Hug an Atheist

MM Hug an Atheist webThe Secular Student Alliance is a newer club on campus that offers Secular students a community to discuss and debate their ideologies and beliefs.

Jaylene Brown, the Secular Student Alliance President, states that the club is important for students with beliefs that do not necessarily coincide with organized religion to have a place to converse about their secular identifies and spiritualties. She believes “You need to be very open about your beliefs because that is who you are. Your beliefs make you who you are. If religious people don’t have a problem expressing what they believe in, why should individuals who don’t necessarily belong to a certain religion?”

The Secular Student alliance on campus is a group of secular students with secular ideologies. The word alliance implies the word community and that is what this club is trying to create. It is trying to create a community for secular students here on campus. Recently, they showed a documentary entitled Hug an Atheist, which provided a very humane look to Atheists in an attempt to break common stereotypes.

This club, like many others on campus, is trying to establish a community or a safe place on campus for students who are different from the stereotype. The Secular Student Alliance wants secular students to come and talk about what they believe in, and they welcome students who do belong to an established religion. They want to abolish the stereotypes that are out there about individuals who are Atheist, Agnostic, or who are not afflicted with the Church.

I believe this is a good example of how Juniata, or more importantly Juniata students, try to incorporate as many different people in to the Juniata community as possible.

Traveling Home for the Holidays

When I first arrived at Juniata, I felt like everyone around me was from Pennsylvania. Everyone I talked to would say, “Oh yeah, I’m from Altoona,” or, “I live outside of Philly,” or some variation of this. However, I am not one of those people. I’m from Boston, which is a very long drive from Juniata College. When planning my fall, Thanksgiving and winter breaks, I was worried I wouldn’t find a way to get to the airport, or people that weren’t driving home to the same areas I was headed. I was very pleasantly proved wrong.

Juniata has students from almost forty different states in the U.S. as well as over forty different countries. There are so many people who don’t live locally, who fly from University Park Airport in State College or Harrisburg International Airport, take a bus or drive home for the holidays. Juniata College allows freshman to have cars on campus, which has been very helpful for me so far. Although I do not have a car of my own, my roommate, who lives in Altoona, PA, has her own car. She, as well as many of the students here at Juniata, is incredibly generous when offering rides to places I need to go. It is also easy to find other students looking for ride or cab shares on your Juniata Class Facebook group.

One of the many student parking lots.

One of the many student parking lots.

If you don’t have friends with access to a car, don’t worry! Juniata offers a shuttle service during the week of breaks throughout the semester. For a low cost, the school will shuttle you to or from campus to some of the neighboring airports in State College and Harrisburg, as well as different bus and train stations in those areas. They are easy to sign up for, and are offered at different times throughout the day to work with everyone’s schedules.

Many people may worry about going to a small school in a small town, but Juniata works to make travel accessible to all students and to make the town of Huntingdon seem not so small!

This Week at Juniata 14

National Council of Teaching English (NCTE) Conference

The back of the Writing Centaur T-shirt

The back of the Writing Centaur T-shirt

I hear a lot of Juniata College students mentioning conferences. I assumed they were mostly for different science fields, but I was wrong. From November 20 to November 22, I attended the National Council of Teachers of English conference in National Harbor, Maryland with my fellow Writing Center tutors. Eight other Writing Center tutors and I piled into a van at 8:30 Thursday morning and we set off for the conference with Professor Peters. On Thursday, we registered for the conference and began to attend presentations. On the first day, I attended a panel on linking young adult literature and nonfiction. The panel was all about making connections between books that discuss real issues that young people deal with on a daily basis. One of the coolest aspects of the conference is that the panels were quite often authors who were talking about their own books, not professors or teachers. That night, the entire group went to see Sonia Nazario speak. She was incredible. In order to write her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Enrique’s Journey, she took the same train-hopping route through Central America and Mexico that many young people also traveled. I am excited to read her book when I get some time over break.

Meeting Cinda Williams Chima

Meeting Cinda Williams Chima

Friday was another day full of panels. However, Friday was also the day that the book floor opened. Imagine a large convention center right outside of Washington, D.C. full of English teachers. Now imagine a whole ballroom full of booths run by different publishing companies. Oh, and just a minor detail: most of the books and items were free. People were walking around with rolling luggage in order to hold all the books, bags, pens, posters, and everything else that was given away on the book floor. “Wouldn’t they run out?” you ask. No. The books are refilled every hour because every hour each publishing company has different authors signing books. Not only are many of these books free, but they’re also signed. I’m a huge fan of Cinda Williams Chima, and I was able to meet and get a picture with her on Saturday. On top of that, I took about twenty signed books home with me over Thanksgiving Break. The book floor was pretty awesome.

As I mentioned, I met one of my favorite authors on Saturday. However, I also saw Cory Doctorow speak. I am reading Little Brother in my young adult literature course, so it was great to see him talk about some of the issues that he discusses in his book. Also, after his presentation when he was signing books, we bonded a bit over the struggle of being called the wrong name. As a “Cody,” I often get called “Cory.” He has the opposite problem.

