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Guess What, Everyone? I’m On The Radio!

“Hello again, everybody, you are listening to Power 92.3 WKVR!”

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That’s right folks, I host a radio show. Once a week, my voice goes live on the air to tell stories and cheesy jokes and occasionally break out into spontaneous song (sorry not sorry) for anyone to hear.

When my housemate first suggested we do a show together on the Juniata station, I laughed. Speaking live, while people I don’t know would be listening? The idea made me a bit nauseous. But let me tell you – it is SO fun. For an hour, we talk about random memories we have from the past four years, share long playlists full of music and artists we like, and even chat about current events that matter to us, or interesting things from our classes. It’s like having a normal conversation, just in front of a microphone (and snazzy soundboard). Our show is also primarily a request show, so we get to play songs that listeners request each week. We also do competitions, asking people to tell us their best jokes or stories to win a small prize! Some of our dedicated friends and family listen in from wherever they are, and we even get mail requests! We are FAMOUS. (Of course I’m not exaggerating.)

I have grown to love the college radio station so much because it is just one of the examples of an initiative that is completely run by students, for students, that empowers us to raise our voices in the Juniata community, 100% as we are. All you have to do to host a radio show is sign up with the WKVR club. That’s it! The students who run the station are fantastic, dedicated, helpful and patient with any difficulties that arise.

Hosting the weekly show on Juniata’s radio station with my housemate has given me the chance to share and discover some really good music with Juniata students and anyone else who chooses to listen to the station. Even my best friend who goes to school in Amsterdam can listen. If you have the time, sign up for a show and see how much fun it really is.

“Have a great weekend, everyone. Power 92.3 WKVR, signing out.”

My Enthusiasm for Juniata’s Peace and Conflict Studies Department, Take 2


Juniata College recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Peace Chapel.

Juniata College recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Peace Chapel.

Within growing educational fields, I believe that the opportunity for rigorous research and discussion is absolutely vital. I have blogged in the past about my appreciation for the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) department here at Juniata College, and now from my senior vantage point, I think that it is important to mention a little something about research and how I have personally seen the department evolve. After all, an academic institution cannot remain static in its curriculum without falling behind in the ever-growing wealth of knowledge that exists in the world.

The field of Peace and Conflict studies is so exciting to me because its existence opens many, many doors when it comes to collaborative efforts towards peaceful campuses, societies, and interactions. As a Juniata student who has had the opportunity to work with the PACS faculty here, I feel lucky to understand that there are major shifts occurring in Conflict Resolution practice around the world. It is my belief that Juniata’s PACS representatives work hard to keep the curriculum extremely relevant to current work in the field. For example, this year Dr. Polly Walker has integrated a new course into the department’s repertoire that focuses entirely on the newer resources that are being developed for effective peace work. As a student in this new class, I feel as though the work is so important because it pulls us young, aspiring peace practitioners into the current dialogue of the field.

I could sing the praises of the PACS professors here for hours, but in the interest of maintaining a readable and coherent blog, I’ll restrain myself. I do want to add, though, that for anyone who wants to be actively involved in the current undertakings of the peace research world, Juniata has many resources. The work of the PACS initiative here at Juniata also spreads far beyond the Oller Center building on campus (where the department is located) and is working in exciting ways towards strengthening the fabric of our campus in a collaborative manner with other departments and the school’s administration.

My experience with the Peace and Conflict Studies department has helped shape who I am as a student and a person. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Am I Still Convinced That Juniata Was a Good Choice for Me?

I’ve found myself saying the phrase ‘Juniata is what you make of it’ a lot recently. It sounds like something I found on genericquotes.com : “Insert word here is what you make of it” (life, time, sweet potatoes, etc). So I questioned myself. Cliché phrases often don’t mean much once they’ve been dissected. But the more I think on it, the more certain I am that for me, my college experience has been what I’ve been able to make of it. And that is exactly why, when people ask me if going to Juniata has been worth it, my answer is a firm yes.

My reasons as to why are multi-faceted, but I will start with the fact that I will be graduating at the end of my 4-years with both an American and a French diploma. I understand that this is perhaps an accomplishment specific to my French POE, but I know for a fact that these kinds of extra achievements are not hard to come by at Juniata. If you are dedicated and passionate about what you study and your outside interests, you WILL find yourself involved in projects, trips and programs that you would not have encountered so directly at a bigger school.

Additionally, Central PA is beautiful.

Additionally, central Pennsylvania is beautiful.

I believe that an enormous catalyst for my experience has been the fact that my professors know me as Erika, an individual person, not just as a student. Juniata IS a small community in the grand scheme of things. If you participate in class (and most of the time, even if you don’t), it is inevitable that your professors will get to know you. They have worked hard with me to develop my skills as an independent thinker and intelligent human being. The connections that I have here with them will extend far beyond May of 2015 when I will graduate from Juniata.

Choosing to go to a private college or university is a scary, personal decision. It’s a financial undertaking and commitment to live the life of a student. Additionally, it requires confidence that your time will be fruitful and ultimately lead to better opportunities and connections. In my case, choosing to attend Juniata College was a choice that I will fervently stand behind and always be grateful for.

