Because I am not the biggest fan of spending my winter break at the beach, I have always, for the most part, opted for a ski vacation. Recently, the weather in New York City, my hometown, has been bone chilling and I wondered before my flight to Salt Lake City, Utah, took off if I wasn’t better off visiting a beach.
I was asked to purchase six books for a single class my first semester at Connecticut College. Being overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of assignments in my first week of classes, I decided to purchase the books for that class one-by-one. A couple of weeks later, I walked into the bookstore and discovered that the lovely piles of books had transformed into empty shelves featuring a couple of incredibly tattered, used copies and many order forms. I’m always a little averse to used books because I want my books to look nice; I don’t like having books that have been marked by other people or treated roughly. I chose to buy new copies of most of my books for that class online, which only cost a few extra dollars, something I could afford.
My high school did not have a football team, nor did it have cheerleaders. The closest thing we had to a pep rally was Blue and Gold Week, a celebration of school spirit and the seniors, who were six months away from graduation. Following winter break, my school had its version of homecoming where alumni would come back for an advice panel, snacks, and a basketball game. This January I will return to homecoming for the third time as an alumnus, and I am excited to share my college experience with students and parents who are about to embark on their own college journeys and post-high school careers.
One of the best decisions I made during my junior year was agreeing to apply to a Winchester House, a house that is across the street from the main Connecticut College campus.
Looking back, it was a risky move. One of the girls I knew well, one I had met two months before, and the other I knew from freshmen year, but she had been abroad in Africa and we hadn’t really spoken two years. I was also worried because of the time I had spent living in an apartment abroad. Cooking, cleaning and making sure everything was OK, on top of being a full time student, was extremely stressful. Despite my hesitations, however, my three roommates and I moved into the house when we returned to school the following September.
College can be a lot. Your social life and school work are no longer separate entities. You spend a few hours in classes, a few hours in dining halls, a few hours doing homework, a few hours relaxing, a few hours socializing, and then — BAM! — before you know it, you lose track of what's happening in the outside world.
I don't have a TV in my dorm room, nor do I have live-in parents to report recent happenings. I've found myself getting breaking news from Facebook and Twitter, which leaves something to be desired. What I've found here at Connecticut College, though, is that there are so many professors willing to incorporate recent events into their lessons, which helps me keep in touch with the goings-on of the world.
In high school, this would rarely happen. Coming from a public school, teachers were held to very strict, state-mandated guidelines, so they had little opportunity to veer away from the syllabus. In college, we take breaks from the syllabus all the time. In my American Studies class, for example, we were emailed to keep an eye on the events unfolding in Baltimore. We then discussed Baltimore in class — not as a way to abandon the lesson plan, but as a way to draw topical events into our lessons. I also had a friend tell me about a social justice class that discussed the way that Bruce Jenner's transgender announcement has been received by the public and by the media.
Even professors of classes that aren't quite as directly related to the news will reference recent events as a way to make their classes more relevant and applicable to the real world. Professors don't just lecture us about recent events, they create a dialogue. We are prompted to find our own connections between current events and syllabus work in a collaborative setting in real time.
While the school offers many forums and events relating to recent events, it's often easy to develop tunnel vision for your own busy schedule. The inclusion of news in the classroom is both convenient and educational. It's nice to be able to take a step back and tune in to what's happening around us in the present, as opposed to letting these events pass by and learning about them as part of a history class.
This year, Connsider, the group that produces TEDxConnecticut College, put on a number of events during the weeks leading up to the full conference. Partnering with GreenDot, “Bystanders Love Company," a play on this year's theme of “Genius Loves Company,” invited students to think about what it means to be a bystander and how we can shift these normally “passive” roles into active ones by changing the climates of sexual assault, violence, discrimination and hate speech. Here, my friends Jasmine Massa ’17, Alissa Siepka ’17 and Natalie Boles ’17 all create a list of goals and ways they can work to improve the social climate at Conn and beyond.
It’s true what they say — "there’s a first time for everything." I had never been to a concert at Conn, but that was about to change. My friend Squadra had invited me to come see the X-Ambassadors perform. This student-organized show was unique: It took place off campus, in downtown New London.
On the night of the concert, I faced the typical problem most people have: What am I supposed to wear? While on my way to the bathroom to wash some dishes, I ran into another friend of mine, Christine. She looked all dolled up and so I asked her if she could help me coordinate an outfit. She enthusiastically agreed. After the advice she had given me, we finally came up with a fun outfit appropriate for an alternative rock band concert.
I met up with Squadra, who of course looked amazing as well. We knew a fun night ahead was waiting for us.
