I’ve found myself saying the phrase ‘Juniata is what you make of it’ a lot recently. It sounds like something I found on genericquotes.com : “Insert word here is what you make of it” (life, time, sweet potatoes, etc). So I questioned myself. Cliché phrases often don’t mean much once they’ve been dissected. But the more I think on it, the more certain I am that for me, my college experience has been what I’ve been able to make of it. And that is exactly why, when people ask me if going to Juniata has been worth it, my answer is a firm yes.
My reasons as to why are multi-faceted, but I will start with the fact that I will be graduating at the end of my 4-years with both an American and a French diploma. I understand that this is perhaps an accomplishment specific to my French POE, but I know for a fact that these kinds of extra achievements are not hard to come by at Juniata. If you are dedicated and passionate about what you study and your outside interests, you WILL find yourself involved in projects, trips and programs that you would not have encountered so directly at a bigger school.
I believe that an enormous catalyst for my experience has been the fact that my professors know me as Erika, an individual person, not just as a student. Juniata IS a small community in the grand scheme of things. If you participate in class (and most of the time, even if you don’t), it is inevitable that your professors will get to know you. They have worked hard with me to develop my skills as an independent thinker and intelligent human being. The connections that I have here with them will extend far beyond May of 2015 when I will graduate from Juniata.
Choosing to go to a private college or university is a scary, personal decision. It’s a financial undertaking and commitment to live the life of a student. Additionally, it requires confidence that your time will be fruitful and ultimately lead to better opportunities and connections. In my case, choosing to attend Juniata College was a choice that I will fervently stand behind and always be grateful for.
“What class do you belong to?” asked Andrea Morillo of Nourish International, referring to the random ticket that we received upon entering Ellis Ballroom for the OXFAM Hunger Banquet.
“Low-income class,” I answered humbly.
“Please take a seat on the floor,” she replied.
As I sat down on the hard, wooden floor, I talked with the growing population of lower-class citizens that started to surround me, and I looked around at the middle-class citizens, who were sitting comfortably in chairs, and at the upper-class citizens, who were starting to eat fresh salads with shiny cutlery.
I was jealous that they had forks… Never in my life did I ever think I would yearn so strongly for a fork. My food finally came. It was a tiny bowl of rice, yet I still wasn’t sure how I was going to eat it without a fork. My hands had been touching the floor, so I was concerned that I would catch some type of disease if I ate off my dirty fingers. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
It wasn’t until this event that I truly realized how much of the world lives in poverty. I’ve helped serve food in areas where poverty is prevalent, such as in the Dominican Republic, but I never knew what it would feel like being the one sitting on the floor waiting for my food to arrive.
When one of the middle-class citizens, Anh Ha, was asked how she felt about the upper-class citizens, she said, “Not one of them offered any food to the people sitting on the floor. They say that they feel guilty, but they don’t do anything about it.”
She makes a really good point. Most of us come from middle to upper-class backgrounds. Sure, we may go on community service trips where we serve the poor, but then we return to our homes and eat nutritious and oftentimes, overly-filling meals.
I’m not sure that I have a grand solution to these inequalities quite yet, but I do encourage you to be more aware of the economic situations of others. At Juniata College, we have several clubs that focus on minimizing these inequalities. To name a few, Nourish International, Power Up Gambia, and Amigos de Guanin are all currently fundraising for communities in Uganda, Africa, and the Dominican Republic, respectively.
Although I don’t expect everyone to immediately join a club and serve in third-world countries, we can start with small steps, such as serving at local soup kitchens, donating to homeless shelters, offering food to people who can’t afford it, etc. It may not seem like much, but little by little, we can and WILL make a difference.
The Dance Ensemble puts on one dance showcase each semester. All of the pieces in the show are choreographed by students in the club. This semester, I taught contemporary, ballet, and tap classes and choreographed two pieces for the show. Here’s a behind-the-curtains look at the choreography experience.
Tuesday, September 9th: Here’s where it all begins
Tonight was the first night of my dance classes this semester. I’m teaching three classes and choreographing two pieces for the fall dance show. The contemporary class will be dancing to “Tee Shirt” by Birdy and the ballet and tap classes will both be dancing in the same piece set to “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran. We have six weeks to choreograph the pieces and get them ready for the show. The show is October 19th which seems so far away now, but I only have 5 more weeks of teaching before the show.
