Connections matter. The line has retained relevance my entire life. From the day I entered the workforce at age 17, my mom emphasized just how far a connection can take you in life. Little did I know I would end up at a college where connections are integrated into the fabric of the school’s community. In both the curriculum and Conn’s career office, faculty and staff highlight the value of a connection: academic connections, such as cross-listed classes or concepts; employment connections, such as your mom’s co-worker’s cousin. Connections can be big or small but how you utilize them determines their importance.
As the old adage goes, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’ve always remembered this hackneyed phrase because one of my main goals in life is to have a career that allows me to do what I love so that I never get tired of it. Although I plan to go into performing arts, I have always been passionate about all things related to wellness and wellbeing. Having a position in the Office of Wellbeing and Health Promotion on campus allows me to work in a place with a mission to promote something I’m passionate about, both in my own and others’ lives. It’s work that has never actually felt like work.
Last spring I began my search for a summer internship. I was studying in Vienna for the semester, which meant I was unable to meet potential employers for in-person interviews. I applied to several historic preservation organizations, which is something I am interested in pursuing after I graduate, and was offered an internship with Connecticut Landmarks, an organization based in Hartford, Connecticut, that runs several historic properties around the state.
Recently, a dream of mine came true. Acclaimed author and journalist at The New Yorker David Grann (‘89) joined us in our "Narrative Nonfiction" class. Being able to speak to a writer for The New Yorker was a cool opportunity, but what made the day special was being able to sit with an author and inquire about their entire writing process. When reading, I often compile a long list of questions in my head asking why the author decided to make the decisions they made. The list usually stays unanswered. However, that particular day Grann answered certain questions I’d been eager to know, such as: what does the organizational process look like when writing about a subject laden with so much historical background? My classmates and I also asked him to talk about how he became a writer and how one knows what path to follow in such broad industry. Blanche Boyd, the writer in residence at Conn and the professor of my writing class, assigned The Lost City of Z by David Grann for us to read over spring break. Though not typically the kind of thing I read—a story about adventure, disease and death in the Amazon—I enjoyed this fast-paced tale. It made me want to ask questions.
I got bit by a travel bug during my semester abroad in Haifa, Israel. It happened during the flight home to New York as I looked through the pages of my passport. These pages felt empty and I wondered when I would be able to stamp it once more – perhaps numerous times.
I’ve written before about my plans to study away from Conn. Next semester I will be studying at the IES Abroad Vienna Music Program in Austria, but right now, as I enter into the final days of the fall semester, I’m focused on completing my obligations at Conn and making plans for the future. One major part of my pre-study away planning process has been the Office of Career and Professional Development’s Junior Year Action Plan. The plan helps me prepare for the College’s funded internship program next summer.
Guest Blogger Maggie Newell ’19 of Lexington, Kentucky, is a film studies and environmental studies double major. She is the senior fellow for waste reduction in the Office of Sustainability, a representative for the Class of 2019 on Honor Council, and the treasurer of the women’s rugby team.
I love properly sorted waste. My passion for recycling began at a very early age. I was in the recycling club in elementary school, and in middle school I made a fairly embarrassing video with my mom to enter into the Green Team Kentucky Video Festival*...we did not win. At Conn, I have gone on to bigger and better things. I am the Senior Fellow for Waste Reduction in the Office of Sustainability. The Waste Reduction Team works with the campus community to expand and develop programs that will help the College reach its goal to reduce waste generation on campus by 5% by 2018. Needless to say, I know what goes in which bin. As someone “in the know” who cares about recycling I try to spread this information. I hope to steer others down the right path and to the right bins. I’ve gotten mixed results.
Sharon Van Meter ‘20 of Hebron, Connecticut, is a history major anda religious studies minor at Connecticut College. She is the co-marketing director of Wig and Candle, Conn’s student-run theater organization, the social media manager of Cadenza, Conn’s literary and arts magazine, and a student advisor.
My Uncle Harvey Abramowitz inspires me. To me, he is more than his email signature URGHA (for those who maybe outside our small, close-knit femily*) that stands for Uncle-Rabbi-General-Harvey-Abramowitz. In over 75 years, my uncle has held many careers. But if you ask me he is the most proud of his time as a rabbi and the connections he’s made throughout his life. To some he is their rabbi and an aid during a time of loss. To others he is the man about his small town of Huntington, Long Island. If you ask me, he is my mentor who enjoys bowls and bowls of my Aunt Joanie’s signature “savory” cottage cheese while we write together. He would write sermons and I would write my blog posts! Except now, he has traded writing sermons for assisting me in figuring out my next chapter as he relaxes during his.
Recently I had the opportunity to supertitle a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Stonington-based Salt Marsh Opera (SMO). This means I was in charge of projecting translations of the opera’s lyrics, which were sung in Italian, above the stage so the audience could understand what the singers were saying. Supertitling an opera is an extremely challenging task that I’m glad I had the opportunity to perform. It requires following along with the singers, conductor and score through almost the entire performance while projecting the correct title at each prescribed moment. It’s almost like playing percussion in an orchestra because of the precision required in being on cue and in sync with the rest of the performers. Needless to say, the intense concentration needed for the three-hour performances made it a very exhausting but fulfilling task.
