On my very first night at Conn I found myself in The Barn, a student-run practice and performance space for musicians on campus. I’m no music major, nor do I sing well or play an instrument with any measure of talent. But one thing that I am is musically aware. That first night in The Barn initiated me to Conn’s robust music scene, which blossomed throughout my four years here. I spoke with Matt Allen ‘20, who has made a large impact in all things music, about how the music scene has changed at Conn. The following is our interview:
When I graduated from high school in New York two years ago (yikes!), it never occurred to me just how far my closest friends would be traveling for their respective undergraduate educations. Some of my friends committed to schools as far as California, while others (like myself) decided to stay a bit more local to the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
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.
In high school, I joined the cross country and track and field teams initially in an attempt to find something to do between basketball seasons. I ended up loving running so much that I quit basketball to do winter and spring track. One of my favorite parts of being on the cross country team was the summer captain’s practices that would prepare us for the season. Every Wednesday at 6 p.m. we would drive from Marblehead to Lynn, Massachusetts, to run in the Lynn Woods Races. There is nothing not to like about the Lynn Woods weekly races. They are donation-optional races organized by local runners who set up a new course each week through a large section of woods in the middle of the city. Each race gets a huge turnout of friendly runners ranging from young kids to people much older than me. After each race, people usually stick around to chat and have some of the free post-race snacks, like Gatorade, oatmeal raisin cookies and fruit. Every summer I look forward to running these races, which embody the best aspects of cross country: running through woods and community.
The bowl of assorted chocolates greets me as I walk into the second-floor office of Student Accessibility Services in Shain Library. It is a sweet, and sometimes bitter reminder of my struggles with a Non-Verbal Learning Difference. I always wanted to be a “normal” kid but as I advanced in my education and sought out accommodations, my perspective changed.
In the past two weeks, I’ve started the majority of my interactions with people by saying, “Hey, I’m doing a shoot for the Communications Office, would you mind if I took some pictures of you *insert activity*?” Each time, I hoped that what started off as a semi-awkward interaction between a group of strangers would result in pictures that showcased students using some of the most charming spaces on campus.
This winter I called my dad bragging that my normally weak immune system had beaten off whatever seasonal sickness was going around. I was convinced that I had miraculously improved my ability to fight off colds and the flu without changing anything about my lifestyle. Almost a week later I was in the Coffee Closet, doing homework with my friend Mark, when my head started feeling really groggy. So naturally, I bought three different teas and poured in significant amounts of honey and lemon to try to stop my impending sickness. The next day, I woke up with a fever, feeling like I had been smacked in the face. One of my friends took me to Student Health Services on campus. The nurses there told me I had the flu and prescribed me some medicine.
One of the most essential parts of visiting a college campus is the tour. Most parents and prospective students that visit a school might not remember what year the college was founded or how many clubs and organizations exist there, but may remember their tour guide and whether the tour was enjoyable or not. The latter is the exact reason I wanted to be a tour guide at Conn. I know the impact a tour guide can have on a student’s college decision (whether it be applying or choosing) and I hope to leave a positive mark on the families, especially the students, I encounter. Fortunately enough, I was hired as a tour guide in the spring semester my first year at Conn. It became an immensely enjoyable routine to walk to Horizon House (where the Office of Admission is housed) each week to greet families and walk them around our beautiful campus for about an hour.
Sunday I went to visit my sister at her college. When I got to her suite she calmly told me to beware of their “cockroach problem,” as I looked down at the floor and let out a slight scream, my jaw opened wide and my eyes popped. There were at least 10 cockroaches on the floor. She laughed and picked one up, it’s plasticky sheen shined in the harsh dorm overhead lights—they were all fake. I asked to take one; I couldn’t wait get back to my apartment to prank my roommates. And this I did. When I got back I placed it in my bedroom and pretended to be frightened when I “found” it. They all screamed and immediately ran away when I frantically pointed it out; it was priceless.
This semester I’ve been regularly contributing reviews of shows on campus to The College Voice, the College’s student-run newspaper. I’ve been a regular contributor to The Voicethroughout my time at Conn ever since a friend from my hometown encouraged me to join during first-year Orientation, and I’ve written a wide variety of articles. I like writing reviews because it’s a way of giving back to the arts community at Conn by highlighting performances on campus. Reviewing is challenging as it’s one of the most opinionated forms of journalism; it’s up to the reviewer to decide whether to express a favorable or unfavorable view of a performance and justify why that’s the case.
The first thing I do each morning is check my e-mails. Oddly enough, I get a feeling of anxiety combined with eagerness as my mail app refreshes with 10-20 new emails each morning from professors, school announcements, Amazon, and other retailers I don’t even remember subscribing to. This particular morning, one of my professors sent our class an email saying he was canceling class for the day, which granted me a class-free Thursday morning. My only class for that day was at 2:45 p.m., and I could not have been happier.