Reflections On Returning – I’m Back!

Well hello there, everyone, it’s been a while!

On August 23rd, 2013, I boarded a plane headed for Brussels International Airport. It was one of the most exciting and terrifying moments of my life, knowing that the next 10 months would be spent in a French city that was entirely foreign to me. Nine hours later, we touched down on Belgian soil and began a very stressful 3-hour journey to our final destination, Lille, France.

Starting with that first train ride from the airport to Lille, there were many moments during my past year abroad when things did not go as planned. Over the course of those 10 months, a plethora of missed stops, misunderstood sentences, frustrating encounters, and worn-out shoes rattled hard on the boundaries that had previously contained my comfort zone.

My experience of living in a different country taught me countless things about myself and other people, but one of the most important lessons I now realize I learned was how to become comfortable with living uncomfortably. Now, of course, I don’t mean that my rented room was literally uncomfortable (I quite liked my 9-square-meter space). But, by default, existing in an environment where many things are out of your control and do not go as planned means that you will have those awkward encounters with strangers, those stressful conversations with the bank and immigration office, or perhaps the frustrating exchange with the residence office insisting that you have indeed already paid your rent for the past two months, thank you very much (true story). Personally, I had to learn to adjust my expectations and focus on goals as opposed to achieving them smoothly. Sometimes, you just have to walk in blindly with fingers crossed.

It would be impossible to write a summary of my year in Lille that would accurately express everything that I experienced and saw, but I can say that I am so entirely grateful for those moments of being uncomfortable. As individuals, we do not have power over how everything goes in our life. Sometimes, you have to fight for what you want in a language that you still aren’t 100% fluent in with someone who is treating you rudely when you’re exhausted. It happens. And you will get through it.

For moments like this, it's all more than worth it . (Greystones, Ireland)

For moments like this, it’s all more than worth it . (Greystones, Ireland)

Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier that I was lucky enough to study abroad. All of those stressful moments were more than worth it, and I wouldn’t take back any of them for a second.

Week Before Finals

When I tried to remember what I’ve been doing for the past week, this is the list I came up with, in the order that I thought of:

1) This past Friday, I ventured

up to the peace chapel with three of my closest friends. It was a much-needed break from staring at textbooks and computer screens, and the perfect day for enjoying some sun and relaxing.

At the Peace Chapel.  Photo Credit: Jessica Matlack

At the Peace Chapel. Photo Credit: Jessica Matlack

2) The Global Village was hosting an end of the year barbeque on Saturday, and my housemates and I spent hours that morning making shrimp shishkabobs and a pesto-pasta salad. All of the language houses made something for everyone to share, and oh my, was it all delicious.

3) On Sunday night, two of my friends and I took a study break and made homemade no-bakes.

4) The weather this week has been lovely, and I’ve spent a decent amount of time doing some work (…and sometimes taking a nap) with my equally as lovely housemates on the lawn outside of our house.

5) Laughter.

6) Yesterday, I went to lunch with one of my good friends and housemates at Standing Stone. We sat outside and ate our delicious Panini’s and sipped our smoothies, just enjoying the sun and people walking by.

7) Schoolwork.

If you’d asked me in person, I probably would have said something along the lines of “oh, a ton of work, you know.” This is not to say that I haven’t been working like a crazy person to finish everything that needs to be done, but I’ve realized that the people around me have made this week one of the best of my year, and it’s the week before finals!

The last few weeks of the semester are always rough. Anywhere you look, students are frantically trying to finish those last two papers, study like crazy for the coming exams, or desperately working to perfect end-of-the-year presentations. But the moments that I’ve spent with the people that I love here has made every painfully-late night of work more than worth it. These are the memories that I’ll look back on, seeing my friend’s faces mid-laughter, or remembering something especially amusing that they said. A good college experience has so much to do with the people  you surround yourself with, and I’d say I’m pretty lucky.

Juniata College Relay For Life 2013!

Erika's Relay Team

Erika’s Relay Team

There are very few people who haven’t been affected by cancer in some way. Whether we’ve experienced it first-hand or know someone who has, it’s safe to say that we know a little bit about how rough the journey is for those who have cancer and their loved ones. This is why every year during the spring semester, the students of Juniata College participate in our own Relay For Life. On April 13th from noon to midnight this year, we walked around the quad in the center of our campus as a community.

The ultimate goal of Relay For Life is to raise as many funds as possible to donate to the American Cancer Society for help with research towards potential cures.  Our goal was to raise at least $28,500 to donate this year, and thanks to the help of the current student team participants, family members, friends, and Juniata community members, we reached and exceeded it!

I have always found the most beautiful part of Relay to be the support that everyone involved is willing to give. So many people happily dedicated their time and resources towards the cause. For example, a professional hairdresser came to campus in the afternoon and stayed until midnight, cutting hair for any of the girls who wanted to donate at least 8 inches towards wigs for those who have lost their hair in the process of chemo treatments. Over 400 inches were donated just in that one day. Teams came up with their own fundraising items to sell to help raise more money during the day, which involves a lot of creativity, time, and effort. Students made different kinds of mini-meals, baked goods, jewelry, decorated glasses and other crafty items. One student was selling framed butterflies from around the world that he has rehydrated and put together himself. Many of the team tables sold out of everything they had prepared, which is incredible.

