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.