Today is the last day of classes before Thanksgiving break, so it only seems fitting that I devote this blog post to what I am thankful for. Beyond the fact that the holidays are approaching, this is an especially appropriate time for us to reflect on our lives, given the events occurring on a national and global scale. Here’s an abbreviated list of the big and small aspects of life that I appreciate and remind me of how fortunate I am:
- an environment that allows me to learn and grow as a person. Like many colleges across the country, Juniata is partaking in essential discussions, ones that I have never participated in on such a large scale. I am being exposed to new thoughts and ideas and learning how to talk about these issues. Even though talking about sensitive topics may be potentially polarizing, I am thankful for simply the ability to be able to ask questions, to have a space in which I feel comfortable listening to others’ opinions and expressing my own. Only in this environment that Juniata provides can we as students grow as individuals and citizens of a global world.
– relatively few responsibilities, which allows me to devote time to friends, family… and Netflix. As a senior, the real world of adulting is slowly creeping into my field of vision, and I’m not looking forward to entering that strange world quite yet. So for now, I’m appreciating the fact that I only have to focus on college papers, exams, work, family, and friends (leaving me just enough time to squeeze in an episode of Parks and Rec).
– mashed potatoes… and of course the hands that prepared them and the company in which I enjoy eating said potatoes. After all, they wouldn’t taste nearly as good if they were whipped up by anyone other than my granddad.
– opportunities. When looking at all of the problems facing us globally, nationally, or even close to home, it’s hard not to feel small and helpless and insignificant. I’ve realized, however, how fortunate I am to be getting an education; how blessed I am that I have so many different options available to me, while a vast majority of people cannot say the same. I have a large support network made up of family, friends, and my college community, who are all helping me succeed in whatever I end up pursuing. For this, I will always be grateful.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? (Also, check out our hashtag, #JCThanks, on Twitter and Instagram to see what other students and faculty are thankful for!)
Sometimes in life you’ll walk past something happening, and just think to yourself “who would ever think that was a good idea?” Tenting at Juniata is one of those things.
Everyone says that Juniata is all about traditions, and you know what? They’re right. We really are. I have made it to November, meaning I have overcome the challenge of prying open a lobster with just my bare hands at Lobsterfest. I tried my best to break through the ranks of rugby players for Storming of the Arch and was thrown to the ground many times as a result. I eagerly awaited the arrival of Mountain Day, and was disappointed many, many times before it finally came. Finally, after that barrage of traditions, we have reached Tenting.
Tenting only consists of a few simple things. You have to gather a group of 6-8 people and take turns sleeping in a tent for six nights. Also, it’s in November. Oh, and they wake you up for roll calls in the middle of the night with an air horn. I almost forgot… when they wake you up in the middle of the night, you might have to compete in challenges like a game of Ninja or Four Corners. One more thing: we have different competitions every night to earn points for our tent.
You might be thinking: why would you ever do that? Well, at Juniata we have a yearly dance and dinner right before Winter Break called Madrigal. At this dinner, professors serve you food, you get to dress up, and you get to sing The Twelve Days of Christmas. The purpose of tenting is to get tickets to that dinner. Groups get dibs on tables based on their ranking at the end of the six days. So obviously, it’s worth it.
I’ve never been a person to function well off of small amounts of sleep. Tenting this week is going to force me to change that. I’ve also never been a person who enjoyed freezing in my sleep, but tenting might just change that as well. I realize that I’m making this wonderful event sound awful, but that’s just the two hours of sleep talking, so don’t take it to heart. In all honesty, based off of the one night I have done it, tenting this week seems like it’s going to be a blast, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the week goes. Plus, why start skipping out on traditions now? I’ve made it this far.
When I was applying to colleges, a student from the Juniata Enrollment Center called my house to talk to me about the school. I told her I was interested in Theatre and English, and she mentioned several different classes for each POE that she thought I would like. One of those classes in the English department was called Lift Evr’y Voice. It’s a class that organizes a coffee-house, celebrating the works of African American writers. It sounded amazing, but this semester I actually got to be a part of it.
The class met once a week, and we split up responsibilities for creating the event. One student was in charge of writing articles about the event to send out to the Juniatian and other local newspapers, another created flyers and displayed them all over campus, and others worked to recruit volunteers. We chose the theme “Music of Poetry” which incorporated black poets and black artists (we had some musical performances as well!).
Each student in the class (there were seven of us) had to perform something during the night, and any volunteer who wished to perform could as well. For my performance, my a cappella group, The Eagle Tones, performed “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae. We had over 120 people attend our event and everyone had a great time! It was so amazing to see this event come together in the way that it did, and the overall idea of celebrating black writers was very meaningful to me. I’m so pleased that I was finally able to experience one of the things that brought me to Juniata.
