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From Lille to the DNC in Philly: A Summer Well Spent

Wow! I can hardly believe that it’s week 4 of college already. It felt like only yesterday that I was studying abroad in Lille, France, last June, and attended the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia the following month! As an Eagles Abroad Scholar for French, I am required to study in a French speaking country, which I started by participating in the European Summer Program (ESP) at The Catholic University of Lille or La Catho for short. I enrolled in a French level 10 course, which, as a Francophone, allowed me to improve my writing tremendously. My professor was very dynamic and gave us many opportunities to discuss our ideas and debate in French. We talked about various topics ranging from Francophone cultures and arts to racism and politics, given our various countries of origins such as, Burundi, Colombia, Syria, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, India, China, the Philippines, the US and so many more. In addition, I took an elective course called European Integration: Borders in Turmoil, which taught me about the functions of the EU and its potential future; the course was a great supplement to my politics studies as it provided me with a unique insight on the EU from an actual European, and particularly French perspective.

Figure 1A collage of my adventures in France with my Friends. The pictures were taken during our various travels!

Figure 1A collage of my adventures in France with my Friends. The pictures were taken during our various travels!

Of course, I did not miss out on the amazing French cuisine. Every day, I got breakfast from the local boulangerie-bakery- right around the corner of La Catho: croissants, brioches, pain au chocolats and hot choco were life! Every so often, I would also visit an Ivorian restaurant called La Main Magique: Chez Josie, which I absolutely adored! Knowing the popularity of the appetizing attiéké dish of Côte d’Ivoire, I pointed the restaurants out to other Africans that I met in Lille. We visited the beautiful cathedral, Notre-Dame d’Amiens-Our Lady of Amiens-and ate some delicious crêpes! We also traveled to the beaches of Normandy, the Palace of Versailles and Mont Saint-Michelle!

While I was sad to leave Lille, I was also excited to come back to the States and attend the DNC in Philly, 2 weeks later! The DNC was indeed an experience like no other. I had the pleasure of meeting the CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, Leah Daughtry, an amazing and charismatic speaker. She inspired me with her saying “In their minds, this is not a ceiling. It’s a starting point.” I felt empowered to pursue endless opportunities knowing that the sky is not my limit but rather my starting point. Daughtry also made me appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of those who paved the way in order for me to be successful.

Figure 2Leah Daughtry, First African American CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC), and I at Temple University

Figure 2Leah Daughtry, First African American CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC), and I at Temple University

I had the chance to work with the State Department Foreign Press, which gave me access to the convention hall every nights. I had the opportunity to meet various foreign journalists whom I interviewed for my article assignments. Indeed, the work load was very demanding, but I had fun doing interviews, visiting the city of brotherly love, networking and meeting my favorite journalists, The Young Turks! I will never forget the moment when Hilary took the stage on the last day of the DNC. The crowd roared and cheered and I never felt more fortunate in my life; I was witnessing history in the making and breathing the same air as the first woman presidential nominee in the history of the United States!

Figure 3I watched the ball drop at final night of the convention!

Figure 3I watched the ball drop at final night of the convention!

My summer experiences make me so proud of being at Juniata and thankful for such wonderful opportunities. I am happy to announce that after the DNC, I will be attending the 2017 Presidential Inauguration and witnessing history in the making once again, regardless of whom she might be!!!

Figure 4Dr. Plane (far right) and me among other Juniata students at Temple University for the DNC!

Figure 4Dr. Plane (far right) and me among other Juniata students at Temple University for the DNC!

Puppies and Poetry

Puppies

It’s not uncommon to find a furry friend walking along the science building or taking a stroll beside the library. Juniata’s campus is a very pet friendly environment, I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to play fetch on all that freshly cut green grass of the quad?

It was a Friday, the third Friday of classes to be exact. Things were finally starting to fall into a pace. I walked into my last class of the day, feeling the drag of a Friday afternoon. I realized everyone else was really feeling this drag, too.

Poetry, in my opinion, is a great class to end on. It’s a wonderful wind down after a week full of fast paced, non-stop, college life. Despite my positive feelings towards this class, it’s still an obligation that isn’t quite Grey’s Anatomy and so I took my book out with a sigh, watching the minute’s tick until we began.

As we waited for a few more people to trickle in, a student came running into the classroom out of breath. “Puppies!” she shouted, “There are puppies!”

“Puppies?” my professor exclaimed? “What do you mean puppies? Where?” I think I could tell he was trying to contain excitement.

“Outside! By the Founders Fountain! Can we go? Please?”

Everyone stared at my professor waiting for a response. Awkward seconds passed. “Puppies don’t have anything to do with poetry…” he began. More awkward seconds.

“Okay. Quickly.”

Then suddenly, the Friday drag was lifted. Everyone jumped, and I mean jumped from their seats, including the professor, out and down the stairway to the fountain and onto the grass to play with and love the multiple, freshly born puppies.

The first ten minutes of poetry that day were passing puppies around, holding, snuggling, and watching my professor tell them how much he loved them. A memory, I’ll never quite forget. A memory of Juniata I hold near and dear to my heart. An experience I don’t think I’d get in any other poetry class anywhere else.

Returning from Cork, Ireland

When I was walking around Huntingdon on my first day back at Juniata College, I couldn’t help but smile. Even if I had an amazing time in Cork, Juniata was still home.

