Juniata College and the Gambia

Being a participant of Juniata’s Gambian study abroad trip, one of the things you hear when you tell people I am going to Africa is:  “Why”?

Art in the Gambia

Art in the Gambia

 

In my opinion, Africa is often very difficult for people to understand, because it is not white and it is not a utopia. The media provides the average individual with only the worst possible news about Africa to shape these very negative misconceptions. Misconceptions that lead to the construction of the enemy. Having gone to The Gambia, one of the things that strike people is all of the smiles. Being able to form a relationship with someone half way around the world helps deteriorate these negative misconceptions, because the whole of Africa is not a terrorist or diseased. However, culturally some things like FGM are practiced but the amazing and motivating thing is that there are Africans (Not Americans or British) working to stop the practice. They are working to change a hurtful cultural practice by changing the mindset of the people.

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Traveling to The Gambia was a unique Juniata experience, because it pushed you out of your comfort zone and shows that things such as WIFI are truly a first world problem. The Gambia is a very poor country whose main commodity is peanuts. Being there helps me better understand Carl Wilkens who visited Juniata and gave a talk entitled I’m Not Leaving-One Family’s Decision against Genocide, about the Rwanda genocide. This talk encompassed not only the tragedy of this small Africa country, but one of the biggest recoveries stories in history. My trip to the Gambia helped to explain his energy when he bounced around the room talking about his friends that he risked his life for during the Rwanda

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A big take away from Wilken’s talk was that no matter what the circumstances are you have a choice. For him the choice was staying in Rwanda during the genocide in order to protect the two Africans that worked for him, and he had called friends. These relationships and the Rwanda genocide helped Wilken understand the important of a building a relationship VS building a school. Wilkens states that he “wanted to build something that lasted”. One of the things that really sold me on Juniata was the international experience they promised I’d have. So much of learning happens outside the classroom, and it was great to have my international experience linked with a guest speaker on campus.

Presenting at Liberal Arts Symposium

This time last year, I wrote a blog post about the experience of participating in Juniata College’s Liberal Arts Symposium as an observer. Now, one year later, I can say that I’ve crossed an item off my Juniata bucket list; on April 23, I presented at Liberal Arts Symposium with some of my colleagues from the Writing Center. This LAS marks the tenth anniversary of LAS and the first LAS presentation by the Writing Center.

To be honest, I was not supposed to present at LAS. Another Writing Center tutor had to back out since he had a job interview. Since the presentation was all about how working in the Writing Center prepares student employees for the professional world, we, of course, had to make accommodations so that he would be able to go to his professional world interview. A position opened up to present with the Writing Center team, I seized the opportunity, and I am very glad that I did.

The Writing Center’s presentation was inspired by a series of focus groups that provided us with valuable feedback about our operations and how other students view our services. After we were introduced by our supervisor, Professor Carol Peters, we began our presentation that covered the various skills that Writing Center tutors acquire and that other student employees could also acquire by modeling their employment style on the Writing Center’s. We covered leadership, communication skills, teamwork, and accountability, but my section in particular was the acquisition and use of communication skills as Writing Center tutors. After our presentation concluded, we watched the other two presentations that were assigned to the room with us, which were both very informative and intriguing.

The feeling of a completed Liberal Arts Symposium presentation is well-worth the anxiety and nerves that precede it, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in one of Juniata’s great traditions, “The Mountain Day of the Mind.” I’m hopeful that senior year will bring another Liberal Arts Symposium presentation my way!

Wrapping it Up

It’s crazy to think that I only have three weeks left of my first year of college. It seems like just yesterday I was taking trip after trip back out to the car to move all of my stuff into the dorm. This year has definitely flown by! As my semester comes to a close, and this is my last post for the year, I’d like to recap some of my favorite things about my year at Juniata.

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On-Campus Job

I applied for a job in the Admissions Office right off the bat when I arrived at Juniata, and did not have my hopes up since I was only a freshman. Shockingly, however, I got the job! I have had so much fun learning more about how the college admissions process works, and have met such wonderful people throughout the year. I’ve also learned how easy it is to find a job on campus. If you are in need of some cash, Career Services is an incredible place to start. There are so many jobs all over campus, in every field, so it doesn’t matter what qualifications you have, you will definitely find something.

