or 6:30, the added stress of having to get to class afterward is one I try to avoid for my mental health. However, when I joined the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I was signed up for a seminar that takes place 7-8:30 pm.
Now, you might wonder how I can leave practice, change, eat, get my books and get to class in under a half hour, but luckily, the College has a nifty system for athletes whose practices end after dining hall hours, or for those athletes who also have night classes. We call it the “Cro Pass.”
With the Cro Pass, you get certain items from Oasis, our snack shop, for free. (Cro Passes are only redeemable on the day you were given it, and has to be signed your coach.) Because of my night course schedule isn’t typical for athletes, it’s pretty infrequent that others from my team are eating in Oasis. I try not to eat alone, and I certainly don’t want to be seen eating a whole pizza, solo, on a Tuesday night. So, I decided to use my Cro Pass as a way to befriend my classmates in the Goodwin-Niering Center.
One of my classmates, Maia, is also involved in tons of activities, including dance, so she occasionally hasn’t had the chance to grab dinner before class. She has become my regular Cro date for post-Goodwin Niering seminars dinners, and through this, also a very close friend.
Just this week, she texted me saying “Are you living that Cro Pass life today??” After all, aren't all good friendships are based on food?
April 3, 2014
In recent days, I’ve been planning my next semester and it seems that I will have an absolutely crazy schedule. My life will be pretty busy but I’ve got a plan.
Dance Professor Rosemarie Roberts and I were speaking the other day, and I mentioned how much I’ve wanted to take a dance class here at the college. I told her that I was waiting until my senior year. After mentioning my hectic schedule for the next semester, Professor Roberts suggested I take her Afro-Caribbean dance class. Rosemarie told me how Afro-Caribbean dance can connect the mind and the body through writing and cultural dance. It will help with stress and bring together many of my other classes.
I can imagine there will be times next year when I just won’t have the time to go to the gym and de-stress as often as I want. Life will be busy. After my conversation, however, I also have confidence that Rosemarie will lead an interesting cultural experience that will be engaging and inviting.
March 17, 2014
Ok, I’ll admit it...I’m a francophile. A “frenchie”. A French fanatic.
As such, I organize French Club events on campus. Andrea, a Conn student who volunteers in French classes at New London High School, asked me if French Club would be interested in hosting a class of New London students studying French.
"Absolutely!" So, on Wednesday, Madame arrived with a busload of her French students. Madame had already decorated the room to celebrate Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and served us jambalaya and a galette des rois (pre-Lenten Kings’ cake). While feasting, we watched the film “Cyrano” on a large screen. We were more interested in chatting with each other, however, than watching the film.
After exchanging the polite ca va? (how are you?), we launched into discussions about snow days, robotics, and the humorous connection between analyzing literature and trapping butterflies. I look forward to continuing the conversation at our next rendez-vous, whether at Conn or at the high school.
March 10, 2014
At the beginning of our French class, Professeur Austin excitedly rushed into the room and told us to follow him to the library.
This semester, in my “Historicizing France” class, we are learning about l’age des lumières, the Enlightenment. We have read the works of great philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and we’ve studied the encyclopedia that first published the ideas of Rousseau and others. Even though 18th century France was as equally knowledgeable as England, they did not develop to the same economic level. French thinkers were too wrapped up in the encyclopedia to actually apply those ideas for economic gain.
Looking at online versions of Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, I could only imagine the effect the text had in France. I did not have to imagine for long.
As our professor guided us to Shain Library, we climbed the stairs and entered the Archives and Special Collections. We came face to face with original the original French encyclopedias.
Every student in the class was handed a volume of the encyclopedia and we flipped through its pages. Geography, mathematical proofs, Greek mythology, drawings of surgical practices and carpentry jumped out at us. After looking at the encyclopedia myself, I now can’t blame France for being content to merely gaze upon the text. The encyclopedia itself is that enlightening. Even 250 years later.
March 5, 2014
When I was visiting colleges a tour guide asked, “Who plans on studying abroad?” my hand always flew into the air. This goal has stayed with me through college, and, after a nail biting two-week wait, I recently found out that I’ve been approved to study abroad at the University of Edinburgh.
Next step? Actually going about the process of applying to the program. This involves getting a visa, making travel arrangements and submitting additional personal statements and letters of recommendation.
It was only when my mother said, “Great, now I can plan my trip to Scotland to visit you,” did the realization that I am about to live in another country by myself actually hit me.