Relay at JC is always especially important to me, not only because cancer has affected my own family, but also because one of my close friends on campus is a thyroid cancer survivor. She was the one to give the Survivor Speech this year, and my team and I couldn’t have been prouder of her. Immediately after her speech, she and all of the other survivors who are able to be present for Relay all do one lap around the quad together. This year, it was a group of grandparents, alum, and current students. Everyone else lined the path and clapped for them as they went by. It was a powerful statement. They survived and are still walking to kick cancer’s butt.

Relay is one of the events that makes me love the Juniata community even more. Everyone who participated in Relay did so with a huge amount of dedication and passion. Our community is one of love and support at Relay for Life, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. Cancer is a terrible disease, and it is so good to know that anyone who has suffered because of it has a huge support system right here in Huntingdon.

An International Campus Community

Me with my friends from France and ThailandOne of the few disadvantages that I saw myself potentially facing as a Juniata student was a lack of immersion with the French language and culture that I had come to love. As diverse as the Juniata student body was for its size, I did not expect to have much of a chance to experience the Francophone way of life, or meet French students, simply because of the location.

However, I have been proven 100% wrong.

A somewhat new initiative on campus, Juniata’s Global Village now offers language-specific housing for anyone hoping to kick their fluency level up a few notches and live with international roommates from areas of the world where the language is spoken. The Global Village is made up of two different entities:

1)      The Intercultural Floor- Currently located in our dorm Terrace, the Intercultural Floor houses students who wish to experience living in a non-location-specific international community. I lived here during my freshman year and met people from all around the world. My roommate from that year is Jamaican, but I also got to know people from France, Nigeria, Japan, and Bulgaria, for example.

2)      Language-Specific Houses- These ‘living and learning’ communities are set in campus-owned houses. We currently have a Spanish House (La Casa Hispánica), French House (Le Village Français), and the German House (Haus Wanderlust). I currently live in Le Village Français as the Event Program Coordinator, and choosing to apply to the house is the best decision I think I have made during my time here.

I could go on for hours and hours about how much I’ve loved living in Le Village Français and what I’ve learned from my housemates, but I will try to be somewhat concise. French student life, social patterns, cooking, and travel are only a few of the subjects that I’ve been able to hear so much of from students who have lived their whole lives in France. I have had the chance to become particularly close friends with 4 French students who all go to school in Lille. If you’ve read my profile, you know that I will be spending my next academic year in Lille, France. This means that when I arrive at the airport to start my whole year abroad, most likely exhausted and scared out of my mind, there will be friendly faces waiting for me as soon as I walk off of the plane. I cannot put into words how much I appreciate knowing that these people will be there to help me get on my feet. I have also gotten to know 3 of my housemates who are going to Lille with me next year, and they are the most wonderful people I could hope to set off on this experience with. To me, the friends that I have made because of living in this French House are invaluable, and I would not have gotten to know them if I had not lived in the Global Village.

If you take one thing from this, let it be that you will not be disappointed if you are willing to open your mind and heart to the international students that reside within the Juniata community. If you love a language, live with students who will speak it with you. I have made lifelong friends from all over the world during these past two years. And no matter what part of the world that they are from, these friends always inspire me to be my best, see the world, and make the most of this Earth we have been given.

Au revoir!

(Which literally means “until we meet again.” Those French romantics!)

Back To School Blues? I Think Not.

Welcome Home SnowI remember so clearly dreading going back to high school after any break. It wasn’t because I disliked my classes or fellow sleepy classmates, or my teachers for that matter. No, I simply dreaded going back to school because… it was “school”. There was something in the phrase, “I go back to school on Monday”, that warranted a physical and emotional cringe. Looking back now, I can’t exactly remember why it seemed like such a traumatic experience.
After my first semester here at Juniata, I went home for Christmas break completely relieved that I’d made it through one of the hardest transitions that I’d experienced. It was a good semester, but all I could think of was how fabulous it would be to have nothing to do and all of the time in the world to relax. It was great at first- seeing my best high school friends, driving around familiar places, and unlimited amounts of Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order SVU. But slowly, after about a week or two, I started to feel something else. My house suddenly seemed much too quiet and my college friends suddenly felt so far away. Did I actually miss being at school?!
Indeed, I did. It was during that break that I realized how happy I was that I had made the choice to come to Juniata. There is no feeling that can compete with the joy I experience every time I come back to this place that I now call home. The people, the mountains, the professors, and even my campus job fit perfectly into the spaces of my heart, and I can confidently say that they will remain there for the rest of my life.
I think that there’s a part inside each of us that changes when we make any sort of big step in our lives. Even though I am only a 3-hour drive from the places in Maryland where I became the somewhat-sane version of me, living on a campus like this has changed me much more than I ever would have expected. As I write this, looking out the window at a surprise snowfall, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I am so lucky.

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