The We are/Nos Somos parade in New London was one of my favorite experiences so far with the community during my time at Conn. Coming from a large city, I’m from New York, I didn't know what to expect when first arriving in New London, Connecticut College’s hometown. It looked so isolated from the rest of the world to me. Once I started to explore the city, I realized how wrong I was. New London is very connected, having numerous events throughout the year that celebrate the people that make up the community. From restaurant owners to residents to those in need, the New London community comes together to support each other. The We are/Nos Somos parade was an event hosted by the city that actually showed how grateful and united we all actually are to call New London home. It showed me that no matter who you were, where you came from or what organization you represent, we all can come together with vastly different backgrounds and experiences to create a community, and that is powerful.
Growing up in Bangladesh, one would assume I live for the beach and the ocean. Bangladesh is home to one of the longest natural sea beaches in the world. But I hate beaches. It’s too humid, the sand gets everywhere, and the seagulls are too loud. Hence, I don’t seek out the beach in any of the places I visit. In my two and a half years at Connecticut College, I have never visited the numerous beaches around. I have sampled lobster but going to the beach never seemed like a fun activity although countless Camels go there often.
Did you know there are 35 Godzilla movies? Well, I didn't either until a friend in my improv comedy group suggested going to see the 65th-anniversary screening of the first Godzilla film. My friend, who is a film major, has been consistently going to The Garde Arts Center in New London this year which is how he heard about this special screening. During my first semester at Conn, my first-year seminar “Music and Social Activism” went on a trip to The Garde to see a special screening of a Beatles film. I remember how shocked I was when I walked into this incredibly preserved movie palace. According to their website, The Garde was originally built in 1926. It was then restored and converted into a non-profit movie theater and performing arts center in 1985. Stepping into The Garde you immediately feel like you're transported back in time. The theater itself is really large. There are classic balcony seats above the general floor seats, and the ornate detailing throughout the theater makes it feel like a work of art. Sadly, I hadn't been back to the theater since my first year at Conn. So when my friend suggested going, I decided to join despite never having seen any Godzilla movies (what better way to start than at movie No. 1).
As I moved through my first year, I increasingly started exploring Conn’s surroundings. In the beginning, as I didn’t have a car, I thought it was going to be hard to run any errands or even leave campus, but the Camel Van made it easy to reach downtown New London, the train station, Target/Walmart and even the bank. I began to discover hidden nooks and crannies around the area with my friends, which made our weekends more eventful.
One of the fun parts about going to college in a different country is all the new food I can sample. A friend of mine was shocked to discover that, even after being in the United States for a year and a half, I had never tried lobster. Hence, a trip to Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New London was planned.
Connecticut College students put a lot of work into maintaining and improving our on-campus community and culture. But what about our local community? The Office of Community Partnerships connects students to volunteer opportunities with local businesses in New London and the surrounding area. I visited the office looking for more ways to get involved in the local community. I explained my interest in history and was introduced to the New London County Historical Society. The historical society headquarters is in downtown New London in a colonial-era house once owned by Nathaniel Shaw Perkins. It houses documents and records from all of New London County. Working there is a great way to learn more about the city and its history. New London was a large whaling port for many years and many captains made their money here.
The end of the semester is always a busy time for me, and, as I’ve previously written, one of the highlights of this period are the various music department end-of-semester concerts and recitals that I participate in. No matter how intense it gets, the end of semester orchestra concert is still a great highlight and culmination of my hard work. This past semester’s performance was particularly special for me as it presented an impromptu opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the country—three members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Band’s trombone section led by Sean Nelson, who is the music department’s trombone professor, in addition to Connecticut College’s own Gary Buttery on tuba, who served as the Band’s principal tubist from 1976-1998. The group constituted our orchestra’s low brass section for our performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony.
I went to a small, private high school in East Providence, Rhode Island, where I had countless tools and people who helped me and guided me through the college process. I am forever grateful for their support. Despite this, I could not seem to figure out what I wanted and what I didn’t want in a college. I had toured multiple schools and thought they were all fine, but I hadn’t had that “falling in love” feeling every high school senior talks about when they find their new home.