Even though I am slightly nervous, my head is full of plans to travel around the Scottish countryside, visit other European countries, and have an international academic experience, all while having A LOT of fun. I can’t wait.
March 4, 2014
Sometimes we forget how much of our studies in the classroom relate to what’s happening on campus or in the world around us. My English class, for instance, has been analyzing different themes in Homer’s The Odyssey. We have discussed the role of violence in the text; whether or not Odysseus, the main character, is truly a hero in our modern sense of the word; and how Homer often creates stories within the epic work. Coincidentally, it seems, at the same time we’ve been reading The Odyssey, there have been several lectures on campus that relate to the exact themes and ideas we have been researching. Our professor suggested that we go to the lectures to see how what we learn in class applies to the world.
This past week, there were at least three lectures that correlated to our class. These lectures included topics like poetry interpretation, Ancient Greek education and violence in the Roman Arena. Having so many ways to explore what we have learned in the classroom encourages more active learning. We can experience the very things we have been discussing. It's always really cool when a lecture relates to my coursework. It allows us as students to see the application of that which we have learned.
February 28, 2014
It was a big week for the arts at Conn! The winter musical, "On The Town," was performed in Palmer Auditorium with a full orchestra.
February 24, 2014
I sat down with Gabby Arenge '14 to discuss her involvement in Curriculum reVision Week. With an awesome turnout, good things are certain to come of this great, weeklong community dialogue.
February 21, 2014
Pictured is Katherine Bouzianis '14 carrying boxes with letters on every face to different locations on campus. She started this as an interactive project for a class that was aimed at getting more of the campus community involved in the arts. The boxes were placed in various locations around campus like Shain Library, Cummings Art Center, and the atrium above Harris Refractory. Students then could come and switch the boxes around and put together words or phrases, take a picture of what they had done and upload it to any social media site.
February 18, 2014
Connecticut College is currently in the process of re-thinking the core components of a student's general curriculum. As part of Curriculum reVision week, I went to an event at Ruane’s Den where chemistry professor Marc Zimmer and a number of students discussed their ideas for a new curriculum. The process is group-oriented and the College is working hard to engage students, faculty and staff in the process.
February 6, 2014
Think of your worst nightmare. Maybe it involves a dangerous, scary or intimidating situation you find yourself in.
I’m sorry for making you envision that, but I recently faced a similar fear in my new class, “The Soviet Union and its Legacies.”
In the first five minutes of class, my professor placed a blank map of the eastern hemisphere in front of us and asked us to fill in as many countries as we knew. When my face turned white, it was probably a dead giveaway that geography is my worst topic of study by far. I probably know more about quantum mechanics.
After the short quiz, in which I could only locate a few country names, my professor reassured us that we would learn this entire map in just a few weeks. Sometimes you have to start at the bottom to realize that there is somewhere to go and more to learn. Taking classes like Soviet Union excites me and gives my brain a welcome break from my usual science courses.
At the same time, I learn more about places I’ve never studied, and I learn to look beyond the cultural misconceptions about these foreign countries and their people. Pretty soon, I’ll know what the true history of the region was like, but for now, I’m comforted to know that my fears, fears of being put on-the-spot and fears of geography, aren’t always as bad as they seem in my nightmares.
February 4, 2014
Second semester has kicked off! Gone are the multiple-hour-long meals of winter track camp. Back are rehearsals, volunteering, homework, club meetings, jobs and classes. Fortunately, I love my courses. Here are some interesting tidbits I have learned from them:
From my International Studies course, Perspectives of Modern Global Society:
Individuals raised bilingual are better at adapting to new rules than those raised mono-lingual. They are better at solving tasks that are confusing due to rules of the task changing unpredictably. “Monolinguals have much more difficulty than bilinguals at accommodating to a switch in rules.” — Jared Diamond in “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?”
From my French course, Historicizing France:
The souls of true friends are so joined into one another that one cannot find the seam that joins them in the first place. “En l’amitié de quoi je parle, elles [leurs âmes] se mêlent et confondent l'une en l'autre, d'un mélange si universel qu'elles effacent et ne retrouvent plus la couture qui les a jointes.” — Michel de Montaigne (1580)
From my voice lesson instructor:
The vibration of vocal chords in the larynx produces sound. The speed at which vocal chords vibrate determines pitch. The amount of air one breathes determines volume.— Professor Jurate Svedaite-Waller
From my Logic course:
A tenuous argument gains strength by narrowing its conclusion, the statement that evidence (premises) claim to justify. Therefore, one sure-fire way to strengthen one’s argument in any field is to narrow the scope of one’s claim. — Professor Derek Turner
As much as I love the leisurely meals of vacation, nothing quite beats the wonders revealed through classes.
