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:
The comfort to strike up conversation with anyone.
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.)
Friday night Shabbat dinners (complete with challah). I’m not even Jewish, but everyone goes!
The openness of my friends.
The new Science Center in New London Hall provides me an inspiring place to think.
The arboretum bog loop … perfect for running
The view of the Thames River when working out in the fitness center
Facilitating Friday morning creative writing workshops at Sound Community Services, a nearby non-profit dedicated to educating and assisting individuals with behavioral health needs
The hot cocoa at Blue Camel Café when I’m in need of a boost during late nights in the library
The Amtrak train that goes from downtown New London to Boston, bringing me home. (And also to NYC and DC!)
So I admit: I like knowing what my next step of life will hold. In high school, I definitely enjoyed the challenge of science and solving problems, so I decided to pursue the topic in college. Now that I’m beginning to set my sights on graduation (which, fortunately, is still a few years away,) I’ve been thinking about what I really want to continue studying. I enjoy learning and graduate school is an option, but I don’t know what type. Law school, medical school, or just graduate programs in biochemistry/chemistry are all on my list.
Just recently, I spoke with my minor advisor and she gave me some pretty good advice, suggesting I sample all of my interests. Often, topics on paper can seem really fun or cool to study, but might not pan out.
Is there a point to medical school if you absolutely hate the smell of hospitals? Do you want to go to law school if you think lawyers are really liars? Do you think you can even do four more years of school?
The answer to that last question is yes! I just can’t wait to figure out how much I can learn. Don’t stop opening new doors.
I'm a planner. I schedule everything I can think of and I try to plan so far ahead that, besides an occasional monthly update, I only change my calendar for last minute events.
What am I majoring in, you ask? Well, I plan to major in environmental studies with a focus on water (because I would like to be a marine biologist) and minor in Italian Studies. Still, I realize it can change at a moment’s notice. Most first year students like myself aren’t ready to make these sorts of decisions just yet.
People often ask me how I have it all planned out so soon. For me, it’s feels right to plan my academic schedule and declare as a first year, even though the declaration isn’t required until second semester of sophomore year. I love knowing where I would like my path to lead and how to reach my goals. It makes the obstacles along the way that much more manageable.
Last year I lived in a dorm with my four best friends, one of whom was my roommate at the time.
This year I live in a single, with one of those best friends also in the same dorm. Luckily, she lives right down the hall.
The automatic comfort and support you feel when one of your friends lives nearby is almost indescribable. I definitely would not have been able to get through this semester without my friend living down the hall. Our rooms are always open to each other -- I use her fridge and she uses my microwave. It’s easy and relaxing. I know that at any time, I can walk down the hall into her room, with no already-made plans, and we can just sit around and gossip, watch TV, or eat.
This is one of the best things about college: being surrounded by people your own age 24 hours a day. Sometimes those people can become lifelong friends in the process.
I’ve read the Hunger Games series religiously and when my friends and I heard that Conn was sponsoring a trip to see the latest movie, Catching Fire, I do remember squealing loudly. We had already planned to buy tickets to the premiere, but going with Conn made it easier.
Seeing the movie through the College’s trip was really helpful. For starters, it made our tickets cheaper and guaranteed us entry. It is usually my luck that premiere tickets are sold out when I go to buy them… even in advance. Then, transportation was included to and from the theater, making our movie viewing experience tress free. I really didn't think I could be much happier about this endeavor until we showed up at Cro to board the bus for the theater.
As I got on the bus, I discovered several other friends were also signed up to see this movie, in addition to the friends I had purchased tickets with. For movies, a big group is always more fun. In my mind, this outing was going to be rated 7 out of 10 in terms of fun anyway, but between the Conn transportation, cheap tickets and additional friends, the rating scale just broke. It was incredibly fun!
So, it’s that time of year again when the snow is beautiful, the cold nibbles at your ears and final exams nibble at your conscience. There are very few things I fear as a college student and finals are definitely... all of them. As a second year student, however, I’ve gone through this a few times and I can definitely say it’s not as bad as it seems. For example, there are many stress-relieving activities that happen during finals week, a six-day period in which we students get to self-schedule our final exams.
To start the week of finals, we have the traditional Moonlight Breakfast. This is an event where Student Life staff come into Harris dining hall and serve the students a great breakfast and cupcake spread late at night, like you were at a diner. This year, the event feautured the entertainment of a wandering magician who left me spellbound and kept me distracted from my exam prep. I got to play charades with my friends for interesting prizes (you try performing “dog and pony show” as your charades... it’s quite hard). Throughout the week you will often see people studying but you will also see them making origami in the library, making use of coloring books, de-stressing in Cro and swarming the common rooms for s'mores.
Overall, yes, finals can be very stressful, but friends, activities and time management with self-scheduled exams can definitely make it a manageable experience.
The Wednesday before final exams is usually pretty normal, but on Thursday, it all changes. Classes have ended and the library goes into 24-hour mode.
The dorms are empty; everyone retreats to their study space of choice. The library, the campus coffee shops (all five,) the student center and the common rooms are suddenly full of intently-studying students surrounded by stacks of books and papers.
Finals are a time when normal sleep, study, and eating patterns are thrown out the window. Everyone begins living off coffee, tea, soda, and their favorite snacking food (mine is almonds and cheese-its).
During next few days, your study schedule starts revolving around the times you decide to take your exams. The nice thing about Conn is that, as part of the Honor Code, we’re trusted to take our exams whenever we want during the exam week. Basically, there are three blocks of time each day you get can chose from from: 9am, 2pm, or 7pm.
Finally, even when you’re spending late nights in the library, there are moments of relaxation always available all around campus. The librarians bring out coloring books and board games, and staff members are known for walking the aisles giving out juice boxes and energy bars.
There’s also a moonlight breakfast, taking place from 10-12 p.m. the evening before exams. There’s nothing like a late-night snack of breakfast food and cupcakes. This year, a magician performed tricks, roaming through crowds of students.
About a week ago, I got to see an incredible performance. I knew the topic revolved around mental health, but I really didn’t know what I’d see that evening.
What I saw was extraordinarily powerful. Charlotte Weber '16, the writer, director and lone performer, put on a show that made me think about mental health in an entirely new light. Instead of simply telling, Weber brought to life the effects of mental health issues for her audience. She portrayed her personal connection the topic and connected with each audience member.
Finally, she asked for help. Charlotte asked for all those in the audience to look around them and realize that mental health issues are not closeted in one corner of society; they are all around us. Even on campus, there are many safe spaces and professionals available to help students.
From Charlotte’s performance, I realized I could do something. Charlotte took theater, a topic she loves, and used it to educate the world about a serious issue. I left an inspired activist.
Thanksgiving break is probably one of the most anticipated breaks of the academic year. While everyone's break is different, I'm sure we can all agree that it is still too short.
Before my train even pulled in to the station on my ride home, I had received more than 5 different text messages from friends asking me when I'd be arriving and when I’d be around for a meal or to catch up. These texts served as a pleasant reminder that I was "officially" home... and that my presence was missed. After squeezing in as many catch-up sessions as possible, Turkey-Day awaited. There is no better smell than that of dinner in the early afternoon.
On Thanksgiving, a blissful sleep ensues after dinner. No one in my house wakes up early to go to a hectic shopping center, instead we all sleep for as long as we wish. The sleep is fueled by satisfaction, drawn equally from the previous meal and from the friends I've reconnected with. Uninterrupted and stress-free is the best way to sleep.