The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16


Alexis Cheney ‘16 hails from the Boston area. She transferred to Connecticut College in the fall of 2013, eager to join a welcoming community whose members engage in thoughtful conversation in and out of the classroom. Before transferring to Conn, she took a gap year during which she interned at the Improper Bostonian lifestyle magazine, worked for two lawyers, traveled for three months through China’s outskirts and then southern France to work as a nanny, took a microeconomics course and worked at a bake shop. Excited to re-enter the academic world, she intends to major in English and minor in French. Outside of class, Alexis runs on the cross-country team, co-leads Le Club Francais and figure skates with the on-campus club.


Enjoying time with the ladies of ’59

June 18, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

At the beginning of June, I was one of 40 students who returned to campus for Reunion 2014. As student hosts, Sam Santiago ’17 and I had the pleasure of working with 15 ladies from the Class of 1959 who returned for their 55th reunion. (For historical reference, it would be another 10 years after these ladies graduated before Connecticut College would accept men.) Sam and I also served as hosts to a 100-year-old member of the Class of 1935 who returned to celebrate.

At Reunion, most returning alumni stay in the residence halls. For the weekend, the Class of 1959 called Wright dorm home. With cookies, the 1959 yearbook, posters of celebrities of the era and decorations, Sam and I transformed Wright’s common room into a “hospitality suite” fit for reminiscing. Our alumni called us “house mothers,” a dated reference to the young, female professors who used to live in the residence halls and tend to the students.

Highlights of the weekend included a “blue-book quiz” that tested the ladies’ memories of their college years and a class dinner at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum that featured a vocal performance by the talented Nancy Savin ’59.

Most of all, I simply enjoyed talking with the alumni, learning about their lives during and after college. An alumna named Gail described how each student used to take a required final examination in their area of study. If they failed it, even if they had a 4.0 GPA, they could not graduate! Gail also described how the number of people in a particular class used to diminish greatly, as women left to marry men from the Coast Guard Academy, Yale, Wesleyan and other schools.

Members of the Class of 1959 have a deep love for their alma mater. Despite the College’s changes and renovations over the years, the 55th reunion class kept saying that what never changed about Connecticut College is the truly wonderful people.

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

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Singing the stress away

May 19, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

The year has now ended, but those last few weeks are arguably the most busy moments of the entire school year. With finals looming, deadlines for next year’s leadership positions arriving and beloved friends preparing for graduating, the last weeks of the year beg great balancing acts. Though I am no acrobat, I have found a way to keep my sanity: by singing.

Before the semester ended, I reflected on how important singing has been for me during this entire year:

I sing on Mondays and Thursdays in Chamber Choir. We begin our rehearsals with massage trains (very relaxing) and warm-ups. Then we sing. Whether classical or modern, the music relaxes and rejuvenates me. For example, when the choir sings “Ubi Caritas,” a beautiful Gregorian chant, in Harkness Chapel, I can’t help but feel at peace. The livelier song “Wanting Memories,” also helps me let loose. Accompanied by African drums, we move to the beat while singing. Last Sunday, we showcased our talents at our Spring Choral Concert, “Vive l’Amour”. Before we performed, Professor Moy, our choir director, compared singing in a concert to taking the SATs: at a certain point you have to stop practicing, trust yourself and go for it. We went for it and the audience loved it.

On Tuesdays, I enjoyed singing individually. This year, I took voice lessons with the amazing Jurate Svedaite-Waller. Voice lessons are free at Conn for students. I am happy I’ve taken this opportunity because Jurate has revolutionized the way I think about singing. Just like running, singing is a sport. One must exercise muscles throughout the body to produce a beautiful sound. Similarly to running, singing helps me relax and enjoy the moment.

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Breakfast in Knowlton

May 14, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

The heavier my workload, the earlier I wake up. In the midst of finals, I wake up around 6:30 a.m. Others are up early in the dorm, too, some exersizing to work out videos, others already studying or meeting with classmates. I find myself often studying in the same, cozy corner of Knowlton, at the end of the corridor near Knowlton Dining Hall. Because the dining hall only opens for lunch, I can count on the hallway to be quiet.

