After the Democratic National Convention (DNC) last summer, my latest experiential learning was the Presidential Inauguration program with the Washington Center (TWC) along with 10 other Juniata students. The two-week seminar started on January 8th, and I had the privilege to learn from experts in various political fields from economists, environmentalists, historians, journalists to lobbyists. For instance, if it were not for this seminar, I would not have been exposed to dynamic speakers like Eric Dyson and Greg Carr who represented the perspective of Black people on the potential outcomes of Trump’s presidency. This was very important to me because, as a liberal arts college located in rural Huntingdon, P.A., and a predominantly white school, Juniata College has only a few People of Color in its faculty body.
I have been living close to D.C. in Germantown, M.D., for 9 years. However, I had never fully known the District until the inauguration program. I was able to see the amount of power in D.C. I enjoyed the D.C. bus tour and learning about the District’s history. Visiting the both the Holocaust and New African American Museum was a worthwhile experience, which made me humble to have such amazing opportunities available to me. Just like the DNC, the seminar was a great career opportunity to network. I was invited to an alumni reception at the French Embassy, and I met four dynamic students from Science Po (Institute of Political Studies) in Strasbourg, France, currently studying at Georgetown University! Did I mention that I was very excited to interact with them because I too will be living and interning in Strasbourg next year? Not to mention that I made sure to get them all tickets to the inauguration itself. Indeed, this is a connection that I look forward to develop.
Living in the Nation’s capital allowed me to visit my senators and representatives and interact with them as well. Our small group discussions also put me in close contact with my fellow Juniatians hailing from conservative backgrounds, whose voices often gets lost in this predominant liberal institution. During the weekend, our group also got together to attend two very different but equally formidable theater productions: Capital Steps and Confucius—the latter was my favorite because it was produced and choreographed by the 77th direct descendant of Confucius, Kong Dexin, and was visually breathtaking. By far, the craziest part of my experience was meeting Malia Obama at the club on my birthday night! Although I did not get a picture with her, seeing her was the best birthday gift.
Saturday Nov. 12th marked my most memorable day of the semester at Juniata. The Ubuntu African club held a cultural event that featured a fashion show demonstrating traditional attires, music and dance from various regions of Africa. I was very proud to have been part of this event called “I Am African, but I don’t Speak African,” because we wanted to educate the public about Africa’s ethnic diversity.
The planning of this event started a month ago when my fellow club members met at the Unity House to discuss our ideas for the semester. Although the Ubuntu club was known for dancing at various events, including the multicultural fest and the dance ensemble fall recital, we wanted a platform of our own. As such, we chose a date, booked the venue, created posters and reached out to professors and peers to spread the word. In addition to dancing, we had other members show their hidden talents through poetry, modeling and singing. I was mostly involved with reserving the venue and choreographing dances to popular Afro beats songs like “Bank Alert” by P-Square, “Tiguidi” by Tour de Guarde, and “Shake Body” by Skales. My favorite moment of the event when a kid named Jillian bravely came to dance with us. He was amazing, full of energy and quickly picked up our dance moves.
The event would not have been successful without our combined efforts, which is what the name of club reflects. Ubuntu is a Swahili word, meaning “togetherness”. We had Stephanie as the master of ceremonies, and she made sure that the show ran smoothly! Other club members helped make the event successful, including the club’s president, Hephzibah, from Nigeria, the club’s event coordinator, Joycelyn from Kenya, Sayida, from Niger, Taha from Tunisia, Melat, Kisest and Ruhama Ethiopia, Zoe, from New York, and Theresa from Maryland. In total, five African countries were represented that night: Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria; and seven ethnic languages: Swahili, Gouro, Baoule, Haoussa, Tunisian Arabic, Amharic and Igbo. Our message was clear: Africa is not a country but a continent, and its diversity goes deeper than country borders drawn on the map. These borders do not necessarily represent or isolate the different ethnic groups, which number in the thousands.
Our event had a great turnout, and I was very happy to see our peers and professors celebrating our cultures. This was very important to us because it encouraged us to put plans into motion for our bigger event in the spring, where we will have authentic African dishes from various parts of the continent.
Photo Credit: Nahui Twomey
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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!!!
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!
This spring break, I decided to participate in a community service trip to Bithlo, Florida. This was mostly because I had never had the opportunity to volunteer, and this was a chance to experience living conditions in other regions of the United States. Technically, Bithlo is part of Orlando, but unlike the booming and wealthy parts of town and the affluence of Disney World, Bithlo is an unincorporated and impoverished community. Bithlo has been neglected after the town went bankrupt in the 1920s, but along with UCF (the University of Central Florida), Millersville University, and other community members, we were able to provide some support to the community by cleaning the gardens, painting houses and aquaponics, and serving as mentors for the students at the local charter school.
