Here at Juniata College, having a cultural experience doesn’t necessarily mean going abroad. There are tons of opportunities to interact with new foods, ideas and languages right on campus (or in Huntingdon). This past weekend, I participated in the Night of 1000 Dinners led by our Peace and Conflict Studies Club, PAX-O. For the event, Juniata professors volunteered to host a number of students at their houses and cook them dinner and Juniata students paid a small ticket fee to attend. This year, PAX-O partnered with another club, Nourish International, and allowed students to go to a ton of different professors’ houses, and even our own President’s house, for a meal. It serves the dual purpose of fundraising for PAX-O and Nourish International and giving students the opportunity to get to know their professors on a more personal basis outside of class. This year, the event raised more than $400 that was split between Nourish’s Sustainable Development project for this summer and the UN Refugee Agency.
I, along with a group of my fellow History department members, signed up to go to Jim and Belle Tuten’s house. Jim and Belle are both History professors at Juniata and, having gone to their house last year for this event, I knew that the food would be great and the company would be even better. Jim teaches the “History of Food” and is rather well known as one of the best chefs amongst the Juniata faculty. This year, he and Belle made a traditional Kyrgyz dish with homemade bread and salad, with German chocolate cake for dessert. None of us had ever eaten any type of Kyrgyz meal. My freshman year, the Tutens hosted an international student from Kyrgyzstan who taught them how to make the traditional dish of his country. It’s a rice-based dish which can be made with lamb or beef; Jim made it with beef for us that night and it was absolutely delicious. It was spicy, but delicious.
The dinner was a lot of fun. Jim and Belle knew all the students that attended and we talked about a variety of things, getting into discussions about books and old films and classes we’re taking or might be taking next semester. They know us well enough to talk about our families and our lives outside of class, too. One of my favorite things about the History department, and Juniata in general, is how relaxed the professors are and how easy they are to talk to. They genuinely care about their students and advisees and although we were all guests for the night, it felt like I was part of their family. We hung out with their two sons and played with their very lovable cats and it was a Saturday night very well spent.
I came to Juniata College after fourteen years of Catholic education. While I would not change my elementary and high school environments, I can’t deny that I was fairly sheltered.
When I registered for classes over the summer, I chose World Literatures because it sounded interesting and because I need the class for my English degree. My high school had a great English department. I read a variety of books ranging from Greek Drama and Shakespeare to Jane Eyre and The Scarlet Letter. I even had a teacher who only taught novels that appeared on banned books lists. However, the majority of the literature that I was exposed to was Western in nature.
World Literatures is a class that focuses on literature that is not Western. As can be expected at Juniata, the class is fairly small and is very participation-oriented. The emphasis on participation means that, after I read and analyze the literature, I am also exposed to the reactions and insights of other students. While reading novels and short stories from different cultures, we are challenged to think about cultures outside our own. Questions of assimilation, adaptation, and colonization are only a few of the topics that are discussed. Does a culture lose anything when its stories are written down? Is easy access to a culture a good thing? Can we read too far into a work of literature and infer things about a culture that the author did not mean to convey?
The kinds of questions raised cause students to think critically and deeply about new information. To me, that’s what Juniata College is all about, learning how to think about topics outside of our comfort zones. To feel guilt about cultural misconceptions, to gain interest in the literature of a different culture, and to identify values present in other societies all make me think that with one class at Juniata I have grown ethically, intellectually, and personally.
The Plexus Peer Mentoring is a new program that I’ve really enjoyed this semester. It pairs current students (who have applied, interviewed, and all that jazz) with incoming students who could use a little help navigating college life. Many of the mentees are first generation or students from big cities who might have a difficult time adjusting to Juniata, and college in general. I was lucky enough to be paired with a fellow Southern Californian and it’s interesting to see how different our transitions have been, but my goal is to make sure that despite the differences, she has a similar enjoyable four years as I have had.
