Coming into my first semester at Conn, I had my mind set on majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience. I told all my friends, family members and high school teachers I would go on to medical school after graduating from Conn and study neuropsychology. That same semester, I took on the normal four-course load with Cell Biology, Chemistry, Toxins and The Nervous System (my First-Year Seminar) and a Chinese philosophy course. As we inched closer to winter break, however, I realized that I, in fact, did not want to major in Behavioral Neuroscience. I normally like to be certain about major things in my life, so being unsure about my major was more than unsettling.
Editor's Note: Guest blogger Ashley Myers '19 of Winchester, Massachusetts, is majoring in English with a concentration in fiction writing, and minoring in Classics and Psychology. She is the president of Cadenza, the literary magazine on campus, a member of Relay for Life, and is an intern at SWAAY, an online media platform that is empowering women in business. Writing is her passion, and she wouldn't want to pursue it anywhere other than Conn.
Last week, I left the long-awaited spring sunshine and entered Tansill Theater, the black box theater on campus. Contrary to my usual aversion to being stuck inside when the weather is fine, this was a welcome shift to darkness; soon I was raptly listening to dramatic readings of the Greek tragedies I’d been studying in class. The dim-lit setting reflected the grim nature of the tragedies. It would feel wrong to discuss infanticide, deserted soldiers and mourning sisters in the pleasant glow of May light. The event itself was titled: “Truth, Lies, and Deceit in Greek Tragedy,” a collaboration between my “Greek Tragedy” class, taught by professor Nina Papathanasopoulou, and professor David Jaffe’s class “Acting II: Play Analysis.”
On the first day of my first year at Conn I was intent on declaring a double major in Art and Chemistry. Things don’t always turn out how you planned. I am now a double major in Psychology and Africana Studies and minoring in Gender and Women’s Studies. This change was a result of finding interests I did not know I had and connecting with students and faculty in each major. Despite not being an Art major, there are still a lot of opportunities for me to produce art and share it around campus. I often draw in my room while I am (mildly) procrastinating or as a way to de-stress. If I like what I make, I sometimes post it on Instagram and Facebook. Three seniors at Conn, Gabby Schlein, Catherine Healey, and Katie Soricelli, saw some of my drawings and asked me to produce a few pieces for their senior theater capstone. Senior capstones are final projects that are the culmination of a senior’s work in their major. Capstones are great because they give people outside of the major an opportunity to be involved in and meet new people in different areas.
Recently, a dream of mine came true. Acclaimed author and journalist at The New Yorker David Grann (‘89) joined us in our "Narrative Nonfiction" class. Being able to speak to a writer for The New Yorker was a cool opportunity, but what made the day special was being able to sit with an author and inquire about their entire writing process. When reading, I often compile a long list of questions in my head asking why the author decided to make the decisions they made. The list usually stays unanswered. However, that particular day Grann answered certain questions I’d been eager to know, such as: what does the organizational process look like when writing about a subject laden with so much historical background? My classmates and I also asked him to talk about how he became a writer and how one knows what path to follow in such broad industry. Blanche Boyd, the writer in residence at Conn and the professor of my writing class, assigned The Lost City of Z by David Grann for us to read over spring break. Though not typically the kind of thing I read—a story about adventure, disease and death in the Amazon—I enjoyed this fast-paced tale. It made me want to ask questions.
Jai Gohain '19 is an international student from Kolkata, India. He is a classical studies major, with minors in dance and mathematics. He is also a member of the Connecticut College Dance Club and Connecticut College men's rugby team.
Ruby Johnson ‘21 hails from Medford, Oregon. She has yet to declare her major at Connecticut College but has an interest in education, American studies, Classics, and music. She sings as a soprano in Camel Heard, Connecticut College's advanced vocal ensemble, and is a member of the Connecticut College Figure Skating Club, where she teaches learn-to-skate lessons to local children on the weekends. She is working on designing her own major and is planning on declaring a Pathway this coming fall.
I declared my major, American Studies, the week after Thanksgiving in 2015. A week earlier, I found myself attempting to answer the question on many of my family members minds, “Now Julesy, how will you explain to an employer down the road what the heck American Studies is?” To put it quite simply, American Studies is not just American History. My major is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of America through history, culture, theater, food, and historical figures. As Professor Jim Downs, chair of the program, would say, “American Studies is the bottom-up story of American History. It tells the story of all peoples, and makes sense of where there are holes in the stories we tell.” That means that my classes have ranged from an American Drama course to my Globalization Senior Seminar about the growth of globalization following World War Two.
I was the first to arrive at Tansill Theater. This black box performing space on Conn’s campus is also home to many of the classes available in the theater department. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. it is home to me and the other 10 members of my Acting II class. Our first project this semester was a monologue from Jose Rivera’s “Sonnets from an Old Century.” We have been working on them for about a month now and the final showing was approaching.
It was an exceptionally busy day Wednesday: I had two classes, rehearsal for improv and a film screening. On top of all of that, I had a looming 5-6 page sociology essay that was due promptly at 1:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Luckily, I found time in a break in my schedule around noon to craft the bare bones of my introduction. Unfortunately, I was not able to continue my paper until 9:10 p.m. when I returned to the library after my film screening. This is when the bulk of my work began and I started to understand that the only way this paper would get done was with caffeine, motivation and a little help from my friends.
