The Experience, First Year Experience
October 10, 2014
Last Thursday, a last-minute plan to go to the movies with one of my friends became a giant adventure to the beach. It was reminicsent of the local exploring I did with my high school friends during the summer. It's always nice to be able to explore and get a sense of one's community. Adventures are also great bonding activities.
It all started when I was looking up movie times with my friend. We discovered that it was the last day the movie we wanted to see was playing, so, "Let's go see it some time," became, "WE NEED TO GO SEE THIS MOVIE IN AN HOUR!" We caught the Camelvan, the College's shuttle system, and collected friends (as well as some new people I hadn't met yet) along the way. Over time, our plans and group grew and evolved.
A ride in the CamelVan, a taxi trip and a few changes of plan later, we arrived at Ocean Beach in New London. The moment we got to the beach, everyone immediately kicked off their shoes and ran towards the water to start building a communal sand castle. As the sun set, we took a walk on the boardwalk before just sitting and talking.
It turns out that when you go on an impromptu beach trip with some people you met earlier that day, you end up knowing them pretty well by the time you get back to campus. As a plus, I ended up with some seashells for decorating my room, too!
April 7, 2015
My biggest fear coming to college was not being able to get the help I needed in class. My public school classes were never bigger than 17 students, and teachers were always available before and after school. Had it not been for teacher availability, I would not have done as well and probably wouldn't be writing this blog post. After these past two semesters, my worries have finally been put to rest.
As one might imagine, the science fields require a lot of memorization and abstract understanding. I am an astronomy major and need to have a strong physics background, so I bravely took an advanced introduction to physics course last semester. After a few weeks, I found myself struggling with the material. Sitting in front of problem sets for hours never seemed to help me figure out how to go about solving a problem.
Desperately wanting to do well on my second problem set — and in the class as a whole — I snapped a picture of my hairbrained, barely cohesive work and dropped it into an email. Within the hour, my professor had emailed me back, outlining a structure I could follow for figuring out the problem and ending his email with a suggestion that I set up a regular time to meet with him. I ended up going to his office for two hours every week to talk about physics and have my many questions answered. I eventually passed the class with a grade I could be proud of.
Fast forward to this semester. I found myself struggling in a 200-level astronomy course one day. The problem sets were really tricky and I found myself unsure of how to do double derivatives. Professor Brown, whom everyone calls "Doc Brown," ended up sitting with me for four hours and even ate her lunch while we were working. I turned in my problem set and, while I've yet to see the results, I’m sure I haven't done too badly. I now meet with Doc Brown every Monday for an hour so I can make sure I’m answering the questions correctly.
College is absolutely difficult academically. I’ve had my share of late nights. I’ve learned, though, that professors are there for students at every turn, as it's their desire to have students succeed. They understand that everyone is made differently and may need help in different areas, so they make themselves available before and after classes to help their students learn.
I’m not so worried about astronomy anymore.
April 5, 2015
I recently celebrated my 19th birthday. Well, actually, it was my 4¾ birthday. I was born on Leap Day.
This was my first birthday away from my parents. I remember, before college started, wondering what I’d do on my birthday away from home. I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t have anyone to spend it with. However, it turned out to be one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. I’ve had good birthdays and bad birthdays, teary-eyed birthdays and sick birthdays. (I wasn’t sick for this birthday and no one cried, so it was already shaping up to be one of the better ones.)
I planned everything out in the week preceding the big day with my friend Emma and with the assistance of some Conn students and alums. People threw out all sorts of ideas, from toy stores in Mystic to nearby beaches in Rhode Island. Emma and I wound up using a Zipcar to go to Mistick Village, which is a quaint collection of shops and eateries about 10 minutes from campus. Then we explored historic downtown Mystic and visited a few stores, eventually stopping to eat at a little Thai restaurant.
Before returning, we went to Big Y, our local grocery store, so that I could pick up some snacks to offer to friends back on campus, in the hopes that food offerings would force quality birthday bonding. We drove back with a car full of groceries, dorm decorations and fudge. I invited some people over to my room and we spent the night eating, listening to music, and talking about women’s rights. Some of my friends even surprised me by coming with incredibly thoughtful gifts.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that this tops the birthday when my parents surprised me with a Rugrats tent, but it’s definitely up there. I’d have to say that this was the best birthday I’ve had since, at least, middle school.
March 31, 2015
The other day, I got the monthly email from CELS, our career center here at Conn. An item in this month's issue caught my eye: "Attention First-Year Students and Sophomores: US-UK Fulbright Commission 2015 UK Summer Institutes."
Inside were details about a Fulbright opportunity to apply for one of a handful of summer fellowships in the U.K. In most cases, these fellowships include round-trip airfare, meals and some even give students a daily allowance. As someone who's never really had enough time or disposable income to leave the country, that's a big deal. Also, while you're there, you learn about the culture of the country you're in and take classes on the subject of your particular fellowship's theme. One of the fellowships is about how culture affects one's sense of self which, coincidentally, is exactly what I've been studying since coming to Conn.
Sounds incredible, right?!
The catch? It's extremely competitive. Like... EXTREMELY competitive.
That factor worried me. I wasn't sure I even wanted to apply to the program. The application was slightly daunting and the probability of success would surely be minimal. An opportunity like this, however, is nothing to scoff at. So, I decided it was time I turned to my resources.
I first met with Deb Dreher, associate dean for fellowships. Dean Dreher is very talented in her field. Because of her — and, of course, the talent of our students — Conn has one of the highest numbers of Fulbright scholars among liberal arts schools. She gave me the advice to just "attack" the application, and helpful tips about how to phrase things on my form.
After meeting with Dean Dreher, I made an appointment to meet with my CELS adviser, Dot Wang. She, too, was very helpful. I asked her specifcally about the resumé section of the application, and she offered up advice about how to format my resumé and which activities I should emphasize.
After getting the body of the application attended to, it was time to think about recommendations. I asked two of my professors for (rush) recommendations, hoping that they would have the time and energy. Despite busy schedules and other obligations, they both agreed to help me, which I'm very grateful for.
Now everything is all set and it's time to wait. I know that I put my best foot forward with this application and I used some of the most valuable resources on campus to assist me. Despite a crunch for time, all of the Conn faculty I reached out to was able to help me greatly. All that's left to do is cross my fingers and toes!