January 13, 2014
Occasionally, The ConnCollegeLive Experience will invite guests to blog about their experiences as a Camel. The following is the first in this guest blogger series.
I’ve been a tutor at Conn for the past three years. I work with students in the Science Leaders program in one-on-one and group sessions in chemistry, organic chemistry and biology. The tutoring program was started as a way to ensure our Science Leaders excel, but after last summer, I saw it also as an opportunity to experiment with new teaching techniques.
Traditionally, our group tutoring sessions work this way: Students arrive with their problem sets complete and ask the tutor any questions they have. Faculty and students approve of this type of setup because students can try the problems on their own, and anyone who needs extra help attends the tutoring sessions.
Unfortunately, the system never seemed to work out this way. Many times, students come to sessions without the problem set complete, either because they couldn’t find the time, or worse, they became irreversibly stuck at some point in the assignment.
This summer, while I was applying to medical schools, I found that most incorporate problem-based learning (PBL) into their curriculum. I sat in on a PBL class for biochemistry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and it was incredible. Students worked together on complex problems in teams of five, always making sure everyone was on pace and fully understood the question at hand. The strangest thing was, they seemed to actually enjoy it.
So I gathered up our Science Leaders in organic chemistry, and I tried it. This year, rather than stringing together a number of chapter-related problems each week, we started designing problems that pull from multiple chapters and allow the students to make connections between what they are currently working on and older material.
These new sessions foster collaboration between students and teach them that even in organic chemistry, each one of them can benefit from working together.
Yumi Kovic ’14 is a biochemistry major, a Science Leader and the winner of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in science, mathematics or engineering.
December 27, 2013
So I admit: I like knowing what my next step of life will hold. In high school, I definitely enjoyed the challenge of science and solving problems, so I decided to pursue the topic in college. Now that I’m beginning to set my sights on graduation (which, fortunately, is still a few years away,) I’ve been thinking about what I really want to continue studying. I enjoy learning and graduate school is an option, but I don’t know what type. Law school, medical school, or just graduate programs in biochemistry/chemistry are all on my list.
Just recently, I spoke with my minor advisor and she gave me some pretty good advice, suggesting I sample all of my interests. Often, topics on paper can seem really fun or cool to study, but might not pan out.
Is there a point to medical school if you absolutely hate the smell of hospitals? Do you want to go to law school if you think lawyers are really liars? Do you think you can even do four more years of school?
The answer to that last question is yes! I just can’t wait to figure out how much I can learn. Don’t stop opening new doors.
December 25, 2013
I'm a planner. I schedule everything I can think of and I try to plan so far ahead that, besides an occasional monthly update, I only change my calendar for last minute events.
What am I majoring in, you ask? Well, I plan to major in environmental studies with a focus on water (because I would like to be a marine biologist) and minor in Italian Studies. Still, I realize it can change at a moment’s notice. Most first year students like myself aren’t ready to make these sorts of decisions just yet.
People often ask me how I have it all planned out so soon. For me, it’s feels right to plan my academic schedule and declare as a first year, even though the declaration isn’t required until second semester of sophomore year. I love knowing where I would like my path to lead and how to reach my goals. It makes the obstacles along the way that much more manageable.
December 13, 2013
So, it’s that time of year again when the snow is beautiful, the cold nibbles at your ears and final exams nibble at your conscience. There are very few things I fear as a college student and finals are definitely... all of them. As a second year student, however, I’ve gone through this a few times and I can definitely say it’s not as bad as it seems. For example, there are many stress-relieving activities that happen during finals week, a six-day period in which we students get to self-schedule our final exams.
To start the week of finals, we have the traditional Moonlight Breakfast. This is an event where Student Life staff come into Harris dining hall and serve the students a great breakfast and cupcake spread late at night, like you were at a diner. This year, the event feautured the entertainment of a wandering magician who left me spellbound and kept me distracted from my exam prep. I got to play charades with my friends for interesting prizes (you try performing “dog and pony show” as your charades... it’s quite hard). Throughout the week you will often see people studying but you will also see them making origami in the library, making use of coloring books, de-stressing in Cro and swarming the common rooms for s'mores.