When we first arrived, my first instinct was to be with the children, and the experience was wonderful. The kids ranged from kindergarten to 3rd grade and were so full of energy and enthusiasm. They wanted to learn all sort of things, from French to Spanish to Chinese, and even English! Luckily I speak both French and Mandarin and was able to teach them several words. The older students, ranging from 8th to 11th grade, had a great thirst for knowledge. Some of the students had been through many hardships and traumatic experiences at their young age, but I was able to relate to them nevertheless. I remember one student in particular, Stevens, with whom I shared a passion for astronomy, manga, and anime, and I encouraged him to attend college if he wanted to gain in depth knowledge and have access to books about astronomy. Other students aspired to be actors and actresses and video game designers.
One of my favorite memories was our time spent at Cocoa Beach, which was my first time ever to go to the beach! I went to the beach thinking that I would be able to purchase some coconuts, while relaxing on the sand, but there were no coconut trees nor coconut vendors in sight! Although I was very disappointed, I had a good time. At first, the water was very cold and I was scared of the waves because I cannot swim. However, with the help of my friends, I was able to relax and enjoy the gentle waves coming toward me. When I wasn’t in the water, I took a short nap and later convinced Melissa, one of the volunteer UCF students, to learn some pop-cultural dance moves using the “Bet You Can’t Do it Like Me” by DLOW. She quickly picked up the moves and so did the kids at the school!
Overall, the trip was worthwhile, as I was able to connect with various people and create relationships. I still miss the dynamic of our group: Nahui’s contagious laugh, Ray’s awkward remarks, Jacob’s boyish laugh, Jared’s sensual voice, Brad’s introversion, Savannah’s sassiness, Daisie’s shining smile, Thibault’s shocked facial and surprising verbal expressions, and Jess’ crazy anecdotes. Most importantly, I miss doing a dance move called “the dab” with Mike as our signature picture pose. I certainly will go on another service trip adventure!
Although short, February has been my longest and busiest time in college! In addition to my 18 credits work load, I became involved in student government, as a Common Interest Sector (CIS) Representative and member of the Student Advocate for Universal Respect (SAUR), and have been actively participating in cultural clubs: the African-American Students Alliance, the French, Korean, and Japanese Clubs and the newly immerging African Club! To top it all off, there were numerous interesting events that took place on campus, many of which were considered extra-credits for class!
One the goals that I had set for college was to acquire valuable leadership skills and experiences. This objective, combined with my interest in political science, prompted me to join the student government. Every Wednesday afternoon, I attend CIS Rep meetings, and my role is to represent cultural clubs on the Student Senate. In fact, I am actively involved in many cultural clubs which helps me serve as a bridge between those clubs and the senate! My attendance is also required during senate sessions every other Monday, during which we discuss and vote on allocations for clubs; when needed, the administration makes an appearance and asks about our opinions regarding changes to the curriculum and student life.
Juniata has a diverse student body, and members of SAUR speak on those students’ behalf in order to have their various needs met. SAUR is divided into 3 main sub-committees, and I am specifically in the training sub-committee, which is tasked with facilitating cross-cultural dialogues. Other committees include major events and campaigning. Soon, these two committees will hold a Caribbean Carnival and a social media campaign called “The Anti-Assumption Project”, which aims to eliminate certain generalizations and stereotypes. Although being an active member of the student government can prove challenging, given the various branches and responsibilities involved, I highly value the experience, for it simulates the politics taking place in the real world. Furthermore, I learned the importance and the power of having a vote; if we can vote on issues and policies, then we can change the environment around us to meet our needs!
Aside from the politics, I have also been helping in various clubs. By far, the Chinese New Year’s Gala was an event that marked the month of February. The Chinese New Year’s festival, (also known as the Spring Festival and Chūnjié in Chinese) is the longest and most important holiday in China, which dates back as far as 17th century BC! This year was that of the Monkey (Written as,“猴” and pronounced, “Hóu”), one of the twelve animals of Chinese Zodiac. On that Saturday (Feb. 20th), the atmosphere in Baker was quite sophisticated! The color red, which is considered to be a token of fortune, wealth and prosperity in China, stood out! The tables were covered in red cloths and at the center were varieties of delicious Chinese crackers and candies! The main course was composed of pork or beef with rice, and a vegetarian option! There were performances as well, such as playing an instrument, singing, dancing, and demonstrating martial arts movements. My group and I, called “The Sherwood Babes” since we all lived in Sherwood, performed a dance choreography to a song called “Mama” by Exo-M. After hours spent practicing, we finally pulled it off and delivered a great performance!
The Chinese New Year’s Gala is only one of many cultural club events that take place this spring—The French Club alone will host an entire week-long festival, with dinners, performances, presentations and films—all of which I look forward to with enthusiasm!