Last time I studied there, a wonderful member of the kitchen staff noticed me, still in my PJs, sprawled out on the ground with my books. When she approached me, I expected her to ask me to move since I might be obstructing the hallway. To my pleasant surprise, however, she offered me tea and coffee. She even opened the dining hall to me and invited me to eat some breakfast. When I entered the dining hall, a wave of calmness rushed over me. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the normally bustling room. I sat at the Russian language table even though I speak French just because I could. After eating, I slowly sipped my coffee while reading “The Turn of the Screw” until the time came to head, with renewed calmness, to class. It was a gentle, caring staff member from the dining hall who made all the difference that day.

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Color Run!

May 9, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

Floralia, our spring festival, kicked off a day earlier than usual with a 5K color run last Friday afternoon. My friends and I threw on our white T-shirts and met at the back of Cro, the student center. We joined a giddy, lively crowd as music pumped-up the runners. Clouds of colored chalk powder already floated through the air as we dipped our hands into buckets and threw globs of it at each other.

Moments later, the race began and we were off on a course that took us all around campus, even to places I hadn’t known existed. (As we looped around the Lyman Allyn Museum, on the south end of our campus, I realized there was a stone mushroom garden. Who knew?!) As we ran past different intersections on campus, members of campus organizations, including Student Health Services, the Think S.A.F.E. Project, Student Activities Council and others, threw colored powder at us. We blindly ran through the clouds of color, which added to the thrill of the run.

My friends and I were having so much fun that, before the run had even ended, we talked about our plans to do it again. We had to pause our conversation, however, when we encountered obstacles such as low-crawl nets, hurdles, and a stone wall. Though the quirky, unexpected obstacles bore no resemblance of my usual 5Ks from the cross-country season, the hills certainly did. My friends and I agreed that the color run would beat a cross-country race any day. There’s just no competing with color.

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A day at the United Nations

April 18, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

Last Wednesday, I woke up at 5:20 a.m., destined for the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Giddy with fatigue and excitement, a group of us from Knowlton House met in the foyer and jaunted over to our bus, complementing one another on our business-casual attire on the way.

I sat with my friend Leela. Both French fanatics, we chatted in French as we ate a breakfast of bagels, muffins and croissants. A snooze and a few traffic jams later, we arrived at the United Nations.

We first entered the building for the United States mission to the U.N. There, we met with Alexis Wichowski, a Connecticut College alumna from the Class of 1993. She transitioned from a Chinese major in college to a graduate program in information technology to a job at the U.N. related to IT diplomacy. She also works as a professor at Columbia University. In addition to describing her career path, she quizzed us on the U.N. How many member states compose the U.N.? 193! When was the U.N. founded? 1945! She insisted we understand the U.N. as a collection of entities that include its six deliberative councils and non-governmental organizations among others.

Isaac, an intern at the U.S. mission to the U.N., left us with a final note: “Don’t start at the bottom, start at the top.”

Some people took Isaac’s advice when attacking the buffet at the Delegates Dining Hall, starting with dessert and ending with lunch. No matter our dining approach, we ate more like kings and queens than like delegates.

Fortunately, a grand tour of the U.N. helped us work off the decadence. A Swedish tour guide led our group, which pleased Julia, a Swedish Conn student studying human rights and the media. Our guide showed us the rooms where the General Assembly and other branches of the U.N. convene. In fact, we witnessed the Economic and Social Council in action!

We also had time to engage in conversation with delegates while visiting the Iranian Mission to the U.N. After an informational video and some Iranian snacks, we showered the Iranian delegates with questions: How does Iran portray women in the media? What is Iran’s stance regarding the war in Syria? What would Iran prioritize in a security council meeting? Do women participate as actively in society as men? In response to our questions, one of the delegates urged us again and again to visit Iran and to discover the answers to our questions first-hand and individually.

