As an international student, there are days when I miss a simple home-cooked meal. There are also days when I miss the freedom of being creative and whipping up recipes from the Food Network. However, I can personally attest that getting creative in a college dining hall isn’t impossible.
One night during Fall Break I decided to treat myself to a carton of Ben & Jerry’s from the corner store near my house. When I returned, my mom pointed out that eating ice cream must be a rare treat for me with my meal plan at Conn. “Of course not!” I responded, “There’s always ice cream available in the dining hall. We even have a sundae bar every Sunday.”
Taste of Harris only comes once a year, but, like any holiday, its arrival is always met with anticipation and excitement. Each year, Harris, the main dining hall on campus, hosts different food vendors and restaurants in the area. They take over the dining hall and introduce new cuisine. The school brings some of the same vendors back each year. One that I am particularly fond of is locally made artisan bread. Arguably the most important part of this event is to get actual feedback from the students. During the Taste the dining hall is filled with surveys that students can fill out after they’ve tried each dish. The dishes with the most votes will likely make their way to Harris the following school year. Conn prides itself on shared governance. By asking students what they want to eat this practice is enacted in yet another corner of campus. This year at the Taste there was a falafel bar complete with tzatziki and all of the fixin’s, jalapeno tater tots, Philly cheesesteaks, an artisan bread car, plant-based dishes, delicious sesame noodles, fun salads, unique teas, watermelon cake, new ice cream flavors and so much more. The day is fun for obvious reasons (delicious food, exciting variety), but I also like it because the dining hall is abuzz. Everyone feels the same way: overwhelmed in the best way, filled with laughter about all of the weird combinations of food they have on their plates, eager to fill out the surveys in hopes that their favorite dish will make it onto Harris’ new menu, and thankful that dining services at Conn cares to enhance our eating experiences at college.
There’s something special about the closing of the semester and the beginning of finals coinciding with the most wonderful time of the year. As I write this post, it is beginning to snow and campus feels wonderfully quiet—a silent beauty has taken over as finals season takes hold.
As our nation works to understand the implications of the election results, students throughout the country have been meeting with deans and other administrators to discuss its impact. Here at Conn our administration has been proactive in learning about the needs of our community. The day after the election, less than twelve hours after Donald Trump was declared president-elect, I attended Lunch with the Deans with Jefferson Singer, John McKnight, and Victor Arcelus, the deans of the College, Institutional Equity & Inclusion, and students respectively.
This is my second year living in Central campus and I have no regrets. I spent a few months last year in North campus and found it to be far from academic buildings and many of my friends. This year, I live in Burdick—the quiet house. I’m in the same building as the Smith dining hall, I’m close to Cro and Shain Library, and I’m not far from classes or Harris, the main dining hall. Plus, living in a quiet dorm means that I can take undisturbed naps at any time. I’m living the dream.
There’s another benefit of living in Burdick that I didn’t foresee: Practically all of my friends live in the dorm next door. Burdick and Larrabee residence halls are next to each other, separated by Larrabee Green. I can take a stroll across the green and visit a whole group of friends in one short trip. The beautiful thing is that when I’m done with said socialization, I can crawl back into my dorm and hide until my introversion hibernation fades and the next socialization period begins.
While I like to engage in new experiences, I don’t think I’d like to experience South campus, North campus or independent housing. Central campus fits my needs perfectly. It may sounds strange, but I also think Central campus fits my personality. Each section of campus seems to have a personality of sorts. For example, South campus is known as one of the louder areas of campus. Apart from some definable traits like noise level, the areas’ personalities are difficult to define. Whatever it is, I’ve found my niche in Central campus.
Who doesn't like to talk about food? As a member of the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, one of the centers for interdisciplinary scholarship on campus, I was closely involved with the Center's recent, massive Feeding the Future conference. I got to take an active role in the planning, too, by being part part of a small team of students that planned a pre-event kickoff meal. Our event was centered around food, but also discussion about food globally, and the differences in food culture across the globe.
