Terraforming nightmare

February 6, 2014 | The Experience, CJ Robinson '16

Think of your worst nightmare. Maybe it involves a dangerous, scary or intimidating situation you find yourself in.

I’m sorry for making you envision that, but I recently faced a similar fear in my new class, “The Soviet Union and its Legacies.”

In the first five minutes of class, my professor placed a blank map of the eastern hemisphere in front of us and asked us to fill in as many countries as we knew. When my face turned white, it was probably a dead giveaway that geography is my worst topic of study by far. I probably know more about quantum mechanics.

After the short quiz, in which I could only locate a few country names, my professor reassured us that we would learn this entire map in just a few weeks. Sometimes you have to start at the bottom to realize that there is somewhere to go and more to learn. Taking classes like Soviet Union excites me and gives my brain a welcome break from my usual science courses.

At the same time, I learn more about places I’ve never studied, and I learn to look beyond the cultural misconceptions about these foreign countries and their people. Pretty soon, I’ll know what the true history of the region was like, but for now, I’m comforted to know that my fears, fears of being put on-the-spot and fears of geography, aren’t always as bad as they seem in my nightmares.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Academics

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New semester, new ideas

February 4, 2014 | Sust Blog, Alexis Cheney '16

Second semester has kicked off! Gone are the multiple-hour-long meals of winter track camp. Back are rehearsals, volunteering, homework, club meetings, jobs and classes. Fortunately, I love my courses. Here are some interesting tidbits I have learned from them:

From my International Studies course, Perspectives of Modern Global Society:

Individuals raised bilingual are better at adapting to new rules than those raised mono-lingual. They are better at solving tasks that are confusing due to rules of the task changing unpredictably. “Monolinguals have much more difficulty than bilinguals at accommodating to a switch in rules.” — Jared Diamond in “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?”

From my French course, Historicizing France:

The souls of true friends are so joined into one another that one cannot find the seam that joins them in the first place. “En l’amitié de quoi je parle, elles [leurs âmes] se mêlent et confondent l'une en l'autre, d'un mélange si universel qu'elles effacent et ne retrouvent plus la couture qui les a jointes.” — Michel de Montaigne (1580)

From my voice lesson instructor:

The vibration of vocal chords in the larynx produces sound. The speed at which vocal chords vibrate determines pitch. The amount of air one breathes determines volume.— Professor Jurate Svedaite-Waller

From my Logic course:

A tenuous argument gains strength by narrowing its conclusion, the statement that evidence (premises) claim to justify. Therefore, one sure-fire way to strengthen one’s argument in any field is to narrow the scope of one’s claim. — Professor Derek Turner

As much as I love the leisurely meals of vacation, nothing quite beats the wonders revealed through classes.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Academics

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The 'basement party'

February 3, 2014 | The Experience, Calli Reynolds '17

Do you remember in high school when you were finally old enough to understand what made the "big kids" so cool? Those secret after-school festivities and late-night parties…

Every spring, the annual student-directed, all-inclusive dance show, Eclipse, takes place at Conn. It is one of the highest attended dance events, and it showcases underrepresented art forms, specifically African American and Latino art. This year the theme is “Basement Party,” drawing from high school memories of those “big kids” and the music they listened to.

After my first rehearsal, I am more excited than ever to be a part of this annual production. My group is dancing to Katy Perry's Dark Horse, 23 by Mike Will Made It and Flawless by Beyonce, among other songs. Working with such an energetic group of Camels to produce something amazing has proven to be fun, but also challenging. Sometimes an hour and a half in the studio doesn't seem long enough. Once everyone starts dancing, you can't help but want to continue. I can already imagine the greatness to come, and I am thrilled to be a part of this tradition.

The 38th annual Eclipse takes place April 26 at 7 p.m.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Clubs & Orgs  |  The Experience, Traditions

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Creative writing in the community

January 30, 2014 | Sust Blog, Alexis Cheney '16

With my love of creative writing and my interest in serving the community, I have begun volunteering at Sound Community Services, a non-profit organization that helps individuals with behavioral needs gain independence. It’s a place where I continue to learn about New London and individuals with behavioral health needs.