After collecting food-for-thought at the Iranian mission, we headed out for a delicious French meal and met up with some NYC-based Conn alums.

After a day like Wednesday, Conn’s commitment to an international education certainly takes on a magic meaning for me.

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Turning 21

April 7, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

Birthdays at college are fun, but it’s not often you get to celebrate a milestone like turning 21. The day started out like any other Wednesday: breakfast with my roommate, three classes, track practice. Following a long day, I had a birthday dinner with my friends in Harris Dining Hall, complete with birthday cards and gifts. We chatted and laughed for over an hour. When I came back to my room, I found a gift and a beautiful and thoughtful card from my roommate on the desk.

After I did a couple hours of homework, I joined my friend Melody at the Cro Bar, our on-campus pub. Entering the Cro Bar for the first time, I proudly ordered a glass of wine and then settled into a booth with Melody. Little did I know, Wednesday nights are trivia nights. In between our conversation, Melody and I guessed the answers to such questions as: “Which Beatle was barefoot on the cover of Abbey Road?” (Paul McCartney) and “What are the three longest rivers in the world?” (The Nile, the Amazon and the Yangtze.) Luckily for us, we were joined by two other trivia-skilled friends and we had fun guessing answers and singing along to such throwbacks as Kelly Clarkson’s “Break Away.” Since I had a 7:30 a.m. track workout in the morning, I did not stay too late. I had a terrific birthday all the same, and I can’t wait for the next trivia night now!

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Hosting a German friend

April 4, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

I met Jana in the south of France. We were both working as Au Pairs for a summer. Over spring break, she flew from her home in Germany to visit me in the States. We spent two weeks museum-, art gallery-, concert hall-, and theater-hopping in Boston and New York City and then relaxed in Maine. Instead of returning to Germany at the end of spring break, Jana accompanied me to Conn for a week. Given the excitement of our first two weeks, I was initially concerned that Jana would find the week at Conn boring, especially in the moments when I was doing homework or at track practice.

To my relief, Conn entertained Jana fabulously. She attended classes and practiced piano and sang in the music practice rooms. She attended a lecture on East Germany, studied Mozart pieces from Greer Music Library and watched French films in the Language Lab. Jana even took the Camel Van—our shuttle van—into New London and went grocery shopping, then cooked ratatouille in the Unity House kitchen. She took photographs in the arboretum, attended a concert in Cro, befriended a German student, helped another student studying German, and more. Here is her take on the week:

It’s been almost a week since I arrived to Connecticut College and I enjoy being here a lot. After some sightseeing in New York City and Boston, I was quite excited to get to know the “real life” of American students. On the first day, I sat in on international relations and French classes. The classes were interesting, the professors enthusiastic and competent, and the students very ambitious and attentive. Soon enough, I observed differences between studying at Conn and what I know about studying at German university. At Conn, students and professors establish close relationships and meet for lunch whereas, in Germany, students attend lectures with over a hundred students and the professors often don’t even know their students’ names. Another difference between German university and Conn is that students stay on campus almost exclusively. They go to classes, work in the library, have dinner at the dining hall and sleep in the dorms. In my hometown, students live in apartments in the city, take the subway or bike to attend class. Lastly, I was impressed by the huge variety of clubs one can join and the extra activities offered here! All in all I am glad to get to know this campus. Maybe I’ll come back one day for a semester abroad! ;)

I sure hope she comes back to Conn, since hosting her spurred me to enjoy Conn in new ways. In the meantime, I look forward to next spring when I study abroad in France and can visit her in Germany!

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A rendez-vous with New London High School students

March 17, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

Ok, I’ll admit it...I’m a francophile. A “frenchie”. A French fanatic.

As such, I organize French Club events on campus. Andrea, a Conn student who volunteers in French classes at New London High School, asked me if French Club would be interested in hosting a class of New London students studying French.