I had a great turnout (dance pun intended) for all of my classes tonight. The first week is a drop/add week, so I know I won’t have this many people next week. I taught a few sections of choreography this week and I’m already excited about all of the pieces.
Tuesday, September 23rd: Halfway already?
It’s so hard to believe I’ve already taught three of the six weeks of dance classes for the semester. Tonight, I finished choreographing nearly all of “Tee Shirt,” which is very exciting. There’s still lots to do for “I See Fire,” though. I’ve taught the ballet and tap classes separately up to this point, but next week I’ll start teaching them as a 1 ½ hour combined class. I’m starting to panic a bit about “I See Fire” because I only have three weeks left to put this piece together. Most of the pieces for the Dance Ensemble show are about three minutes, but “I See Fire” is five minutes long. That’s a lot to choreograph and teach!
Tuesday, October 7th: Crunch time
I have one week of classes left. One week. That’s kind of terrifying, but I’m also starting to get excited about the show. “Tee Shirt” is looking pretty good so far but “I See Fire” still needs a lot of work. Since “I See Fire” is so long and involves some partner work, I’m still not totally done teaching the dance yet. And I only have one week left. Yikes!
Sunday, October 12th: Extra rehearsal
This afternoon, the Dance Ensemble held an extra rehearsal for all of the dances. We didn’t have much time (15 or 30 minutes per dance), but something is better than nothing. I’m still feeling nervous about “I See Fire.”
Tuesday, October 14th: And then it was over…
Tonight was the last night of my dance classes. The “Tee Shirt” rehearsal went very well and the dance is looking very clean. The “I See Fire” rehearsal also went well and I’m feeling much more confident about both pieces now. The dancers got their costumes tonight- we have several drawers of costume pieces that we can use for the show or we have the option to order costume pieces as long as they aren’t too expensive. I found enough of all the pieces I wanted to use in the costume drawers, so I did not order any costume pieces. Now that all of the dancers have their costumes and the dances are completely finished, I’m starting to get excited for the show. T-minus four days until show time!
Sunday, October 19th: Just dance, it’ll be okay
I just finished dancing in the show and I’m feeling tired, sore, and very happy! This morning, we had our dress rehearsal from 9:30 to 12:30 and then were required to be back at the auditorium at 3 to stretch and prepare for the show.
One of my favorite feelings in the world is the little burst of adrenaline I get every time I step onstage to dance. Participating in the Dance Ensemble shows lets me keep feeling that awesome adrenaline rush and it has opened up even more doors for me as an artist. And now, in addition to dancing in the shows, I get to choreograph pieces for the shows!
As a theatre POE, it’s my goal to participate in as many productions as possible, or at least attend the ones I’m not a part of. Tonight I had to opportunity to attend Juniata’s production of The Glass Menagerie, a play by Tennessee Williams. I decided not to audition for this show in fear of over-scheduling myself at the beginning of my first semester. After seeing the play, and all of the hard work the cast and crew has put into it however, I am seriously regretting my decision not to be involved.
The cast of The Glass Menagerie is a small, four characters. Andrew Kilpatrick plays Tom, the protective poetry-writing brother who works to support his family. Megan Smith is Laura, the incredibly shy, crippled sister who believes she will never amount to anything. Lauren Dobbs plays Amanda, the faded southern belle mother who struggles to accept the flaws of her children. Finally, a friend of mine, Jamison Monella is Jim, an old high school acquaintance who strives for success and love in his adult life.
I’ve been taking two theatre classes this semester, and have become very close with my teacher and academic adviser Kate Clarke. We spoke about the production and how incredible the shows at Juniata always are, so I knew I had to see the show for myself. I was blown away. I’m used to seeing musical theatre productions with large casts of at least forty, with show-stopping musical numbers and intricate choreography. The Glass Menagerie was not one of those shows. This production gave off an eery, realistic vibe that pleasantly surprised me. The acting done by my fellow peers was phenomenal! The students seemed comfortable, and were incredibly believable on stage. It’s hard to truly justify the talent I witnessed tonight, so if you get the opportunity to attend this show or any other theatre production Juniata offers I definitely recommend trying to see one.
As we progress into the midway point of the semester, I have been able to think about how I’ve been doing so far at Juniata, and what I can do to better enjoy myself here. The first thing I always think about is getting more involved in the events going on around campus, and especially in the Theatre Department. Although I don’t think I will have time to participate in the other performances occurring this semester, I am definitely making sure to audition next semester!