March 25, 2015
Fort Trumbull State Park is a slice of New London’s history, but also more than that. It is a vista of tranquility for the tired college student in search of something different. Built between 1839 and 1852, Fort Trumbull is one of 42 forts designed to defend the coast of the United Sates at strategic harbors like New London, where the Thames River meets the Long Island Sound. Fort Trumbull was the first strategic military position in an area now home to one of the last remaining submarine bases in the continental United States. For students like myself who attend the three colleges in New London, it provides a welcome break from academic life.
I go to Fort Trumbull frequently. Two weekends ago, during the long hours of Saturday night, I rounded up four of my closest friends and we drove to the park to admire the harbor views after sunset. At night, the lights from nearby Electric Boat headquarters fill the harbor and, if you’re lucky, a train might pass by with its horn blasting. Looking out to Long Island Sound, the lights of Avery Point and the New London Ledge Light House offer navigational beacons to passing boats or the college student trying to point out constellations in the sky.
There are lots of places to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of college life, but none is quite like Fort Trumbull. New London is a busy place and the fort offers a serene place to watch it all unfold.
March 18, 2015
"As Told By Vaginas" is, without a doubt, going to spark serious conversations about how women are treated. Following the success of "The Vagina Monologues," the new show compiled a series of different stories from across the Connecticut College spectrum and presented them for $8 dollars to anyone who wanted to listen. Boy, did people listen.
I'm a floor governor in Branford House and I attended the show with all the residents from my floor, who are all first-year students. I wasn’t sure what the show would be like, and I could never have predicted the reactions I saw from my residents. Halfway through the show, right after one of the most intense monologues, I looked down the row of my residents and saw some ashen faces. The women in the row were happy their stories were being told but the men were stunned. One turned to me and said, “This makes me ashamed to be a man.”
At first I was taken aback by his statement, and because the show was about to begin again, I couldn’t attempt to unpack it any further. Later, as the floor walked back to Branford House in silence, I decided to try and spark debate and asked my resident what he had meant. As he began to explain, I started seeing his way of thinking. "As Told By Vaginas" shared some terrible experiences women have had with men, and what he had clued into was feeling ashamed that many men treat many women poorly. Don’t get me wrong — most men treat women well, but if one man treats one woman badly, we’ve got a problem.
The conversation continued and my residents stuck around. The rest of the night evolved into a conversation on masculinity, our role as men in the world, and what we can do to help change the definition of masculinity. We talked about the “Man Box," a term defined by Tony Porter in his TED Talk, "A Call To Men." We talked about how men are afraid to show emotion because they’ve been socialized that way. We talked about how many men see women as objects, because that is how they are told to behave around women. “Man up! Boys will be boys. Stop crying, son. Go over their until you are ready to talk to me like a man.” These are all phrases men are told to live by as they grow up that lead to the violent and dangerous behavior they exhibit towards women.
By the end of the night, my resident was still upset by seeing the effect men can have on women. But after engaging all the residents of our floor in the discussion, he had come to the realization that he could make change by changing the way he thinks about masculinity and femininity. Being a man should mean being sensitive, hugging it out when necessary, being friends to women, and standing up for both men’s and women's rights.
I had never dreamed that this kind of conversation would rise from "As Told By Vaginas," but because these stories were from Connecticut College women and told on stage to members of the College community, the stories felt relevant. I know that I’m a better man for seeing the show and so are my residents.
March 16, 2015
I was washing dishes in a bathroom in Harkness House when suddenly, an excited, warm and welcoming voice greeted me. Most people who enter the bathroom are so consumed with their lives that they tend not to acknowledge other people’s presence. It's a bathroom, after all. Granted, I was surprised when this student greeted me and initiated conversation. She said, “Nice teapot!”
I replied, “Huh?” Then I realized she was referring to the teapot I was washing. I smiled, “Thanks.” She said her name was Christine and we exchanged basic information about our class years and majors. I added that I was a transfer student. Christine’s energy shifted up a level and she excitedly revealed that she was also a transfer student from a couple of years ago. Her transfer story paralleled mine. She was from the west (Idaho) just like I am (California). She went to school in Oregon and so did I. We compared the two coasts and shared notes on the cultural similarities and differences. Most importantly, we both agreed that we made the right decision to come to Conn.
Christine told me that going through the transfer experience had influenced her to become a transfer adviser. She was so passionate about helping transfers adjust to the College that she decided to arrange a dinner for the transfer students so that fall semester transfers could meet spring semester transfers. She quickly asked me if I wanted to help plan the event. How could I say no to her? I couldn’t and I didn’t.
A few other transfers helped plan the event with Christine, as well. The other transfers, Lilly and Victoria, were her advisees from last fall. We sat at Ruane’s Den contemplating, planning and making decisions.
The transfer event turned out well. I got to meet other transfers and everyone was warm, open and friendly. People talked and bonded over delicious food. (The cheesecake was to die for; it was absolute heaven.) It was a joy to watch an event that I helped plan unfold before my eyes.
I am truly grateful for the event mainly because it gave me an opportunity to become friends with Christine. She unintentionally helped define for me what it means to be a Conn student: Someone who is inclusive and friendly.
March 13, 2015
The Think S.A.F.E. Program hosted its own version of "The Newlywed Game," pitting roommates, friends and couples against one another to see how well they really know each other.
While the overall message was fun, it also celebrated healthy relationships in all forms and continued Green Dot's efforts of sexual violence prevention. Green Dot is an organization that has become one of the most popular and beloved groups on campus. Built on the goal of fostering bystander action through education and the ever-popular training sessions, the organization has become a powerhouse in organizing events like Green Dot Week.
"So You Think You Know Me?" drew a huge crowd and I enjoyed playing as much as I enjoyed seeing other people's answers and responses. My favorite moment was when two roommates were asked, "What is your roommate's pet peeve?" Each correctly responded: people. It goes without saying that when they flipped the boards over and showed each other what they had written, laughter erupted.
March 11, 2015
College is weird sometimes.
One recent evening, I was walking with my friend Emma when someone just started walking next to us, ranting about how awful his day was. People here are pretty friendly and open to talking. Emma and I were a little bamboozled, but we listened to his complaints and occasionally commented on them. When he finished his rant, he apologized, saying that he just really had to get it all off his chest. He walked away, leaving me and Emma a little confused, but amused.
Later that night, Emma and I went to the student center and saw the student there. I had one of those should-I-or-shouldn't-I moments before deciding to ask him how the rest of his night went. The student, Drew, was sitting with his friend Dougie. They invited us to sit and, before we knew it, hours had passed.
