February 27, 2015
I think we all remember a time (or maybe a few) in middle school or high school when we raised our hand to express some ingenious idea we had, only to be immediately shut down by the teacher. Pre-Continental Drift theory — one can only imagine how many students in geography courses said, "Hey, those continents look like they fit together." Then the teacher would say, "No, stop trying."
Well, college is pretty different. Unless you're in math, your ideas aren't usually flat out wrong. I know, it's shocking. You can express thoughts and no one will call you out for being ridiculous (in theory, at least).
I was in my American Studies class the other day, a philosophy class, discussing the poetry of Hughes, Whitman and Ginsberg. For context, my professor likes to break everything down very carefully into minute detail. You can't get away with spewing out thoughts without being asked to define the words and concepts that you used in your explanation. We were talking about how "hopeful" some of these poems were, and I decided to take a page from my professor and try to define exactly what "hope" is.
I raised my hand and disagreed, saying that these poems were actually not hopeful. I believe that the word hope has the connotation of relying on external forces to assist in a situation. My professor disagreed, but he didn't say I was wrong. Then, as the class went on, more and more of my classmates started agreeing with my point. Soon, this definition of "hope" became part of the main discussion. I find the interpretation of language really fascinating, so this conversation was right up my alley.
It's so nice being able to discuss things with professors and know that neither party has to be right or wrong. You both get to bring your background knowledge and prior experiences to the table to try to figure out something together. Of course, it was also a welcome experience to have my peers chime in, and it's also relieving not to have as strict a lesson plan as in high school. This flexibility lets our conversations wander and develop naturally.
In college, professors aren't "teaching to test," so I've noticed our classes can slow down and inspect concepts without the fear of missing too much material. This aspect of college is something I really enjoy.
February 25, 2015
Following the weekend of Jan. 31, I can proudly say that I have now actually been to Boston and walked around it.
Technically, I have been to Boston many times, but those were all for Connecticut College track meets, and I don’t count seeing the Tufts or MIT indoor tracks as really "seeing Boston." Last weekend, I didn’t have a meet, so I jumped in a car and went to Boston, both for my own enjoyment and also to see some Conn alumni friends who had gathered there. Our campus is about two hours from Boston, making it an easy trip. (There's also the Amtrak line that stops in New London and connects directly to Boston as an option for students.) The weekend was fun, filled with pre-Super Bowl predictions, Indian food, Cards Against Humanity and a memorable picture made better by the Conn-In-A-Box party favors that the Office of Alumni Relations sends out to Camels who host parties.
The highlight for me might have been seeing the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Boston Public Gardens, which had been one of my dreams since childhood. Now I can only say that I can’t wait to go back!
February 24, 2015
As a transfer student getting used to Connecticut College, "New" is a big part of my vocabulary: a new school, new schedule, new professors and new jobs. I am fortunate enough not only to work as a blogger for The Experience, but also as an office assistant for the College's Academic Resource Center (ARC).
I absolutely love working at the ARC because of all the new faces I get to meet. Students stop by for tutoring sessions and to become tutors themselves. They stop by to meet with academic counselors about time management skills, to get presentation advice, to polish their interviewing skills and to get papers edited. All a student has to do is ask for some help or advice and, with that, a tsunami of support will eagerly rush in.
As a student staff member of the ARC, I reap the benefits of working around the informative professional staff. For me, like many college students, procrastination haunts my good intentions of studying. Sometimes when I sit down to study, something averts my focus from homework, like Netflix, a nap or sounds from down the hallway.
While in the office recently, I asked Chris Colbath, a learning specialist and coordinator in the Center, for a simple tip to improve my study habits. His No. 1 piece of advice was to learn how to prioritize. He said that you should do your assignments based on which deadline comes first. Most importantly, he advised me to do homework outside of my dorm room. There are so many distractions (like sleeping and computers) in the our rooms that removing ourselves to the library or other spaces on campus will help remove temptations.
