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.
Pursuing an honors thesis simultaneously thrills and terrifies me. The English Department requires students who choose to conduct a thesis to develop an idea for a study, submit a proposal for review by the department, write at least 50 pages on the topic, and present on the topic at the end of the year for the campus community. Although the College does not require all seniors to conduct honors theses, I decided to do one in order to delve into a topic of particular interest to me.
An avid cheese lover who enjoys wearing dark-colored lipstick and binge-watching Kristen Stewart, Shannon Elizabeth Keating ’13 had one of the top trending articles on Buzzfeed, attracting more than 7,000 views in late September.
New London seems as if it might be in the middle of nowhere. It's easy to forget, however, that we’re actually quite close to major New England cities; we’re less than an hour to Providence, two hours to Boston and two and a half to New York City. All of these places make for great day trips, as well as cool opportunities for class field trips. Most recently, Mike and I headed to the United Nations with our CISLA class where we met with the delegations from France and Iran.
The delegations are inconspicuously housed across the city. As we entered what appeared to be an ordinary office building, I found myself temporarily confused — where were we heading? Forty-two floors up, I found myself at the New York home of the Iranian delegation, a simplistic office with white walls featuring photos of Ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Kahmenei, the Supreme Leaders of Iran. Ushered into the library, a representative from the delegation gave us a brief introduction to Iran’s history and current foreign policy. The gist: Iran is not perfect, but they’re working on it. “We are the most stable country in the Middle East,” the delegate told us. Our course instructors encouraged us to respectfully ask difficult questions, and we found ourselves inquiring about the right to organize within Iran, the Houthi movement in Yemen and the implications of the nuclear deal with the United States. It was interesting to hear how his responses aligned with the official view of the Iranian government. It was a contrast to the French delegation, whose delegate met with us in the “parlor,” an ornate ballroom with tapestries, hardwood floors and a chandelier. He answered with his personal perspectives about social tensions, the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the potential use of secularism as a guise for the social exclusion of Islam.
At Connecticut College, the journey for your junior year internship starts during orientation with the first workshop. Throughout this journey, I have taken seven workshops ranging from how to write a cover letter or résumé to interview prep. I have sent countless emails to my CELS adviser and have met with her many times.
This past semester has been the most exhaustive of all my CELS training. This was when I put everything I knew to the test in order to secure my junior year internship. I am very happy to say I succeeded and I will be spending 10 weeks this summer working as a communications intern at Environmental Defense Fund.
It was not an easy process; as my friends and I joke, applying for internships should be a class. I spent countless hours researching internships, writing cover letters for each application and drafting emails to send to potential employers. I think one of my most valuable assets were my two friends, CELS Fellows Natalie Calhoun and Mike Amato.They would look over my emails and cover letters whenever I needed their help. One memorable time was sitting down at lunch, sliding my phone over to one of them and asking, “Is this an OK email?” Without hesitation, they advised. I don't think I would have gotten the internship without them.
The internship process is difficult at any school, but I'm so glad that Connecticut College provides these kinds of resources (and I happen to make friends with the resources) so that I can get all the help I need while applying to internships.
I’ve always had grand ambitions for myself; I’m always looking ahead, wondering what the next phase of my life will look like. College was no exception. Starting in the early days of high school, I formed an image of what my life might be like in college and dreamed about green quads and the friendships formed in residential halls. Coming up with a mental image of what that future may be helps me work towards it. The result was that the minute I stepped foot on campus, the image I had created began to be challenged.
After my first few weeks on campus, I found myself signed up for 10 clubs, involved with student government and performing with two different musical groups. I had many more activities planned for the next few years. I was swamped immediately. My first semester was crammed full and anyone who glanced over my shoulder at my calendar was immediately surprised. A cornucopia of colors, all associated with different events, meetings, classes, tasks, etc., was what they saw. To me, it all made sense but most wondered why I was putting myself through such an ordeal.
The truth is I’ve always been interested in many things and college was the opportunity I had been looking for to explore them all. By getting involved in so many things, I was learning where my interests really are. Eventually, though, they all tired me out and I slowly began to prioritize. It's amazing how exhaustion can make you focus on what really matters.
Advisers, professors and parents may all warn you about taking too much on but I entirely disagree. By taking too much on, you learn what really works for you. I would not be where am I today, picturing a life after college, if I had not piled so much on in the first place.
Today I’m the producer of TEDxConnecticutCollege, a tour guide, a volunteer at the Mystic Seaport, a floor governor and a writer for this blog. While I haven’t reached the perfect balance yet, I know I’m close. Next semester will be the most interesting one yet.
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.
The other day, I got the monthly email from CELS, our career center here at Conn. An item in this month's issue caught my eye: "Attention First-Year Students and Sophomores: US-UK Fulbright Commission 2015 UK Summer Institutes."