We eventually split ways, but before we did, we all exchanged numbers. A few days later, we made dinner plans, which led to us sitting at a table in Harris for hours discussing the creation of the universe, the idea of free will, reincarnation, etc.
A few days ago, Emma and I didn't know Drew or Dougie, and now we're friends (who discuss really deep philosophical things over cheeseburgers) because we happened to be walking by when Drew needed to rant. These types of things wouldn't be possible in a larger school. In a class of 10,000, you don't just run into someone a couple of times in a night and then decide to be friends. I don't think that phenomenon really exists in the adult world, either.
Being ranted to by a stranger is an unusual way to make new friends, but if I'm being honest, I don't think I've made any of my friends here in a "normal" way. It's one of those charming, weird things about being in a small college.
March 9, 2015
Recently, I went to a discussion called "Slacktivism vs. Activism," which explored these two different forms of advocacy. It was an open discussion in which people talked about how they personally advocate and whether they advocate through means of slacktivism, activism or both.
I’d never heard of the term "slacktivism" until I attended the meeting and, like most people, I associated the word with a negative connotation, thinking it was a passive and lazy form of activism. (Slacktivism often entails hashtagging a post on social media to demonstrate support for a cause, signing an online petition or similar virtual efforts.) The public has a tendency to see slacktivism as disparaging. Even though a hashtag or a post will not directly change the cause people are supporting, these actions bring attention to the public through social media. As social media is often how people receive news, interact with one another and learn about social issues, Slacktivism, despite the negative connotations in its name, can help social movements to be accessible to anyone who participates in social media.
When it comes to activism, people tend to have more reverence towards physically campaigning for political change. However, it begs the question: Why does it have to be either/or? Can’t a person do both? The answer: Yes! People can push for change in both active and passive ways and you don’t have to place yourself in one category, but instead right in the middle of the Venn diagram.
As the event ended, we discussed that physical activism is a time-consuming commitment. I believe slacktivism should not be written off as bad and lazy, but instead should be viewed as another form of activism. If anything, slacktivism tailors activism to keep up with the times and keep up with the trends of social media. If it weren’t for social media, activism would not be as trendy as it is now. How you choose to advocate is not as important compared to the results, and slacktivism has positively impacted advocacy.
March 2, 2015
Often times, events on campus stand out by the amount of free food they offer. Although "Love is For Everyone" did offer the delicious cuisine of Mirch Masala, it was more than the food that drew me (and countless others) to enjoy a night of spoken word, group poetry and musical offerings, all aimed at transcending the idea of love on Valentine's Day just being about the romantic sense.
As a collaboration between the Office of Residential Education and Living, The Women's Center, the Residential Education Fellows, the Student Activities Council and other organizations, incredible poets from all class years came forward and offered their take on love in every sense of the word.
I must say: I've seen some spoken word performances and I'm not lying when I tell you that this night offered the best I had ever seen — much more so than some performances in Boston that were in "professional" settings. I was so amazed at the quality of art being created at our College. Pictured here are Haley Gowland '17 and Katherine McDonald '17 performing a number of beautiful duets: some sad, some happy, but all incredibly moving. Their harmonies sent shivers up my spine. Also pictured is Riley Meachem '18 performing an original poem. His creative language and beautiful rhetoric kept me entranced throughout the entire piece. In addition, I had a great conversation with Joseph Mercado, who organized the event with help from Professor Roberts of the Dance Department.
February 27, 2015
I think we all remember a time (or maybe a few) in middle school or high school when we raised our hand to express some ingenious idea we had, only to be immediately shut down by the teacher. Pre-Continental Drift theory — one can only imagine how many students in geography courses said, "Hey, those continents look like they fit together." Then the teacher would say, "No, stop trying."
Well, college is pretty different. Unless you're in math, your ideas aren't usually flat out wrong. I know, it's shocking. You can express thoughts and no one will call you out for being ridiculous (in theory, at least).
I was in my American Studies class the other day, a philosophy class, discussing the poetry of Hughes, Whitman and Ginsberg. For context, my professor likes to break everything down very carefully into minute detail. You can't get away with spewing out thoughts without being asked to define the words and concepts that you used in your explanation. We were talking about how "hopeful" some of these poems were, and I decided to take a page from my professor and try to define exactly what "hope" is.
I raised my hand and disagreed, saying that these poems were actually not hopeful. I believe that the word hope has the connotation of relying on external forces to assist in a situation. My professor disagreed, but he didn't say I was wrong. Then, as the class went on, more and more of my classmates started agreeing with my point. Soon, this definition of "hope" became part of the main discussion. I find the interpretation of language really fascinating, so this conversation was right up my alley.
It's so nice being able to discuss things with professors and know that neither party has to be right or wrong. You both get to bring your background knowledge and prior experiences to the table to try to figure out something together. Of course, it was also a welcome experience to have my peers chime in, and it's also relieving not to have as strict a lesson plan as in high school. This flexibility lets our conversations wander and develop naturally.
In college, professors aren't "teaching to test," so I've noticed our classes can slow down and inspect concepts without the fear of missing too much material. This aspect of college is something I really enjoy.
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
After 18 years, one sort of knows what to expect from Valentine's Day. You've got your icky couples spreading PDA like a contagious disease; single people who are proud of the fact that they are strong independent "plates of hot rice that don't need no side dish;" single people who are going to spend the day trying to forget that they're single; and some stragglers who sit somewhere in between one of these groups.
I guess this year I could be considered one of those stragglers. I'm not really sure where I fall, but I'm fully aware of the fact that whatever group I'm in, I have a different perspective than I've ever had before. I've spent my fair share of Valentine's Days in each of the aforementioned categories, but this year I'm just really happy to be able to spread some philanthropy.
About a month ago, I bought boxes and boxes full of Valentines in preparation for the day. You know, the kind of cards you used to give out to your classmates in second grade. Well, my Valentines are pirate-themed and spy-themed. Each kind comes with temporary tattoos and riddles to be decoded respectively, and I am SO EXCITED.
Being in college means that it will be so easy to force my affectionate crafts on friends. In fact, not only do I plan to give my Valentines out to friends, but I'd like to tape them to everyone's doors in my dorm, or at least on my floor. I'd also really like to give them out to random people, if I can work up the courage. I'm very in favor of the idea of random acts of kindness, and recently I've been trying to do more of that, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone to do so. College offers so many opportunities for this, and Valentine's Day gives me the perfect excuse.