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum, located just past the southern tip of Conn’s campus is a quiet little gem. At Conn, the kinds of external cultural experiences the students here cultivate are on a smaller, more intimate scale. This has always been special to me and The Lyman Allyn is a perfect example of this. The museum was donated to the City of New London by Harriet Allyn, the daughter of Captain Lyman Allyn. The family were long-time New London residents, and Harriet donated the museum in her father’s memory. Everything about this story is New London-esque, and it speaks well to our region of Connecticut: a richly historical area with prominent nods to the sea.
I have a tendency to overpack. The first time I took the Amtrak back home from Conn I lugged two giant bags and my backpack onto the train and squeezed them into the luggage space. I am now a self-proclaimed Amtrak expert, zipping back and forth from the New London to Boston with reasonably sized bags that fit easily aboard the train.
This past summer, I had an amazing opportunity to write program notes for the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra (ECSO), a professional symphony orchestra that performs at the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London. Program notes are typically blurbs in the programs classical music concerts that tell the audience the history of the music they’re about to hear, and what they should look out for when listening to it. Through my work with the symphony, I’ve been able to make important professional connections and learn more about the world of arts administration, all while writing about and listening to some great music.
On Wednesdays and Fridays I volunteer as a mentor at Jennings Elementary School in New London with Enrichment, a program sponsored by Connecticut College Community Partnerships. Through this program I help students in third, fourth and fifth grade work on improving their math skills. Since coming to Conn, I have become very interested in the philosophy of education and the impact education has on people. I decided to volunteer to learn more and broaden my views about education.
On October 22, the Connecticut College Habitat for Humanity chapter celebrated World Habitat Day. Within the Habitat for Humanity community, this is a day to recognize the successful global network that this organization is. Like most other events that we host, it is intentionally inclusive and asks for the community’s help to spread awareness of our presence on campus and to encourage participation from our peers and friends. My own involvement in Habitat includes being a member of the executive board as the fundraising coordinator. I have found a dedicated and awesome community of students through my involvement in our Habitat chapter at Conn.
We've recently taken on a new challenge in my Color Theory course: turning the visible into the invisible.
Using what we've learned about matching colors and textures, the class is now plagued with the task of finding a way to blend ourselves into the New London cityscape. Along with the camouflage, our groups must make a video capturing our transformation and its symbolic meaning.
My group hasn't started mixing any paints yet, so the task currently seems kind of impossible. Yet, my teacher has shown us examples from previous classes in which students' camouflage is barely recognizable—reassuring knowledge.
Each group is responsible for its own understanding of the history and significance of the area they choose to blend into. In previous years some groups went about this by interviewing the owners of local businesses. Although this approach may be outside my comfort zone, it’s a nice idea. This project really pushes us to connect with New London—a connection that colleges often struggle to have with their surrounding towns or cities. On a personal level, I've found it difficult to connect to New London as much as I'd like to. There have been times where I've forgotten that leaving campus is even a real option. And so, I appreciate both the individual and schoolwide connection that this project facilitates. Though, on a small scale, it really embodies Conn's mission to create an environment conducive to creating global students.
“It’s really not as far as you’d think.” I heard this numerous times before my first year at Conn, because I had explained to people my skepticism and doubts that the city of New London would be just out of reach for exploration and escape from the campus environment. I feared that I’d be trapped on campus with a small seaside city close enough to see from the top of Tempel Green, yet too far to get to without a car. Everyone told me that though New London is no New York City, it is an absolutely fine college town. In fact, odds are that if you’re at a small school like Conn you would probably rather not be located in a city like New York. New London is quaint and charming, an old fishing port which now services a few year-round ferries to local destinations. Coming to Conn I felt inspired to explore this little New England city which, with its interesting murals, whale sculptures and pretty buildings, begged for exploration.
Last week, on a typically “warm” late March afternoon, my friend and I got on our bikes and headed into town—an easy adventure that not enough people on campus take advantage of. We decided that lunch off campus at our favorite little cafe was a must on that particular afternoon. Because neither of us have cars, bikes were our only option besides walking would be too time consuming.