As I’ve mentioned previously, this summer I was the public relations intern at The Glimmerglass Festival, an internationally acclaimed summer opera festival near the Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, New York. Glimmerglass presents four fully staged operas each season and many other events including recitals and lectures. My internship had many responsibilities, especially after the season began. I wore many varied hats including assisting with media communications and being the point person for the lost and found.
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.
Most incoming first-year students are excited about the idea of new classes, new friends and new experiences. One of the last things on their mind is the process surrounding a prospective internship or (yikes) a job down the line. Finding a job was the last thing on my mind too but, luckily for first-year students at Conn, the College begins the process for us right away.
Since the fourth grade, I have wanted to pursue a career in either the performing arts or the entertainment industry. However, I also felt that I should have a backup plan for this notoriously rocky career path. I always liked the idea of being a lawyer because being in a courtroom excites me. I decided to reach out to my mom’s lawyer friend, Mitch, over winter break to gain a new perspective on what it takes to practice law.
I’m getting ready to go abroad. Just today (Friday, November 18), I applied for a visa to live and study in Israel for four months next semester. Following my trip to the Israeli Consulate, my mom and I ventured to Aroma, our favorite Israeli coffee chain in New York City and sipped on a cappuccino for her and an iced chai latte for me. When we sat down, my mom asked me about my plans for my summer internship and if I had thought about remaining in Israel over the summer. This is where I drew a blank, and told my mom, the news most parents struggle to hear, “I don’t have plans BUT... I do have a few ideas. Don’t worry, I’ve got the funding from Conn secured and will start gathering ideas over Thanksgiving.”
As I sat in my dorm room, waiting for the editorial assistant at Woman’s Day Magazine to call me for my interview, I remember reflecting on my desire to understand how the professional world worked. Perhaps, looking back, it was not a great time to question my lack of knowledge on professionalism. Being a 21-year-old college sophomore, I hadn’t truly experienced the serious working realm of things. Of course, I’d held summer jobs at restaurants and as a babysitter, but the prospect of launching a career felt like a distant world. As I waited nervously. I imagined sitting in a whirling office not understanding the buzz and the commotion that goes into running any kind of company or business. And then the phone rang.
I was writing the first of many final papers for my fall courses when I received an email. Thinking it was just another fake "leadership conference" spam email, I almost deleted it. But my love of procrastination got the best of me and I opened it to discover that the Career Office wanted to send me to The Washington Center, an academic seminar hosted in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention.
Fast-forward eight months: It is the last day of the convention and I am feeling an odd mix of exhaustion and excitement. I had never had the opportunity to watch so many of my role models speak or given out so many business cards in my life.
I have always been passionate about politics and economics. This summer, I had the unique privilege of attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which was provided by Connecticut College. I was first approached by my government professor Dorothy James and was honored when I was awarded the opportunity to attend one of the conventions. Although the experience of the convention itself has furthered my interest in the political process, I was also able to take part in a lecture and academic seminar through the Washington Center on topics surrounding political parties, campaigns and elections from distinguished faculty in the field. This education opportunity has helped to shape my outlook on our current election cycle and coursework for the fall semester, and will provide me with a new perspective as I continue my studies on political science and economics.
So the school year is about to be over, you’re a college student and are at a loss for what to do this summer. I’ve been there—big time—and so have a lot of my friends. It can be overwhelming to be feeling this new kind of stress that a lot of college students find themselves feeling. Post freshman year, a lot of students feel pressure to do something wildly meaningful with their summers to gain valuable work experience. Both of these reasons to find worthwhile work are valid and certainly important. However, the panic that has been circling around my head for almost four months has been over the top at points. Everyone in college feels the looming presence of a world made for adults, and we are students learning how to be those very adults who thrive in the professional world. It can be daunting.
After living in Paris for seven months to study abroad and intern, I consider it a second home. As a result, I was thrilled to learn that Connecticut College would provide me with the opportunity to return to the city over winter break. Through The Center of International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA), I received a travel grant to conduct research for my senior honors thesis. My thesis examines representations of fallen women and prostitutes in 19th century English and French literature and visual art. I applied for the grant to visit an exhibit at Paris’ famous Musée d’Orsay, a treasure box of 19th century French art. The exhibit I was interested in focused on representations of prostitution in 19th century visual art.
The exhibit, Splendor and Misery of Prostitution, exceeded my expectations. It contained quotes about prostitution from famous writers, such as Honoré de Balzac and Emile Zola. It also presented visual art portraying various types of prostitutes—from working class streetwalkers to wealthy courtisanes who flaunted themselves at l’Opéra. Not only did the exhibit present realistic representations of women, it also portrayed fantastical images of them. For example, several paintings presented prostitutes as demons threatening male power. This resonated with the novel I am studying, Nana. Before I left the exhibit, I bought the catalog, which contains critical analyses of the artwork and articles on the history of prostitution in Paris. The exhibit will certainly benefit my thesis.