The food that we got was from local restaurants: The Spice Club (Asian/Thai) in Niantic, The Pita Spot (Mediterranean/Labanese) in Mystic, and The Seehund (German) and Osmino’s (El Salvadorian), both from New London.
Our aim for the event was to create some meaningful discussion before the conference started. The conference was mainly lectures, so we wanted to have some talking to start off the conference. The 1962 Room in our student center was filled with students, who happily ate and chatted with friends. At my table, we discussed various populations and how their food culture differs from American culture. We raised the question, "Is there even a food culture in America?" I brought in an international perspective from Scotland, referencing my semester abroad, but we also talked about the southern United States, China and South America.
Overall, it was a hugely successful event with everyone leaving with minds and stomachs fed by the conversation and cuisine we served.
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.
If you're like me, you have a solid background in cooking, baking and such. If you're like my friend Emma, you might claim you do.
Freeman dining hall, one of my favorite places to eat, has weekly cook-your-own-food events. Tuesday nights are stir fry nights and Thursday nights are burrito nights. As of last week, Mondays are now grilled cheese nights! Obviously I attended the opening night because ... grilled cheese (YUM).
Emma, who's a vegan, made a grilled cheese using rye bread, a tomato slice, and vegan cheese — which, we learned, does not melt; it just burns. I, on the other hand, made a professional grilled cheese with bread and a nice helping of cheese and apple slices. Not to judge, but mine may have come out a teensy bit better.
Regardless of results, we both enjoyed experimenting with our sandwiches, and look forward to many more Mondays with this new tradition. It was really nice to be able to cook, even if all I made was a grilled cheese. There are kitchens scattered around campus, in a few residence halls and in apartment residences usually occupied by older students, but my opportunities to cook are infrequent (and I don't usually have many of the ingredients needed). Being able to prepare some food for myself, even if it's just a little bit, in Freeman is a nice change of pace.
Plus, if you bring a friend, there's a chance you can make fun of them for burning their sandwich, which is always a good time!
As a transfer student, I am still discovering the nooks and crannies of Connecticut College.
A friend from my European Politics class introduced me to the small and homey Coffee Grounds café. When I first entered the space, the smell of fresh brewing coffee greeted me at the door. I looked around, soaking in the cozy ambiance. The window frames are painted red, making the room pop with color. The blackboard menus with chalk handwriting add a personal touch. Instead of unflattering fluorescent lights overhead, the fixtures are a warm yellow. Eclectic, calm music plays in the background.
While digesting the scene, my friend signaled me to sit on a couch before beginning our homework. After a while, she broke the silence, saying, "I don’t understand why this politics homework talks so much about economics!" I looked up and realized that another person beside me had begun to smile. I turned to face her and an intellectual conversation blossomed. After our basic introductions of names and majors, I found out the reason she had smiled was because she studies exactly the topics that my friend had lamented. She explained the interconnection of how political parties affect what economic polices are passed. Left-wing parties tend to pass policies that increase government spending and taxes, whereas more right-wing parties tend to pass polices that decrease government spending and taxes. Her economic explanations clarified the connection between politics and economics.
It was serendipitous to find myself in an unexpected conversation with a stranger, discussing the world's complexities and learning all the while.
On Saturday afternoon, a few of my friends and I went to Fiddleheads Natural Food Co-op in New London to buy ingredients for a dinner we were going to cook later that night with a friend who lives in Earth House. Earth House, a seven-person house for students interested in issues of sustainability and the environment, is one of the residences on campus with a full kitchen. Sophomores, juniors and seniors have the flexibility to live in more places around campus, including a variety of College-owned houses and apartments, as opposed to just the dorms.
The walls of Earth House's first floor are covered completely in paint, as it is an Earth House tradition to leave quotes, pictures and other designs on the walls. Around 6 p.m., we all gathered in the kitchen and began to prepare our feast of falafel, roasted zucchini and a cherry tomato salad. After we finished cooking, we sat around the wooden dining room table and ate; most of us remarked that we wanted to live in Earth House next year!