Inside were details about a Fulbright opportunity to apply for one of a handful of summer fellowships in the U.K. In most cases, these fellowships include round-trip airfare, meals and some even give students a daily allowance. As someone who's never really had enough time or disposable income to leave the country, that's a big deal. Also, while you're there, you learn about the culture of the country you're in and take classes on the subject of your particular fellowship's theme. One of the fellowships is about how culture affects one's sense of self which, coincidentally, is exactly what I've been studying since coming to Conn.
Sounds incredible, right?!
The catch? It's extremely competitive. Like... EXTREMELY competitive.
That factor worried me. I wasn't sure I even wanted to apply to the program. The application was slightly daunting and the probability of success would surely be minimal. An opportunity like this, however, is nothing to scoff at. So, I decided it was time I turned to my resources.
I first met with Deb Dreher, associate dean for fellowships. Dean Dreher is very talented in her field. Because of her — and, of course, the talent of our students — Conn has one of the highest numbers of Fulbright scholars among liberal arts schools. She gave me the advice to just "attack" the application, and helpful tips about how to phrase things on my form.
After meeting with Dean Dreher, I made an appointment to meet with my CELS adviser, Dot Wang. She, too, was very helpful. I asked her specifcally about the resumé section of the application, and she offered up advice about how to format my resumé and which activities I should emphasize.
After getting the body of the application attended to, it was time to think about recommendations. I asked two of my professors for (rush) recommendations, hoping that they would have the time and energy. Despite busy schedules and other obligations, they both agreed to help me, which I'm very grateful for.
Now everything is all set and it's time to wait. I know that I put my best foot forward with this application and I used some of the most valuable resources on campus to assist me. Despite a crunch for time, all of the Conn faculty I reached out to was able to help me greatly. All that's left to do is cross my fingers and toes!
Here at Conn, there are a lot of resources that students can use to find out about the goings-on both around campus and the New London area. I often scan our online calendar to see if anything interests me. I usually flick past the various sports events and briefly consider going to a yoga class, but then succumb to my laziness.
Last week, however, I saw a reflexology event. I'd never heard of "reflexology," so I did some googling, and decided to take a chance and email the director of the program, Rebecca Posner of Master Healing Reflexology. She was very nice, and responded with a long email explaining that reflexology is a technique that uses pressure points (usually in the feet, sometimes in the ears or hands) therapeutically.
I was fully aware of the fact that, were I not in college, I would never seek a reflexologist. It's just something that wouldn't cross my mind and, if it did, I wouldn't act on the thought. This is what made me want to try it all the more. Since starting school, I've tried to be a lot more open to new experiences so that I can really get the most out of my affiliation with the College (and, I guess, my youth, as well). I've also been trying to learn as much as I can, in and out of class. Given all this, I decided to give reflexology a try.
I went to my appointment, excited to experience something new. I learned a lot about the practice, which was really intriguing. The appointment was also interesting because not only do Rebecca and I share the same name, we also share an interest in psychology. She majored in psychology in college, used to be a psychotherapist, and worked with art therapy. Eventually, she found a niche in aromatherapy and reflexology. As someone just getting started in the field, it was cool to hear from a psychologist who tested out different practices out until she found the one she loves. I went to learn about reflexology, and I ended up learning even more than I thought I would.
I'm glad I went out of my comfort zone to do this. I think that trying to absorb as much as you can in college is important, so I'll definitely continue to keep an eye out for unusual events. I mean, after all, it's these unusual experiences that I'll be looking back on after I graduate.
This week the College's calendar told me about an introductory class to maple syrup making. Next adventure? I think so.
As a transfer student getting used to Connecticut College, "New" is a big part of my vocabulary: a new school, new schedule, new professors and new jobs. I am fortunate enough not only to work as a blogger for The Experience, but also as an office assistant for the College's Academic Resource Center (ARC).
I absolutely love working at the ARC because of all the new faces I get to meet. Students stop by for tutoring sessions and to become tutors themselves. They stop by to meet with academic counselors about time management skills, to get presentation advice, to polish their interviewing skills and to get papers edited. All a student has to do is ask for some help or advice and, with that, a tsunami of support will eagerly rush in.
As a student staff member of the ARC, I reap the benefits of working around the informative professional staff. For me, like many college students, procrastination haunts my good intentions of studying. Sometimes when I sit down to study, something averts my focus from homework, like Netflix, a nap or sounds from down the hallway.
While in the office recently, I asked Chris Colbath, a learning specialist and coordinator in the Center, for a simple tip to improve my study habits. His No. 1 piece of advice was to learn how to prioritize. He said that you should do your assignments based on which deadline comes first. Most importantly, he advised me to do homework outside of my dorm room. There are so many distractions (like sleeping and computers) in the our rooms that removing ourselves to the library or other spaces on campus will help remove temptations.