So, no, I may not fit into any of the Valentine's Day archetypes exactly, but I'm super stoked for it. The couples will be off doing couple-y things; the strong independent men and women will be off declaring this independence; the lonely singles will be saying depressing things and counting all the cats they have; and the people in complicated situations will be confused. I will be happy in the spot I am in, whatever that spot may be, while handing out awesome cards. And, hopefully, I can make some other people happy in the process.
I'm also excited for our Valentine's dance and the potential for lots of free pink-colored baked goods — but that's beside the point.
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 23, 2015
My Valentine's Day was a memorable one, and not in the way you’d expect.
A friend of mine and I had planned on seeing a very specific and highly-anticipated movie that would premiere on Feb. 14 — "Fifty Shades of Grey." All of our ducks were in a row: We bought our tickets, chose our seats and planned what time we'd meet at the Camel Van. The one thing we did not calculate was a blizzard.
The blizzard impeded our well-thought-out plans because the Camel Van, due to poor weather conditions, could not make its usual trips. Panic shot through our bodies but our tenacity prevailed over this calamity. With only 30 minutes remaining until showtime, my friend and I eagerly dialed for a taxi. When we called, telephone lines were either busy, calls weren’t going through, or we would have to wait an hour for the next available taxi. Our hopes of getting to our destination dwindled as time progressed. Right when I was about to give up, I saw a taxi pull onto campus and ran for it. Fortunately he saw me, brought us to the Waterford movie theater, and we were on time.
I have never seen such a beautiful theater before. Hardwood floors and big spacious reclining chairs made the struggle worth it. After the movies, the effect of the blizzard had not melted away. A new problem arose: How do we get back to school? Like before, taxis were either unavailable or the waiting line would be hours long.
Thankfully, another Conn student was there seeing the same movie, except her show started 30 minutes after ours. My friend knew the other Conn student, texted her, and asked if she wouldn't mind giving us a ride back. She agreed and drove us back safely to campus. I couldn’t have been more grateful. Her benevolence showed me how the Conn community extends beyond campus. No matter where they are, Conn students constantly look out for one another; she certainly looked out for my friend and me.
January 27, 2015
Being from Vermont, I’ve had my fair share of sledding experiences. But sledding today in the Arbo has got to be one of the best. Students from all over campus congregated on the big hill, laughing and sharing the random objects brought for sledding, a variety of accessories that included skis, snowboards, cardboard boxes, trays borrowed from the dining hall and, or course, actual sleds.
We all worked together to pack the feet of powder down into a trail, and then took turns going down, giving each other pushes to gain momentum. People tried all sorts of techniques including standing up on trays and hooking sleds together to form a long train. It was most definitely one of my best Conn College experiences to date.
And the best part: it’s still snowing!
January 27, 2015
It’s the snowpacolypse! When leaving my dorm this morning, I was greeted with a wall of snow. Forging our way through in order to get to Harris, my friends and I were delighted in the dramatically changed scenery, so much so that the first thing my friend did was jump into the snow and make a snow angel.
Banks of snow up to my knees are everywhere; haphazard piles and trails wind their way through the campus as we embarked on the cold trek to the dining hall. Classes have been canceled for the day, and I hear the shouts and laughter outside my window as students, reverting into our child-like selves, play in the snow.
My friends and I have signed out our house's sled and later today, we will take to the Arbo, the most popular place for sledding on campus. Sledding down the hill in the Arboretum has been on my Conn Coll bucket list since I arrived in my first year and I just cannot wait. Snow days are the best.
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 16, 2015
Here at Conn, Tuesdays and Thursdays are associated with one of our College's beloved traditions: "Soup and Bread Day." Taking place in Freeman Dining Hall, one of our smaller, more homey dining halls, Soup and Bread Day offers a variety of soups and fresh baked loaves of bread, in addition to the usual options. This means a stomach full of buttery, creamy goodness. Everyone develops their own soup and bread preferences. I, for one, think that the circular loaves with a thick crust are without competition. A slice of that with a bowl of butternut squash soup is magical. Others, however, disagree. Some of my friends, for example, prefer the whole grain breads, which I find ridiculous.
I've been going to Soup and Bread Day since nearly the first week of school. It's always nice to be able to take a break from Harris, the main dining hall, and be able to traverse campus a bit. My friend Anne and I generally head there after Latin class and, without a doubt, there are always crowds. Students from every corner of campus seem to flock to Freeman twice a week. There are a lot of regulars, like myself, as well as newcomers. It's always interesting to compare how many familiar faces there are versus how many new faces there are.
After a few visits, you'll find that more and more faces become familiar. Given the popularity of Soup and Bread Day and the intimacy of the dining hall, people often find themselves merging tables with strangers. It offers a great opportunity to make friends, or at least have interesting conversations with new people over a meal. Personally, I've met a couple of very close friends over soup and bread.
Now that it's getting colder, I can only imagine how satisfying warm soup will be in the winter.
January 12, 2015
It's 1 a.m. and I'm sitting on my bed listening to Taylor Swift, eating enough espresso beans to fill 17 shots of regular espresso. They're fair trade espresso beans, though, so that compensates for some of my concerns regarding gluttony and sleep deprivation.
What is fair trade? It basically means that everyone involved in the process of creating the item and transporting it is treated fairly. For example, everyone gets paid a reasonable wage. This program also helps to promote sustainability (something that's very important at Conn, as well) and empower producers in lower socio-economic groups.
I bought my fair trade chocolate at Fiddleheads, a local, non-profit co-op in New London that offers natural, fresh foods (plus a hodgepodge of other thing-a-ma-bobs) and promotes fair trade products. I also just learned that Fiddleheads visits campus every week, and they'll alert you when fresh products come in.
I'd never heard of the store before my friend Emma mentioned that a local artisan fair was being held there. So, I went with her, got some chocolate and socks, and learned a lot about the store. To be honest, before I went I had no idea what a co-op was, nor did I know what fair trade was or what the difference between "non-profit" and "not for profit" was. (Feel free to Google if you need to.)
To put it in a nutshell, all of those programs are meant to help make businesses more conscious of the ways in which they negatively affect other parts of the world, and then businesses work to counteract these negative effects.
After exploring Fiddleheads, my friends Emma and Michelle and I decided to go to another local fair trade store, Flavours of Life. There, I bought some decorations for my room and some cozy winter gloves. The two stores were in walking distance, and I'm sure there are many other businesses in New London with similar missions. We're fortunate to have a number of businesses nearby that care about their products and the people who make them — but also have really good chocolate.