Overall, yes, finals can be very stressful, but friends, activities and time management with self-scheduled exams can definitely make it a manageable experience.
December 13, 2013
The Wednesday before final exams is usually pretty normal, but on Thursday, it all changes. Classes have ended and the library goes into 24-hour mode.
The dorms are empty; everyone retreats to their study space of choice. The library, the campus coffee shops (all five,) the student center and the common rooms are suddenly full of intently-studying students surrounded by stacks of books and papers.
Finals are a time when normal sleep, study, and eating patterns are thrown out the window. Everyone begins living off coffee, tea, soda, and their favorite snacking food (mine is almonds and cheese-its).
During next few days, your study schedule starts revolving around the times you decide to take your exams. The nice thing about Conn is that, as part of the Honor Code, we’re trusted to take our exams whenever we want during the exam week. Basically, there are three blocks of time each day you get can chose from from: 9am, 2pm, or 7pm.
Finally, even when you’re spending late nights in the library, there are moments of relaxation always available all around campus. The librarians bring out coloring books and board games, and staff members are known for walking the aisles giving out juice boxes and energy bars.
There’s also a moonlight breakfast, taking place from 10-12 p.m. the evening before exams. There’s nothing like a late-night snack of breakfast food and cupcakes. This year, a magician performed tricks, roaming through crowds of students.
December 3, 2013
A few weeks ago, visiting artist Alex Rubio worked with my class of painting and drawing students on a collaborative three-panel mural project, being painted on site. The art department has been able to host Rubio through the support of the Dayton Artist-in-Residence Program, which allows students to interact and learn from artists who are not typically accessible in an academic setting. Rubio worked with us non-stop all weekend, teaching his technique, mentoring, and simply getting to know us. He says that to him, the most important part of the whole project is the process and getting the students to feel a great sense of ownership over the work. He told us from day one, “This is not my project, it is ours and all of your names will go on it.”
November 28, 2013
I’ve got some tutors at the Academic Resource Center that I definitely have to thank. Organic chemistry has been quite the ride thus far and tutors have been there along the way. From them, I find myself learning new and even faster techniques to solve problems I thought I was doing efficiently. They take time out of their schedules to help us in calm, group settings... something all of us desperately need.
Orgo can be pretty stressful. Every student is welcome at the Academic Resource Center where tutors are available from most academic departments. I find myself enjoying the group tutoring sessions. It’s better for me to have access to a place where I don’t have to know all the answers and I don’t have to come prepared with questions. I can just see what types of questions others have and use those to hone areas and techniques that need improvement.
These groups help me realize that not all learning has to happen within the classroom. Other students also have the key: whether they are in front of the class teaching you that the electrons from double bonds can be electron dense areas or they’re in the seat next to you teaching you that same thing, listening is just as important as individual thinking. Group tutoring definitely has it’s perks.
November 26, 2013
Earlier this month, I volunteered for the astronomy/physics department at our open-house. We opened our doors and invited local kids, parents and high school students to try out our instruments. Even though there were clouds covering the night sky, I got the opportunity to explain how telescopes and other astronomer tools work, helping visitors understand what goes on high above our heads. I hope that we managed to instil a sense of excitement about sciences for the young visitors.
November 26, 2013
Student advising is always quite an interesting week. When it comes time to pick your classes, most students meet with their major adviser. This semester, I declared my major and I’m beginning to dive deeper into my studies.
I decided to take a shot in the dark and try something new this advising period. I went into Hale Laboratory and I spoke with Bruce Branchini. Bruce is not my major adviser, but he is a professor in the biochemistry department and he was was more than willing to schedule a meeting with me to talk about my spring semester. We ended up talking about my studies for the next three years! It was quite the interesting conversation and it led to me making some decisions to possibly take some classes sooner than I thought. So while this planning/advising period could have turned out to be a lot more stressful, Bruce definitely took some anxiety off and helped me confirm my course schedule.
Here’s to all the professors that make time for students they don’t have to, welcoming us into their offices with open arms. Thank you.
November 22, 2013
I have always wanted to study abroad in Australia. I imagined studying marine biology in the Great Barrier Reef while exploring the coasts. I'm a planner: I like things to be scheduled far in advance with few variations in the plan. Let's just say things are always subject to change.
I intend to be an environmental studies major and an Italian minor. I recently went to an event where several students presented about their study abroad experiences in Italy. Everything from the food to the scenery made me want to be there. As the students discussed what they enjoyed from the country's rich culture, I began to rethink my plans. What if I did a summer abroad in Italy? There is so much to learn about the country’s history and culture.