Cafés, Cafés and More Cafés!

If you know anything about me, you’d know that I love cafés. I love the atmosphere, the coffee, and the creative recipes different places make. I love getting off campus, walking into town, and plopping down at a table with a cup of coffee, a scone and tons of homework. This week especially, since I will soon be returning home to Boston, I decided to visit all the different cafés in Huntingdon. Standing Stone, a popular spot, definitely has the best sandwiches and board games, which is a win-win for me! Stone Town Gallery, a café and art gallery, has the best scones and most interesting decor, and so much fun artwork and jewelry to look at and wish for! Wildflower Café, which I actually only visited for the first time today, has the sweetest staff, huge tables to do work, and deliciously strong coffee. When I first came to Juniata I was very hesitant about the small town and the limited number of places to eat, but I have fallen in love with the sweet shops throughout the town.

Coffee from Standing Stone

Coffee from Standing Stone

Visiting the Jail

When I tell people my college is near a prison, most people are shocked, or scared or confused. I had similar reactions when I first learned that too, but now it seems totally normal to me. Especially due to the fact that earlier this year I got to go inside the prison and talk to some of the prisoners. Last semester I took an Introduction to Criminal Justice course that included an opportunity to attend The Day of Responsibility over at SCI Huntingdon. A few of my classmates, my professor and I spent one day inside the prison, listening to different speakers talk about the effects of crime in communities, and even got to speak to different prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. I was very surprised at how intelligent many of the prisoners were, and how funny, charismatic, and normal they were. The Day of Responsibility definitely challenged and changed some of my views on the criminal justice system, and I was incredibly lucky to have been a part of it.

Personal With Professors

One thing I wanted from college was a strong relationship with my professors. I have learned after this year that Juniata is the best place for that. All of my classes are small (my smallest class is six people), which really gives me the chance to develop a relationship with my professors. I often send an email to one of my professors, with a link to a video I found interesting and thought they might enjoy. I am never afraid to just pop into a professor’s office to say hi, or to ask a question about an assignment, or anything like that. Even if I am struggling with something, my professors have always been there for me, and willing to help in whatever way they can. I really do feel understood and cared for by my professors here at Juniata, which is an incredible feeling.

Warm Weather = Fun on the Quad

As the weather begins to warm up, more and more people have started doing work outside on the quad, which makes me so happy! I always envisioned college to be people leaning against trees, reading books and listening to music while others play frisbee or volleyball nearby. Luckily, that is exactly what I got at Juniata. I’ve been taking my homework outside, and bringing a snack and a blanket in case the weather gets a little chilly, and just finding a spot in the grass to work for a few hours. It’s always relaxing to work in the sunshine, and sometimes (more often than not) someone I know will walk by and sit with me for a while. I’ve even brought my guitar out and took jam session breaks in between studying. I love warm weather, and I love the atmosphere and energy of working outside with others.

There is so much more that happened this year than I can fit in one post, but I tried to capture some of the best things about going to school at Juniata. Although Juniata is a small school and far from home, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to attend.

Being an RA

As my second year at Juniata draws to a close, I’ve taken a bit of time to reflect upon this year.  One of the most major changes in my workload and responsibilities since last year is my position as a Resident Assistant, or RA.  As an RA, I am in charge of one floor of my building.  I help students with problems they face during the year, plan programs for my residents, and make sure the building stays in tip top shape.  It’s an interesting and demanding job that, despite its many ups and downs, is extremely rewarding as well.

As an RA, I spend a lot of time interacting with students, both through email and through face-to-face communication.  I am quite introverted and was a bit worried at first about the added interactions in my daily life.  Honestly, it’s something I don’t even think about most days anymore; it has become so normal to have to interact with more people that it hardly affects me.  By the same token, the number of unread emails in my inbox has increased dramatically with this job.  That aspect of the job has been more difficult to manage, and it took some getting used to at first.  With more emails, it’s harder to sort through them and decide what’s most important and to make sure no emails get lost.  What I’ve found to be most helpful with this aspect of Res Life is to maintain personal boundaries.  If I’m going on a walk and don’t want to be disturbed, I’ll turn off my phone or simply choose not to check emails during my “me” time.