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.
December 29, 2014
You've probably never heard of Amy Poehler, Ellie Kemper, Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari or Ben Schwartz, right? Well, they're alums of this little comedy group called the Upright Citizens Brigade ("UCB.") The traveling UCB team performed a personalized improv show on campus recently ... no big deal.
Kidding. It was a pretty big deal. Yesterday, I got to see a free show, on campus, that likely featured the next generation of famous comedians. Conn's own improv groups, N20 and Scuds, opened up for UCB. Even cooler is the fact that the entire performance was based on my campus neighbor's life. UCB started their show by picking someone from the audience — my neighbor Carson — and interviewing him. The interview included stories about smooth rocks, broken Playstations, the nicest woman on earth, professors, making films, girlfriends, etc. It was very eclectic. At first no one really knew why Carson was being interviewed. Then, once he sat back down, UCB told us that they would now be performing Carson's life ... with a few changes using their artistic license, of course. Carson's brother, for example, turned into someone who breaks antiques in fits of rage. A smooth rock that Carson owns also became part of the story by morphing into some sort of addictive, apocalyptic device. Even Harris, our main dining hall, got a shout out. The UCB actors played chefs who put peanuts in "peanut-free" food in order to play mind games with the students who are allergic to peanuts. It was a very strange, but very funny skit (with no connection to reality, I promise).
It was a hilarious show, especially since I know Carson personally. I was sitting in his row, so I was able to look over and see his reactions to UCB's interpretation of his life. Carson loves improv, so it was a great opportunity for him and the rest of us and, in 10 years, he'll probably be able to say that he was on stage with famous comedians.
January 1, 2015
On Aug. 21, 2014, the names of my fellow classmates were meaningless to me. They were just different arrangements of letters floating around in different combinations on the Class of 2018's Facebook page. I had no way of knowing which of these names would come to develop meaning for me. I had even less of an idea what type of meaning, and to what degree, these names would take on.
5 letters: Julia. She made a Facebook post about majoring in biology and watching movies, and now we sit together for almost every meal.
4 letters: Emma. She commented on a post about music. Now we have matching star earrings in matching piercings.
Of course, there are many more names I've come to know, and lots belonging to upperclassman, making it more unlikely that I would've been able to guess which names would soon become a significant part of my life.
With the new year starting, I look at these names differently. All of these names are connected to all of these faces that I'm used to seeing every day. Right now, I sit at home during winter break and I'm not seeing these people every day anymore. I'm with my family and my friends are scattered across the country — in fact, some even extend past the U.S. borders. I was perfectly content here before college, but now I find I'm missing something. I've had all of these experiences in college with all of these new, wonderful people and now they aren't with me.
I find myself pointing out camels on everything I see and texting pictures to my new friends — even if the camels are just plastered onto cigarette advertisements at gas stations. When I see signs for Connecticut marked as "Conn," I feel like I have a special knowledge shared only between the ethereal, camel sign-maker (who must indeed be behind the creation of the sign) and myself. They pose as a reminder of the connection that I now have to this other facet of life.
At this point, it seems strange imagining what my life would have been like had I picked a different school, or even had I taken different classes or lived in a different dorm. Often, my friendships with people come down to being in the right place at the right time. Other times, they come from taking a risk: auditioning for something, or attending a club meeting that you're not even a part of. All of these seemingly random decisions I've made over the years have led me to this college and these friends and now, after a few weeks of winter break crossed off the calendar, I can very much say that I'm missing both of those things right now.
December 12, 2014
I've enjoyed ice skating ever since my friend invited me to the neighborhood rink in middle school. We had to go with her mom, and I almost died at least 20 times, but it was fun. By the end of middle school, I was taking figure skating lessons. I towered over the other, younger skaters, most of whom only came up to my knee. Surprisingly, I moved up in the skating world faster than my small, youthful friends. Once I finished the basic skating levels, and a few figure skating classes, I quit.
I haven't skated much since, so I was excited when I found out that Conn has an ice rink. Many of the schools my friends attend don't have rinks on campus. On a recent Friday, I went to my first open skate here. It was only $1 to skate for 3 hours, and all profits went to the College's Relay For Life chapter.
I was eager to skate again, but a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to do the things I used to be able to do. Most of my friends were having trouble just staying upright, though, so there wasn't much pressure. After I got accustomed to the ice again, I started trying to do some of my old tricks. Some were rough, but others went pretty well.
I was in the middle of the rink practicing when someone skated up to me and asked if I was in the figure skating club. I said that I wasn't, and she told me that I should be, and that she could give me more details if I wanted them. I haven't agreed to anything yet, but I'm definitely considering joining. I really miss ice skating regularly, and it was flattering to be spotted as a possible member. I've already signed up for the email list, and we will see where things go from there.
I think the highlight of my night was when my friend Brion joked that he wasn't impressed by my tricks, and then, seconds later, face-planted on the ice. If he had gotten hurt, I wouldn't be able to note it as the highlight of my night, but he's fine, so I can tell you that it was HILARIOUS.
December 1, 2014
College can be a stressful time. There are tests, homework, athletic obligations, etc. Right now, it's midterm season. The midterm bells are ringing in the streets, and professors are singing carols of molecular biology and behavioral neuroscience.
This week in my psychology class, however, we've been discussing health and wellness. We talked about the effects of stress and some ways that we can lower stress levels. One way: sleep. My professor reminded us to prioritize sleep, but she also reminded us that it's sometimes OK to put fun, social activities ahead of work, because those are the things that we'll remember in 20 years.
On Saturday, I decided to follow this advice. I had an overwhelming amount of work to do this weekend, but I told myself that I was only allowed to work on Friday and Sunday. Saturday, I would leave to myself. It was during this day of relaxing that my friends and I attended a "Destress Fest," an event developed and run by my floor governor, Sarah, and her friend, Brenna. There was ornament-making, cookie decorating and a Gak station. Yes, Gak; apparently, a strange rubbery concoction that helps your mind wander and spark creativity. And, of course, there was also food.
I, personally, did not make any Gak, but I did try my hand at ornament-making and cookie decorating. My ornament was a bit of a disaster, but my cookies were pretty awesome. I made a sunset cookie and a cookie that looked like Earth, which I'd like to think was to scale. My years of art classes served me well.
After the Destress Fest, I hung out with friends and took a breather from the stress of school. On Sunday, I still managed to finish all of my work, which served as a good reminder that a break once in a while is always a good idea.