Connecticut College keeps you incredibly involved. With papers to write, student performances to see and tours to give, a little break can prepare me better than anything for the coming week.
At the beginning of every week, I've come to relax by exploring the area. At promptly 9:30 every Sunday morning, I rent one of the Zip Cars located on campus and drive with my girlfriend down to Muddy Waters for breakfast and a coffee. Muddy Waters is by far my favorite restaurant in New London. The counter is piled high with sweet breakfast treats, and music by The Temptations plays over the radio as we sit and eat our breakfast. When it's warm enough outside, we sit on the deck and watch the boats going in and out of the Thames River. I’m fascinated by submarines and Muddy Waters is directly across from Electric Boat, so it is always fun to watch them building submarine components across the river. When it's cold outside, we sit inside the restaurant, which resembles an antique shop. Every chair and table in Muddy Waters is a different shape or size and, with walls covered in pictures and newspaper clippings, it feels cozy and safe.
After breakfast is over, it is back in the car for my favorite part of the day. We start off by driving out to Guthrie Beach and the windy streets in the southern part of New London. Looking out at Long Island Sound through quaint neighborhoods is always a good reset before going back to the College. Our final destination is sometimes Harkness State Park, a massive stretch of land that has tall trees, broad marshes and crashing waves on a beach of golden sand. It's cold, but the views are very relaxing. With only 15 minutes to spare, I rush back to the College and finish up my homework from Friday night.
A week ago, I went to work at 9 a.m. in Ruane's Den, a coffee shop located in Harkness, one of the College's residence halls. I work the opening shift on Mondays and after a long, tiring Sunday filled with homework, I wanted nothing more than to escape into the warmth of the coffee shop and make myself a chai latte.
Turns out, I didn't have to. As I walked up the steps to the patio of Harkness, I encountered a strange sight: two open boxes of Dunkin' Donuts and a large box of coffee on a table. A student was sitting in one of the chairs and a slightly older man was sitting in another. They were chatting and laughing, but the scene looked strange still; why would two people need 20 donuts? I then saw random people coming by, conversing with the older man, grabbing a coffee or a donut, and leaving for class. I had to investigate.
The housefellow of Harkness — each residence hall has a "housefellow," a student in charge of the house — had decided to throw a surprise breakfast for the dorm custodian. With the help of the Office of Residential Education and Living (REAL), she'd gone down to Dunkin' early in the morning and brought donuts for all her residents, and she'd asked the custodian to take a few minutes off and just relax with the students. As sappy as it is, I couldn't help but feel a warmth inside me; I didn't even care that people would skip my coffee shop to get free coffee from the table — the custodian looked so happy!
Last year, another student at Conn filmed a short video asking students if they knew their dorm custodians, and quite a few did. I remember leaving notes outside the door of my first-year custodian, and I remember friends going out of their way to clear rubbish just so there would be less work for our friendly, resident custodian. Sometimes, simple acts of caring can really make a difference.
I sipped my coffee and was 10 minutes late to work. My manager didn't care.
College is all about preparing you for the real world. It's a time where you can explore who you are and what you believe; a place where you learn about the world and those around you without the intense responsibility of being an adult. What better way to discuss real world issues, analyze them in the context of our campus and even simulate solutions.
Recently, there has been a nationwide discussion of race in the United States and how we are treating each other in a racial context. With people comparing our modern day society to segregated societies 40 years ago, discussions on campus about segregation and racial equality have emerged. Along with many of my friends, I took part in a discussion about the dining halls. With excerpts from the book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race," we dove into an intimate discussion about race. We analyzed where we sit and why.
Where do we sit in Harris and why do we sit there? If you sit with your friends, who are your friends and is there any reason that students consistently sit in the same area? How much of your decision is based on race or a presumed racial boundary? Is there a racial boundary?
After a long evening discussion, we made a plan to mix things up on our own campus. Later in the semester, students interested in the initiative will lead discussions throughout the dining halls, encourage their friends to sit somewhere different and meet new people, and help raise awareness on current national racial issues. It was empowering to be able to participate in the planning of such an event and I can't wait to see how everything turns out.
