Connecticut College students put a lot of work into maintaining and improving our on-campus community and culture. But what about our local community? The Office of Community Partnerships connects students to volunteer opportunities with local businesses in New London and the surrounding area. I visited the office looking for more ways to get involved in the local community. I explained my interest in history and was introduced to the New London County Historical Society. The historical society headquarters is in downtown New London in a colonial-era house once owned by Nathaniel Shaw Perkins. It houses documents and records from all of New London County. Working there is a great way to learn more about the city and its history. New London was a large whaling port for many years and many captains made their money here.
The end of the semester is always a busy time for me, and, as I’ve previously written, one of the highlights of this period are the various music department end-of-semester concerts and recitals that I participate in. No matter how intense it gets, the end of semester orchestra concert is still a great highlight and culmination of my hard work. This past semester’s performance was particularly special for me as it presented an impromptu opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the country—three members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Band’s trombone section led by Sean Nelson, who is the music department’s trombone professor, in addition to Connecticut College’s own Gary Buttery on tuba, who served as the Band’s principal tubist from 1976-1998. The group constituted our orchestra’s low brass section for our performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony.
I went to a small, private high school in East Providence, Rhode Island, where I had countless tools and people who helped me and guided me through the college process. I am forever grateful for their support. Despite this, I could not seem to figure out what I wanted and what I didn’t want in a college. I had toured multiple schools and thought they were all fine, but I hadn’t had that “falling in love” feeling every high school senior talks about when they find their new home.
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum, located just past the southern tip of Conn’s campus is a quiet little gem. At Conn, the kinds of external cultural experiences the students here cultivate are on a smaller, more intimate scale. This has always been special to me and The Lyman Allyn is a perfect example of this. The museum was donated to the City of New London by Harriet Allyn, the daughter of Captain Lyman Allyn. The family were long-time New London residents, and Harriet donated the museum in her father’s memory. Everything about this story is New London-esque, and it speaks well to our region of Connecticut: a richly historical area with prominent nods to the sea.
I have a tendency to overpack. The first time I took the Amtrak back home from Conn I lugged two giant bags and my backpack onto the train and squeezed them into the luggage space. I am now a self-proclaimed Amtrak expert, zipping back and forth from the New London to Boston with reasonably sized bags that fit easily aboard the train.
This past summer, I had an amazing opportunity to write program notes for the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra (ECSO), a professional symphony orchestra that performs at the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London. Program notes are typically blurbs in the programs classical music concerts that tell the audience the history of the music they’re about to hear, and what they should look out for when listening to it. Through my work with the symphony, I’ve been able to make important professional connections and learn more about the world of arts administration, all while writing about and listening to some great music.
On Wednesdays and Fridays I volunteer as a mentor at Jennings Elementary School in New London with Enrichment, a program sponsored by Connecticut College Community Partnerships. Through this program I help students in third, fourth and fifth grade work on improving their math skills. Since coming to Conn, I have become very interested in the philosophy of education and the impact education has on people. I decided to volunteer to learn more and broaden my views about education.
On October 22, the Connecticut College Habitat for Humanity chapter celebrated World Habitat Day. Within the Habitat for Humanity community, this is a day to recognize the successful global network that this organization is. Like most other events that we host, it is intentionally inclusive and asks for the community’s help to spread awareness of our presence on campus and to encourage participation from our peers and friends. My own involvement in Habitat includes being a member of the executive board as the fundraising coordinator. I have found a dedicated and awesome community of students through my involvement in our Habitat chapter at Conn.
We've recently taken on a new challenge in my Color Theory course: turning the visible into the invisible.
Using what we've learned about matching colors and textures, the class is now plagued with the task of finding a way to blend ourselves into the New London cityscape. Along with the camouflage, our groups must make a video capturing our transformation and its symbolic meaning.
My group hasn't started mixing any paints yet, so the task currently seems kind of impossible. Yet, my teacher has shown us examples from previous classes in which students' camouflage is barely recognizable—reassuring knowledge.
Each group is responsible for its own understanding of the history and significance of the area they choose to blend into. In previous years some groups went about this by interviewing the owners of local businesses. Although this approach may be outside my comfort zone, it’s a nice idea. This project really pushes us to connect with New London—a connection that colleges often struggle to have with their surrounding towns or cities. On a personal level, I've found it difficult to connect to New London as much as I'd like to. There have been times where I've forgotten that leaving campus is even a real option. And so, I appreciate both the individual and schoolwide connection that this project facilitates. Though, on a small scale, it really embodies Conn's mission to create an environment conducive to creating global students.