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 17, 2014
When I first learned about Conn's Arboretum, well before I became a student here, I thought, "OK, trees."
As someone with a tremendous fear of bees and a general dislike for a significant portion of things one might find in nature, exploring a forest didn't strike me as fun. Since becoming a student, however, I have become more comfortable with the idea of spending time in the Arboretum. After all, it's kind of hard to avoid: the 750-acre Arbo encompasses the entire campus and expands for acres in each direction — nearly a mile to the north — as a natural land preserve.
Entering the wilderness proved to be a slow process, like dipping your toe in a cold pool to test it out. The first time I went inside the natural land preserve-portion of the Arboretum, I saw a giant bee and ran away. The next time I went in a little further. I made it to a little gazebo, where I sat with some friends for a while. The next time, I didn't venture any farther, but I did stay longer to do some landscape drawing.
Then came Arbofest, our annual student-organized bluegrass and country music festival. I knew it was kind of a big deal, and I knew there would be food and music. The food was really the selling point, plus it was a stunningly beautiful day. I had to go.
So, I made my way into the Arboretum, going deeper into it than I ever had before. There was indeed music and food, as well as a giant crowd of students lounging on the grass. The bands were playing right in front of the water, and it was actually very lovely ... despite some close calls with bees.
Near the end of the festival, one of my friends asked if I wanted to take a walk with her. I agreed, and we walked along a path that led us deeper into the Natural Plant Collection (the area of the Arboretum most frequented by students and the community, just across Williams Street from campus.) To my surprise, it was actually a very cool walk. Hidden in the Arboretum are all sorts of paths, gazebos and benches, along with a cabin, Buck Lodge. I found myself wanting to explore deeper when my friend was ready to turn back.
I've also heard there are cliffs and a small waterfall hidden somewhere back there. So, that's something to look into for a future trip. In retrospect, I sort of wish that I had realized how interesting the Arboretum is before, since it's starting to get chillier now. I'll resume my exploration in the spring.
Lesson learned, though: the Arboretum is not just a bunch of trees.
November 5, 2014
In my 18 and a half years, I had never been to a gym.
That finally changed this past month. My friend Brion needed a gym buddy, and I obliged. I was a little hesitant about going with a gym aficionado; in fact, I was a little hesitant about going at all. I've always heard that gyms are intimidating, and I certainly don't know how to use any of the equipment, except the treadmill and exercise bike. I was afraid that I'd walk into the gym and immediately be pegged as a fish out of water.
I was surprised to see a number of students and College staff doing different exercises at their own pace. There were probably a few washboard abs in the room, but it actually wasn't that intimidating. Everyone was paying attention to their own things, and I didn't feel like I was being watched or judged. There was a lot of equipment that I didn't know how to use, but Brion helped with that, as did the handy-dandy instructions on every machine. There was also a lot of empty space in the complex, so it was easy to find some privacy when needed. I also got to use the pool, which was great because I love swimming.
Another bonus element to working out: The gym offers a gorgeous view of the Thames River, so you can try to focus on something pleasant while your pores cry with sweat.
I've come to appreciate our gym in many ways. One of my friends that goes to school in a city was given a membership to a gym a few blocks away as a consolation for the lack of a complex at her school.
Overall, my first trip to the gym was not a terrible experience. Although, for about a week afterward, I could barely walk ... but that's another story.
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 24, 2014
IT'S TIME TO PLAY FAMILY FEUD!
This past Thursday, the Office of Student Life and Think S.A.F.E., the College's sexual assault prevention group, hosted a game of Family Feud in Cro, our student center. Yes, there were prizes, though no Steve Harvey. First, second and third place teams won things like water bottles and bowls full of candy.
The game show was Green Dot-themed. Green Dot is our sexual assault and violence prevention program. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a number of sports and activities have been Green Dot-themed. The theory behind our program is that "no one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something." By connecting difficult issues of sexual assault, dating and power-based violence, and stalking to athletics and fun activities, we're working toward a necessary cultural shift. Increasing awareness enables bystanders to step in during "red dot" (problematic) situations. It promotes a safe and welcoming community.
Given the theme, there were definitely some interesting sexual questions in our game of Family Fued. Though a little uncomfortable at first, we all sort of got used to the awkwardness of it in order to win points for our team. And, of course, it was all for a good cause. We learned things about safe, consensual sexual situations and, because of the survey section of the game, we also got a chance to see what our peers thought about certain situations.
The night consisted of fun, games and prizes — though, not for my team — all in an effort to create a giant cultural movement against sexual assault and violence.
October 24, 2014
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 9, 2014
Remember those old skates in your closet? Take them out and bring them to college! We are going roller skating!
I had no idea it was possible to create a roller rink on campus, but Conn made one night of disco-themed, four-wheeled madness happen. To clarify, we don't usually have roller skating on campus, but one recent event produced by the Office of Student Life turned the largest room on campus into a roller rink, with skates provided too! I never would have expected to see so many of my friends go to a roller skating event. Everyone had a good time, from those who had never skated before to even the most expert and acrobatic skaters.
That evening, I'm convinced everyone shared one goal: Don't fall. While some succeeded and some didn't, it was definitely a great way to start my weekend and an event I'll remember for many years.
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 5, 2014
As I write this, it's the first day back from Fall Break. Many of my friends were excited to go home for the long weekend, specifically to see their various breeds of furry creatures. I wanted to see my family, swap stories with my friends and, most of all, have my bedroom to myself. Having roommates is fun, but being back in your own room is definitely a welcomed bit of quiet.
Despite the immediate comfort of being home, I found myself missing Conn. I missed being able to roam around the campus, having food available to me at (almost) all times of the day and seeing all the familiar faces. Part of me felt like I didn't fully belong at home. I've now spent a month here on campus and, in that time, I've made a new friendships and experienced so much that's new and different. It makes sense that, at least partially, Conn is becoming my home more and more.
After a brief weekend away, I'm back home at Conn. Sure, I have homework, tests and, yes, I'm again sharing a room. But I'm happy to be back in the routine here.
I'm also happy to have access to the abundance of ice cream in Harris once more.
September 23, 2014
I recently attended my first Camelympics. You may be wondering, "What on earth is Camelympics?!" Imagine if the Olympics were held on a college campus and included activities like board games and hula hooping. That should give you the gist of Camelympics. Different houses compete in games to get points and, at the end of the day, only one house is declared the winner — a coveted title.