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A big part of the job as an RA is being on duty on weekends.  On duty, you continually check the conditions of your building, deal with any issues with residents, and enforce quiet hours.  At first, I found it hard to adjust to staying up late on Friday night after a long week or getting back to a normal sleep schedule on Sunday night after staying up late on both Friday and Saturday nights on duty.  That particular aspect of residence life has gotten much easier with time.  Another aspect of being on duty is confidence, or lack thereof.  I found it difficult to be confident on duty the first few times, but every new experience builds confidence.

The most pleasant and awesome aspect of RA life is the community developed.  Even after all these months, I am still amazed by all of the new friends I have made.  Almost daily, I see other RAs or RDs around campus and we yell to each other from across the quad or stop for a quick conversation.  I have loved becoming friends with a lot of the RDs.  As they are older and have been in Res Life for a while, they have a lot of tips on being an RA.  Many of them are also just really nice to get to know and excellent mentors to have when things get tough.  Res Life can be a stressful job, so having an RD or veteran RA to talk to can be extremely helpful.

Becoming a Resident Assistant is a demanding yet rewarding job as a college student.  While it comes with lots of ups and downs, I’ve found it to be a generally positive experience.

You Trust Students to Run Social Media?!?

In life, it can be hard to find a job and it’s even harder to find a job where you are doing what you love. At Juniata College, I have not only found multiple student jobs, but I have been fortunate to work in Digital Marketing, an area I am passionate about. I am the Social Media Manager for the Marketing department so I am in control of the social media channels for Juniata College and coordinate 3 other student workers. Other colleges are shocked by my job, because they don’t trust their students with such a large responsibility, but fortunately for me Juniata is different. We are in an era where everything is digital and social media is often the best way to get the word out to a large audience. My job allows me to show prospective students what Juniata is all about and how unique we are compared to other colleges. Our traditions and student life bring us together, which I show to a multitude of people. We can connect and interact with the Huntingdon community, alumni, current students, and prospective students. At a larger college or university, I would not have been able to take on such a large responsibility, while also having so much fun doing my job.

Myself, and the marketing team at the CUPRAP Conference

Myself, and the marketing team at the CUPRAP Conference

Working in the Marketing department at Juniata allows me to be creative and I get to work for a very open supervisor that loves to hear new ideas and help me to create plans while giving me the resources to implement these plans. I have the backing of all the members in the Marketing department wanting to help me achieve greatness and they all want to give me references to any job applications I need to send. They encourage me to learn and pursue professional development, and gave me the opportunity to go to the CUPRAP Conference in Hershey, PA with members of the Marketing department this past spring break. It is a conference where higher education institutions and marketing companies come together to learn more about what they can do to improve their marketing strategies and collaborate with others to produce these new innovative ways to market their brand. It was a great opportunity for me to network and create connections that I otherwise would not have been able to. I am grateful for the support and opportunities that my department has given me and the funding I was given from Juniata to attend this conference. It is a great feeling to know that there are people helping you every step of the way and to build your career.

Field Trip to Washington, DC

One of Juniata College’s goals as a liberal arts college is to give students an education that goes beyond their individual Programs of Emphasis and delves into other disciplines and areas. Two of these requirements are Interdisciplinary Colloquia (IC) and Cultural Analysis (CA). I am currently enrolled in the CA course Samurai Legends and Lives; this course seeks to examine the Japanese samurai in its historical and mythic contexts, but also to analyze how accurately these historical texts match up to the Hollywood and popular culture portrayals of this warrior class. On Monday, March 30 the class took a field trip to Washington, DC to see the cherry blossoms and to visit the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian to view some examples of Japanese art.