October: The month for tricks, treats, goblins, and ghouls. Of course, Juniata students thoroughly celebrated Halloween, but most importantly, we also bonded together for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Colleges Against Cancer, under the direction of their president and my roommate, Kirstin McKenzie, planned a month filled with activities!
The month kicked off with Boobie Bingo. “Boobies, tatas, jugs, and melons,” yelled the winners. Since I’m a bingo fanatic and quite the competitor, this event has always been one of my favorites. This year was no exception. So many people were in attendance that we had to find more chairs!
The next night, Colleges Against Cancer hosted a Remembrance Ceremony to honor survivors and those who have lost their fight. This was a very emotional event, but it was a powerful reminder that we are not alone in this battle. Breast cancer affects everyone in some capacity.
Finally, Breast Cancer Awareness Month culminated with the Boys in Bras Fashion Show combined with Concert for a Cure. Some of Juniata’s most outgoing men took the stage and flaunted off their fancily decorated bras. Although it wasn’t a competition, the guys took it very seriously and tried to outdo the person before them. Plenty of laughter ensued!
After the men strutted their stuff, the concert began. As always, I was completely impressed with the amount of talent that we have at Juniata. Sophomore Joshua Katz stole the show with his unique style of guitar playing. With a donation from the women’s soccer team and the money raised from all of the events, Colleges Against Cancer raised a total of $399.16 for breast cancer awareness.
In addition, Colleges Against Cancer kick-started their fundraisers for Relay for Life with a canning event throughout the town of Huntingdon. Within only a few short hours, we were able to raise $353.51. After including Relay for Life funds, Colleges Against Cancer was able to raise a grand total of $752.67 during the month of October!
Cancer is certainly a force to reckon with, but there is no doubt in my mind that Juniata students will continue to be resilient and fight back.
Dr. Hosler is one of my biology professors this semester. In his section of the class, we are learning about the finer points of photosynthesis and cellular respiration, and currently about how surface area and gradients help plants or animals carry out their respective processes. He draws marvelous diagrams and has a way of explaining complicated and dynamic processes like photosynthesis and cellular respiration so that the layman can understand exactly what is going on. He is a marvelous teacher and like any good teacher he asks us questions, and like good students… well most of the time we just sit there in silence.
That sentence should have ended, “we raise our hands high and proud to answer the question because we think we have a fairly good answer.” But we don’t, at least not often and definitely not all of us. Dr. Hosler pointed that out to us today in class. And it is not just us; professors from all departments at Juniata and at other schools have noticed a definite decline in people raising their hands to answer questions. Even back at my high school, it was the rare occasion when one of us would raise our hand to answer a question and it would always be the same set of people.
Why? What has changed so much on the student side of the learning process that we no longer feel the need, or want to ask questions? One of the many reasons I liked Juniata was the small class size because it is, quite simply, easier to learn when the teacher’s attention isn’t divided among a lot of students. Smaller class sizes allow for more teacher student interaction which also means more ability for a student to be able to voice their opinions in class. But as I have grown older, that has become less and less true.
From conversations I have had with friends and classmates, there are two big factors (probably more but these seem to be the most prominent) that affect how and when we choose to raise our hand. The first is the fear of being wrong. I think we have been trained over the course of our academic careers to fear bad grades and wrong answers because in our minds that is equal to failure and failure means not achieving your goals. But failure is not always bad. Unless you just inherently pick up on a subject, you will not know the answer the first time around. This is why we have professors: to be able to ask and answer questions. Learning is not always having the right answer; it’s a process that uses practice to go from a relatively poor knowledge base in a subject, to a broader and more solid grasp on the material. The second factor is fear of being the “know-it-all” kid who always has an answer.
The know-it-all does not always have the right answer, and when they don’t, the professor will correct them and open up the question to someone else to get a new perspective. Learning is a dynamic process, much like the processes I am learning about in Dr. Hosler’s class. If only one plant cell carried out photosynthesis, that plant would not last very long because it just would not make enough glucose. But all the plant cells working in concert to produce glucose make a thriving plant. Similarly if there is only one student per class that answers questions, they are really the only ones getting the benefit out of it. Sure, they may ask about something you didn’t understand, but in the end the class as a whole will do a lot better if everyone participated.
We come to places like Juniata to improve our minds, but also our person as a whole. Part of that is developing the critical thinking and social skills to voice your own thoughts on a question and to be able to back it up with supporting evidence. We will not always be right, because we don’t know everything, but we will be better equipped to think about the right answer and how to approach questions like it in the future.