In addition to all the actual conference events, it was also a good time to bond with my colleagues in the Writing Center. Making coffee runs across the city before a panel, playing games in the hotel rooms, and hanging out for three days was a great team-building experience. Plus, a bunch of people wanted our Writing Centaur T-shirts. The conference was an awesome experience and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to go.

Writing Centaurs preparing to head back to Juniata

Writing Centaurs preparing to head back to Juniata

International Week – Horses of God

International Week Schedule

International Week Schedule

Even though Juniata College is a very small campus there always seems like there is something going on. This week was International week. One of the events was a movie called the Horse of God about Morocco. I was excited to go to this movie because over the summer I went to The Gambia. Before arriving in that country we had a twelve hour layover in Morocco where we were able to go out and explore Casablanca. I liked the movie a lot; at the beginning they showed the kids running across the highway that had a white wall behind it, and I remembered that highway. We passed it on our way into the city from the airport. There is something simple to the white washed walls of the compound the people live in and the metal doors, and the sand. It seems to be a symbol of poverty in this region that is very much like the poverty we see in The Gambia.

Wall in Casablanca

Wall in Casablanca

At the beginning of the movie it shows the kids and their struggle. You don’t see these kids going to school, you see them rummaging in the garbage hemp for things to sell. You see the formation of the criminal activity that ultimately takes over their lives. What else is there to do to pull yourself out of poverty?

It is quite noticeable from an early point on that honesty is not something that is valued in this society. There a crooked cops, and a crooked law system. The mother also states that she prefers the money, instead of the honest living Tarek was trying to make. In a society of criminal deeds are the only profitable means of providing a life for yourself, that thread of honesty is non-existent.

I like how the eldest brother looked for that honesty in his younger brother. Until the very end of the movie, he was trying to keep his brother honest. To keep him from the life that he had to lead to feed the family. I personally don’t think either brother thought that this religious sect, who gave them something to strive for, would turn into their undoing.

It is easy to brainwash a soul that has already been broken – a soul that has hit rock bottom. In this poverty, you see a lot of terrible things, but they are not terrible to you – they are the everyday. The Muslim Brotherhood got these boys to believe in a paradise, somewhere where they would be reworded for their good deeds, where their hopeless plight of poverty and life would be erased and they would be in a sense reborn. The Muslim Brotherhood made them dream, and they gave them something to live for. What did they have to live for in the slums? Where was their legacy? It was nowhere. The Brotherhood gave them a purpose, and the belief that there is something so much better than the lives they live. The Muslim Brotherhood made them dream, those dreams lead to the deaths of 54 people including 12 suicide bombers. It wasn’t about religion anymore, religion was just a catalyst of place where the poverty would end, where they would stop being nobodies. Where they would finally be someone worth looking up to – they wanted to be martyrs.

Street vendors in Casablanca

Street vendors in Casablanca

While in The Gambia, or even in that short time in Morocco, I didn’t see terrorism or the religious sec. However, there was always that underlying theme of poverty, and the struggle to do anything to stay alive. Being able to travel abroad to this part of the world allowed me to view this movie very differently than someone who did not have this study abroad experience, because while in The Gambia and in Morocco, I saw the struggle of people and how hard it was for them to make a living and survive in these countries. My study aboard experience made me see that this wasn’t just a movie, there are people on the other side of the world that are going through this struggle right now. Even though I did not see any terrorism I can better understand how this brainwashing and religious ideology could appeal to these people.

This Week at Juniata Week 13

The International Fashion & Food Show

After being inspired by a fundraiser held at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), I conceived the idea of having an International Fashion & Food Show at Juniata College to help raise money for students traveling on the January 2015 Cultural Learning Tour to the Dominican Republic. This event was sponsored by my club, Amigos de Guanin, and also by Nourish International and the International Cooking Club.

I originally wanted to do this event with only my club, but I quickly realized that I would need expertise from other areas, especially if we wanted to make food at our event, since I’m not very skilled in the kitchen. The other club presidents and I started planning the event in September and met every Monday evening for an hour. After two months of planning, we finally held our event on Saturday, Nov. 22 in Baker Refectory.

Since I was an MC for the night, I decided to wear a beautiful multi-colored sari from India that was left in the Unity House by a previous Juniata student.

Since I was an MC for the night, I decided to wear a beautiful multi-colored sari from India that was left in the Unity House by a previous Juniata student.

The collaboration for the International Fashion & Food Show is what amazed me the most. We advertised in the daily announcements that we would be needing models, and we quickly found over 20 people who were interested in helping us represent 15 countries from around the world. Many of the models also prepared a dish from the country that they were representing. In addition, several clubs on campus, such as the Korean and Japanese clubs, prepared massive amounts of food!