Recently, a senior came up to me and asked “How did you get a room here? Did you have an amazing number?” I laughed because in my first experience with the housing lottery I initially did not receive a room. In the first round of the housing lottery students receive a housing number. I was given the number 1266, incoming sophomores’ numbers normally span from 1000 - 1500 meaning I was about in the middle of the lottery. The numbers correspond to a time when the housing portal will be open for you to select a room. Higher numbers receive earlier time slots. I did not find housing that was right for me in the first round in December so I participated in the second round: the summer lottery. During the summer lottery, I was asked to indicate my top choices for where I would like to live allowing Residential Education and Living (REAL) staff to place me based on my preferences. I indicated Abbey House, which a lot of sophomores do not know is an option for housing, because my friend, a senior who was placed in Abbey House, recommended that I give it shot. Abbey House is an independent living option for upperclassmen who want to live in “The Village.” The Village consists of Abbey, Winchester Apartments, River Ridge Apartments, 191 House and Lazarus, most of which are located across the street from main campus.
I’m writing this entry from one of two perspectives that I occupy within The Coffee Closet: I am either a customer or a barista. Last year, I could be found in The Coffee Closet at least once a day, considering I practically run on coffee and lived in South Campus (where this shop is located). I was hired at Conn’s newest student-run coffee shop last spring and began working there this fall.
Perhaps the passage I felt most at home within this summer’s Connecticut College reading, Yaa Gyasi’s graceful historical fiction novel “Homegoing,” came in the very last chapter of the book, which focuses on Marcus, a graduate student working on his doctoral thesis at Stanford University. A few pages into the chapter, the narrator explains that “Originally [Marcus had] wanted to focus his work on the convict leasing system that had stolen years off of his great-grandpa H’s life”. However, the narrator goes on to explain that Marcus felt he would also have to write about the Great Migration, which his grandparents participated in when they moved from Pratt City in Birmingham, Alabama, to Harlem in New York City. Writing about the Great Migration would in turn make Marcus feel he should also write about histories that had affected his father’s and his lives, specifically the effects of heroin, crack-cocaine and the war on drugs in Harlem.
As I sat with my feet shoulder-width apart, Rabbi Susan Schein led our Hillel group in meditation. As Jews, we are in the midst the month of Elul. Elul is the month leading up to the High Holy Days, of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is also during this time that I am drawn to exploring meditations and thinking about the year ahead of me even as I reflect on the past year. At our most recent home-cooked Shabbat dinner, I took a liking to a unique part of the Shabbat service. After all, the Shabbat meal is the beginning of the day of rest and I wanted to explore my spirituality within Judaism. This meditative exercise came from Psalm 27 in which, the kingdom of G-d is proposed and challenged.
As I drive back onto campus for the first time in the new academic year, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of familiarity and of returning home. It feels strange to be back. I have been away for an entire summer but it feels like I never left at all. I park my car and pick up the key to my room this year. I live in Smith House, which is in central campus across the street from Shain Library and the College Center at Crozier-Williams (Cro).
It was yet another bright and sunny Friday afternoon at Conn, and the annual club fair was in full force on Library Green. I was running the Ski Club booth given my new position as president for this academic year. Along with the other club members, I had been recruiting new members for about an hour before I took a break to say hi to my friends at other booths. My friend and fellow blogger, Dani Maney ‘20, was running a booth at the fair for her improv group N20.
With each year that I’ve been at Conn I’ve continued to discover natural landmarks that surround our campus and make our living here even more exceptional. It wasn’t clear to me before I came to college how having a beautiful campus along with wonderful natural resources close by would be an essential part of my experience. These natural aspects of the College are perhaps not advertised widely enough. Conn is located right next to two fantastic beaches, Ocean Beach Park and Waterford Beach, and is home to the Connecticut College Arboretum, which runs throughout campus. I could go on and on listing our vast access to nature, but what I really want to touch on today is a special little island called Mamacoke.
This past month, one of the most driven members of our student body, Shameesha Pryor ’17, organized the second Black Women’s Conference hosted at Conn with the assistance of the Africana Studies Student Advisory Board. Although the first conference was held in 1969, the need for this event has not diminished, just as the injustices and double standards black women face daily certainly have not. It goes without saying that the Earth is fortunate to be graced with the melanin of black women, but this is also a group often pushed into archetypal roles not representative of their humanity and actual experiences. Instead, they are viewed as the angry, strong, or sassy black woman. This conference shattered those narrow perceptions and stereotypes of black womanhood, and provided a space for people to discuss the complexities that come with being a black woman in today's world.
The Walk-in Coffee Closet at Ruane’s Den has served as my home away from home since my very first day at Conn. Living in Harkness House, I have the luxury of being able to leave my room and be right at the entrance of the Walk-in, located on the first floor of my building. The Walk-in has been my lifeline. They serve (in my opinion) the best drinks on campus, and they have a variety of pasta dishes, paninis and snacks that are always there for me when I don't feel like walking to Harris Refectory, the largest dining hall on campus. The Walk-in is also one of my favorite places to study because the atmosphere reminds me of my favorite coffee shop at home, and they have the comfiest chairs on campus.