On Nov. 11, 2014, outside Harris Refectory, the Connecticut College Chamber Choir and Orchestra gave the community an unexpected treat. Passersby were invited to try their hand at conducting the Hallelujah Chorus, a preview for the choir and orchestra's concert that weekend.
Video edited by Dana Sorkin '16
The dining hall within Smith House is one of those gems that hides in plain sight. I’d call Smith the most intimate dining hall on campus, one where you really know the employees and the people that frequent the tables every morning. Smith serves breakfast and a sandwich/salad lunch, which is perfect. I usually arrive between 8:30 or 9 a.m., although, as a regular, I've determined that 9 a.m. really is the perfect time of day to enjoy the environment. Those who rush too quickly to grab a quick bite before their 9 a.m. class have all left and those who have a 10:25 a.m. class haven’t arrived for breakfast yet (or, for that matter, woken up). Those left during that perfect moment between 9 and 9:45 a.m. are the kind of people that sit and slowly enjoy their breakfast over a good book, some last-minute homework, or that day’s New York Times (which, by the way, is waiting for students — for free — right in the lobby).
These casual mornings remind me a lot of Sunday mornings at home — everyone is clearly relaxed but they are all excited for the day ahead of them. That atmosphere helps me prepare for my long and busy days filled with classes, clubs and study groups.
I should also mention that early in the mornings, right when Smith opens, the employees sit at a table near the entrance and chat, listen to music softly and welcome the regulars by name. Their morning prep work is done for the moment and there is a brief window where they can sit and relax. During this time, most students swipe their own Camel Cards to enter. It's a moment when the Honor Code is in action, and when common courtesy and a "thank you" make for a great start to the day.
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.
Napkin Notes at Conn are a unique way for students to let know how they're feeling about the food. Almost every note gets a response from the staff. While Dining Services can't always accommodate everything, like my friend's request to have our famous chocolate chip cookies at every meal, but the staff is usually able to find a way to make sure the majority of the requests are met.
Not that there aren’t good classes being held at night, but as a track athlete whose practice regularly goes to 6 or 6:30, the added stress of having to get to class afterward is one I try to avoid for my mental health. However, when I joined the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I was signed up for a seminar that takes place 7-8:30 pm.
Now, you might wonder how I can leave practice, change, eat, get my books and get to class in under a half hour, but luckily, the College has a nifty system for athletes whose practices end after dining hall hours, or for those athletes who also have night classes. We call it the “Cro Pass.”
With the Cro Pass, you get certain items from Oasis, our snack shop, for free. (Cro Passes are only redeemable on the day you were given it, and has to be signed your coach.) Because of my night course schedule isn’t typical for athletes, it’s pretty infrequent that others from my team are eating in Oasis. I try not to eat alone, and I certainly don’t want to be seen eating a whole pizza, solo, on a Tuesday night. So, I decided to use my Cro Pass as a way to befriend my classmates in the Goodwin-Niering Center.
One of my classmates, Maia, is also involved in tons of activities, including dance, so she occasionally hasn’t had the chance to grab dinner before class. She has become my regular Cro date for post-Goodwin Niering seminars dinners, and through this, also a very close friend.
Just this week, she texted me saying “Are you living that Cro Pass life today??” After all, aren't all good friendships are based on food?
In college, cooking is all too often equated with ramen noodles. Fast food and microwaved leftovers aren't exactly gourmet food groups, either. I want to learn how to cook, but I don’t want to do it alone. My solution? Apply to live in an apartment-style residence for junior year, with a kitchen for gourmet experimentation.
Last week, I did just that. My friend Alex and I applied to live together in one of the apartment-style options available to upperclassmen. These are campus housing options, but have kitchens and a little more independence. I can’t explain how excited I am to learn to cook my own meals in preparation for life after College. Alex and I are both peer educators on campus and living together will give us a way to plan and help run the organization.
Most importantly, I will certainly be buying an apron.