Leaving campus at 8:30 Monday morning, we began our trip to the US capital. We arrived and ate lunch near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to work against us and most of the cherry blossom trees have not yet bloomed. After lunch, there was time for exploring. My friend and I first walked to the Jefferson Memorial and went inside, since neither of us had been there before. After the Jefferson Memorial, we walked to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial where I got a picture with a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt. This statue was the first time that a first lady has been honored within a presidential memorial. After this, we walked back to the bus to travel to the Smithsonian museums.

Eleanor Roosevelt

In particular, we were visiting the Freer and Sackler Galleries. This subdivision focuses on Asian art and the class was looking to relate different artworks to the ideals and characteristics of the samurai. Some pieces related very directly, while others required more contemplation. Of course, after class business was complete, we were allowed to tour the remainder of the museum to see the art from other Asian nations. We later ended the trip with a meal at a Chinese and Japanese restaurant.

I had never visited Washington, DC before this field trip, but I had a lot of fun seeing some of the capital and visiting the galleries. Making connections between the art and what we have read in class helped to put our class discussions in context and added to our understanding of Japanese culture; it was a chance to do some cultural analysis outside the classroom setting. Now, I’ll be attending the course for the rest of the semester with an added appreciation for the culture that we’re studying.

Staying Healthy at Juniata

One of the most important things to me is my well-being, and staying healthy throughout the year. Coming to college, I was a nervous about the rumoured Freshman 15, and the unhealthy food options many college dining halls have to offer. However, I was pleasantly surprised about the many different programs at Juniata to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

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The program I am most involved in on campus is Fit Lab, which is run through the Theatre Department. One of the theatre professors, Neal Utterback, works with students every weekday morning at 8:00 (early, I know!) to prepare for the Spartan Race, a 10 mile obstacle course race occurring each summer. Each day of the week is different exercises, and on Wednesdays we do a high-intensity yoga session (my favorite form of exercise!). Neal is a great motivator, and really strives to boost endurance and performance.

Another fitness option is Zumba. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there are classes held in the lounge of Terrace & Tussey (two of the dorms on campus) that are taught by students. The classes aren’t too difficult, but will definitely make you sweat! If you’ve never tried Zumba before, these classes are a great place to dance with your friends while burning off the fries you might have had at dinner.

The most popular place to exercise on campus however, is the Fitness Center. Open every day of the week, it’s the best place to pop in for a quick workout in the morning or before dinner (any time, actually!). Since we go to a small school, the gym is never too packed and there are always plenty of machines to use. There is also a separate room with mats and exercises balls for additional use. I personally like exercising with few people around, so I love going to the gym during the day if I have a break in between classes, when the gym is most empty.

tzipi blog fitness

There’s many places I didn’t mention (the pool, racquetball room, the outdoors, etc.) that are great for exercise or blowing off steam all over campus. College can definitely be a stressful place, balancing classes, social outings and fitting in time for yourself, so it is always important to find places to relax and stay healthy!

Writing Policy for the State Department – visiting U.S. State Department diplomat Scott Kohmel

After meeting Juniata alumni, Scott Kohmel in D.C. the previous year. I became very interested in joining the Foreign Service. Scott works for the U.S. State department and is the Vietnam desk. This is a four year job that he will soon leave to work at an embassy overseas. On his visit to Juniata he discussed how the State Department makes policy and how to write.

A very valuable piece of advice from Scott is that everything that happens in the State Department is based on writing. It is essential to improve your writing ability. The State Department looks for brevity, reading nothing over one double spaced page. Every sentence has to have a point, and it is best to write using as few as possible words. Professor of international politics, Emil Nagengast stated that in his experience students that couldn’t write well also did not read a lot. I am neutral on Professor Nagengast’s statement because I understand that reading does improve your writing syntax; however, struggling with grammar issues and spelling myself I do not believe that reading improves these issues.

As policy was described to me, I did not see much difference between it and some of the papers I write in my politics classes. To draft a policy you have to have an idea, research, and a valid argument that can be put into practice.

