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.
It’s 10:30 PM. I’m sitting in a dark room illuminated by a monitor displaying dozens of video clips. Two of my classmates—no, co-producers—sit beside me, scrutinizing the video feed for continuity errors. We’re all exhausted; it’s been hours since we booted up Adobe Premiere. And yet, there’s a palpable sense of excitement that rushes through our veins, pushing us forward.
In many ways, the Film Studies Department is one of Conn’s best-kept secrets. That’s not to say that people don’t know about it—I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me how they’ve always wanted to take a film class at some point in their college career. It’s just that, with so many opportunities and classes to choose from, those desires to take a film class are often abandoned in favor of classes that will fulfill a general education requirement or a degree prerequisite. And that’s a shame; being a part of the Film Studies Department is one of the most unique and memorable experiences I’ve had during my brief time at Conn thus far.
I took Film 101 during my first semester and was pleasantly surprised by the level of intellectual stimulation that it offered. Our goal was to engage with film on a deeper intellectual and critical level. In other words, I found myself taking an English literature course and “reading” complex and challenging films on a weekly basis. This came as a pleasant surprise; English was always my strongest academic subject in high school, so the course was comfortably familiar during my transition to collegiate academics. Actively searching for form, function and meaning within a two-hour work was engaging, and candid class discussions about themes, symbols, visual metaphors and mies-en-scene elements were guaranteed to occur during the following class. As the semester progressed, I knew I had found my niche.
There’s nothing quite like an impromptu photo shoot to ease your mind, I think to myself as I grab my camera bag and dash across campus.
These sorts of excursions have become relatively commonplace ever since I splurged on a new DSLR camera this past November. Photography—and art in general, I suppose—have always been cathartic outlets for me during good times and bad. This holds true in college: I savor every opportunity to take photos or doodle in the margins of my notes when inspiration strikes, even if it’s slightly inconvenient. After all, when you feel completely overwhelmed by deadlines, assignments, commitments and social drama, sometimes you just need to indulge in a beloved hobby to stay sane.
New London seems as if it might be in the middle of nowhere. It's easy to forget, however, that we’re actually quite close to major New England cities; we’re less than an hour to Providence, two hours to Boston and two and a half to New York City. All of these places make for great day trips, as well as cool opportunities for class field trips. Most recently, Mike and I headed to the United Nations with our CISLA class where we met with the delegations from France and Iran.
The delegations are inconspicuously housed across the city. As we entered what appeared to be an ordinary office building, I found myself temporarily confused — where were we heading? Forty-two floors up, I found myself at the New York home of the Iranian delegation, a simplistic office with white walls featuring photos of Ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Kahmenei, the Supreme Leaders of Iran. Ushered into the library, a representative from the delegation gave us a brief introduction to Iran’s history and current foreign policy. The gist: Iran is not perfect, but they’re working on it. “We are the most stable country in the Middle East,” the delegate told us. Our course instructors encouraged us to respectfully ask difficult questions, and we found ourselves inquiring about the right to organize within Iran, the Houthi movement in Yemen and the implications of the nuclear deal with the United States. It was interesting to hear how his responses aligned with the official view of the Iranian government. It was a contrast to the French delegation, whose delegate met with us in the “parlor,” an ornate ballroom with tapestries, hardwood floors and a chandelier. He answered with his personal perspectives about social tensions, the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the potential use of secularism as a guise for the social exclusion of Islam.
Recently, I found this photo of President Katherine Bergeron facing a crowd of students, staff, faculty and administrators sharing opinions and suggestions in March, while the campus engaged in dialogue about racism, equity and inclusion. I think this photo best captures the spirit we’re striving towards at Conn: groups coming together and discussing tough issues, reflecting respectful dialogue that can lead to great change. At what other school will the president join an informal meeting and hold such a candid discussion for hours on end?