“It’s really not as far as you’d think.” I heard this numerous times before my first year at Conn, because I had explained to people my skepticism and doubts that the city of New London would be just out of reach for exploration and escape from the campus environment. I feared that I’d be trapped on campus with a small seaside city close enough to see from the top of Tempel Green, yet too far to get to without a car. Everyone told me that though New London is no New York City, it is an absolutely fine college town. In fact, odds are that if you’re at a small school like Conn you would probably rather not be located in a city like New York. New London is quaint and charming, an old fishing port which now services a few year-round ferries to local destinations. Coming to Conn I felt inspired to explore this little New England city which, with its interesting murals, whale sculptures and pretty buildings, begged for exploration.
Last week, on a typically “warm” late March afternoon, my friend and I got on our bikes and headed into town—an easy adventure that not enough people on campus take advantage of. We decided that lunch off campus at our favorite little cafe was a must on that particular afternoon. Because neither of us have cars, bikes were our only option besides walking would be too time consuming.
I waited in line for my morning brew as Conn students gossiped about the night before and the strong aroma of coffee beans flooded the room of Washington Street Café. The downtown coffee shops of New London are a staple for a Sunday morning.
Three men sipping espresso gestured their hands from left to right as their voices boomed over the sizzling espresso machine. A fragile woman, with her white hair tied back in a floral bonnet, approached the counter behind me.
I love trains—relaxing in the passenger seat, the ever-changing scenery right outside my window, the sense of adventure as I approach a new destination. And coming home.
I was thrilled when I found out, upon my first visit to Conn, there was an Amtrak station in downtown New London. Now that I’m a junior, I’ve taken advantage of the train’s proximity countless times: escaping campus for breaks, traveling to Boston or New York, or enjoying an occasional, restful weekend at home.
Every Thursday at 2:30 p.m., I make my way to the 1973 Room in Harris Refactory. Often dubbed the “antisocial room” by Conn students, the room is anything but antisocial as droves of middle school students excitedly pour in and greet us members of ENRICH, a program that offers academic, extracurricular and leadership guidance to New London youths.
The students are part of a special leadership program at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, and despite the seniority of us Conn students, they are often the ones teaching us new ways to think and approach problem-solving. During our last session, we started off with an interview activity. My partner was an ambitious, hard-working sixth-grader who aspired to be “the best student and singer in the world.” Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself wishing I could maintain her level of confidence and energy in my own abilities.
There was a specific moment recently when it hit me: I'm about to be a senior in college.
That moment came unexpectedly, when I was accepted to live in a Winchester House with my three friends next year. (We applied through the College's common interest housing process.) Our theme is zero-waste and composting, and we have been describing our plans to anyone who will listen. The idea of being seniors was also reinforced when the rest of the friends received their housing assignments for next year. Somehow, the idea of knowing exactly where you are going to be living next year really makes the idea of senior year a reality.
In addition to knowing where my close friends are living next year, at this point I know all the other people who are going to be living in "The Village," the term that combines our non-residence hall options, like the 360 Apartments, Earth House, Abbey House, Ridge Apartments, Winchester Houses and 191 Mohegan. Since finding out who my neighbors are, we’ve already started developing the sense of community most people associate with The Village. We have had passing conversations about meals we’ll all have and gatherings that will take place; someone mentioned to me a move-in block party for all the houses to meet one another, which I thought was a great idea.
I think living in The Village will have the vibe of living off campus in our own apartments, but also have the feeling of being in a close-knit community that our College already has.
Last week, I went to a birth contol panel in the Women's Center run by a representative from Planned Parenthood, a group of students and a women's health specialist from Student Health Services. I didn't really know what the expect from the panel, but I felt a duty to go as someone who's mainly been educated about birth control by MTV.
Sure, I've had health classes before. I know what birth control is, but knowing what it is isn't enough. It's kind of an important thing — and not just because of the controlling births part. Certain types of birth control can also help to regulate hormones and menstrual cycles. It's also necessary to know which types of birth control will prevent STDs and STIs and which will not. In addition to all of this, women need to know what their options are (there are bunches) and how their bodies will be affected by each of these options.
Sure, it's a topic that creates giggling, but it's a topic that needs to be discussed by both women and men so that everyone can have control over their reproductive organs, and be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
I ended up learning a lot at the panel. We started off by making a list of all the types of birth control we'd heard of. Ok, that's a lie — we started off by eating Indian food, but list-making was the second thing we did. Then we all wrote down questions anonymously. The rest of the time was spent answering those questions and any questions that came up in the meantime. Throughout the panel, we learned about our resources for feminine health here on campus and in the New London area.
It was a very informative event, and it reflects an overarching theme on our campus: No matter how hard it is to talk about something, there will be a space for it to be talked about. With everything, but especially with issues related to health, this type of openness is paramount. I highly recommend that everyone (yes, males too) attend next year's birth control panel.
