During my first semester at Conn, I underestimated how powerful culture shock can be. American culture is so different from my own. But I also thought that I was immune to culture shock. I spent the last two years of high school in Eswatini at an international boarding school where many different nationalities were represented. Based on this experience living away from home–I’m from Bangladesh–I thought moving to the United States for college wouldn’t be that big of a change. However, it was harder than I expected. It got harder when I realized that my birthday was on the second day of classes and I knew absolutely no one (read all about it: ).
I spent last semester, the first one of my senior year, gazing at Tuscan hills and sweating the day away. (The answer to every question you will ask about my abroad experience is probably yes. Yes, it was wonderful. Yes, the food was some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. Yes, it is weird being back in the United States. Glad we’ve gotten that out of the way.)
One lazy Sunday morning I woke up and pulled the metal cord attached to my blinds to let in a flood of sunshine through the giant double windows in my room in Larabee House. As I was lying in bed enjoying my free time my phone lit up. One of my friends had sent me a direct message on Instagram with a link to a funny video that showed a woman receiving a variety of popular snacks and foods for Valentine’s Day. Although everything in the video looked delicious, one item really caught my attention. It was a Mexican sweet bread called concha. I called my friend to discuss the video. I told her how badly I wanted to try concha. We realized our schedules were free for the day so we made an impulsive decision to travel to a restaurant that my friend had visited in Providence, R.I. Within 30 minutes of our phone call, we picked up another friend at her residence house and we were off to Tienda y Taqueria Puebla to grab lunch.
I used to think that sophomore year was my favorite at Conn. That was the year I discovered the Department of Film Studies and gained invaluable tools for film analysis, as well as incredible insight into the world of film in general. Then, I thought junior year was my favorite year at Conn. I continued on in the film studies major and finally got to enroll in “Screenwriting,” arguably my favorite class I’ve taken both at Conn and abroad. Now, having just passed the 100 days until graduation mark, I have become more sentimental about the film department and my current opportunities within it. I am in a senior seminar, titled “Studies in Cult and Camp,” which is the perfect culmination of my learning. The class is an opportunity to think critically with my fellow majors and one of my favorite professors, Dr. M.
As an international student, I do a lot of traveling to and from campus. I have missed flights, lost items, been stuck in snowstorms and more. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences. And I want to share some of that knowledge with you. Hence, here are some of my tried and tested travel tips:
If you were to ask me what defines my experience at Conn I would most likely turn to my Film Studies major. I cannot imagine graduating without the invaluable knowledge and experience I have gained from this department. This semester, I took “Cinematography I” where I learned about the importance of meaningful execution with a camera.
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).
My favorite part about being a barista at The Coffee Closet in Harkness House is getting to experiment with different drinks. The good, the bad, the ugly—I will make it all. Aside from making my own drinks, I also love to support the other coffee shops on campus, such as the Blue Camel located in Shain Library and Coffee Grounds located a couple of steps away from my residence hall in the Katherine Blunt House. And sometimes when I have a little extra time I make coffee in my room. Needless to say, with all of these options I stay caffeinated. I get bored if I have the same drink every day so I like to order different things from each shop depending on my mood or needs for the day. And during my four years here I definitely have found favorite drinks at each shop.
During my first year at Conn, I took “Introduction to Film” and I noticed one of the students looked a little different than everybody else. This student was an older gentleman who was not registered as a student at Conn. He was actually a professor of film at a local community college. He decided to audit our class to learn more about film and improve his teaching skills. When our professor told us that this man was auditing the class I did not know what that meant so I did what most people would do, I looked it up. The Connecticut College website defines auditors as “special students or alumni of the College who attend the meetings of a course but receive no credit for such attendance. Students who wish to attend certain courses may do so as auditors by securing the approval of the instructor concerned.” There is also a section that states that regular undergraduates, like me, are not normally allowed to audit a class.
When an admission representative from Connecticut College came to my high school, two things struck me about their talk: the College’s Honor Code and the Integrative Pathways in the Connections curriculum. I remember thinking how cool it would be to self-schedule an exam and learn about sustainability without necessarily majoring in it. When I later figured out that I no longer wanted to major in STEM, I was pleased to find out that Conn’s curriculum is flexible for everyone to find and construct their own niche. Connections is Conn’s liberal arts curriculum which aims to give its students an integrated approach to learning.
One skill that I have cultivated at Conn throughout my four years is the ability to hold several spinning plates without letting a single one of them drop. Between three classes, an honors thesis, two jobs and being in an improv group, it is safe to say that every day of the semester is filled with challenges and commitments. Each year at Conn has added another layer of responsibilities. Whether it is taking on a new leadership position, searching for an internship, developing my writing skills or honing my career path, I keep myself busy. Having a full schedule comes at the cost of letting a few of those spinning plates go, so I have to find new ways to stop those plates from crashing.
I was scrolling through Instagram to see what my friends were up to when my thumb immediately stopped on a photo of a giant coco de mer nut. Lola Pierson ’20 posted the image of the nut which was part of “Revisiting the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian,” an art exhibit she was helping to construct. I didn't know much about this museum until a couple of days later when I walked into Shain Library and saw a poster that said the exhibit was going to be open to the public in the Cummings Arts Center. I texted my friends to tell them that we HAD to go. The week that it opened, I headed over to Cummings with my friend to see the museum. The first floor of Cummings is a rotating exhibit space curated by the art and art history departments. Sometimes the featured artist is a faculty member, outside artist or a student. It may shock you, but Connecticut College is actually not the birthplace of the Nut Museum. The original museum was created by artist Elizabeth Tashjian (1912 - 2007) who transformed the first floor of her mansion in Old Lyme, Connecticut, into an amazing eclectic ode to nuts. In 2002, Professor of Art History Chris Steiner saved Tashjian’s art/collection, which was then archived at the College. Now the museum has been brought back to life at Conn.