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”?
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.