We got to hit the casinos for class! Well, it’s not what you’re thinking — there was no gambling, drinking or seeing shows. As part of a trip for Professor Joyce Bennet's "Anthropology of Tourism" course, however, we did get to tour Mohegan Sun's various gaming rooms, paying particular attention to aspects of Native American culture and the way these details are utilized for aesthetic purposes. Mohegan Sun is located just fifteen minutes from campus. While I’d been to Mohegan Sun before to see Penn & Teller, getting to study the space with an academic lens was an entirely new and fascinating experience for me. The way the lights, sounds and “natural” looking decor lure gamers into a welcoming environment is incredible to study from a bystander perspective. Diligently taking notes and snapping photographs, I felt like a true anthropologist documenting the workings of a unique culture. I’ll always remember how much academic discovery can be found in a space I previously thought was just for fun and games.
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.
After being abroad for the semester, I was particularly excited to return and see the The Barn, the practice and performance space for MOBROC (Musicians Organized for Band Rights On Campus.)
I had been to a few MOBROC shows last year, but never in the Barn because of the space constraints. Over the summer the College renovated the building and in the three weeks I've been at on campus so far, I’ve been to two shows. Both shows were amazing and each drew significant crowds, which gave a great vibe to the overall experience. In addition to enjoying the music and energy at the concerts, it's great that there is now a venue for Connecticut College students to regularly hear live music, for free, performed by their own classmates.
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.
My old go-to study spot is back, and it’s all shiny and new.
“No Pain, No Shain,” was the slogan we heard all year during our library’s renovations, and while there were certain times when I truly, dearly missed the library, the $9 million dollar project was completed five months ahead of schedule and we now have a spiffy new study space for the last two months of school. The interior was best described to me by one student as “how the future was imagined in the '70s.” It’s true; there is an interesting balance between modern and retro design. Given the original '70s architecture of the building, I think it works. There are a number of new study spaces on all four floors. Every nook and cranny is filled with new comfy chairs and desks, a nice touch considering how packed the library becomes during midterms and finals.
What I’m most excited about is the light. There’s so much of it! Old Shain, with its tiny windows, was dark. New Shain, on the other hand, has much larger windows, making for much happier studying as the light pours in and brightens up the space.
For the past thirteen years, the female students of Connecuticut College have performed "The Vagina Monologues," an episodic play written by Eve Ensler, to raise money for sexual assault survivors. This year, however, the students and community decided to create a production that better speaks to the experiences of women on our campus. They titled the new show "As Told by Vaginas," and the show is now comprised of student-written monologues from within our community. As I sat in the audience and listened to friends and peers perform these monologues, I appreciated the candor in which these stories were told. They were true, honest and real. Some were funny, some were serious, and others empowering. Most of all, I could feel the sense of community among the female performers. In the photo above, they take a group bow together.
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.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this is the beginning of the end.
Last Friday marked 100 days until graduation for the Class of 2015. To both celebrate (and commiserate) our upcoming entrance into the "real world," the 2015 Class Council hosted the traditional 100 Days party for seniors at Bulkeley House, a bar and restaurant in downtown New London. The evening was filled with dancing, drinks and desserts, all to celebrate the impending close to our senior year.
As fun as the night was, it is slightly terrifying to think that only a few short months separate us from our degrees. At least we've still got another 98 days ... not that anyone's counting!
Last Saturday, our men’s ice hockey team donned green jerseys in support of Connecticut College's Green Dot program, turning their game against Tufts into an event aimed at raising awareness about issues of sexual assault and power-based violence. The Green Dot program was adopted at Conn in 2010 as a part of the Think S.A.F.E. Project, initially as a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. Today, the Think S.A.F.E. Project is very much a part of Conn culture. The program helps to train and educate students, faculty and staff about issues related to domestic, sexual, personal and dating violence, as well as stalking. This includes information about prevention and bystander intervention.
As I entered the ice rink that night, I saw a sea of green. Students wore their Green Dot training t-shirts, green pucks were up for raffle, green posters covered the walls, students banged together green noisemakers and the hockey team wore their special green jerseys, forgoing our usual blue and white team colors. Even our mascot showed his support by swapping out his normal shirt for the one pictured.