These presentations piqued my interests so much that I may change when and where I would like to study abroad. While this sudden desire for change surprised me, I can't say that it is unexpected: College is all about exploring. Why not change your mind a few times? Who knows where you might end up.
November 21, 2013
This week I had a pretty interesting conversation with my friend Jazmine. She is a psychology and sociology double major with a minor in philosophy, and she may try to triple-major. As we both study sociology, we definitely connect on a level of understanding and we are also in the Philosophy of Law course together. We were working on our papers really late and, before we parted ways, we began to speak about different levels and ways of thinking.
The conversation started with the explanation of why we each were studying sociology in an educational context at all. Sociology gets to look at society and why things are constructed and understood. When you ask questions about the mind in a sociology class, students often respond, “we can’t answer that question, because it’s more psychological.” That’s why Jazmine is a double major, because she likes both ways of thinking. I began to not only understand her on a deeper level, but also understand myself.
Our philosophy class requires us to come up with examples very quickly and forces us to think outside the box. My professor worded it very well one day by saying, “you don’t have to agree with what you’re arguing, you just have to understand it and persuade others to believe the same.” That’s why I love the class. As a science major it can sometimes be very hard to think about just the process and the result. What’s at the end of what I’m trying to achieve? Going to a liberal arts school definitely has it’s perks. I can open my pathways of thinking and just observe different ways of going about the same thing. Integrating sociology and science is going to be quite an interesting journey, and I never thought it would be easy. Talking with Jazmine, though, helped me understand what I want to do after college, and has helped me develop how I want to think. For now, though, there’s a long way to go, and thinking about the future is plenty for me.
November 20, 2013
Since November 4th, I have woken up feeling sore each morning because Track and Field season has begun. What’s nice though, is that I see three of my teammates in my first class of the day. (That’s my 8 a.m. Chemistry class.)
Me: “My calvesssssss, they are solid blocks of pain”
Teammate: “My hamstrings are so tight, I can barely walk”
And then we go to class.
Being on a team, especially a large one, is nice because I see my teammates outside of practice. I see them in class, which makes for automatic study-buddies and conversation topics during warm-up.
During dinner, the four of us in Chem discuss the homework or the topics covered in the lecture that morning. We moan about the struggles of being science majors and exchange phone numbers in case we have academic questions later.
Because of track, my social circle grows enormously, which increases my resources of people to study with or ask questions to. Since there are a number of upperclassmen on the team, classmates/teammates who have already taken the courses are always willing to meet up lif you have questions. For an underclassmen, that’s a huge asset to have.
November 19, 2013
Course selection is one time where everyone on campus has the same problem. One could say that the severity of this issue varies by year and that first year students have it the worst. Since you don't have to declare your major until the spring semester of your sophomore year, the early semesters are perfect for exploration. There are tons of classes to choose from, and your studies aren’t necessarily refined yet. The possibilities are endless and, well, that can be very overwhelming. Picking courses makes me feel like a little kid exploring a new playground, you just don't know what to try first or in what order.
The good thing about being a first year student with many options comes in when it’s time to register. Since our class select their classes last, there's a chance that the class you want to take will be full. After you spend about 30 seconds being sad that you didn't get into one class, you can be excited because now you can take the other class that seemed really interesting but didn't fit into the schedule.
Course selection is so stressful. So many classes, and only 4 of them can win. It's like the Hunger Games but with more victors. Every time I think I'm ready for registration, friends keep telling me about yet another interesting class I might like. Looks like I might need to rearrange my schedule again...
November 18, 2013
Last Sunday night, I left my appointment in the Writing Center at 10:30 p.m. with hours worth of revisions left to make on an English paper due the next day. Nevertheless, I was thrilled. Inspired by Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess,” I just had a conversation with the student writing tutor about the similarities between art and people and the value in treating art like a human beings. Fortunately, conversation in non-academic settings (such as Knowlton Dining Hall) is equally as fresh, real and juicy. In non-foodie terms, the conversation is equally as courageous.
“Courage” stems from the word coeur meaning heart in French. In her TED talk, sociologist Brené Brown defines courage as the act of telling one’s story with one’s whole heart. My friends at Conn embody courage. They make themselves vulnerable by spilling their stories, even the shameful chapters. By sharing our whole selves with each other — the good and bad alike — we connect authentically.