Of all the activities I found myself participating in — including Apples to Apples and Catch Phrase — Quidditch was certainly my favorite. I lack the coordination usually required for sports but, as a huge Harry Potter fan, I volunteered to play. I was the Keeper (basically, a goalie) for Johnson House, and our house ended up winning fourth place.
At the beginning of the game, no one was quite sure how the game would work when the brooms did not begin to fly. The confusion was brief and, after the first round of games, people started getting very into it. There was a lot of cheering, a lot of running, a little bit of tackling and a dash of screaming to distract opponents. Players also started growing attatched to their positions. The passion for Quidditch that developed over the course of roughly 20 minutes was pretty surprising.
The most entertaining part about Quidditch is how the role of the Snitch is adapted when playing without magic. In Harry Potter, the Snitch is a little golden ball that, when caught, ends the game instantly. In Muggle (non-magical people) Quidditch, the Snitch is a bystander who volunteers to wear a yellow shirt and run around campus to avoid being tagged by the Seeker. In one of the final games, as the Snitch was about to be caught, he tripped and fell. As others jumped over the Snitch to avoid landing on him, the opposing Seeker snuck up from behind and fell onto the Snitch, winning the game. It was surprisingly intense.
Camelympics may be about fun and games, but there was true competition amongst Camels. There was a very strong sense of community. As houses came together, there was a chance for students to intermingle and meet one another, and the traditional event also gave me the chance to act out my favorite, magical sport.
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 25, 2014
People spend four years at college exploring many different paths but, at Conn, these years are also spent learning how to be a Camel. There are many ways to embrace your Camel identity, connecting with your peers and your community. The number of ways to spend time are plentiful, including playing sports, volunteering in the community or joining student clubs and activities.
Last year, my first year at Conn, I joined a few clubs. I went to several meetings and decided what worked and what didn't. By the end of the year, not only had I found groups and causes that I cared about, but I had taken leadership positions for the upcoming year. I've become an active member of Umoja — the Black Student Union — and I've met close friends in the process. I also attended Green Dot training, a program dedicated to ending sexual assault and power-based violence on college campuses. I'm also now the vice president of Eclipse, an annual, student-produced dance show.
Now, I have a chance to represent these clubs — the activities that I love so much and that helped me feel at home here — publicly as a spokesperson at the annual Student Involvement Fair. I distinctly remember the fair from my first year and how that one event helped me choose my path. Leading up to this year's fair, I was excited to be on the giving end of the process, helping new students find their passions and activities.
Something surprising happened: I found myself signing up for new clubs, as well. A good walk through the fair presented clubs and groups that I hadn't seen before, along with activities I had previously overlooked. I'm someone who loves to be active and have lots do to over the course of a week. As I go through my four years, I will probably join more clubs, change the activities I'm involved in and find other ways to be involved on campus. That's part of the joy that comes with finding a Camel identity.
September 23, 2014
“One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four …” The voices are in unison. I stare around me; these are the people I’ve known for a year. We’ve met three times every week in the College Center at Crozier-Williams to practice improv. We’re N2O, the short-form improvisational comedy group at Connecticut College and it’s our first show of the year.
The warm-ups are done and the rituals begin: we sit in a circle and talk, and have quiet moments to prepare. Each one of us is nervous — this is also our first combined show with the long-form comedy group on campus, Scuds. A lot rests on this show because we have auditions the day after and we want a good turnout. We want some of the spectators to show up because the people who often think they’re not funny are actually the funniest.
I joined N2O last year in the beginning of September. I heard about the auditions from a friend and almost didn’t make it. In those first few days after Orientation, you run around like a headless chicken and want to join everything — and that’s good, because that’s how you discover things you never knew you were good at. How was I to know that my inherent awkwardness and desire to engage with even the most minor of things would translate to improv? I got to the auditions, however, and I was scared. So many people were so good. The members of the group were informal, though. They could have been ruthless but instead, they were the kindest, nicest people I’d met yet. I got called back and I joined improv.
Joining a club is not just a time commitment, it’s a commitment of spirit. In an English seminar I’m taking this semester, “The Teaching of Writing,” I had to analyze my own writing process in a fair amount of detail. When I got to the end of the paper, I realized that my writing is influenced by improv. I’m committed to the principles of “yes” “and” (agreeing and adding on, to make the scene work) and it’s honestly made me a better writer and storyteller. Even in my personal life, improv has made me more direct, but also better able to engage with the absurd and the fantastical. Between the number-counting and the limb-shaking of a warm-up before a show, I feel immensely glad that I tried something completely new and it paid off.
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 10, 2014
A few weeks ago, as I headed out the door to college for the second time, a few things ran through my mind. "OMG, I'm a sophomore … can time stop moving so quickly?!" I probably had that thought a few times, actually. It is scary when you realize how quickly time passes and how fast your four years go. After I came to peace with the notion that time stops for no one, I thought of all the positive things this year would have in store for me.
Your first year is a time to explore (and learn … but you are always learning). You go to almost every club meeting on campus at least once and you can try activities and courses just to see if you like them. By your second year, you find a few projects that interest you and you are able to hone your passions. It is an amazing feeling to come back to campus and know what you are excited for.
I arrived back to campus feeling just exuberant. I was ready to be a Student Adviser, to be a more active member of the clubs I really connected with my first year, and, especially, to be on the executive board of the largest student-produced performance on campus. I'm now a student leader, an active learner and an engaged member of the student body. Now, I attend lectures and go to the events hosted by the Student Activities Council with excitement. These activities, I’ve realized, keep me busier than ever.
The first few hours on campus reminded me of what I missed over the summer. The year is only just beginning and I can't wait to see what sophomore year will bring.
August 27, 2014
“Once a Camel, always a Camel.” The return to Camel Land, as we lovingly call campus, is always anxiously awaited. This year, I moved in early because I completed a week of training to prepare me to be a student leader on campus. While there are several ways to be a student leader on campus, I chose to be a Student Adviser, an important part of Orientation.
Being a Student Adviser entails working closely with a handful of first-year students to help them acclimate to campus, both during Orientation and in the days and weeks that follow. I went through a week of training to be sure that I would best be able to help our newest Camels.
Preparing for Orientation is just as much fun than the actual events. Watching and participating in all of the hard work that goes into Orientation was incredible: There’s the beautiful summer weather, productive meetings in which everyone is working toward a common goal, and good friends who make an early return to campus exciting. All student leaders who were back on campus early had a chance to bond as we all excitedly awaited the arrival of the first-year students. We discussed Orientation events over dinner and spent our free time enjoying the sun. As a student leader, you really get to know the campus in ways that you might not otherwise.