"Absolutely!" So, on Wednesday, Madame arrived with a busload of her French students. Madame had already decorated the room to celebrate Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and served us jambalaya and a galette des rois (pre-Lenten Kings’ cake). While feasting, we watched the film “Cyrano” on a large screen. We were more interested in chatting with each other, however, than watching the film.

After exchanging the polite ca va? (how are you?), we launched into discussions about snow days, robotics, and the humorous connection between analyzing literature and trapping butterflies. I look forward to continuing the conversation at our next rendez-vous, whether at Conn or at the high school.

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Time traveling in the Archives

March 10, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

At the beginning of our French class, Professeur Austin excitedly rushed into the room and told us to follow him to the library.

This semester, in my “Historicizing France” class, we are learning about l’age des lumières, the Enlightenment. We have read the works of great philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and we’ve studied the encyclopedia that first published the ideas of Rousseau and others. Even though 18th century France was as equally knowledgeable as England, they did not develop to the same economic level. French thinkers were too wrapped up in the encyclopedia to actually apply those ideas for economic gain.

Looking at online versions of Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, I could only imagine the effect the text had in France. I did not have to imagine for long.

As our professor guided us to Shain Library, we climbed the stairs and entered the Archives and Special Collections. We came face to face with original the original French encyclopedias.

Every student in the class was handed a volume of the encyclopedia and we flipped through its pages. Geography, mathematical proofs, Greek mythology, drawings of surgical practices and carpentry jumped out at us. After looking at the encyclopedia myself, I now can’t blame France for being content to merely gaze upon the text. The encyclopedia itself is that enlightening. Even 250 years later.

A photo from the CC archives

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Attending the Vagina Monologues

February 26, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

On Friday night (and then twice on Saturday), more than 100 students performed Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”. Many had never set foot on stage before. Their black and red-accented outfits ranged from sexy to sporty, and all participants added to the spirit of female empowerment. Monologues answered such bold questions as, “What would your vagina wear?” (a sundress) and “What would you call your vagina?” (“The Camel Van” got laughs.) I applaud those who had the courage to be on stage, speaking honestly and openly. As Sara Bareilles’ fitting song, “Brave,” bumped, performers bowed, and we gave them a standing ovation.

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Good morning

February 20, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

I wake up at 7 a.m., slide into my slippers, and pull up the window shade. Yellow light streams into our room.

My roommate has already walked to breakfast, leaving me to listen to NPR on my clock-radio and pack up my book bag.

I walk the minute to breakfast in JA dining hall. The sun rises above Cummings Arts Center and casts light across Tempel Green, now a wintery plain of fluorescent white. In the distance, a church steeple pricks the skyline. The Thames River hangs behind the steeple as the backdrop of a set.

The scene and the sun energize me. On my way into the dining hall, I pick up the New York Times, then plop down at our usual table. I take a sip of my coffee; my roommate’s friend joins us. She reads her German textbook and digs into a stack of blueberry pancakes. On the way out, I fill up my thermos with apple cinnamon tea.

It is 8 o’clock when I enter New London Hall. I climb up to the third story and choose a table facing the glass wall. Light pours in and I look out. I still see the Thames, still the steeple. People begin to walk around on the sidewalks below. I sit high above, enjoying the silence and the stillness and a day started off just right.

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Cooking at Conn

February 11, 2014 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

One of my best friends, Caroline, visited me at Conn over the weekend. Although she and I love quiet chats over mocha at our favorite coffee shops, we also love adventures like kayaking to islands off Maine’s coast and square dancing in Charlestown.

Therefore, it came as no surprise that we spent our time together at Conn doing something adventurous. What did we do? We cooked.

After Caroline arrived in New London on the Amtrak, we headed to Fiddleheads, a natural foods co-op downtown. We looked up vegetarian recipes on our phones and came across an easy one for black bean and sweet potato enchiladas.

Fiddleheads had the ingredients available, even in small portions. That meant that instead of buying an entire shaker of chili powder and bottle of canola oil (which my meal-plan-self would not finish), we could take just as much as the recipe called for.

