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Little Old Man on Top of the World

Two summers ago, I told myself, was going to be the best summer of my life – a whole summer in China. Being 20 years old at the time, the toughest thing about life is doing all the right things in order to ensure that after college you have some sort of job waiting for you. For most college sophomores and juniors summer is about trying to put something amazing on your resume. I was thinking of teaching English, interning or doing anything to make my resume pop. Before I hopped on that plane I was excited, because this summer was the summer that I wasn’t going to sit at home – I was actually going to do something that may land me a job someday. Little did I know at the time, I would be coming home a month early with little to nothing to put on my resume. However, traveling is not always going to be about another bullet point on your resume, but learning about yourself.

One of my greatest experiences in China was climbing Wu Dong Mountain. For everyone who hates the stairs or the steppers at the gym – ME- this is all out-of-shape people’s biggest fear – a 3 mile hike ALL UP STAIRS. 30 minutes into this hike when all of the track and field stars and gym fanatics wiz passed you – you feel the tenseness in those muscles from the hips down, and the burning in your abs. It’s one of those moments when you hate yourself for not taking the cable car. As you ascend, the steps get steeper and at some places you are pulling yourself up the mountain, the chains clicking with lovers’ locks. The sun has a chance to rise and peak through the trees, covering you in its unwanted heat. I made it to the top sticky, out of breath, and surprised by the shops around me selling tea eggs and starchy corn.

There is a mist covering the trees, making it feel like only the clouds and soaring birds were higher than I was. The view from a top takes the last remaining breath I have out of me. The view isn’t very clear at all. I found that no matter where you are in China- in the cities, on the mountain tops – you always have the feeling that China is hiding something from you.

Wu Dong Mountain View from the Top
Wu Dong Mountain View from the Top

Hidden here at Wu Dong Mountain for 20 years is a Daoist monk named Hermit Jia. He is a little old man with wrinkles and a huge smile that touches your heart. He lives in a cave overlooking the world in a place where it seems like time has stopped. There is no television, cellphones, jeans or T-shirts. If you’re a fan of Chinese movies you have seen his outfit, the black and white curled up shoes, loose pants and a traditional three button shirt.

He is befriended only by bees buzzing from inside of the cabinets with yellow honey comb shining through the cracks of the wood. A boy asked if he was ever stung by the bees – he smiled and everyone couldn’t resist to smile with him. No, he answered, I leave them alone and they leave me alone.

I traveled half way around the world, and I came upon this little piece of paradise and a smile that was so welcoming you didn’t need to speak the same language to understand the simple, simplistic but very powerful life you could have as long as you did what made you happy. Sheltered only by a dark cave this man on top of the mountain lived by one philosophy: being.

Hermit Jia
Hermit Jia

I wasn’t able to find a job or any “resume poppers” that summer; however, my discovery of a little old man on top of the world was the greatest treasure of my summer. In many ways this man reminded me of grandfather. Both men with heart melting smiles, and the courage to do what they loved most. For my pap it was gardening, for Hermit Jia is was simply being. In this big bustling world we live in we become human doings instead of just human beings.

 

Top 5 things I love about Juniata

Whenever I encounter students considering coming to Juniata, they always ask me the same few things.

“What is the social scene like?”

“How are the classes?”

“Do you like the size of the school?”

These questions are usually fine, but then I get the one question that is so hard to answer: “What is the best thing about Juniata?”. It’s a tough one. I mean, think about it. In answering that question, I’m trying to pick one thing that summarizes everything that Juniata is to me, and that’s near impossible. So, I’ve decided to make a list. A countdown list of what Juniata’s best is, at least in my opinion. I hope it helps.

 

  1. Trips – One of my favorite aspects, and one of my mom’s least favorite (sorry Mom!)

So far this year, I’ve gone on a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium, and to a 4-day professional conference in North Carolina, and its only October. The reality of Juniata is, there are trips happening constantly, they go all over, and they’re incredible. I know people who’ve gone to NYC, Niagara Falls, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and so many other amazing places on Juniata or club sponsored trips. If you’re looking to travel, and travel with a great group of people, Juniata is a good place for it.

Lake

  1. Proximity to home – This one, my mom likes

Juniata really is in a great location. We’re 3 hours from D.C., 3 hours from Philadelphia, 3 hours from Pittsburgh, and fairly close to a lot of other places, such as NYC. Generally, if I don’t know where someone is from, I assume it’s 3 hours away, because we’re pretty much smack dab in the middle of everything.