As a certificate student in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I get to do a lot of amazing things. Last year, I worked for a conservancy group, organized field work days, met farmers and activists in the community, and made some truly great friends in the center. This past weekend, I was reminded just how lucky I am to be part of the center when I got to participate in the Feeding the Future Conference, which took place on campus. The two-day event included speakers like Dan Barber, executive chef at Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns; Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist and author of "Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and the Way We Live;" and Malik Yakini, founder and the executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. In addition to these speakers that are doing great things in the world of food, I also got to host and introduce Zuk at the conference, a daunting but exciting task. I have to admit I was pretty nervous but it went well and was a hugely rewarding experience for me.
The networking opportunities for me and my classmates were plentiful, an experience I couldn't ha
ve had at any other time or place. I had a great conversation with a journalist who was writing about the conference for CC:Magazine, and I connected with the president of Food Tank who asked some of my friends and I to write about how we are going to live in a zero-waste house next year on campus.
I had a fascinating conversation with David Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill and founding partner of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. He's also a Connecticut College alumnus and a trustee of the College. My friend and I asked him about the food that does not make it to restaurants and is wasted in the delivery process, since his New York City restaurant recently had an event focused on just that topic. He showed us a picture of a monkfish, which has very delicious meat in its head but is not usually shipped to restaurants because the small quantity doesn't justify the cost.
The attendees also got to experience a lot of local foods and sushi that help support the ideas of feeding the future. I think the highlight of that was eating cricket sushi from Miya’s Sushi in New Haven. (Yes, that's cricket sushi in the photo.)
As college students, we are encouraged to make connections and network, but it's not always easy or accessible. Events like these are different, bringing together many people who are an integral part of the college experience and help prepare us for life after graduation.
It’s true what they say — "there’s a first time for everything." I had never been to a concert at Conn, but that was about to change. My friend Squadra had invited me to come see the X-Ambassadors perform. This student-organized show was unique: It took place off campus, in downtown New London.
On the night of the concert, I faced the typical problem most people have: What am I supposed to wear? While on my way to the bathroom to wash some dishes, I ran into another friend of mine, Christine. She looked all dolled up and so I asked her if she could help me coordinate an outfit. She enthusiastically agreed. After the advice she had given me, we finally came up with a fun outfit appropriate for an alternative rock band concert.
I met up with Squadra, who of course looked amazing as well. We knew a fun night ahead was waiting for us.
One of the amazing things about student-run events is that they think of everything, including affordable transportation. When I bought my ticket for the concert, I also bought a bus ticket so I wouldn’t have to pay for a taxi. As Sqaudra and I waited in front of Cro, our student center, a huge yellow school bus pulled up in front. I laughed because I don’t remember how long it had been since I rode a yellow school bus. Even though I’m a college student now, I have to remind myself it wasn’t that long ago I was just a kid. Conn students filled the bus and the atmosphere exuded positivity and carefreeness. On the way to the concert, we collectively started singing Miley Cyrus’ "Party in the USA." Giggles, laughter, smiles and, of course, a bit of embarrassment appeared for all.
The bus quickly brought us to New London, a five-minute drive away. The concert took place at the Hygenic Art Park, an outdoor garden-like setting where the trees were lit up, as well as the night sky. I'm always amazed by how nocturnal college students are. There was a stage where the band performed and the students clustered in front, listening and dancing to the live music. It was like a Conn reunion where everyone, despite already knowing each other, greeted the people they knew (or hadn’t seen in a few hours) with open arms.
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.
I recently celebrated my 19th birthday. Well, actually, it was my 4¾ birthday. I was born on Leap Day.
This was my first birthday away from my parents. I remember, before college started, wondering what I’d do on my birthday away from home. I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t have anyone to spend it with. However, it turned out to be one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. I’ve had good birthdays and bad birthdays, teary-eyed birthdays and sick birthdays. (I wasn’t sick for this birthday and no one cried, so it was already shaping up to be one of the better ones.)
I planned everything out in the week preceding the big day with my friend Emma and with the assistance of some Conn students and alums. People threw out all sorts of ideas, from toy stores in Mystic to nearby beaches in Rhode Island. Emma and I wound up using a Zipcar to go to Mistick Village, which is a quaint collection of shops and eateries about 10 minutes from campus. Then we explored historic downtown Mystic and visited a few stores, eventually stopping to eat at a little Thai restaurant.
Before returning, we went to Big Y, our local grocery store, so that I could pick up some snacks to offer to friends back on campus, in the hopes that food offerings would force quality birthday bonding. We drove back with a car full of groceries, dorm decorations and fudge. I invited some people over to my room and we spent the night eating, listening to music, and talking about women’s rights. Some of my friends even surprised me by coming with incredibly thoughtful gifts.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that this tops the birthday when my parents surprised me with a Rugrats tent, but it’s definitely up there. I’d have to say that this was the best birthday I’ve had since, at least, middle school.
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.