Another part of policy is conversation. Scott wanted to highlight that face to face communication is very important for creating a policy. You have to talk to someone in order establish and finalize a policy. This communication develops into negotiations, which are secretive in nature. Scott argues that negotiations should be secretive because the officials who make policy, especially policy with other nations need to be able to talk through the policy and come to a compromise. This compromise will not happen if the public and interest groups are watching and reacting to the negations. The negotiations are where the shaping of the policy is created and allowing these negotiations to be done in secret acts as a massive brain storm see if a win-win situation is achievable.  It is important, however, to release the policy to the public in order to get public support. A policy is not very successful unless you have public support.

One thing that Scott stated that stuck with me that I am still trying to analysis is the statement “you cannot let your classes get in the way of your education.” I will leave you to think about that statement as well.

 

To hear more about Scott, check out this video.

Why I Chose Juniata

Being from Florida, you get some interesting questions and looks from other people. When I am asked where I am from I always get this strange look because I chose to move from sunny Florida to bitter cold Pennsylvania. Yes it was a big change and a completely different place that was far away from home, but in the end it was worth it. I got to build my own major at Juniata where I could choose the courses I took and learn what I thing is necessary to build a career. I have chosen to name my degree Entrepreneurial Arts and it is exactly what I want to do. With my degree I can help businesses with their digital media plans.

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A photo I took of an artistic piece embedded in the walls of the Huntingdon community

 

I also got to continue to play the sport that I love and pick up track and field along the way to challenge myself further. I have two families here with me, my field hockey family and my track family. They are completely different and unique in their own way with multiple personalities. The relationships I have built with my teammates and the moments of silliness are ones that have made my experience so wonderful.

It is great that all the professors want you to succeed and want to genuinely help you to get a good grade, but to grow your knowledge and future. It is nice to go to a small liberal arts college where the professors make time to help their students and always have their door open for you to come in to talk. Juniata wants their students to thrive and the faculty help in any way they can to help students in any aspect they can. As a senior, I have many faculty and staff members that have helped me to prepare my resume and network. My boss even brought me to a marketing conference in Hershey, PA where I was able to learn more about marketing strategies for higher education. All this knowledge and experience will help me build the future that I envision and I am happy to have chosen Juniata College to help me do exactly that.

Advising at Juniata College

As I was enjoying my Spring Break and talking to some friends from high school, I noticed that my friends at other colleges are having a drastically different college experience than I am. I don’t mean that my friends don’t get to experience Storming of the Arch or Mountain Day or Liberal Arts Symposium. I understand that different schools have different traditions, but one of my friends who attends a large university said something that I couldn’t even fathom from my Juniata College mindset: he has never met his advisor face to face. Of course, this led to multiple problems with scheduling, internships, and degree requirements, but I couldn’t get over the fact that while I see both of my advisors multiple times per week, he has yet to meet his.

Me, my general advisor, and my friend at Madrigal

Me, my general advisor, and my friend at Madrigal

When I returned to campus and talked to my friends here about this strange phenomenon, they were all as surprised as I was initially. Juniata runs on a dual advisor system, meaning that all students from their second semester onward have both an academic and a general advisor. The academic advisor is from the student’s academic department, while the general advisor is a professor or faculty member from outside that department. Both my advisors are great; I’ve met with them (face to face) multiple times, had them for class, and received multiple letters of recommendation from both of them. With all that my advisors have done for me and how instrumental they’ve been in my college career, I was taken aback by a student one year ahead of me at another school saying that he doesn’t even know what his advisor looks like. When I asked if he thought my advising situation was as strange as I thought his, he said that Juniata’s advising actually sounded great.

I guess aspects of college like advising are sometimes overlooked or taken for granted. I’ve heard students say that getting both advisors’ signatures on papers or forms is a bother, but I think that never seeing my advisor throughout my college career would be infinitely worse. The advising system at Juniata is a tad unusual in that it involves two advisors, but between my own personal experiences with my advisors and what my friends told me about advising at their schools, I am very grateful for the advising that I’ve received here at Juniata. I’ll be sure to thank my advisors for their work the next time I see them!

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