The College’s OVCS (the Office of Volunteering and Community Services) helps match students with volunteer opportunities and arranges for vans to transport volunteers to and from their sites. For the first time last semester, the van dropped me off at Sound Community Services. Cynthia, the program director, greeted me warmly. Having told her I intend to major in English, she suggested that I help out with Friday morning creative writing workshops.

I had no idea that, only one week later, I would lead the workshop single-handedly. Fortunately, I had arrived prepared, and I handed out a poem, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, to the five participants. We read the poem aloud, then we each wrote poems describing where we come from, both literally and figuratively. These poems conveniently helped the group get to know one another. As much as I love learning about the backgrounds of the patients, I also enjoy hearing their fiction pieces.

On Halloween, I copied an exercise that Professor Boyd (an author and professor of English at Conn) uses in her creative writing courses. I prompted my students to invent the age, profession, and gender of an imaginary person, to write these traits on the page, and to share the page with a partner who would then write a story about the fictive person.

The stories that came out of the exercise were out of this world. Outer space, God, free weights, after-work rituals and, yes, a few ghosts all came into the mix.

The workshop took another festive turn with the approach of Thanksgiving. I prompted participants to make a list of what they were thankful for. Friday mornings at Sound Community Services made the top of my list.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Career & Internships  |  The Experience, New London

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Camaraderie from across the street

January 28, 2014 | The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

I’ll forever remember March 16, 2013: It was the first time I pole-vaulted competitively. It was about 30 degrees, and snow started falling halfway through the meet. When I cleared the first height, I was surprised to see that among those cheering for me were two pole-vaulters from the Coast Guard Academy.

Our team practices at the Coast Guard Academy’s indoor track. The Academy is just across the street from campus, only a few hundred feet away. Sharing their track gives us a sense of camaraderie, even though we’re also hometown rivals.

Those of us who practice at the Academy get to know a side of the Cadets that many Conn students don’t see. At track meets, our Coast Guard rivals are also our supporters and friends with whom we chat with while warming up. As a first-time pole vaulter (and as last semester’s only female vaulter from Conn,) I especially appreciate the new friendships I have found with our neighbors across the street.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Athletics  |  The Experience, New London

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Organic!

January 23, 2014 | The Experience, Laura Cianciolo '16

Every Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fiddlehead’s, New London’s organic food co-op, sets up a booth in Cro, our student center. They sell all sorts of fresh and organic fruits, vegetables and sweets. (I’m known to buy their raspberries, apples and mangos.) Having Fiddleheads and other groups visit campus is perfect for stocking up on healthy food before finals or late-night study sessions.


Tags:   |  The Experience, New London  |  The Experience, On Campus

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Shabbat dinners

January 21, 2014 | Sust Blog, Alexis Cheney '16

Often on Fridays, my friend Joanna will invite me to a Shabbat dinner, hosted by Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus.

Although I am not Jewish, these dinners have become one of my favorite weekly traditions. A group of about 15 people (often including “Coasties,” our affectionate name for students from the Coast Guard Academy,) gather around tables pushed together in the Jane Addams dining hall.

One of Hillel’s leaders guides us in song and, once we’ve finished singing, we pass around challah and share snippets of our week with one another.

I am grateful to Hillel for providing me a calming space to reflect on my week, catch up with friends, and meet new ones. With the new Hillel House opening this month, I’m excited to be part of more Jewish cultural events.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Clubs & Orgs  |  The Experience, Dining  |  The Experience, On Campus

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Bed vs. bed

January 17, 2014 | The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

While I’m here at school, guests occasionally stay in my room at home. Almost everyone tells me how great the room is and how much they enjoy the bed. When I’m home during break, however, it doesn’t really feel like my room anymore. It’s not that I don’t feel at comfortable there, but I long for my dorm room.