While we won the game that night 4-1, it wasn’t our only victory; our campus community came together in support of an important initiative.
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.
Last Thursday, I went to the best dance I have ever attended in college. There were two DJs, free cupcakes and four hours worth of dancing in the college center. The room was nearly silent. And did I mention that the music was all wireless?
This "headphone disco" required all those in attendance to wear large wireless headphones. The DJs spun different tracks, and you got to control which playlist you wanted to hear by simply pressing a button. One moment, I was singing Aretha Franklin; the next, it was the Cha Cha Slide. It was so entertaining trying to guess what everyone else was listening to based on their dance moves. The best part, however, was taking the headphones off and simply watching everyone dance to music you couldn't hear.
Sure, it was a bit ridiculous, but that's what made it fun.
One of the great things about college — besides the interesting classes, independence, etc. — is the time off. It's the epitome of the "work hard, play hard" saying. After short periods of intensive study, there are so many ways to spend our month off in winter and three months off in the summer, from internships to traveling. For me, I received the good news that I was accepted into Connecticut College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, or CISLA. The goal of this center is to internationalize one’s major. Mine being history, my research proposal involves studying art that was produced under the strict censorship policies of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, exploring topics such as propaganda as art and “cultural wastelands.” So next year, I will be studying and interning abroad in Spain. This means, however, that I have to get my Spanish in gear. My favorite part of the program is its emphasis on language learning, which inspired my recent trip to Guatemala.
Not having spoken Spanish in about a year, it's safe to say my language skills were pretty rusty. So for winter break, I headed off to Don Pedro de Alvarado language school in Antigua, Guatemala. Trying to play catch up, I studied for six hours a day with two different tutors. Contrary to what you might think, the time flew by, especially since the emphasis of my one-on-one tutoring was conversational skills. Every day, I simply spoke with my teachers about my life, their lives, and everything else in between. By the end, I can safely say they became more than just my teachers, they became my friends. They would take me around the city and show me cool art galleries, restaurants and church ruins. My afternoon teacher, Lidia, and I even took a day trip to El Lago de Atitlan. A three-hour trip on Guatemala’s famous “chicken buses,” the day was certainly an experience, from riding on a boat across a beautiful lake to having the man who was sitting next to me on the bus try to baptize me.
During my time in Antigua, I was staying with la familia Darce Pineda, my host family. I was one of five students staying with the family. The atmosphere was so warm that all of us were truly welcomed into the family — from attending their 3-year-old son Renecito’s birthday party to supporting them at their gigs (they are a family of musicians). The picture at the top left of this post is the view from their house’s terrace. In the background, el Volcan de Fuego (the volcano of fire) is erupting. Not to worry — it wasn’t a major eruption, but it is highly active and spurts smoke and ash on a daily basis. Pretty cool, huh? The second photo is of me and some fellow students at the top of Pecaya, another nearby active volcano we climbed one Saturday. While Pecaya is also not majorly active, we did get to roast marshmallows over lava. Yes, I know it sounds a little far-fetched, but really it did happen. It was also probably the best smore ever. While the lava has cooled and hardened, there are cracks that run though it, exposing hot coals exactly the same as what we would see in a dying fire, making for the perfect place to roast a marshmallow.
If I were to ever give advice to a college student, it would be to take advantage of all the time off. It gives us a freedom to study, travel and explore in a way that a full-time job does not. I got to connect my studies at school with an incredible culture opportunity. My Spanish improved greatly, I can happily say I feel more prepared for CISLA, and I got to have some cool adventures along the way.
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.
To acknowledge World Aids Day, sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt came to campus in early December. The quilt was on display for three days in Tansill Theater, our black-box performance space, and students, faculty, staff and members of the community were invited to come in and quietly reflect on those affected by HIV/AIDS.