 

  1. Huntingdon – A charming mix of old and brand new

Huntingdon is a fantastic little town. There is a plethora of coffee shops, thrift shops, little stores, and beautiful old buildings. Its small enough to always feel at home, and large enough that you always manage to see something new.

 

  1. Tenting – It’s awful and wonderful all wrapped into one freezing week

Tenting is an amazingly awful experience. It’s a hilarious week of talent competitions, 3am challenges, impossible tasks, and a lot of air horns being blown. It’s also a week of freezing your butt off, and realizing at 4 am that you have an exam in less than 12 hours that you forgot about. I would definitely recommend it.

 

  1. Everyone – You can’t beat the people

I’ve come to realize that out of everything, the people here are my absolute favorite part of Juniata. Professors, facilities, hall mates, classmates, dining hall workers… they’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. The thing is, everyone around here is willing and wanting to help you. Juniata is a community of wanting each other to be happy, and that fact is evident in everyday life.

Friends

I hope my little list was informative and helpful in your journey of selecting a school, but there’s only so much you can get from writing. If you get the chance, you should come check it out for yourself.

Global Village: Le Village Francophone Rocks!

One of the most exciting aspect of my second year at Juniata has been my involvement with the global village (GV), particularly the Francophone Village as its programming coordinator. The global village is a learning and living community centered around language and intercultural learning. It is made up of Intercultural Floor, El Rincón Hispánico, Haus Wanderlust, Le Village Francophone and the Chinese Village. The language houses formerly used to be off campus with their own individual buildings. This year however, the GV has been relocated into the Tussey and Terrace (TnT) dorm, and the lounge has been renovated and turned into the global commons with a dining room added! Some language houses have changed their named, including the Francophone Village (previously known as le Village Français). The name change was initiated by the residents and me to make the village more inclusive as most of us were French speakers but not French.

Figure 1I (on the far right) and my fellow French speakers at the Francophone Village open house: Perrine Lesage, Pia Dubar, Justine Delloye, Omar Zniber, Taha Barkaoui and Charles-Elie Latawiec
Figure 1: I (on the far right) and my fellow French speakers at the Francophone Village open house: Perrine Lesage, Pia Dubar, Justine Delloye, Omar Zniber, Taha Barkaoui and Charles-Elie Latawiec

As a programming coordinator, I am responsible for several things, including coordinating monthly dinners and activities. The best part of being a coordinator is making those dinner because, for me, FOOD=LIFE! I really enjoy cooking, and I believe that one way to have an effective cross-cultural communication is by sharing food. As a result, twice a week, my residents and I pull our efforts together to make delicious meals from the Francophone world. The most recent dinner, last Friday, featured the famous poutine dish– French fries topped with cheese and gravy–from Québec. Since I went on fall break trip to Quebec with the French club, it seemed only appropriate to do a dish from that region. In addition to the regular potatoes, we made some sweet potato poutine, inspired from the menu of Cinko, my favorite restaurant in Montréal! While we ate, a slideshow our adventures in Quebec was playing on the screen, and we had the great time.

Figure 2The original Poutine from Cinko!
Figure 2: The original Poutine from Cinko!

At previous dinners, we made food from Côte d’Ivoire (Aloco-fried plantains-and fried rice), Tunisia (Tunisian coucous), France (Quiche) and Québec (Poutine). These dishes represented the countries and regions of the French speakers that Juniata had, which shows the affluence of the francophone cultures on campus. In order to promote the village, I organized an open house and invited President Troha and Provost Bowen. They were happy with our work and loved the food! In the near future, we will be making food from Niger Senegal and Guadeloupe and continue to invite various members of the Juniata community.

Figure 3: Ivorian fried rice and Tunisian coucous mixed
Figure 3: Ivorian fried rice and Tunisian coucous mixed

As a global citizen, I am proud to be involved in pioneering GV in the newly renovated Global Commons; My co-coordinators and I, with the support our advisors and generous contributors, do our best to set the stage for the future global residents. GV still has a long way to go—we still need a kitchen of our own, which requires donations and skillful marketing skills–, but I believe in the importance of language learning and global citizenship. And indeed, we are on the right track.