Taking the advice to heart, I decided to implement all of his suggestions. I have been prioritizing my work better and doing much more of my homework in library spaces. Not surprisingly, the amount of work I get done is astronomical in comparison.
February 23, 2015
If you're like me, you have a solid background in cooking, baking and such. If you're like my friend Emma, you might claim you do.
Freeman dining hall, one of my favorite places to eat, has weekly cook-your-own-food events. Tuesday nights are stir fry nights and Thursday nights are burrito nights. As of last week, Mondays are now grilled cheese nights! Obviously I attended the opening night because ... grilled cheese (YUM).
Emma, who's a vegan, made a grilled cheese using rye bread, a tomato slice, and vegan cheese — which, we learned, does not melt; it just burns. I, on the other hand, made a professional grilled cheese with bread and a nice helping of cheese and apple slices. Not to judge, but mine may have come out a teensy bit better.
Regardless of results, we both enjoyed experimenting with our sandwiches, and look forward to many more Mondays with this new tradition. It was really nice to be able to cook, even if all I made was a grilled cheese. There are kitchens scattered around campus, in a few residence halls and in apartment residences usually occupied by older students, but my opportunities to cook are infrequent (and I don't usually have many of the ingredients needed). Being able to prepare some food for myself, even if it's just a little bit, in Freeman is a nice change of pace.
Plus, if you bring a friend, there's a chance you can make fun of them for burning their sandwich, which is always a good time!
February 20, 2015
The academic structure was one of the reasons I was excited to start my spring semester at Conn, following my semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh. The British education system is very different from what we're used to at Connecticut College, and the idea of coming back to a school where I actually understood and liked the education system was relieving.
At Edinburgh, I was taking three classes, and they only met twice a week for 50 minutes. The courses were 100-person lectures where there was no discussion or student input. Outside of class, we did have tutorial — a small discussion of 12 students — but instead of being led by a professor, it was led by a graduate student. None of my professors knew my name or who I was during the entire semester.
In total, my educational commitments were three 50-minute sessions, three times a week, with no homework. None.
My grades were determined by an essay and a final exam, and that was it. One might think that this sounds awesome (and it was for a while), but the lack of structure and the stress of having only two factors determining a grade started to take its toll by the end of the semester. At Edinburgh, the courses were not within a liberal arts system, and students are generally expected to take courses within their major (or degree, as they call it). Students might take an occasional course or two outside of their degree but, unlike at Conn, interdisciplinary is not a regular concept.
All in all, this experience did give me interesting insight into how different countries' education systems work, but it also gave me an appreciation for my liberal arts education that exceeded the appreciation I already had.
Just so no one is confused: I loved my study abroad experience and would not have changed it for the world, but in going abroad, I was able to better understand how I prefer Conn's education system to that at the University of Edinburgh’s. As someone who is combining science and English in her education, I've come to realize I would not have been able recreate the connections between my studies like I get to do back in New London.
February 20, 2015
After 18 years, one sort of knows what to expect from Valentine's Day. You've got your icky couples spreading PDA like a contagious disease; single people who are proud of the fact that they are strong independent "plates of hot rice that don't need no side dish;" single people who are going to spend the day trying to forget that they're single; and some stragglers who sit somewhere in between one of these groups.
I guess this year I could be considered one of those stragglers. I'm not really sure where I fall, but I'm fully aware of the fact that whatever group I'm in, I have a different perspective than I've ever had before. I've spent my fair share of Valentine's Days in each of the aforementioned categories, but this year I'm just really happy to be able to spread some philanthropy.
About a month ago, I bought boxes and boxes full of Valentines in preparation for the day. You know, the kind of cards you used to give out to your classmates in second grade. Well, my Valentines are pirate-themed and spy-themed. Each kind comes with temporary tattoos and riddles to be decoded respectively, and I am SO EXCITED.
