I can’t believe it. Freshman year is almost over. This year, time has passed more quickly than I could’ve ever imagined, but I think that might just mean I’m doing it right. I could give you the stereotypical “there’s been ups and downs,” and honestly I probably should because that’s the truth. I wish I could write down everything I’ve experienced, but if I tried to even summarize everything for you, we would both be here for hours. Let me give it to you in one word: joy.
That’s all I can think when I think about this last year. My life has been filled with joy ever since I arrived at Juniata College. That does not mean times weren’t hard, or I was never sad. I’ve been distraught here. I’ve been mad, and I’ve cried. However, I’ve also laughed until I couldn’t breathe, I’ve smiled until my face hurt, and I’ve gone on an incredible amount of adventures with the people I love.
Now that I’ve gone through the ups and downs of a year of school, I think I’m old and wise enough to give you some advice on what to expect when you come to Juniata College.
- Pack lightly. Be aware that even though our dorm rooms are fairly large, they will not fit everything you bring. I promise you, you will accumulate a lot of things over the course of a year.
- There aren’t exclusive cliques here. Yes, there are groups of friends, but all of the ones I have encountered have been incredibly welcoming, so take advantage of that.
- Don’t always wait for an invitation. Okay, no, you should not invite yourself to someone’s birthday party or third wheel on a date, but if someone is going to play Frisbee golf, ask if you can go along. College students don’t always know that some people are waiting for an invitation.
- Time management is so important. Juniata is an academically challenging school, but it is incredibly easy to balance those academics with other activities. Prioritize and manage your time.
- Ask for help. Everyone I have met here has been more than willing to help me, so if you need or even just want a support network, Juniata has an incredible one.
- Enjoy it. Don’t count down until you can go home for Fall Break or until the semester is over. Appreciate the people you meet and the experiences you’re having. It’ll be gone before you know it.
Wherever you decide to go (I hope it is here, because this school is wonderful), just make sure it’s somewhere where you can take advantage of all college has to offer, because let me tell you, freshman year is fantastic.
The Liberal Arts Symposium is one of the most popular traditions in the spring semester, and is where classes are cancelled and the entire college community celebrates the research, project development, and performances of Juniata students. I remember my freshman and sophomore year attending the different presentations and thinking with excitement, “I’m going to present MY thesis senior year!” Well that day came, and let me tell you, I was not feeling excitement anymore but sweaty palms and a knotted up stomach.
This entire year, I’ve been working on my senior honors thesis. As I wrote in my last blog, I’ve been looking at how the Indian media talks about corruption, and though I’m still writing my paper, I was able to share with my friends, classmates, and professors my preliminary findings. (Which is that the way we think about corruption, innocence, and guilt in the West is very different than the way Indian newspapers frame it in a specific politician corruption case.) I practiced my presentation a countless number of times, but that didn’t keep me from feeling extremely nervous before I went.
It ended up going pretty smoothly though! To be honest, I don’t remember anything about it except that I think I talked pretty quickly. Whenever I stumbled over my words or suddenly felt uncertain about what I was saying, all I had to do was look out into the audience, where I had so many friends and classmates supporting me. After it was over, I felt so proud; it was so incredibly rewarding, sharing what I’ve been doing with the Juniata community.
Other presentations were just as good! One friend presented on U.S. immigration policies, and another presentation I went to was on research looking at how to genetically modify mosquitos to halt the spread of malaria. My favorite presentation, though, was about synesthesia and the museum experience – the two presenters are even designing their own art exhibition based on their research findings! All in all, the Liberal Arts Symposium was an amazing day!
As the school year comes to an end, there are more and more activities and events on campus. Most recently, I was involved in the week-long Francophonie festival, which was organized by the French club. After having been recognized by the French embassy for its diversity and contribution to the French Language, the French club celebrated and showcased the various cultures of French speaking countries. The club members and I pulled our strengths together to make dishes, create performances and presentations, and promote Francophone culture.