The mentees meet every other week with the program coordinator and a guest speaker to talk about understanding financial aid, career planning, leadership, and more. The mentees are also required to meet with their mentor once a week. My schedule is pretty busy so we usually meet every other week, but all day. It’s nice that the mentors get paid but that’s not the reason why this program works. Everyone is really just wanting and able to lend a helping hand and be another support system available on this campus and that’s wonderful. The entire group also goes on weekend retreats once a semester and sporadically do evening activities such as glow-in-the-dark bowling. Hopefully people enjoy this program as much as I do so that it can continue to grow and benefit everyone who participates.
The lights went out. I screamed and when the lights came on, my fiancé, Notorious Nick, was lying there dead. Okay, he wasn’t really dead. And he is not really my fiancé. I was playing Molly Moll, a gangster’s gal for the night.
Last weekend, my house had hosted a 1920’s Murder Mystery party. A couple of times throughout the semester we host events that are open to anyone on campus. After creating a Facebook event, we had 50 people show up that. But instead of looking like students from a small liberal arts college, they looked like they had stepped out of party thrown by Mr. Gatsby himself. Throughout the night, as we tried to figure out who had killed Notorious Nick and why, people got more and more into their characters. With fake cigarettes and cigars in hand, we did some snooping and accusing. It turns out you get to meet some wonderful people when you are pretending to be someone else. It is an interesting instance to break character for a moment and introduce your “real self” after you have been yelling at them for 10 minutes for killing your fake fiancé.
While campus has wonderful events a majority of the weekends, it is always nice to get off campus for a creative night of entertainment. I have found that Juniata students have really unique ideas when it comes to party planning, especially if the party is “dry,” like ours was. So, while Juniata student are exceptionally focused on their students, we do like to have a good time. It just goes to show you that having fun at Juniata is easier than getting away with murder.
In August, when the fall semester starts, something else also starts. Athletes begin their Coach Smith workouts. For Juniata College Women’s Basketball this means spending an hour everyday with their best friend and Juniata College Athletic Trainer, Coach Smith. Spending hours and hours with Coach Smith may be the worst and best experience of your life, but the best part is what lies at the top of the hill you have been sprinting up and down so many times that all of campus has now seen your “workout face.”
What lies at the top of the hill is the day in October when the official basketball season begins. On the first day of practice, you’re so nervous that you can’t tell if you have to throw up, go to the bathroom, or both. Once you start practice, you are so thankful for the killer workouts you had everyday with Coach Smith. Practice is not only full of learning new concepts, it’s also running sprints between your running drills. Some practices make your legs feel like they will never be able to walk or run again, but during all of that you have 12 other girls who are right by your side cheering you on to run faster.
Not only is playing the game and winning an amazing part of basketball, but its also the friendships you make. The newest way to bond with people is to go through killer workouts together! Getting through the workouts and practices is hard, but what gets you through it is your basketball family being your biggest cheerleaders and running right beside you until you finish.
As you may know, this past weekend was Juniata College’s Family / Homecoming Weekend! So many events were happening on campus: sporting events like football, volleyball, field hockey, and alumni rugby games; a performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Juniata’s theatre department on Friday and a performance by the Asphalt Orchestra on Saturday; activities like a market place, Club VLB, a class competition, and a book sale to celebrate Beeghly Library’s 50th anniversary; and alumni events like reunions, panels, and more.
On Friday, I attended the English Alumni Career Panel. The four alumni who sat on the panel were great. They were both insightful and friendly and I really enjoyed the hour-long panel and everything else that they had to say after it had formally ended. Later that night, the Juniata Activities Board did a great job of turning the lobby of the von Liebig Center for Science into a club. As an English POE, I usually just go into VLB to get coffee from Jitter’s, but I’m pretty sure that those strobe lights were not always there.
Saturday was a very nice day for a football game. It was a great game, even though we lost. Thanks to the book sale in Beeghly Library, I finally have a copy of The Scarlet Letter and also a third version of The Iliad. Having all the families on campus meant that a lot of parents were able to meet many of their student’s friends.