I waited in line for my morning brew as Conn students gossiped about the night before and the strong aroma of coffee beans flooded the room of Washington Street Café. The downtown coffee shops of New London are a staple for a Sunday morning.
Three men sipping espresso gestured their hands from left to right as their voices boomed over the sizzling espresso machine. A fragile woman, with her white hair tied back in a floral bonnet, approached the counter behind me.
I love trains—relaxing in the passenger seat, the ever-changing scenery right outside my window, the sense of adventure as I approach a new destination. And coming home.
I was thrilled when I found out, upon my first visit to Conn, there was an Amtrak station in downtown New London. Now that I’m a junior, I’ve taken advantage of the train’s proximity countless times: escaping campus for breaks, traveling to Boston or New York, or enjoying an occasional, restful weekend at home.
Every Thursday at 2:30 p.m., I make my way to the 1973 Room in Harris Refactory. Often dubbed the “antisocial room” by Conn students, the room is anything but antisocial as droves of middle school students excitedly pour in and greet us members of ENRICH, a program that offers academic, extracurricular and leadership guidance to New London youths.
The students are part of a special leadership program at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, and despite the seniority of us Conn students, they are often the ones teaching us new ways to think and approach problem-solving. During our last session, we started off with an interview activity. My partner was an ambitious, hard-working sixth-grader who aspired to be “the best student and singer in the world.” Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself wishing I could maintain her level of confidence and energy in my own abilities.
There was a specific moment recently when it hit me: I'm about to be a senior in college.
That moment came unexpectedly, when I was accepted to live in a Winchester House with my three friends next year. (We applied through the College's common interest housing process.) Our theme is zero-waste and composting, and we have been describing our plans to anyone who will listen. The idea of being seniors was also reinforced when the rest of the friends received their housing assignments for next year. Somehow, the idea of knowing exactly where you are going to be living next year really makes the idea of senior year a reality.
In addition to knowing where my close friends are living next year, at this point I know all the other people who are going to be living in "The Village," the term that combines our non-residence hall options, like the 360 Apartments, Earth House, Abbey House, Ridge Apartments, Winchester Houses and 191 Mohegan. Since finding out who my neighbors are, we’ve already started developing the sense of community most people associate with The Village. We have had passing conversations about meals we’ll all have and gatherings that will take place; someone mentioned to me a move-in block party for all the houses to meet one another, which I thought was a great idea.
I think living in The Village will have the vibe of living off campus in our own apartments, but also have the feeling of being in a close-knit community that our College already has.
Last week, I went to a birth control panel in the Women's Center run by a representative from Planned Parenthood, a group of students, and a women's health specialist from Student Health Services. I didn't really know what the expect from the panel, but I felt a duty to go as someone who's mainly been educated about birth control by MTV.
Sure, I've had health classes before. I know what birth control is, but knowing what it is isn't enough. It's kind of an important thing — and not just because of the controlling births part. Certain types of birth control can also help to regulate hormones and menstrual cycles. It's also necessary to know which types of birth control will prevent STDs and STIs and which will not. In addition to all of this, women need to know what their options are (there are bunches) and how their bodies will be affected by each of these options.
Sure, it's a topic that creates giggling, but it's a topic that needs to be discussed by both women and men so that everyone can have control over their reproductive organs, and be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
I ended up learning a lot at the panel. We started off by making a list of all the types of birth control we'd heard of. Ok, that's a lie — we started off by eating Indian food, but list-making was the second thing we did. Then we all wrote down questions anonymously. The rest of the time was spent answering those questions and any questions that came up in the meantime. Throughout the panel, we learned about our resources for feminine health here on campus and in the New London area.
It was a very informative event, and it reflects an overarching theme on our campus: No matter how hard it is to talk about something, there will be a space for it to be talked about. With everything, but especially with issues related to health, this type of openness is paramount. I highly recommend that everyone (yes, males too) attend next year's birth control panel.