November 13, 2013
In the past, I’ve never referred to myself as a feminist. I certainty act like one, and I’m all about the empowerment of women, but I’ve never used the term “feminist” to describe myself.
This is mostly because I didn’t have an exact definition and didn’t want to get into arguments when I didn’t have firm reasons to back up my claims.
But now I do.
I recently discovered the kind of women I wanted to emulate while I was writing a paper for my English class. As we read Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid, we looked at the book through a feminist lens. When it came time to write the paper, however, I did not want to write about how the book was feminist, but instead how just one of the characters was.
While describing the feminist character, I realized that I wanted to be just like her. The character, Lucy, does not care about social norms and how a woman “should” act. Instead, she understands that women don’t need to be on one side or the other: they can act girly and romantic yet at the same time be strong and independent.
Even though I usually already act like this, figuring it out and finally putting it in words was a moment of self-definition for me.
November 12, 2013
In the context of human development, a few questions arise. What impact did his/her culture have? How did this affect his/her experiences? These are a few topics that are often discussed in my first-year seminar. We analyze cultures and how people develop as a result of them. To create a more enriching lesson, our professor assigned an oral history project: each student was to cover a different region in the world, and, essentially, capture an immigrant experience. With people from all over the world coming to the United States everyday, learning about their now-bicultural experience would add a new layer to our analysis.
I interviewed a student who I now consider to be a close friend. The act of interviewing led me to a lot of self-reflection. As she told me about her family's journey from Colombia, I saw a different side of her. There was so much pride in her tone, in her story. I was able to learn about her perspective as someone who grew up in two different cultures. After the interview, I started to analyze my own family's history. Where was my deeply rooted pride? Why didn't I have the same bicultural perspective and sense of understanding?
College is where many people say that they discover a lot about themselves. They become more interested in the history behind who they are. They wonder more about what this history means to them and how it has impacted who they have become. These questions we are asked in class are the same questions we ask ourselves throughout our lives. We find the things that make us happy, the things we really enjoy doing, but only after we have found many things we don't like. Every new experience becomes a way to explore and figure out more of where we would like to go in life. If people say they do a lot of this soul searching and finding in college, then I have one question: At the end of all of this, what will I say was my college experience?
November 10, 2013
This week, we talked about hate crime culture in my deviance class. I’m not going to go in details about the topic, however, because I found something else in the class to be important. The conversation, on its surface, was about hate crimes based specifically on sexuality, ethnicity and religious affairs. As the discussion continued, there was an awkward silence after the professor would ask the class for their thoughts. I am a LGBTQ student of color, and I found myself speaking out a lot more than I expected on the topic of hate crimes. I didn’t mind at all.
What piqued my interest was the realization that some students thought (or at least I assume they thought) I would be uncomfortable talking about these matters. I enjoy being able to be the first person to speak up on many issues, providing a highway for other students to travel, leading to interesting and engaging class discussions.
Overall, these are just classroom discussions about problems found around the world. Often, a class will be faced with an awkward silence that some students don’t want to break. After this class, I know there is definitely a reason for people to feel uncomfortable, and I’m just satisfied with the fact that this discomfort is not concrete. You can make people feel comfortable by opening up. When you’re willing to discuss topics openly, even ones that may pertain to you personally, you become even more interested in what your classmates have to say.
November 9, 2013
This week, I attended a dinner with author Julia Alvarez, which brings my count of famous-authors-I’ve-met-in-the-past-month up to two.
...That’s pretty darn impressive.
Julia Alvarez is a renowned Latina writer who was speaking at Connecticut College on the topic of sustainability. I have read one of her books and seen a movie adaption of another. She also embodies the type of writer I hope to be, so having a chance to eat dinner with her was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.
Upon meeting her, I found out how fun, tenacious and humorous she really is. During dinner, she regaled us with stories about her two years at Conn and her father’s strictness concerning boys. She told us how her father would visit early on Sunday mornings, “so you know, we couldn’t do much the night before…” leaving us giggling to ourselves.
She was intrigued about the sustainability programs we have on campus today, especially the Sustainability Representatives Program that I’m part of. She was interested in the diversity representatives we have in every house and declared that she’d have to talk to people at Middlebury (where she is a writer-in-residence) about implementing a similar program.
I came away from this dinner knowing more about Julia Alvarez, the person, instead of Julia Alvarez, the writer, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
November 7, 2013
At Conn, every new first-year student enrolls in a first-year seminar. I am taking a very interesting course on culture and human development, but I find myself doing the work of two classes.