Never in a million years did I think I’d be taking another art class—especially not in college. I took my first one in third grade, and I remember two things about it: struggling with every assignment and learning that I never shook the inability to color (or paint, for that matter) inside any kind of line. After that experience, I pledged to my 8-year-old self that I would avoid every art class for as long as possible.
Not many students at Conn are taught by the women’s rowing coach, but I was. Midway through last semester I started a class called Sports Leadership taught by coach Eva Kovach. This class was part of Conn’s Career Informed Learning courses, which bring alumni or community members to class to discuss how the concepts we learn about play out in the world. The dean of sophomores, Carmela Patton, recommended that I take the class because of my interest in sports. In high school, I competed year-round and ended my high school career as the captain of my cross country team and track and field team. I have always enjoyed spearheading groups that I have been a part of. That added with my ability to be loud and make friends has so far served as a good formula for molding me into a leader. During my first year of high school, I always respected my captains but I also thought that the biggest part of the job was simply being nice to everyone. After leading the teams myself and dealing with issues within my teams I understand that ‘leading’ is multifaceted. Being a part of this class gave me the opportunity to look retrospectively at my past roles as a leader and learn what I did well, but also learn what I can improve upon.
When I discuss writing essays with my friends in other majors, one of the things we talk about is the style and conventions expected from our professors and department. This can be something as basic as what sort of citation style we use, such as Turabian (my personal favorite), MLA, APA or ASA to specific grammatical and structural issues we encounter when writing our papers. For example, in music, there is a difference between a piece that is “for oboe and clarinet” and “for clarinet and oboe”; the first instrument plays higher than the second. One of the subjects I really enjoy writing for is my major: philosophy. Part of what I enjoy about writing papers for philosophy is that I’m allowed to write in the first person, which is unusual in academic writing.
I remember sitting in my seventh-grade classroom and thinking about how much I loved grammar. When I think back and examine my life as a student, I’ve always known that my love for English was there. I was lucky enough to come to college already envisioning the next four years: books, words and a lot of discussions. I’ve always been enamored by the way writing is armed with the ability to change how one can feel. Words are subtly powerful and blatantly powerful all at once. The reason I have been feeling nostalgic about English is because class registration for next semester was last week, and I’ve recently come to the realization that, after this semester, I will be done with my English major. Though I have a lot more work to do before December 18 (the last day of finals), I feel this sudden urgency to remember and think back on all that I have learned about myself through my English classes here at Conn.
In my time at Conn, I have fallen in love with the theater department. I don’t consider myself an actress, but a scholar of American playwriting and musical theater. Before I went abroad last spring, I took a class called American Drama in the department and loved reading plays for homework. Sometimes, my class would act out the assigned plays and critically examine them from top to bottom. Professor Ken Prestininzi guided us through the classic American canon of plays written by playwrights such as Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, and Sophie Treadwell. My favorite play we read as a class was “Machinal” by Sophie Treadwell which critically examined the effects of a capitalist society on a character. Recently, I found myself in a similar situation to Treadwell’s own playwriting. I sat down at my computer and attempted to write a play that examined my own relationship with society and my family members.
No puedo hablar español fluido porque mi madre no me enseñó. (I can not speak Spanish fluently because my mother never taught me). My mom and her entire family are from Bogotá, Colombia, which means that half of my family speaks Spanish (some only speak Spanish). Meanwhile, I only speak English. All through middle school and high school, I tried to learn Spanish to be able to communicate with my family but I never became proficient. That's why I was excited to learn about The Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, lovingly referred to as ‘CISLA’, at Conn. CISLA is one of the five academic centers on campus; it focuses on the globalization of citizenship through language fluency and study abroad opportunities.
I have been involved in theater for as long as I can remember. My first official production was in the second grade and I have been in countless shows since then. At Conn specifically, I was cast in the show “Twelfth Night” last year. I had my share of interesting experiences working on the production, including adjusting to four-hour rehearsals and a much more intensive process than I was used to.
I recently had the opportunity to go on a field trip to New York City with other students, faculty and staff from the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, one of the five academic centers on campus, which fosters students, faculty and staff doing interdisciplinary work in arts and technology. We began our day in the city with a visit to Flavor Lab, a New York-based audio production company. We met with Eric Stern ’13, an Ammerman Center alumnus who works there. He showed us around the company’s studios and described his work editing audio for TV shows and films. Given my interests in sound and music, it was fascinating to see this space as a potential place where I could work at with my Ammerman Certificate after graduation.
Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Jade Hui ’20 is pursuing an English major and a sociology minor at Connecticut College. As part of Connections, Conn’s new curriculum, she will declare her Pathway, Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation, Value and Change, this fall. Jade works as a tour guide for the Office of Admission and as a student adviser to first-years. She is a member of the a cappella group The Connartists, and treasurer of the Ski and Snowboard Club.
Hanna Bobrowicz ‘20 of Burlingame, California, is a history major and theater minor at Connecticut College. She is on the Leadership Committee of HerCampus, a member of the PR committee for the Women’s Empowerment Initiative, a member of Connecticut College Democrats and a Tour Guide. She plans on declaring her Peace and Conflict Pathway this fall.
As a first year, I was one of those lucky people who knew what they wanted to major in. History has always been a passion of mine, particularly social movements. Before college, I would often spend hours watching documentaries and interrogating my parents about life during the ‘60s. I was also extremely passionate about social events and community service. In high school, I was a part of the Young Dreamer organization that allowed me to work in communities in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and India. So while I was determined to major in history, I also wanted to make sure I would use my degree to impact the world in a positive way.