Samirah Jaigirdar ’22 - The Experience, Samirah Jaigirdar '22
In my first spring semester at Conn, I went to Palmer Auditorium to watch CCEmpower’s annual show. The purpose of CCEmpower is to perform a show that represents women and non-binary students across varying identities through unique, but unifying voices. CCEmpower's show involves Conn students submitting monologues that showcase their lived experiences. The goal of this organization is to create an inclusive space to bring students together and reflect on their lived experiences, while also raising money and awareness for Safe Futures, an essential service in Southeastern Connecticut that provides support for survivors of domestic abuse.
This winter break, I did not go home to Bangladesh. Instead, I stayed in the U.S. and visited my friend in Los Angeles. After my brief trip, I came back to campus early. Most students were not back and the quiet serenity gave me some time to reflect on the parts of Conn I will miss the most as I start my last semester here.
Getting Mozzarella Sticks from Oasis Nothing can quite live up to an impromptu Oasis Cafe visit with my friends at midnight. Whether it’s after a hard night in Shain Library during midterms or on a Saturday during a hangout, the Oasis mozzarella sticks hit all my salty and cheesy cravings.
Sprinting to Tempel Green to take photos of the sunset I have lost count of how many times I have spied a sliver of either orange or pink from the windows of Shain Library and I raced to Tempel Green to take a photo of the sunset behind Harkness Chapel. As I grew up in a crowded city, I rarely saw such a magnificent sight. Thus, Conn sunsets hold a special place in my heart.
Getting a mid-afternoon coffee from Coffee Grounds I like to use our student-run coffee shops as a study break. I particularly like visiting Coffee Grounds as a lot of the baristas and bakers are my friends. My recommendations for CG are their matcha lattes and shaken espresso with a cinnamon shot.
SGA General Assemblies on Thursdays Throughout my junior and senior year, I have been heavily involved with Conn’s Student Government Association. We usually hold our general meetings on Thursdays, hence, it has become a weekly constant in my schedule. It’s a great forum for students to make their voices heard, get involved with a co-curricular activity, and an opportunity to make friends who are not in my class year or major.
Cooking with my roommate in our on-campus apartment In my senior year, I was lucky enough to get an on-campus apartment with one of my best friends. She was my roommate in my first year of Conn. We wanted to come full circle and be roommates in our senior year too. Having a kitchen to cook in at the end of the day has been a great stress reliever after a long day of classes and SGA appointments.
Late nights in Shain Library If you couldn’t tell by this blog post, I spend a lot of time in Shain Library. But I don’t study all the time there. Shain first floor is my second home on campus. I hang out with my friends and occasionally, do some work. We have two tables we always sit at and we run into the same groups of people which makes Shain the most comforting place on campus.
My Professors I always say that “the people make Conn.” Throughout my time at Conn, I had the pleasure of working with numerous professors who I have depended on heavily. Starting from getting help outlining my papers during my first semester to advising me on my graduate school applications, my professors have made my Conn experience so much better. Conn’s small class sizes and the frequency of office hours have ensured that my professors know me well. These relationships served me well for graduate school applications as they advised me on whether a particular program was suitable for me.
These are small snapshots of the things that have made my Conn experience memorable. In my last semester, I intend to enjoy all of these while eating as many Mozzarella sticks as possible.
It’s hard to believe I am a senior at Conn. I still remember my first few days here like it was yesterday. I arrived at night, geared up for international student orientation the next day. I had never actually been to campus prior to my arrival, so I didn’t really know where things were except my residence hall and the dining hall. So when my schedule told me to go to Tempel Green for ice-breakers and the start of Odyssey, I was quite lost. I meandered around trying to find Tempel Green until a very kind person pointed out that I was actually walking around it. Mortified and embarrassed, I remember uttering a thank you and running away. This was pretty much me the entire orientation.
It’s hard to believe I am mere weeks away from being a rising senior at Conn. After a few more papers and classes, I will be entering my last year at this place I have called home for three years. One of the bittersweet parts of my transition from junior to senior is less about me and more about the people I spend my time with. I’m in a short-form improv group on campus called N20. We meet three times a week to practice our performances. Two members of the group are seniors and this month they will perform their last show at Conn. I will miss their energy and presence but am excited for them too.
It’s opening night. The show was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., while the team and I arrived in the theater at 6 p.m. The cast warmed up then changed into costume while Morgan, Declan and I placed furniture, decor and did checks for lights and sound. As the hour approached, people began to arrive and wait in the lobby. Around 7 p.m., Morgan and I started pacing, anxiously floating between the lobby, theater space and the “hobbit hole”, a room in which the actors stay before the show.
The LGBTQIA Center has always been a space at Conn where I feel comfortable and at home. As a first-year student, when I went to the Center’s annual ice cream social at the beginning of the fall semester, I walked in as a shy new student who knew no one and did not really know who he was yet. The Center’s orange walls made me feel warm inside and, while I met many new people that night, the thing I remember most was the community bond that came out of that orange space. I felt welcome. Even though I was not out at the time it did not matter. I still felt like a part of the community tightly gathered in the room. That feeling drove me to get involved with the Center more and more during my time at Conn. As a senior, I am still involved. I am in the peer mentorship program where first-years and sophomores are matched with juniors and seniors to help guide them through their college experience and answer questions. Being able to help other queer students through their college experience and being able to answer questions that I wish I could have asked someone has been rewarding, to say the least.
Growing up bilingual, I don’t remember learning to speak either English or Bengali. I don’t know if I learned the alphabet first or how I knew to tell the difference between the words for a lamp and a lightbulb or how the two languages differed phonetically from one another. I don’t know how I learned and I could surely not advise someone trying to acquire a new language.