My best friend is in a seminar about feminism and, although I’m not enrolled, I love it. I do the homework for my class and then, for fun, I do the homework for her course. I get the experience of two different seminars just by doing the readings and analyzing them with the assigned questions. How did this all start, you ask? Let me explain...
After doing her own homework one day, my friend asked me my thoughts on something she and classmates had read. She and I ended up having a very long discussion about feminism and how it relates to us on a personal level. This made me even more curious and I began to read the books she was assigned for class. Now, I think I might be more excited about her coursework than she is. My interest in this class even led me to attend a lecture and performance by Sabrina Chap, an author being studied by the class. Anyone who has read Chap’s “Live Through This” can attest to how amazing the compilation of stories about self-destruction is.
Call it a little weird, but I consider myself to be in two first-year seminars … and it is awesome.
November 4, 2013
“SLOWLY AND CAUTIOUSLY add 17ml of 6% hydrogen peroxide.” That is copied word-for-word and inflection-for-inflection from my General Chemistry 103 lab manual.
This was part of the experiment I did last week, a section of a 3-lab experiment I will eventually write a lab report about.
Chemistry does not come easily to most students, myself included; I frequently find myself up late trying to memorize common ions and the difference between a p-orbital and a d-orbital. But there is one part of chem I am always a little excited to go to: chemistry lab.
Why? Because it’s just like potions class at Hogwarts.
But seriously, we go over a brief procedure on the board, and then use our lab manuals (like a textbook) to do the experiment. Some are gifted (or lucky) and their solutions come out exactly as described, while others sit and watch green brown slush gurgle in their cauldron *ahem* beaker.
In lab last week we did two different chemical equations, and our solutions changed from the color of orange juice, to the color of carrot juice, to looking like old hot chocolate and finally to a bright green you could only get from liquefying jolly ranchers... all in a little over an hour. If that isn’t magic, what is?
During the part of the lab when we had to “SLOWLY AND CAUTIOUSLY add 17ml of 6% hydrogen peroxide,” we had heated our solutions to a boil and were slowly pouring in the hydrogen peroxide. Yes, that’s the same stuff we use to clean our cuts. As I poured the first few drops into the solution, it frothed, bubbled and made an angry hissing sound. “Oh my god,” exclaimed my lab partner, “it’s just like potions!”
While it’s sometimes hard to find fun in our 8 a.m. lectures, the sheer enjoyment (and Harry Potter comparisons) of chem lab makes it all worth it.
October 29, 2013
What role do designers play in social movements? I dashed from my cross-country meet to hear Lee Davis ’88 give an answer.
Davis majored in studio art and his passion for design has led him around the world and through various careers. He studied alongside design gurus in Switzerland and Japan through a Thomas J. Watson fellowship, worked as a graphic designer for CARE (a humanitarian organization which fights global poverty), co-founded NESsT (a business which stabilizes and grows social enterprises), and traveled to Eastern Europe to conduct projects related to NESsT.
Davis now works as a Fellow at Yale School of Management and as a scholar-in-residence in the Center for Social Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). At MICA, his students design for social causes such as the urban Real Food Farm of Baltimore, which improves residents’ access to healthy food and boosts Baltimore’s local economy.
He flashed us photos of their flashy work: a decorated vegetable truck that brings produce to the people, gorgeous graphic logos, top-notch t-shirts.
Evidently, design brings social causes into view; design sets them ablaze. If I learned anything else from Davis’s presentation, it’s the value of a versatile liberal arts degree to give its holders freedom to enter (and — as Davis has done — combine!) various fields. Before we left, he fed us more explicit design-related wisdom: “Increase the size of the Connecticut College diploma.” The diploma design must, after all, reflect the quality of the degree.
October 30, 2013
As a sophomore, I did not think I’d already have to be considering what my senior thesis might be.
However, when you are applying to the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment (GNCE,) part of your application mandates a proposed thesis or senior project.
This means thinking about my future A LOT.
Thankfully I am a future-oriented person who knows what she wants to do with her life. But all of those ideas only existed in my head, and putting them down on paper with a plan for the next two and half years of college are solidifying them in a way that is a little intimidating.
On a optimistic note, you can’t say that college is not preparing students for the future, since through this process I have thought seriously about long-term goals, have had to prepare for interviews, reached out to superiors and learned how to craft a serious proposal. These are all skills you need to have in the world after college.
