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The Gambian Art Coalition – Part 2

In the summer of 2019, I spent five and a half weeks in The Gambia, West Africa. Three of those weeks were spent studying politics and culture with 19 other Juniata students, and two and a half were spent working for the Gambian Art Coalition.

As a sophomore at Juniata I became the co-founder of the non-profit organization known as the Gambian Art Coalition. Exactly one year later, (as of November 18th, 2019), I am knee-deep in organizing sales and presentations, working with interns and business professionals, and coordinating buying trips and budgets. Being the co-founder and Director of Communications and Marketing of an international non-profit organization was not something I thought I would be doing while earning my undergraduate degree at Juniata College.

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The Gambian Art Coalition

I went into my sophomore year at Juniata with a full schedule. Three jobs, two internships, and a full load of credits. Never in a million years did I think I would have the time or the ability to co-found a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) as an undergrad.

The NGO I cofounded with two of my great friends, Evelyn McCammon and Sarah Borgardt, is called The Gambian Art Coalition. It was an idea brought to us by Professor Nagengast in the Politics department. He’s been travelling to The Gambia for the past 15 years and has made many great friends amongst the Gambians.

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It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are.

Juniata’s motto, “Think about who you are”, has caused me to have at least three existential crises in the last few months. I don’t know who I am yet. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

For a long time, I pictured myself working at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in their Education department. I’ve been thinking about working in Vessel Operations at a cruise company. Then I got to school and thought I could see myself being a fluff journalist writing articles about big cows and quizzes to find out what Disney Princess you are based off of the food you get at Sheetz.

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Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I’ve always celebrated a Thanksgiving week as opposed to a Thanksgiving Day.

This year, it started with an all-nighter of cooking in the kitchen of Unity House for the Friends-giving of Sherwood. The Resident Advisors held a Friendsgiving dinner in the lounge consisting of lumpy mashed potatoes (I couldn’t find a proper masher), Kraft mac and cheese, and sliced turkey meat from the deli counter at Giant. The food wasn’t amazing but, the company was.

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Fall break spent chasing waterfalls

Last week was fall break. This year it happened to line up with my older sister’s fall break which has never happened before. My mother decided we should all meet up and do a girl’s trip for a few days. We decided that Asheville, NC was a good midpoint between Huntingdon, Annapolis and New Orleans.

We started out by going shopping in the adorably artsy town that is Asheville. My mother bought so much Tupelo honey that she actually had to check her bag on the flight home. We also tried on a million pairs of shoes, several were described by my mother as ‘feeling like a butter’. Yes, apparently shoes can feel like a single butter.

My sister and I at the Bad Fork Valley Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway – unfortunately there is no such thing as the Good Spoon Valley… we looked.
My sister and I at the Bad Fork Valley Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway – unfortunately there is no such thing as the Good Spoon Valley… we looked.

Our next stop after shopping was the Asheville Pinball Museum. I’ve never been a museum person but this one was incredible. We spent hours playing old-timey pinball games and classic Pac Man and Donkey Kong arcade games.

We visited Biltmore Mansion, I saw lots of fancy tapestries and wood carvings and Mr. Biltmore’s mesmerizing library. On our way out of the Biltmore gardens, we saw a black bear about 30 seconds into a Chinese Fire Drill. I didn’t realize it until after we left, but that was by far one of the scariest moments of my life. The bear was so incredible to see that I momentarily forget my intense fear of bears.

The main reason my mother had wanted us to visit Asheville was to see the changing fall foliage. Unfortunately, the leaves were behind schedule and hadn’t started changing yet because the weather has been so crazy lately. We had to drive until at least 5000 feet above sea level to see even the slightest bit of color.

Even though we had an extreme lack of color in the foliage, we went on a driving adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway to find some waterfalls. My sister sang “Waterfalls” by TLC for the entire car ride but the view more than made up for it.

I never really appreciated the mountains until I came to Juniata. Growing up in Annapolis meant that I spent most of my days 39 feet above sea level, crabbing and boating on the Chesapeake Bay. My only real childhood memory of mountains is from the trip we took to the Grand Canyon when I was nine. The mountains in Asheville were incredible and lush and honestly one of the prettiest views I have ever seen.

View from Biltmore Mansion.
View from Biltmore Mansion.

The views from the Cliffs and the top of 1000 steps in Huntingdon are beautiful, but they are nothing compared to the Smokey Mountains. The mountains of Huntingdon and the mountains of Asheville are vastly different and not at all what I am used to, but they are both immensely fun to explore.

I can’t wait to embrace my newfound love of mountains and spend more time exploring in Huntingdon. In conclusion, Fall Break was amazing, we did go chasing waterfalls and we did not stick to the rivers and lakes that we were used to.