The end of the semester is always a busy time for me, and, as I’ve previously written, one of the highlights of this period are the various music department end-of-semester concerts and recitals that I participate in. No matter how intense it gets, the end of semester orchestra concert is still a great highlight and culmination of my hard work. This past semester’s performance was particularly special for me as it presented an impromptu opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the country—three members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Band’s trombone section led by Sean Nelson, who is the music department’s trombone professor, in addition to Connecticut College’s own Gary Buttery on tuba, who served as the Band’s principal tubist from 1976-1998. The group constituted our orchestra’s low brass section for our performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony.
Sitting on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, I was frustrated, tired and jetlagged. I had been traveling for nearly 27 hours and plane food has never cheered me up. I was heading back to Conn after one month of winter break and my plane had been diverted to Philadelphia because of the winter storm. I was supposed to land at JFK by 8:30 a.m. and catch the Flying Camel (the College bus between JFK International Airport and Conn) at 1 p.m. It was now 11 a.m. Would I even make it?
This October, President Katherine Bergeron had members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) over to her house for dinner. The MSA at Conn aims to build a warm and comforting environment for Muslim students and to educate the wider Conn community about the nuances of the culture. Established in 2015 by a Bangladeshi Conn alum (just like me!), the MSA has introduced me to new friends and given me a wider exposure to how Islam is practiced in different regions of the world.
One of my biggest fears going from a high school class of 45 students to a college of about 1,900 was how I would leave all of the clubs and activities I was involved in and somehow restart in a different, much larger place. It’s hard to imagine having to transition while also trying to find places, groups and clubs on campus that you want to get involved in. When I arrived at Conn for my first year it was important to me that I joined clubs and took on other responsibilities outside of academics because I wanted to meet new people that I had shared interests with.
I came from a high school with a lot of amazing students. Among them were some extremely talented artists who, in my opinion, were ahead of their time. Many of these artists were actors from our theater department, a department I called home and which encouraged my passion for acting. However, I also found myself pulling away from its competitive nature. I’ve never been a competitive person, and have never cared to only audition for principal roles or pursued a show just to say I was a part of it. I’m also a person who likes to learn from other people, grow, and at some point be in a position to teach or mentor others. I felt there wasn’t much space for me or many others to do that, and I knew it wasn’t quite the place for me. I’ll admit that one of the main reasons I didn’t think I would major in theater or be involved in the department in any way when I arrived at Conn was because of my assumption that all theater departments are competitive or unwelcoming. I was worried that I wouldn’t have a shot at being in a show and that those active in the department wouldn’t concern themselves with encouraging or recruiting others to join the department.
When I graduated from high school in New York two years ago (yikes!), it never occurred to me just how far my closest friends would be traveling for their respective undergraduate educations. Some of my friends committed to schools as far as California, while others (like myself) decided to stay a bit more local to the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
My heart stopped when I looked at my friend, Julia Horowitz, and realized it was our time. “Oh God, here we go,” her expression seemed to say. She grabbed my hands as we turned to face our audience, full of our friends and friends of friends, to explain our next game. “Jarvis Can’t Rap is a game where we do a scene based on your suggestions,” she said, mildly laughing. “We start to rap whenever a beat is dropped by Mark [McPhillips] until it stops and exposes our lack of musical talents.”
As I write this post, I’m sitting in my room, listening to the Broadway recording of the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on YouTube. Just over 24 hours ago Connecticut College’s student theater community, Wig & Candle, closed their production of that play in Palmer 202, a black box theater and classroom space that is often used for student productions. The production was so popular that we had to add an additional late night performance. Although I have regularly attended Wig and Candle’s performances, this was my first time actually participating in one; I played clarinet in a reduced pit band of two.
As I sat with my feet shoulder-width apart, Rabbi Susan Schein led our Hillel group in meditation. As Jews, we are in the midst the month of Elul. Elul is the month leading up to the High Holy Days, of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is also during this time that I am drawn to exploring meditations and thinking about the year ahead of me even as I reflect on the past year. At our most recent home-cooked Shabbat dinner, I took a liking to a unique part of the Shabbat service. After all, the Shabbat meal is the beginning of the day of rest and I wanted to explore my spirituality within Judaism. This meditative exercise came from Psalm 27 in which, the kingdom of G-d is proposed and challenged.
It was yet another bright and sunny Friday afternoon at Conn, and the annual club fair was in full force on Library Green. I was running the Ski Club booth given my new position as president for this academic year. Along with the other club members, I had been recruiting new members for about an hour before I took a break to say hi to my friends at other booths. My friend and fellow blogger, Dani Maney ‘20, was running a booth at the fair for her improv group N20.
One Thursday morning this semester, the stars finally aligned for us to hold a sectional rehearsal for the orchestra’s clarinetists. No other wind instruments and definitely no strings present! It was just Scott, the other clarinetist, our professor, Kelli O’Connor, and me running through orchestral music together. One of the pieces we played in orchestra this semester is the impressionist composer Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” As is typical of his works, it features complex, mystifying and beautiful harmonies. Part of our job in a sectional is to learn to get these harmonies in tune, which helps the orchestra sound better.
One recent Thursday morning, the stars finally aligned for us to hold a sectional rehearsal for the orchestra’s clarinetists. No other wind instruments and definitely no strings present! It was just Scott, the other clarinetist, our professor, Kelli O’Connor, and me running through orchestral music together. One of the pieces we’re playing in orchestra this semester is the impressionist composer Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” As is typical of his works, it features complex, mystifying and beautiful harmonies. Part of our job in a sectional is to learn to get these harmonies in tune, which helps the orchestra sound better.