One of the amazing things about student-run events is that they think of everything, including affordable transportation. When I bought my ticket for the concert, I also bought a bus ticket so I wouldn’t have to pay for a taxi. As Sqaudra and I waited in front of Cro, our student center, a huge yellow school bus pulled up in front. I laughed because I don’t remember how long it had been since I rode a yellow school bus. Even though I’m a college student now, I have to remind myself it wasn’t that long ago I was just a kid. Conn students filled the bus and the atmosphere exuded positivity and carefreeness. On the way to the concert, we collectively started singing Miley Cyrus’ "Party in the USA." Giggles, laughter, smiles and, of course, a bit of embarrassment appeared for all.
The bus quickly brought us to New London, a five-minute drive away. The concert took place at the Hygenic Art Park, an outdoor garden-like setting where the trees were lit up, as well as the night sky. I'm always amazed by how nocturnal college students are. There was a stage where the band performed and the students clustered in front, listening and dancing to the live music. It was like a Conn reunion where everyone, despite already knowing each other, greeted the people they knew (or hadn’t seen in a few hours) with open arms.
Spring has arrived! We have been blessed with sunny, high 60-degree weather for the past couple of days, and it's beautiful. Students have broken out their shorts, sunglasses and flip-flops and have flocked to Tempel Green for sunbathing, relaxing and sports. It feels like everyone has suddenly come out of hibernation. The Green seemingly transformed from a cold, snowy landscape to a lively hangout spot in just a short number of days. Yesterday, my friends and I took a study break to toss around a football one of us had won at Bingo Night. It’s important to note that none of us actually knew how to throw a football … it was great fun, nonetheless.
I did it. I found the last pile of snow on Conn’s campus. OK, so this photo is about a week old so as of today all the snow is melted. However, after months of bitter cold weather and the most snow days I think anyone at Conn can remember, it seems that there’s no snow to be seen in New London. In fact, it’s getting pretty warm around here. Now, it’s not unusual to see people lying around on the green, something nobody would have dared just a few weeks ago. Spring is here. R.I.P. the snow of winter 2015.
Cummings is my favorite building on campus. It's got a quirky design and layout of classrooms, but it has an atmosphere that's especially fitting for the art that's created within. I love Cummings because art is everywhere. As an art center, this shouldn't be surprising, but it goes beyond the expected.
The Joanne Toor Cummings Gallery on the main floor showcases student and faculty art in an official, formal manner, but it’s the first and third floors that I like the most. There, the works of art are scattered about. In the printmaking room, each student has a section of the wall where they hang up all of their drafts and brainstorms. Walking to my drawing class this semester, I pass through a corridor where art hangs along the walls and changes constantly. Right now, it’s the work of the large format painting class. Before, the same wall showcased the results of an eight-hour drawing marathon. This same corridor showcases sculptures, as well.
Art of all shapes, sizes and materials is scattered throughout the passages. One sometimes must weave through them in order to get to the other end. With so many things covering them, the halls and walls of Cummings become works of art in and of themselves. As an art lover, that makes it a pretty cool place to be.
Ok, fine, it's not quite maple tree tapping season anymore. The season is still ripe, however, for my newfound obsession with maple syrup tapping — which, admittedly, may or may not be irritating my parents.
A little while ago, there was some advertising around the school for a lesson on maple tree tapping. I had mixed feelings about attending. I assessed the likelihood that the session would be two hours of hellish tedium. I also assessed the likelihood of the program allowing me to take home a giant bucket of free maple syrup. Fortunately, and unfortunately, neither of my prophecies came true.
The event was hosted by the Connecticut College Arboretum and open to students and the community. Jim Luce, the head of grounds, led the session and told us that anyone who can boil water can make their own maple syrup.
And it's true. Basically, all you have to do is stick a tap in a maple tree and then boil the sap down. It doesn't even have to be a sugar maple tree! Your syrup might be kind of icky if you use different types of trees, but that's your call.
You don't even need any real equipment to start tapping maple trees. Jim taught us that you can get creative and use things like paint buckets and plastic pipes to get the job done. If you do want real equipment, though, taps are pretty cheap.
As it should, knowing that I could theoretically make my own maple syrup and eat it by the spoonful excited me. I started pestering my parents over text about tapping the maple tree in my front yard. Meanwhile at school, my friend Emma and I started pointing out maple trees and making stupid jokes about being able to draw syrup from various types of plants, bushes and such.
I may have missed maple season this year with my passivity, but tapping a maple tree has definitely been added to the bucket list. I would highly recommend taking one of the upcoming maple syrup classes and, if you're ambitious enough, you can tap a tree on campus! (Just ask Jim Luce first.)
Here at Conn, there are a lot of resources that students can use to find out about the goings-on both around campus and the New London area. I often scan our online calendar to see if anything interests me. I usually flick past the various sports events and briefly consider going to a yoga class, but then succumb to my laziness.