Around dinnertime, Caroline and I set out to cook our enchiladas in Lazarus Dorm’s kitchen. Although most students at Conn live in the dorms and eat all their meals in dining halls, some apartments are available. Other buildings, like Lazarus, have dorm rooms but shared kitchens that all students, like myself, can use.

We walked straight into a cooking fiesta with the others who were there. As we grated potatoes and chopped onions, a German student made soup; a student from Texas cooked eggs, bacon and biscuits; and two friends fried rice.

Though our dinner took the longest to prepare, it was worth it. The enchiladas and the weekend turned out great.

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New semester, new ideas

February 4, 2014 | The Experience, 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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Creative writing in the community

January 30, 2014 | The Experience, 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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Shabbat dinners

January 21, 2014 | The Experience, 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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Run and fun: track camp

January 15, 2014 | The Experience, 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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Thanks, Conn

December 30, 2013 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

After Thanksgiving, and now with the New Year right around the corner, I found myself thinking about the semester ending. I am particularly thankful for a wonderful first semester at Conn. Here are ten reasons why:

  1. The comfort to strike up conversation with anyone.
  2. The willingness of professors to meet with me, even if I’m not taking one of their classes. (One professor even gave me her personal phone number to help answer my questions.)
  3. Friday night Shabbat dinners (complete with challah). I’m not even Jewish, but everyone goes!
  4. The openness of my friends.
  5. The new Science Center in New London Hall provides me an inspiring place to think.
  6. The arboretum bog loop … perfect for running
  7. The view of the Thames River when working out in the fitness center
  8. Facilitating Friday morning creative writing workshops at Sound Community Services, a nearby non-profit dedicated to educating and assisting individuals with behavioral health needs
  9. The hot cocoa at Blue Camel Café when I’m in need of a boost during late nights in the library
  10. The Amtrak train that goes from downtown New London to Boston, bringing me home. (And also to NYC and DC!)

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Library liberty, the choice (of floor) is yours

November 30, 2013 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

How to describe the third floor of Shain Library in a word or two? “Creepily quiet.”

Each of the four floors in Shain Library have their own personality, I’ve come to learn. The basement contains the Blue Camel Café, serving such wonderful pick-me-ups as red velvet cupcakes and chai lattes. People gather in the booths surrounding the Blue Camel to study in groups. That is, to read — then reread — a few lines of an assignment while catching up with friends.

The main floor is where that confident junior goes to show his friends — and whomever else — that he’s got everything under control. In fact, he’s so in control, he can afford to look up from his studies at the passer-bys printing their assignments and to wave to his many acquaintances. Near him, study groups gather to prepare for biology or chemistry tests and classmates discuss their essays when using the desktop computer stations. 

In spite of all the action on the first floor, the second floor beats them. It’s home to wooden tables tucked into bookshelf alcoves, cozy window-side cubicles, movie-viewing rooms, and a spacious Apple computer lab. All perks of the library are available with the freedom of speech. The freedom, that is, to brainstorm verbally or just plain laugh. It’s ok to make a little bit of noise on the second floor.

The third floor is where laughter goes to die, along with other noise. Brace yourself for evil glares if the music from your headphones plays too loudly or if, god forbid, you tread too heavily towards the water fountain. The silence does, however, create a haven for those needing to write that seven-page French cinema paper or read an entire book...by tomorrow. Noise-makers should just leave. Or, better, switch floors.

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Get real: courageous conversation

November 18, 2013 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

Last Sunday night, I left my appointment in the Writing Center at 10:30 p.m. with hours worth of revisions left to make on an English paper due the next day. Nevertheless, I was thrilled. Inspired by Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess,” I just had a conversation with the student writing tutor about the similarities between art and people and the value in treating art like a human beings. Fortunately, conversation in non-academic settings (such as Knowlton Dining Hall) is equally as fresh, real and juicy. In non-foodie terms, the conversation is equally as courageous.