Being in college means that it will be so easy to force my affectionate crafts on friends. In fact, not only do I plan to give my Valentines out to friends, but I'd like to tape them to everyone's doors in my dorm, or at least on my floor. I'd also really like to give them out to random people, if I can work up the courage. I'm very in favor of the idea of random acts of kindness, and recently I've been trying to do more of that, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone to do so. College offers so many opportunities for this, and Valentine's Day gives me the perfect excuse.
So, no, I may not fit into any of the Valentine's Day archetypes exactly, but I'm super stoked for it. The couples will be off doing couple-y things; the strong independent men and women will be off declaring this independence; the lonely singles will be saying depressing things and counting all the cats they have; and the people in complicated situations will be confused. I will be happy in the spot I am in, whatever that spot may be, while handing out awesome cards. And, hopefully, I can make some other people happy in the process.
I'm also excited for our Valentine's dance and the potential for lots of free pink-colored baked goods — but that's beside the point.
February 19, 2015
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!
February 18, 2015
As a transfer student, I am still discovering the nooks and crannies of Connecticut College.
A friend from my European Politics class introduced me to the small and homey Coffee Grounds café. When I first entered the space, the smell of fresh brewing coffee greeted me at the door. I looked around, soaking in the cozy ambiance. The window frames are painted red, making the room pop with color. The blackboard menus with chalk handwriting add a personal touch. Instead of unflattering fluorescent lights overhead, the fixtures are a warm yellow. Eclectic, calm music plays in the background.
While digesting the scene, my friend signaled me to sit on a couch before beginning our homework. After a while, she broke the silence, saying, "I don’t understand why this politics homework talks so much about economics!" I looked up and realized that another person beside me had begun to smile. I turned to face her and an intellectual conversation blossomed. After our basic introductions of names and majors, I found out the reason she had smiled was because she studies exactly the topics that my friend had lamented. She explained the interconnection of how political parties affect what economic polices are passed. Left-wing parties tend to pass policies that increase government spending and taxes, whereas more right-wing parties tend to pass polices that decrease government spending and taxes. Her economic explanations clarified the connection between politics and economics.
It was serendipitous to find myself in an unexpected conversation with a stranger, discussing the world's complexities and learning all the while.
February 17, 2015
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.
February 16, 2015
You guys, my binder has become kind of an issue.
It's not ugly or anything; it's a plain blue one, with the syllabi and notes and doodles from all my classes clasped securely within it. It's a regular binder. But every time I open it, I want to shuck off this winter coat, put on some short shorts, and just talk to people from all over the world. The shorts just come with the territory. My binder is giving me serious wanderlust.
To be fair, it's not the binder's fault; it's the syllabi and the classes I'm taking. There's a prominent global theme amongst my studies this semester, not a surprise to those who know I'll be studying abroad next semester.
Still, the theme of courses was partially happenstance. Let me share some examples: Yesterday, I watched "Lagaan" for my Bollywood and Globalization class, after which I read about Muslim women writers in the early 20th century for my Global Islamic Studies class, after which I chose my presentation topic for my Theorizing Race and Ethnicity class, which has a specific focus on Latin America. In four hours, I covered South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
Not to mention that one of my other classes, Global Queer Histories, is metaphorically travelling through various regions of the globe to analyze queer history, traditions and prejudice. We started with the Middle East and we're moving on to Native American two-spirit traditions next week.
Oh, and I must mention my CISLA class, a required course for scholars like myself who were admitted into the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, one of the College's five centers for interdisciplinary scholarship. That course is giving me an entirely new experience: a rotation of different experiences every two weeks, from departments like geology, art and classics.
All these travel thoughts permeate my mind and I end up daydreaming half the time, reading intensely the other half. Is it a wonder, then, that my binder stresses me out? It's got half the world in it, and I couldn't be happier.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go finish a non-fiction piece about Puerto Rico for my narrative non-fiction class. Wanderlust has seeped into everything.