Last week, however, I saw a reflexology event. I'd never heard of "reflexology," so I did some googling, and decided to take a chance and email the director of the program, Rebecca Posner of Master Healing Reflexology. She was very nice, and responded with a long email explaining that reflexology is a technique that uses pressure points (usually in the feet, sometimes in the ears or hands) therapeutically.
I was fully aware of the fact that, were I not in college, I would never seek a reflexologist. It's just something that wouldn't cross my mind and, if it did, I wouldn't act on the thought. This is what made me want to try it all the more. Since starting school, I've tried to be a lot more open to new experiences so that I can really get the most out of my affiliation with the College (and, I guess, my youth, as well). I've also been trying to learn as much as I can, in and out of class. Given all this, I decided to give reflexology a try.
I went to my appointment, excited to experience something new. I learned a lot about the practice, which was really intriguing. The appointment was also interesting because not only do Rebecca and I share the same name, we also share an interest in psychology. She majored in psychology in college, used to be a psychotherapist, and worked with art therapy. Eventually, she found a niche in aromatherapy and reflexology. As someone just getting started in the field, it was cool to hear from a psychologist who tested out different practices out until she found the one she loves. I went to learn about reflexology, and I ended up learning even more than I thought I would.
I'm glad I went out of my comfort zone to do this. I think that trying to absorb as much as you can in college is important, so I'll definitely continue to keep an eye out for unusual events. I mean, after all, it's these unusual experiences that I'll be looking back on after I graduate.
This week the College's calendar told me about an introductory class to maple syrup making. Next adventure? I think so.
What's one of the best things about having your three best friends live in the same hallway? Impromptu outings, which in our case are mostly food-related. One moment we’ll be studying in the common room, and the next we’ll be in a 24-hour diner satisfying a craving for chocolate chip pancakes.
All it takes is someone saying, “You know what would be really good right now?” Most recently, we headed to Five Guys, located only minutes away in Groton, to fulfill a hankering for French fries. It’s on these nights that we have the best, albeit odd, conversations. Whether it’s the lack of sleep or the consumption of high-calorie foods, I’m not sure, but we’ll somehow manage to discuss the strangest things, from llamas wearing hats to the proper pronunciation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. These trips are some of my best memories at Conn.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve never been one to brag, but it’s official: My mom is the best care package-giver ever. Last year for Easter, she sent me my very own “basket,” a box brimming with green confetti, fun Easter-themed sparkly stickers and three chocolate bunnies for me and my two roommates. But the best part was the 30 pastel-colored plastic eggs filled with my favorite candies. Naturally, my roommates and I asked a friend to hide them around the dorm for us and we had our own miniature Easter egg hunt! This year for Valentine's Day, The Coolest Mom Ever sent a homemade cookie decorating set, which included heart-shaped sugar cookies, premade frosting in a fun assortment of colors and funky candies.
I had to throw a cookie decorating party! My friends and I gathered in the Knowlton common room, jammed out to our favorite songs and frosted some cookies. They tasted delicious and we had plenty left over. Not even I, the owner of the world’s largest sweet-tooth, could consume them all. Instead, we walked around the dorm, knocked on doors and handed them all out. Hopefully we made someone’s Valentine’s Day a little bit sweeter.
Outside my window stands a sculpture. Can't say I know the name and Google-ing around a little didn't help too much, but I see it every day when I leave for classes and come back to work. It sort of acts as one of those hokey "magical weather string" things that say stuff along the lines of, "If the string is wet, it's raining. If it's swaying, it's windy." Well, a few days ago, I looked out and the sculpture seemed to be holding a little icicle. It dripped little by little and I could watch a consistent flow develop over the next day or so. It seemed to signal the melting snow, slowly but surely.
It seemed as if the show had pushed most students to stay indoors this Saturday afternoon. As I walked around and took a look at what the sky had left over the night, I was struck by the quiet tranquility of the buildings, the trees and the campus as a whole. The sky was still overcast, so, unfortunately, a fog obscured the Long Island Sound, which I could only imagine would have looked so pretty after the recent snow fall. Either way, the campus still held a gentle beauty in face of all the gray skies.
It’s funny, but I'm not much of a summer beach person. The sweat, the sunscreen and sand that somehow manages to get everywhere — I’ve never found it appealing. Visiting the beach in the fall, however, is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. And lucky for me, I’ve discovered Harkness Park. It’s just 15 minutes away in Waterford and has become my go-to, I-must-escape-from-studying location. The beach is beautiful. Before winter break, my friends and I braved the 25-degree weather to watch the sunset. Bundling up in hats, scarves, mittens and down jackets, we swung by Bean and Leaf, a local coffee shop, for chai lattes and hot chocolate. Once properly prepared for the cold, we took to the sand and watched the sky change from yellow to orange to pink. Somehow nature always manages to take my breath away.