One of the great aspects of GNCE is that not all of the students in it are environmental majors. There are chemistry, anthropology, philosophy, even English majors, and all want to connect the environment to their major or interest.
Applying to the Goodwin-Niering Center is a great example of what most of what extracurriculars at Conn are like; a lot of hard work, but all in preparation for opportunities you would not have access to anywhere else.
October 31, 2013
This week in my philosophy class, we took quite an interesting spin: We wrote law briefs. You know those things that I guess lawyers use when they are looking at cases? Yeah, I had to write one of those. Roe vs. Wade was my choice of topic.
I’ve always thought something about the law. On a very basic level, lawyers go to court, and they want to win. No one wants to lose, especially when your life sentence is on the line.
After reading the case I have to say that I think otherwise, and for good reason.
For me, Roe vs. Wade was about more than going to court and winning. It was about formulating an argument and bringing to light issues about law and society. I was able to identify and formulate both sides of the argument, which to me is really cool problem solving.
Don’t get me wrong: I love science...I don’t plan on changing that perspective. In the back of my mind now I think about the question “can I integrate this science perspective into law?” Soon, I plan on talking with a pre-law adviser about what types of classes I should think about taking, and how I should go about possibly self-designing a major. This all developed from me writing one brief, but you better watch out; I’m very competitive.
October 29, 2013
Pictured is Wai Ying Zhao, a senior art major here at Connecticut College working late night on an installation piece for our construction and installation class. You can find students just like Wai Ying in Cummings Arts Center working on projects at all hours of the day. We make jokes about “living” in Cummings and having a bed installed somewhere for each of us because we actually spend more time in Cummings than we do in our own rooms... it’s like our second home. The great thing about Cummings is that the building is accessible to art students 24/7, meaning we can work as late as we’d like.
October 25, 2013
I recently worked on an essay for a theater class questioning what makes a strong liberal arts education. This really made me think about the history of the liberal arts and where we are today.
The liberal arts came from classical antiquity and was considered to be the education any informed and responsible citizen must have. In the fifth century, there were seven basic areas of study: grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. These areas connected with each other and provided a student with advanced critical thinking skills as well as a broad understanding of society. Today, these values haven’t really changed although the topics covered have been renamed.
In 2013, what makes a strong liberal arts education? To me, it’s an education that challenges our preconceived notions and educates us as to the complexities of our world, all while pushing us into new social situations.
Not surprisingly then, I think a lot of what makes a strong liberal arts education can be boiled down to one word: stress. Your mind is stressed in class, your body is stressed in athletics, and your identity is stressed as you go through social situations. Having to study so many areas, many of which may not be your calling, is very stressful.
You should be pushed to your limits and you should be allowed to fall so that you learn to get back up; only then can a strong liberal arts education truly teach us how to navigate the complex world we live in today. This is the way engineers build bridges and rockets and the way scientists test theories.
After all, if there was ever a time to think about who you are, what you want and where you will go, such a time is in college. Not only are classes supposed to teach you life skills, but the simple act of being social in a college situation, especially one where there is such a diverse spread of ideas, helps define who you are.
October 10, 2013
We all procrastinate. It’s something that’s built into our lovely college student nature. Don’t get me wrong, I saw all the signs. The excess sleep, more time spent on Facebook, and the all-of-the-sudden newfound interest in a certain youtuber’s daily vlogs that you have to watch before next Tuesday when a new one is uploaded. I’d like to consider myself an avid learner. New things inspire me and make me realize how much there really is to learn in the world.
Anyways, I had a test this week. No big deal, it was just the first test in my organic chemistry class. Those are only worth a whopping twenty percent of your grade. It wasn’t a surprise test to everyone else, just to me. Little ol’ me that forgot to pick up the syllabus. So I can definitely tell you that stress is very real. It’s not going to disappear into thin air, and it’s actually going to make you feel like the air is getting thinner as you read this.
It’s a vicious cycle of love and hate. Loving the free time you think you have and hating yourself for thinking you had free time. A strategy I like to use to make sure I keep everything under control, even surprise tests, is to just stick to what I know. Stay with your normal flow of daily life. Don’t skip class, unless you wake up late, and don’t miss any assignments while you’re catching up. Things like this only stress me out more. Stick to your guns and make sure you aim high. At the end of the day there is one thing I do know for sure, and it’s that I am not the only one who fell in love with procrastination. It likes to get around; it’s no secret.