So raise those hands high, for even though you may not have the right answer, you will be better off for having answered.
This weekend was one of my busiest weekends I’ve had this semester. The day after Halloween, Juniata Concert Choir had their first concert of the school year and I was unprepared in more ways than one. My choir dress was too long, my music wasn’t memorized, and my other school work wasn’t done. Not only that—but I didn’t even have a Halloween costume! For the first time in a while, I feared the weekend rather than the week.
Just like I would with any other amount of excessive work at college, I took on this weekend one task at a time. First thing was getting my choir dress hemmed. I knew it was last minute, so I feared not finding anyone able to hem it in time. A friend and I went on a search all over town looking for someone who would hem our dresses in the very short time we had before the concert. Finally, in Altoona, a nearby city, we found a woman who does alterations in her home.
The next thing that needed to be done was school work. I wanted to be able to enjoy my Halloween, despite all the rehearsals and running around. So it was important to get all of my work out of the way as soon as possible. Even though it was tough to convince myself, I spent my Friday night knocking out remaining school work and memorizing music. Although it was not fun spending my Friday night in the dorm, it was extremely rewarding to be able to go out on Saturday night for Halloween with my friends. It was even more rewarding that I knew my music for the concert. And of course, after the concert on Sunday, I had nothing to worry about.
The concert on Sunday was, as always, the most rewarding experience. It is always wonderful to see how much hard work pays off. We made so many people laugh, cry, cheer, and even give us a standing ovation. It’s a memory that will forever be in my heart. So yeah, I had to drive all the way to Altoona and pay a strange woman to hem my dress poorly. And yeah, I had to spend a Friday night dedicated to homework and memorization. But in the end, it truly paid off to see the faces in the audience and the faces my director made at us when he was so proud of our progress. I look forward to many more experiences like this; it’s amazing to see what good can come from a little sacrifice and dedication.
Fall Break finally arrived, and it was time for our trip to Québec, Canada. The French club and I left at 8am to hit the road. We had at least an 8 hour drive ahead of us, excluding bathroom and meal breaks. After being on the road for 9 hours, we finally arrived in Canada—specifically in Ontario province, where we were cleared by customs. At about 8pm, we arrived in our first auberge (youth hostel) in Montréal. It was raining heavily, but we were able find a very nice restaurant—called Cinko–to have dinner. In Cinko, everything was priced at $5, so I used the opportunity to taste the popular poutine dish—French fries topped with cheese and gravy. Instead of French fries, I ordered the sweet potato poutine, which was delicious! Our stay in Montréal was very short, as we left for Québec City the next morning.
My first impression of Québec City was amazing. With the fall colors settled in, Québec City was breathtakingly beautiful! The hills and houses reminded me of some European cities and yet, I was still in North America. The people spoke both French and English and were very much welcoming. Among our group, we would joke about Québec being like the States but in “French!” Things were going great; we had time to explore the city, eat delicious croissants, and do some souvenir shopping, including buying maple syrup.
On Saturday Oct 17, a day before our return on campus, we had a little dilemma; after having visited the Musée de la Civilisation (the Museum of Civilization), we could not find our bus. Our driver and mentor could not recall the parking space where he had last parked the bus. After searching the area on foot for about 30 minutes, we found our beloved magic school bus hidden in plain sight, across the vast parking space. Feeling relieved, we quickly got onboard, destination, le Parc de la Chute-Montmorency–Montmorency Falls.
Seeing the waterfalls was very exciting. We took multiple selfies and helped each other take individual pictures as well. The waterfalls ran fast and strong, and walking across them on the bridge felt exhilarating. We had to take the endless wooden steps to go back down the mountain, which was not as exciting because my legs were shaking, and the height made me tense. However, I had the opportunity to see a painting of Montmorency frozen during winter, which made me decide to definitely visit this beautiful city and this site again.
Our visit came to an end the next day, and I had a hard time saying au revoir to Québec. We once again woke up very early to prepare for another 12 hour trip. This time around, we encountered a very harsh custom agent, who took two of our group members in her office for further questioning; we were stuck in No Man’s Land, for a good 40 minutes, waiting for our friends. Indeed, there was nothing wrong with their visas, so they returned with us safe and sound.
At 11:18pm, on Sunday Oct. 18, we “landed” on campus—as Professor Henderson announced—safe and sound, and went in our dorms, reserving the next day to recount our trip and its anecdotes. As I am writing this story, I am grateful for having gone on this trip and thankful to my teacher and the French Club for organizing this unforgettable visit.