The week-long festival started with short country presentations given to the public by students representing a particular francophone country, including Côte d’Ivoire (given by me!), Tunisia, Bretagne (a region of France), Burkina Faso, and of course, France! I even learned some fun country facts; Planet Tatooine from Star Wars is an actual town in Tunisia! There were also movie screenings such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, one of my favorite animated films, and Timbuktu, an Oscar nominee for best foreign film, which shows the effects of Jihadism on both the victims and culprits. I was very happy to see that some of the events were considered extra credit for various courses!
To conclude the event, we organized a dinner, with dishes from various francophone countries. As a result, I decided to make our famous alloco (fried plantains), fried sweet potatoes, and my own recipe called sardine fried rice. This dish in particular was a combination of a fried rice recipe, taken from my host mother during my stay in China, and Ivorian spices! The biggest challenge was obtaining ripe plantains two days before the dinner. Although it seemed impossible, we were able to find the ideal plantains in the local Walmart! Other dishes included Tunisian couscous and gratin dauphinois from France. In the audience, there were middle and high school students present, and they enjoyed the food as well as learning about the Francophone world.
Finally, the dinner came to an end with an energetic dance performance by me, Haruka, the French club’s president, and Joël from Burkina Farso, to a song called “Remanbele,” by Serge Beynaud. The dance moves were mostly based on an Ivorian dance and musical style called coupé-décalé! My friend, Yasmine, also performed an Arabic dance from Tunisia. Given the success of the festival, the French club and I look forward to making the event happen again next year, and every year after that!
Each year, Juniata holds a Liberal Arts Symposium—a day when all classes are cancelled and students have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community. Oftentimes, international students are not able to contribute to the symposium because many of them study at Juniata for only one semester. For this reason, Grace Fala, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and professor of communication, developed the “Multicultural Storyfest.” This event takes place during the Liberal Arts Symposium and invites international students as well as other interested students to share parts of their heritage with the community.
This year, I am receiving two credits to serve as the intern for the Multicultural Storyfest. I have been working very closely with Grace and a few other students to help coordinate the largest one yet. We will have a total of 19 performances representing the following cultures and co-cultures: African, American Indian, Amish, Burmese, Buddhism, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Filipino, German, Japanese, Korean, LGBTQ, Maori, Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Salvadoran, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Personally, I will serve as the emcee for the event and also be a part of the performance representing Maori culture in New Zealand. One of my best friends studied abroad in New Zealand, so we are going to incorporate what she learned into our performance. We will be teaching about common greeting words and customs used by the Maori people. Other students will be dancing, singing, playing instruments, modeling, and reading poems.
All in all, I have gained so much valuable experience and many budding friendships from organizing this event. I have been able to meet and talk to people from all over the world!
If you’re interested in attending the Multicultural Storyfest, it’ll take place on Detwiler Plaza on Thursday, April 21st from 1:30-3:00 pm. I hope to see you there!
As a rising senior, I was approved for off campus housing next year. It’s a bittersweet moment because I really love Juniata’s campus. I’m going to miss being able to look out the window and see the quad. I’m going to miss walking to dinner with my friends and only having to take a two minute walk to their dorms on the weekend, no matter my location.
Juniata’s on campus living experience is a memory I am fond of. My first year here, I lived in Sherwood, a freshman dorm. I was kind of disappointed with this, as a sophomore who transferred here, but was surprised with the experience it provided me. Sherwood was my favorite dorm. All of my friends were on the same floor. The walk wasn’t even two minutes—more like two seconds! We always had our doors open and were worried if a door was shut.
I remember when the infamous “dress” started going around on social media. I heard a scream down the hallway and so I ran to my friends room and exclaimed “what’s wrong!?”
“Tell me this dress is white and gold,” she said about the blue and black dress.
“That’s definitely not white and gold,” I said.
Before I knew it, the whole floor was in her room debating this dress.
I’m going to miss that dynamic. I loved Juniata’s dorm experience from the beginning to end. It’s a bittersweet moment being approved for off campus housing because, as much as I’m excited to learn how to live in a house and pay rent, I am really going to miss the experiences I had daily on campus with all of my friends.