“Courage” stems from the word coeur meaning heart in French. In her TED talk, sociologist Brené Brown defines courage as the act of telling one’s story with one’s whole heart. My friends at Conn embody courage. They make themselves vulnerable by spilling their stories, even the shameful chapters. By sharing our whole selves with each other — the good and bad alike — we connect authentically.

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A haunting in Connecticut

November 15, 2013 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

a haunted house in knowlton

In elementary and middle school, Halloween meant dressing up and trick-or-treating with friends. In high school, it meant passing out candy to our neighbors’ children. At Conn—at least, in Knowlton House—Halloween means an evening with friends.

On Halloween, Knowlton raises money by transforming into a haunted house. This year, a concoction of black trash bags, caution tape, skulls, red paint, sheets, prosthetic legs, mattresses, black lights, neon paint and Jell-o did the trick. That, along with a dedicated team of Knowlton Knights.

Mayra and Kevin, our fearless house leaders, summoned us for costumes and makeup long before tours began. While other students hopped into their cute bunny and cat costumes, dabbing a few whiskers on their cheeks, we swathed our bodies with “bloodied” sheets among other garments and slathered red and black paint on our faces. Having nannied in France over the summer, I took on the persona of a mad (folle) French maid.

My role consisted of lying across the table in the conference room while Alicia—playing my revenge-ravenous roommate—“devoured my guts.” (That’s where the Jell-o came in.) When Mayra led the tour groups into our room, I pretended to shriek in pain, thus urging the group towards their next fearful destination. With the last group member out of sight, Alicia and resumed our chit-chat only to repeat our act at the sound of Mayra’s horn.

I doubt I will ever again participate in a fundraising campaign as creative or fun ever again. Then again, there’s always next year.

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

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Runners up: the joys of Conn Cross Country

November 6, 2013 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

This past summer, I ran while in France, nannying for a family. I’d dash out before the seven-year-old woke up, taking narrow dirt roads to the 17th-century castle at the top of the village, passing the lines of people waiting outside boulangeries for their pain chocolat, glimpsing vineyards, farms and tree nurseries. Training wasn’t always so picturesque: The family’s guests would gawk as I did grapevines and exercises in the yard, the boy would jump on my back as I did push-ups and the family’s bear-dogs would paw at my legs as I switched to sit-ups. In spite of my spotty summer training and complete inexperience running cross-country, I decided to give it a go at Conn.

10 reasons why I’m thrilled I did:

  1. Coach Bishop

    He’s constantly cracking jokes, calling out “hit it” when we begin speed workouts, all the while creating a positive and productive athletic experience.

  2. Pasta dinner at Coach Bishop’s mom’s house

    Coach Bishop’s mother kindly opens up her home to us the evening of our first race of the season. Seniors take charge of a pasta and salad dinner and she provides the scrumptious desserts.

  3. Beautiful running routes

    Sunlit foliage on forest trails, prayer flags on Mamacoke Island, sunsets over the beach at Bluff Point, glistening creeks on the Airline Trails...

  4. Voyages to meets

    Meets occur in Maine, Indiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut. We occasionally stay in hotels but consistently enjoy academic, social, and scenic bus rides and a change of scenery.

  5. Our home course

    No course beats our own. The course at Harkness State Park follows the ocean, surrounds gardens and passes a mansion.

  6. Friends

    During the first week of practice, while out on our long runs, conversation topics run wild. Everything is discussed: the joys of traveling and making international friends, parenting concerns, psychological disorders, favorite recipes, racism in the U.S. and occasionally some taboo thoughts. These girls keep it real.

  7. Pool workouts

    We duel water polo matches and compete in swim relays. The winning team receives prizes (team gear!)

  8. Improved focus

    The mental outlet at the end (and sometimes beginnings) of each day rejuvenates me and helps me return to my studies with renewed interest and energy. Not to mention that exercising helps those time-management skills...

  9. Morning workouts

    There’s nothing like catching the sun rise while running, lifting weights and eating a hearty breakfast… all before 8 a.m.