Prior to coming to Juniata, I noticed that everyone whom I talked to described the Juniata College community by saying “it’s like a family.” One notices that this holds true after a few weeks on campus. However, seeing alumni walk around Juniata, laughing, having a good time, and reminiscing about their time at Juniata is just further testament to the fact.
At Juniata College there are many different types of out of the classroom opportunities that students can take advantage of. A majority of the departments use a “hands-on” approach to learning, trying to give students real world experience before graduation. For example, students in the Accounting, Business, and Economics department just returned from a finance case competition at McDaniel College. In this competition, seven different colleges and universities were given a company’s financial information and students from each college were to present analysis and a recommendation if the company should invest in a particular international project.
While in a conference room at McDaniel, the case was treated like a real world experience. Teams were judged based on their relevance of analysis and content. In fact, the case that the students worked on actually happened in 2006 and one of the judges was a financial executive from the company highlighted in the case. After the presentations were over, the students were able to interact with the judges and students from other schools, providing a great networking opportunity for Juniata students. The departments were judged, in which Juniata placed third out of seven.
The opportunity was brought to them by the professors in business department. For a month the five students prepared a presentation and financial analysis and delivered their final product to ten judges on October 23.
Opportunities like this are available for students in many of the departments across campus. The professors at Juniata understand that real world experience as an undergraduate not only looks good on a transcript for graduate and Ph.D. programs, but is more beneficial than reading from any textbook. In my opinion, this adds a new dimension to the educational experience provided at Juniata College.
Despite the most noticeable demographics, Juniata College is pretty diverse. There are people from different ethnic backgrounds, countries and cultures, socioeconomic classes, religions, hometowns (cities versus small towns), and personalities. This type of diversity presents a variety of issues because of what I have personally pinpointed as lack of exposure. Just as some people ask “stupid questions” about my hair or look at me weird for walking around most days in outfits that to some of my peers seem too dressy, I ask “stupid questions” about animals I had never seen or the deer hunting culture that is so prevalent in Huntingdon.
Juniata has an entire office, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Campus Ministry, that is housed in the Unity House, dedicated to helping with culture shock, understanding our unique community, and is a great resource for support.
There are always discussion panels that various clubs and offices hold during the school year that is essentially an open forum to discuss specific topics of differences. I love the fact that at Juniata, there is a yearning for growth and knowledge, and it is displayed by the good turnouts to such events. One of my favorite series that Juniata has is the Beyond Tolerance series. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion brings in guest speakers and performers to do workshops with students, staff, and faculty. This year, some of the programs include African American Historical Trauma, an alumni panel discussing various forms of diversity and how their time at Juniata has positively effected their current careers, women’s rights and advancements, and urban activism and its toxic effects.
By attending such events, you can be eligible to receive a P.E.A.C.E Certificate. It is a nice acknowledgment of your desire to be a more well-rounded citizen and the certificate is even signed by the President of the school. I was so excited to receive my Bronze level last year, after attending six events and I hope to work my way up to Gold before I graduate.
There are many perks of being a senior in college, such as getting to take some “just for fun” classes and getting to see all your friends who have returned from being abroad. However, the best bonus of being a senior is getting to live off-campus. While I loved my three years in the dorm and wouldn’t trade it for anything, there is something so refreshing about being able to come to a house.
And what a house, I get to live in! My housemates and I rent out a lovely old three-story house just a few blocks away from campus. My house is sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), so we have a “house leader,” who works for campus ministry and then there are four senior girls. Also, because of our CCO connection, we host events about twice a semester for anyone on campus. We already had a Back to School BBQ and we plan on having a Murder Mystery Dinner for Halloween.
While it does take some adjusting to living in a house – such as splitting up chores and cooking for yourself – I still am loving my house and the people that I am living with. For I know that being able to invite people to have a cook-out in the backyard, having family dinners, and chilling on the couch with my housemates watching Netflix are all things that are going to make my senior extra special!