 

Photo Credit to: Haruka Kamegaya

An Untraditional, Traditional Path

I’ve never been one for the traditional route, especially when it comes to academics. It started way back in adolescence. I tried on the homeschooling program for size in sixth grade. That wasn’t exactly my cup of tea and so I transferred from homeschool into a public middle school. In high school, I had a unique “magnet” creative/performing arts experience. It was anything but typical. It didn’t end there. For college, I started off with community college and then transferred to Juniata.

Juniata College was supposed to be my traditional experience. As I approach the end of my academic career here, I continue to reflect on just how untraditional it has been.

I didn’t end up here by mistake. I ended up here because it’s was the next piece of my puzzle. I searched for a four year university when I was in community college because I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to go away for college. I wanted to get the dorming experience, the meal plan, the activities, and the clubs–all that stuff that community college just didn’t have. I wanted to create lasting relationships with professors, students, and faculty. I knew exactly what I was looking for. When I signed up for Juniata, I was signing up to finally get my traditional experience.

It didn’t take me long to realize that Juniata college is anything but your average everyday college. It wasn’t soon after enrolling that I was individualizing my POE and mixing choir with newspaper all while planning on going into speech pathology and taking a service trip to the Dominican because, why not? Psychology and education can go together because I want them to, not because the school told me they have to. It didn’t take me long to realize that untraditional experiences find me because I’m just an untraditional person, just another Juniatian keeping Juniata weird. Juniata College has taught me many things, but most of all to love myself for who I truly am because it will always shine through in our personalities, and especially in our decisions.

 

 

 

 

Running toward your problems…

Fall break has once again come and gone. This is a much needed break that comes in the middle of our semester here at Juniata. It is a time of rest and relaxation… or it is supposed to be. You see, from the time we get here in August, to the time fall break begins, we as students have a lot of work. And work needs to be completed in a timely manner and, if possible, done well in advance of when it is due. If you don’t meet the deadline for an essay, or if you procrastinate believing that you will have more time later, your grades, sleep and social life will all suffer. Fall break is a moment, however brief, for us to take a breath and reflect upon the first seven weeks of the semester at what we have, and haven’t, accomplished, and look ahead to the things that we have yet to complete.

Figure 1:The SteelStacks of Behtlehem.  At the height of WWII, these forges employed 32,000 people.  They now stand cold and decrepit, relics of a bygone era.
Figure 1:The SteelStacks of Bethlehem. At the height of WWII, these forges employed 32,000 people. They now stand cold and decrepit, relics of a bygone era.

My fall break consisted of homework, studying for my biochemistry tests this coming week, sleeping and running. The first three I worked on for the first three days of break and they were for my sanity, so that in the coming weeks I might have slightly less work to do and could get slightly more sleep. The last took up about an hour and forty-seven minutes of my Sunday morning and definitely detracted a bit from my sanity. In August I decided to register for the Runners World Half Marathon held annually in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a mere three-hour drive from Juniata. You see I believed at the time of my registration that I would be able to fit in daily runs and workouts between classes, studying and work. But I sadly misjudged the amount of time I would actually have to devote to training, and a calf injury just made it that much harder to run.

Figure 2: The free t-shirt, finisher's medal and the all-important banana.
Figure 2: The free t-shirt, finisher’s medal and the all-important banana.

While I was able to finish the race (earning a fancy finisher’s medal), it was not easy to do so. I felt every mile I had not run in the past few months every time my foot pounded against the concrete, a pain that continues even now as I write this. Walking is not an easy venture at the moment. I suffer because of my hubris, believing myself to be a better athlete than I am, and because of my procrastination. I kept putting off exercise each day believing that I would have more time to do it once my calf healed or as soon as I got through a stressful week. When you keep telling yourself things like that you soon realize that the time you thought you had has passed. Then you find yourself standing on the start line of a half-marathon in awe at the fact that there are so many running nerds around you, and in horror thinking about how many miles you have to run.

The point that I am trying to make is this: Balance in a college life is key. One of my friends recently related some advice that he was given before coming to college and that was to not let classes get in the way of your college education. Now, classes are important, make sure you get your work done before you go and play. But that statement is really saying don’t let your life become controlled by academics. Be able to step away and go have fun and explore. That is one of the nice things about Juniata. Yes, you need to work hard and be studious, but the school encourages the students to take part in other activities. We have over a hundred clubs on campus, and if joining one or several of them doesn’t get you out of your room there’s always something to do on campus.

So take charge and be studious so that you can excel in your classes, but also take the time to step back and breath and hey, maybe even run a half-marathon. The pain is totally worth the free banana at the end.