Taking the advice to heart, I decided to implement all of his suggestions. I have been prioritizing my work better and doing much more of my homework in library spaces. Not surprisingly, the amount of work I get done is astronomical in comparison.
It's not ugly or anything; it's a plain blue one, with the syllabi and notes and doodles from all my classes clasped securely within it. It's a regular binder. But every time I open it, I want to shuck off this winter coat, put on some short shorts, and just talk to people from all over the world. The shorts just come with the territory. My binder is giving me serious wanderlust.
To be fair, it's not the binder's fault; it's the syllabi and the classes I'm taking. There's a prominent global theme amongst my studies this semester, not a surprise to those who know I'll be studying abroad next semester.
Still, the theme of courses was partially happenstance. Let me share some examples: Yesterday, I watched "Lagaan" for my Bollywood and Globalization class, after which I read about Muslim women writers in the early 20th century for my Global Islamic Studies class, after which I chose my presentation topic for my Theorizing Race and Ethnicity class, which has a specific focus on Latin America. In four hours, I covered South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
Not to mention that one of my other classes, Global Queer Histories, is metaphorically travelling through various regions of the globe to analyze queer history, traditions and prejudice. We started with the Middle East and we're moving on to Native American two-spirit traditions next week.
Oh, and I must mention my CISLA class, a required course for scholars like myself who were admitted into the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, one of the College's five centers for interdisciplinary scholarship. That course is giving me an entirely new experience: a rotation of different experiences every two weeks, from departments like geology, art and classics.
All these travel thoughts permeate my mind and I end up daydreaming half the time, reading intensely the other half. Is it a wonder, then, that my binder stresses me out? It's got half the world in it, and I couldn't be happier.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go finish a non-fiction piece about Puerto Rico for my narrative non-fiction class. Wanderlust has seeped into everything.
One of the great things about college — besides the interesting classes, independence, etc. — is the time off. It's the epitome of the "work hard, play hard" saying. After short periods of intensive study, there are so many ways to spend our month off in winter and three months off in the summer, from internships to traveling. For me, I received the good news that I was accepted into Connecticut College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, or CISLA. The goal of this center is to internationalize one’s major. Mine being history, my research proposal involves studying art that was produced under the strict censorship policies of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, exploring topics such as propaganda as art and “cultural wastelands.” So next year, I will be studying and interning abroad in Spain. This means, however, that I have to get my Spanish in gear. My favorite part of the program is its emphasis on language learning, which inspired my recent trip to Guatemala.
Not having spoken Spanish in about a year, it's safe to say my language skills were pretty rusty. So for winter break, I headed off to Don Pedro de Alvarado language school in Antigua, Guatemala. Trying to play catch up, I studied for six hours a day with two different tutors. Contrary to what you might think, the time flew by, especially since the emphasis of my one-on-one tutoring was conversational skills. Every day, I simply spoke with my teachers about my life, their lives, and everything else in between. By the end, I can safely say they became more than just my teachers, they became my friends. They would take me around the city and show me cool art galleries, restaurants and church ruins. My afternoon teacher, Lidia, and I even took a day trip to El Lago de Atitlan. A three-hour trip on Guatemala’s famous “chicken buses,” the day was certainly an experience, from riding on a boat across a beautiful lake to having the man who was sitting next to me on the bus try to baptize me.
During my time in Antigua, I was staying with la familia Darce Pineda, my host family. I was one of five students staying with the family. The atmosphere was so warm that all of us were truly welcomed into the family — from attending their 3-year-old son Renecito’s birthday party to supporting them at their gigs (they are a family of musicians). The picture at the top left of this post is the view from their house’s terrace. In the background, el Volcan de Fuego (the volcano of fire) is erupting. Not to worry — it wasn’t a major eruption, but it is highly active and spurts smoke and ash on a daily basis. Pretty cool, huh? The second photo is of me and some fellow students at the top of Pecaya, another nearby active volcano we climbed one Saturday. While Pecaya is also not majorly active, we did get to roast marshmallows over lava. Yes, I know it sounds a little far-fetched, but really it did happen. It was also probably the best smore ever. While the lava has cooled and hardened, there are cracks that run though it, exposing hot coals exactly the same as what we would see in a dying fire, making for the perfect place to roast a marshmallow.
If I were to ever give advice to a college student, it would be to take advantage of all the time off. It gives us a freedom to study, travel and explore in a way that a full-time job does not. I got to connect my studies at school with an incredible culture opportunity. My Spanish improved greatly, I can happily say I feel more prepared for CISLA, and I got to have some cool adventures along the way.