  10. Meets

    Sometimes we leave campus before 8 a.m. for meets, but the thrill of race day is worth it. I recite our cheer to motivate myself while racing: “C-A-M-E-L. We’re the camels, run like hell. Ahh CC!”

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

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Social constructs

October 29, 2013 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

What role do designers play in social movements? I dashed from my cross-country meet to hear Lee Davis ’88 give an answer.

Davis majored in studio art and his passion for design has led him around the world and through various careers. He studied alongside design gurus in Switzerland and Japan through a Thomas J. Watson fellowship, worked as a graphic designer for CARE (a humanitarian organization which fights global poverty), co-founded NESsT (a business which stabilizes and grows social enterprises), and traveled to Eastern Europe to conduct projects related to NESsT.

Davis now works as a Fellow at Yale School of Management and as a scholar-in-residence in the Center for Social Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). At MICA, his students design for social causes such as the urban Real Food Farm of Baltimore, which improves residents’ access to healthy food and boosts Baltimore’s local economy.

He flashed us photos of their flashy work: a decorated vegetable truck that brings produce to the people, gorgeous graphic logos, top-notch t-shirts.

Evidently, design brings social causes into view; design sets them ablaze. If I learned anything else from Davis’s presentation, it’s the value of a versatile liberal arts degree to give its holders freedom to enter (and — as Davis has done — combine!) various fields. Before we left, he fed us more explicit design-related wisdom: “Increase the size of the Connecticut College diploma.” The diploma design must, after all, reflect the quality of the degree.

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Tags:  |  The Experience, Academics  |  The Experience, Traditions

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10 perks of joining the Knowlton knighthood

October 14, 2013 | The Experience, Alexis Cheney '16

Though I transferred to Conn a mere month and a half ago, it already feels as comfortable as home thanks to the royal wonders of Knowlton House.

1. Community
Running upstairs and knocking on Joanna’s door for that much-needed dose of chitchat and chick-flicks (most recently, "27 Dresses"), gabbing with Peruvian Gabby (in between brushing teeth) at 7 a.m. about our intended morning workouts, and cooking crepes in Knowlton’s pantry to prep for French Club with club co-head and floor neighbor, Emily.

2. Lunch
Personal faves include the baked mac n’ cheese and pork dumplings. Not to mention those chocolate chip toffee Heath bars... Mmm...

3. Language Lunch Tables
Gotta love discussing French popular films and joking about the stereotypes of northern Frenchmen with Professeur Chalmin. En francais of course!

4. Roommate Amanda (Jixuan)
A sister to come home to, though an ocean divides our hometowns.

5. Location: South Campus, on Temple Green
Classes a minute’s walk across the Green, delicious soup and artisanal bread in Freeman dining hall a few doors down, the start line of women’s cross country practice at the tree out the back door.

6. Architecture
A grand staircase fit for a cliché ballroom entrance, crowning bedroom ceilings, rich hardwood floors, a fireplace. Not surprisingly, Knowlton began life as the campus hotel for the (once all-female) students’ male suitors.

7. Traditions

Mustache Dinner
Perhaps honoring Knowlton’s historically male guests, Knowlton Knights attend a dinner sporting mustaches and fancy attire.

Halloween
Across the street from Gallows Lane, Knowlton conjures up its spirits to throw down a killer haunted house. For those easily spooked, pumpkin carving’s also a golden option as part of our Fright Night series.

8. The Piano
A trusty friend when the time comes to plunk out that music theory homework. A godsend when the lunch hour pianist (a talented and surprisingly consistent Conn student) lays his fingers on its ivory keys.

9. Juan
Juan saves the day with his cheery “good morning,” spotless cleaning, and spare set of room keys if one helplessly finds oneself locked out of one's room. Not that I have ever been locked out ;) ;)

10. Wit
Who won the Camelympics chant? KNOWL-TON! Who won? KNOWL-TON!  Frankly, who else?

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Tags:  |  The Experience, First Year Experience  |  The Experience, On Campus  |  The Experience, Traditions

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