People forget that going to college nowadays involves bringing more than just clothes. We bring posters, knickknacks and pictures to make our dorm become our home.

To me, my little dorm room at Conn is my bedroom, study, kitchen and living room. My bed is covered with pillows and blankets I’ve had since childhood. (My purple striped duvet cover is hiding a Little Mermaid comforter.) It is strange, yet oddly comforting, that overtime, my dorm room has begun to feel a little more like home than where I grew up.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, On Campus

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Run and fun: track camp

January 15, 2014 | Sust Blog, Alexis Cheney '16

I returned to Conn last Sunday and hit the ground running. Literally.

I dropped my bags in my room and ran to track practice for a timed 5k. Athletes return to campus a few weeks before classes start for training camps. As much as I have loved getting back to my running routine, I have also enjoyed the non-running aspects of being back on campus.

After our first practice, my friends and I ate a leisurely dinner while filling each other in on our winter breaks. We ended the evening in true slumber party fashion — sprawled out on couches and a jumbo beanbag chair while laughing and watching TV reruns. But unlike at regular sleepovers, we hit the sack early in preparation for our morning wake-up call.

At 7:30 a.m. the next day, the entire track team gathered in the Athletic Center. Instead of our usual morning jog and weightlifting, we played water polo. When not playing, we cheered loudly from the sidelines. The matches got pretty intense (by our standards at least).

Evenings are also active. The past week, we’ve played ping-pong and air hockey at game night, gone bowling, acted out charades, and crossed over an 8-foot vertical string in trust-building exercises. My friends and I also spent an evening making Mediterranean soup and fudge brownies.

For our first meet of the season, we headed off campus. On our way to Bowdoin College, we stopped in Freeport, Maine, to eat lunch and, as our coach called it, “shop ‘till we drop”. We ate crab cakes and lobster sandwiches at Linda Bean’s Tavern and then meandered through L.L. Bean’s factory store. After a practice at Bowdoin, we settled into the quaint Inn at Brunswick Station. I enjoyed meeting some of the sprinters over a dinner of chicken marsala and baked ziti.

Pretty soon, everyone will be back on campus, classes will start, and college will be back to normal. It’s been awesome to have a few weeks just to focus on running and building relationships with my teammates.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Athletics  |  The Experience, On Campus

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Advocating for a different way of learning

January 13, 2014 | Guest Blogger

Occasionally, The ConnCollegeLive Experience will invite guests to blog about their experiences as a Camel. The following is the first in this guest blogger series.

I’ve been a tutor at Conn for the past three years. I work with students in the Science Leaders program in one-on-one and group sessions in chemistry, organic chemistry and biology. The tutoring program was started as a way to ensure our Science Leaders excel, but after last summer, I saw it also as an opportunity to experiment with new teaching techniques.

Traditionally, our group tutoring sessions work this way: Students arrive with their problem sets complete and ask the tutor any questions they have. Faculty and students approve of this type of setup because students can try the problems on their own, and anyone who needs extra help attends the tutoring sessions.

Unfortunately, the system never seemed to work out this way. Many times, students come to sessions without the problem set complete, either because they couldn’t find the time, or worse, they became irreversibly stuck at some point in the assignment.

This summer, while I was applying to medical schools, I found that most incorporate problem-based learning (PBL) into their curriculum. I sat in on a PBL class for biochemistry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and it was incredible. Students worked together on complex problems in teams of five, always making sure everyone was on pace and fully understood the question at hand. The strangest thing was, they seemed to actually enjoy it.

So I gathered up our Science Leaders in organic chemistry, and I tried it. This year, rather than stringing together a number of chapter-related problems each week, we started designing problems that pull from multiple chapters and allow the students to make connections between what they are currently working on and older material.

These new sessions foster collaboration between students and teach them that even in organic chemistry, each one of them can benefit from working together.

Yumi Kovic ’14 is a biochemistry major, a Science Leader and the winner of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in science, mathematics or engineering.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Academics  |  The Experience, On Campus  |  The Experience, Research

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