Returning to campus and helping new students get adjusted was a great way to end the summer. I was able to move in early, get settled and then give back to new students, answering their questions and helping them get around campus. I gave them the same royal treatment that I was given a year ago when I arrived on campus for the first time.
August 26, 2014
I returned to campus a few days early to help capture Arrival Day for the Class of 2018 and transfer students. It was a long day and brought back many memories of my arrival four years ago. Take a look!
April 29, 2014
Sometimes it is easy to forget what life was like before college. Once you're acclimated to college life and get a schedule going, the past is a distant memory.
The past few weeks have been full of tours and overnight visits for both accepted and prospective students. Having spent this spring hosting some of these overnight visitors, I’ve been reminded of what life felt like for me just a few years ago, as senior in high school. I remember the stress of high school report cards and college applications like it was yesterday.
With all these flashbacks come memories of the many people who helped me along the way. Friends who were already in college gave me advice about ways to improve my essays and relax for interviews. My college counselor, teachers and family members made sure I handed everything in on time and wrote my recommendations.
To be honest, after it all ends, you forget about the stress you felt. You only remember the excitement and relief of it all. You remember how happy you were to finally be done with the essays, tests, and applications. You remember senior spring because you were finally free and just waiting for responses.
The most important memory from last year is the day I chose to attend Conn. In that moment, all my hard work had finally paid off.
These past few weeks have been a very nostalgic time. While I wouldn't choose to do the process over, it certainly feels good to remember those days. To the Class of 2018 who will be on campus next year, congratulations!
April 9, 2014
This past weekend, Student Activities Council organized a free trip to New York City. At 8 a.m., sleepy Camels made their way to Cro to take a bus to the city. It was a day filled with lots of walking, lots of food and like any good visit, an unexpected pillow fight in Washington Square Park.
I went on this trip with three friends. One is from New York, as am I, and the other two are from Boston. We wanted to give our Boston friends a general idea of what the Big Apple is like, so we tried to go to all the tourist spots, including Times Square and Soho. When you live near the city, you often forget how amazing it is, especially for someone who has never have visited.
Of course, the city is full of surprises and we stumbled into a massive pillow fight in Washington Square Park. It looked like everyone in the city had come outdoors to join in.
Trips like this are not uncommon for Camels. The Student Activities Council and the art history department often offer free or cheap busses to New York, Providence and Boston. It was a nice change of pace to be able to experience a dose of city life with my fellow New London Camels.
March 21, 2014
Orientation isn't just for Conn’s newest students. A big part of what makes that week in August, the week before classes, so much fun is how students from all class years come together to help the newest Camels get to know campus. Student advisers are among the many student groups that return to campus early and help make the transition easy. Since I had a really good experience with my own student adviser earlier this year, I applied to become one for the Class of 2018.
When I found out that I was offered the position, I was thrilled. It’s a great feeling to know that I’ll play a part in a week so many students look forward to. I’m getting more and more excited for summer now, knowing that I’ll be back on campus earlier in August. I’ll be there to help the new Camels with orientation activities, picking their first classes, and getting to know campus. Welcome, 2018!
February 28, 2014
In high school, it can be very easy to tell your peers apart by their various ages. In college, I have realized, even if you know the ages of your peers, it is very easy to forget.
College life isn't determined by class year. Students of all years will be in your 9 a.m. class or in your 4:30 p.m. practice, and often, they become close friends.
Rarely do you realize the person from your science class who you eat lunch with might actually be two class years above you. The person who agreed with your point during that club meeting is actually a senior, but you both share similar interests and experiences.
The beautiful thing about college is that the friends you make are not dependent on your age. You share moments, develop bonds, and create friendships based on similarities. Friendships originate from a shared love of animal rights or a good lab experience. College let's you explore your interests, and it brings you near the people who want to explore, too.
January 2, 2014
Just before break, I attended CELS (Career Enhancing Life Services) Workshop Four, which focused on professional communication. The CELS staff showed us techniques for writing cover letters, sending professional emails, and interviewing. Each of the seven workshops have a different goal, from completing your resume to finding your internship. If we attend all the workshops and fulfill separate requirements, we are eligible for a $3,000 stipend for an internship during the summer of our junior year.
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 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 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.
October 14, 2013
Though I transferred to Conn a mere month and a half ago, it already feels as comfortable as home thanks to the royal wonders of Knowlton House.
Running upstairs and knocking on Joanna’s door for that much-needed dose of chitchat and chick-flicks (most recently, "27 Dresses"), gabbing with Peruvian Gabby (in between brushing teeth) at 7 a.m. about our intended morning workouts, and cooking crepes in Knowlton’s pantry to prep for French Club with club co-head and floor neighbor, Emily.
Personal faves include the baked mac n’ cheese and pork dumplings. Not to mention those chocolate chip toffee Heath bars... Mmm...
3. Language Lunch Tables
Gotta love discussing French popular films and joking about the stereotypes of northern Frenchmen with Professeur Chalmin. En francais of course!
4. Roommate Amanda (Jixuan)
A sister to come home to, though an ocean divides our hometowns.
5. Location: South Campus, on Tempel Green
Classes a minute’s walk across the Green, delicious soup and artisanal bread in Freeman dining hall a few doors down, the start line of women’s cross country practice at the tree out the back door.
A grand staircase fit for a cliché ballroom entrance, crowning bedroom ceilings, rich hardwood floors, a fireplace. Not surprisingly, Knowlton began life as the campus hotel for the (once all-female) students’ male suitors.
Perhaps honoring Knowlton’s historically male guests, Knowlton Knights attend a dinner sporting mustaches and fancy attire.
Across the street from Gallows Lane, Knowlton conjures up its spirits to throw down a killer haunted house. For those easily spooked, pumpkin carving’s also a golden option as part of our Fright Night series.
8. The Piano
A trusty friend when the time comes to plunk out that music theory homework. A godsend when the lunch hour pianist (a talented and surprisingly consistent Conn student) lays his fingers on its ivory keys.
Juan saves the day with his cheery “good morning,” spotless cleaning, and spare set of room keys if one helplessly finds oneself locked out of one's room. Not that I have ever been locked out ;) ;)
Who won the Camelympics chant? KNOWL-TON! Who won? KNOWL-TON! Frankly, who else?