 

Here is UCC’s most photographed building – affectionately deemed Hogwarts. I studied Old Irish (c. 600-900 AD) in the left portion.

Here is UCC’s most photographed building – affectionately deemed Hogwarts. I studied Old Irish (c. 600-900 AD) in the left portion.

I spent my entire junior year studying Irish language and literature at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. Talking about study abroad is tricky – you don’t want to downplay the opportunities and experiences you had while there, but you also don’t want to sound arrogant or pretentious. In terms of school, UCC is much larger than Juniata. UCC has just under 20,000 students, around 2000 of which were international students like me. Compare that to the approximately 1600 undergraduate students at Juniata.

Most of the classes I took were within the Celtic Civilisation department (yes, civilization has an “s” instead of a “z” in Ireland). These classes had small, discussion-based approaches like at Juniata. This was not the case for other students in larger departments. I was happy to learn about Celtic linguistics, Old Irish grammar, and Otherworld literature as part of the 30-credit Certificate in Irish Studies that I earned.

This is me receiving my certificate for Intermediate Modern Irish.

This is me receiving my certificate for Intermediate Modern Irish.

The primary difference, for me, between Juniata and UCC was the workload. Juniata students are driven by a deep desire to learn that comes from somewhere within them. Most work abroad was done right before the heavily weighted final exams. I suppose they would think our structure was strange if they came here, though. Additionally, a huge difference upon returning is working. I have a few campus jobs, and I love working for Juniata. I couldn’t work at UCC because I didn’t have the paperwork to be eligible, and the shift from not working to working has been an adjustment these past few weeks. However, that adjustment is a welcome one. I really missed working in the Writing Center while abroad, and I made sure to meet up with some tour guide friends who were abroad to catch up with them.

UCC has an arch, too! No one storms their arch, though.

UCC has an arch, too! No one storms their arch, though.

One of my favorite aspects of Juniata is that it has offered me opportunity after opportunity, and one of the greatest has been the chance to study abroad at UCC. I came back with so much academic, personal, and cultural development, but I am thrilled to be at Juniata again. I’ve had so much fun (and I’ve learned so much) talking to other students who were here last year and who were abroad, and I love seeing the way their eyes light up when they tell stories from abroad, or talk about an event on campus that they orchestrated, or dive into the developments they made in their research. You could say that what I missed the most about Juniata was the passion in the students.

Go raibh maith agat, a Chorcaigh, ach táim sa bhaile anois.

Thanks, Cork, but I’m home now.

Juniata Goes West

There is a waterfall that is nestled between some of the lesser mountains that adorn the rugged skyline to the west of Colorado Springs.  Seven Falls has been a longtime fixture in Colorado Springs’ attractions, but it has only recently (within the last few years) been bought by the Broadmoor, a swanky hotel, golf course and resort.  They have made some amazing additions to the park and have done some stellar renovations.  If you ever visit, hit up The 1858.  It’s a little pricey but well worth it.

Me posing atop inspiration point, trying not to think of the hundreds of feed of empty air behind me.

Me posing atop inspiration point, trying not to think of the hundreds of feed of empty air behind me.

I found myself there twice this summer; once at the beginning, once at the end.  The first time I found myself there was right before my best friend’s sister, a girl who I myself have come to see as a sister, graduated from our high school.  The beginning of my summer marked the ending of an era for her.  She was about to head off on a new adventure on the opposite side of the country.  This was a momentous occasion for her, and there I was, back in Colorado, trying to combat altitude.

Seven Falls is an interesting place.  Honestly, it is mostly just a tourist trap, offering the much sought after Colorado branded merchandise at extravagant prices.  But once you climb the two hundred and eighty something steps to the trails above the falls, you get a new appreciation for life… and oxygen.  The trails are shaded by tall spruce and sentinel pines and the few aspens that might be left over from a bygone flood.  It is peaceful and calming; the stream that feeds the falls, can be heard trickling through the rocks and roots.

On my return trip to Colorado Springs at the end of the summer, my friend and I made our pilgrimage to the Falls.  As we made our way to Inspiration Point, a cliff overlook that stands high above the falls and looks out over Colorado Springs, we passed a man and his son.  The man stopped and pointed at my windbreaker (which bears a Juniata logo) and said “Juniata College?  Is that the one in Pennsylvania?”  I was so stunned that someone recognized the school that I was momentarily speechless.  Then I enthusiastically responded that yes, it was, and we had a very exciting conversation about how his wife attended Juniata and how important her experience here was for her.

I was in awe for the rest of the day.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal; you meet people who you have something distantly in common with every day.  But it was the fact that he knew Juniata and not just in the “the school south of Penn State” kind of way.  So many people I meet give me blank half-apologetic stares when I tell them where I go to college, but there, finally, just below Inspiration Point, I met someone whose life had been changed for the better because of Juniata.

My friend and I continued our climb to Inspiration Point and when we reached the top, I can in fact say that I was inspired.  I sat there, staring down at the now miniscule city and how it, and so many things that I have come to associate with it, have gotten me to where I am today.  I looked up from the city and admired the ageless rocks that surrounded me.  I smiled, and we hiked back down to lunch, and the best nachos I have ever had.

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