With so many different components, you may be wondering how we even made a profit. And to be honest, we wouldn’t have made a profit at all if it weren’t for the $1,380 allocation from Student Government. This allocation covered all expenses, so all money that we raised from ticket sales was considered to be profit.

Not only was this event a huge success in the fact that we raised close to $1,200 that would be split among the three clubs, but also because I was able to meet and work closely with some truly incredible people from around the world.

The best part is that I didn’t even have to spend thousands of dollars traveling the globe to find them! Juniata College has this uncanny ability to bring people together, no matter what their cultural backgrounds might be, and for this, I am truly grateful!

Four of our models rambunctiously represented Germany by dancing onto the runway!

Four of our models rambunctiously represented Germany by dancing onto the runway!

Underrated Holiday

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving seems like it is the most underrated holiday because it’s between Halloween and Christmas. In which most cases Christmas trumps any other holiday, but my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. The reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is because it solely concentrates on spending time with those you care about. There aren’t any presents or costumes or anything to disrupt its purpose. It’s about giving thanks and recognizing all that you have in your life as well as appreciating the people you have in your life. For me it’s hard to always be away from my family at this time since our break is too short and expensive for me to go home to my family in Florida, but I have great friends with caring families that willingly take me in and treat me as a member of their own family.

There are many things to be grateful for, but I am grateful for the love that I receive from all the people I care about. The joy of knowing that someone will always be there and no matter how long it has been or the distance that separates you, nothing changes. A bond made from memories that grow with time to fortify a lasting friendship that can’t be broken. To have that type of love from more than just family is a great experience and when you grow so much with a close friend they become family. I am so grateful to have people in my life that may not be blood to me but are still family and I cherish them for all that they do for me.

Needless to say this has been the most interesting Thanksgiving that I have had away from home. I learned how to shoot a gun so I was able to conquer my fear and dislike of them. Being with a family with a lot of energy and generosity was heart-warming. It is also fun to hear the stories from different generations and how things have changed. We may not realize how much we take for granted the things we have and being able to spend time with great friends and their families makes me humble. It makes me sit back and soak it all in as to how much I have in my life compared to others. Material things can’t beat time with those you care about, nor can it bring the same joy because memories can be made and never replaced.

So to those reading this, enjoy the time you have and show or tell the people you care about just how much they matter to you. Cherish what you have because there are people out there that aren’t so blessed to have all of what you do. I make sure that I express the love and appreciation I have for my friends and family because they are too important to go without knowing just how much they mean to me.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Gooble Gobble!

First Semester Survival Guide

TZ campus webIt’s that time of the season where the weeks are winding down and winter break is approaching. However, this is usually the time when everyone begins to stress about their assignments and cram for exams. As a freshman here at Juniata College, I was nervous about the college workload and my problems with procrastination taking a toll on my academics. Yet this semester I have managed to remain calm and organized with my schoolwork, which was a very pleasant surprise. I’d like to share my tips for managing assignments and reducing stress, while still being able to enjoy the semester!

Make a to-do list

I love being organized (color coding is really helpful!) and sometimes things tend to slip my mind. I like to take large sticky notes or pieces of paper and write out every assignment that is due that week, along with the due date and how long I plan to spend on each assignment. This way, I can get everything out of my head and on paper, and I can see potentially how much time I need to spend to complete my work.

Take breaks

It’s completely unrealistic to stay in your dorm room for nine hours straight writing an essay. People definitely do that, but I would not recommend it. Your brain can only focus on academics for so long. I like to set a timer, and work for a limited amount of time before I close my computer and do something else. For a distraction, I will watch an episode of my favorite show on Netflix, go to the gym, or go for a drive with my roommate. After a half hour or hour break, I will then return to my assignment, or work on a different class. I also really enjoy yoga because it’s physical and relaxing at the same time.

Playlists

I cannot function if I’m not listening to music. A lot of people I know can’t focus with music; so if that is the case for you, continue your work in silence. A website I enjoy using is 8tracks.com, which has thousands of personalized playlists you can listen to. You can choose moods or activities that customize a playlist for you. When working, I like to listen to indie calm study playlists, but with this website you can listen to anything you want! I just know that music really helps me focus when I’m stressed or trying to work on big assignments.

Courses

One of the most important things regarding work is the classes you take. One of my favorite things about Juniata is the large number of classes, varying in all departments that we are able to take. At some schools, you can only take classes relating to your major. At Juniata, professors and advisers want us to broaden our horizons and take different types of classes. Although Juniata does have requirements across all departments, there are so many options of courses to take! It’s really important to take classes that will interest you, so completing work for these classes isn’t impossible. Right now I am enrolled in courses that I am incredibly passionate about, so taking ten pages of notes isn’t difficult at all, since I am interest in the topic. Taking classes that you will enjoy will definitely make completing assignments easier.

I hope these tips helped pick courses and plan your time for the rest of the semester and for future terms! Keep on working!

 

This Week at Juniata Week 15

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