After almost a month of winter break, spent mostly sleeping, I was back on campus in a flash, a week earlier than anticipated, in order to serve as an orientation leader for new international students! Meeting new students, international students in particular, is always an experience that I look forward to with enthusiasm, for I was in their shoes not too long ago.
On January 12, the new international students started to arrive and so did the snow storm. To assure their safe arrival on campus, Juniata provided them with various transportations, including Maidens Taxi, Juniata shuttle buses, and my supervisor’s own personal car. Once on campus, I, along with four other orientation leaders, were responsible for guiding them to their designated dorms. The students came from all over the world, including Mexico, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Czech Republic, England, and France. The next day was composed of helping them fill out required documents, showing them around campus, locating major academic buildings, and later, showing them around town, especially the Weis store, Standing Stone Café, and Sheetz! That was only the beginning of an amazing welcoming week.
In the days that followed, the new students were treated with some American food, which to some, was a mix of American cuisine and other countries’ cuisine. For example, María, a girl from Mexico noticed that the tacos in the States were hard and crunchy, but she believed it should have been soft like in her country. She concluded that this was an example of Mexican-American food. The Chinese students also came to a similar conclusion during our dinner at China Buffet after they noticed that Chinese-American food tended to be sweeter.
The most exciting moment of the orientation week was when we went to see the 7th Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. To many of the students, including myself, this was their first time seeing Star Wars! Now, I plan on watching the 6 previous movies during my spare time.
To this day, the International Office and Juniata College as a whole continue to make new students feel welcome. Going glow-bowling this upcoming weekend, taking a trip to State College, painting, and discovering Central-Pennsylvanian dishes are future events planned for the new students! I believe that this is the essence of Juniata: always striving to create meaningful experiences for all of its students, and I am proud to be a part of it.
After three months of school, it was time to return home for Thanksgiving. However, I did not go home alone; I invited my friends, all French speakers, to Germantown, Maryland, to spend time with my family.
My friends and I might appear to be an odd bunch to some people. However, although we speak French, we come from various parts of the world. Among those who came to my place were Joël from Burkina Faso, Élora who is half Turkish and half Algerian living in France, and Cécile who is French-Korean. We also have this particular habit, almost like a ritual—as Cécile would say—that involves mostly me preparing spicy ramen for everyone on Friday and Saturday nights. I don’t know how it started, but when we are out of energy and have nothing else to eat, “ramen seems to be life.”
Being back in Germantown and seeing my mother felt comforting. After my friends were settled, I took them out to see what the city had to offer. Our ultimate goal was to find a pistachio flavored ice-cream, which was Élora’s favorite. They had the opportunity to see both my middle and high school, and in 3 hours, we ate at a Chinese restaurant, had ice cream at Cold Stone, and, as if we hadn’t had enough to eat, Karl, my cousin, offered us two pepperoni and cheese stuffed crust pizzas; we were so full to the point that even my mother’s delicious peanut butter soup could not persuade us to eat another spoonful.
Finally, it was Thursday, Turkey-day, and my mother spoiled us to bits. In addition to the roasted and succulent turkey, we had jollof rice (West African fried rice), sweet potato and spicy tomato soup and alloko (Ivorian fried plantains). To my friends and I, the food seemed inexhaustible, for my mother kept refilling our plates! With our belly full, we went to the living room after dinner to watch Stomp the Yard.
After Turkey-day came time for a make-over, during which Yasmine took the initiative to twist my hair into Bantu knots in order to condition them for crochet braids. The other girls used the opportunity to do some shopping at the mall on Black Friday. With our break coming to an end on Sunday, we packed our bags, and of course, my mother included some food to eat on campus. It was a Thanksgiving like no other that I will always remember.
Fall Break finally arrived, and it was time for our trip to Québec, Canada. The French club and I left at 8am to hit the road. We had at least an 8 hour drive ahead of us, excluding bathroom and meal breaks. After being on the road for 9 hours, we finally arrived in Canada—specifically in Ontario province, where we were cleared by customs. At about 8pm, we arrived in our first auberge (youth hostel) in Montréal. It was raining heavily, but we were able find a very nice restaurant—called Cinko–to have dinner. In Cinko, everything was priced at $5, so I used the opportunity to taste the popular poutine dish—French fries topped with cheese and gravy. Instead of French fries, I ordered the sweet potato poutine, which was delicious! Our stay in Montréal was very short, as we left for Québec City the next morning.
My first impression of Québec City was amazing. With the fall colors settled in, Québec City was breathtakingly beautiful! The hills and houses reminded me of some European cities and yet, I was still in North America. The people spoke both French and English and were very much welcoming. Among our group, we would joke about Québec being like the States but in “French!” Things were going great; we had time to explore the city, eat delicious croissants, and do some souvenir shopping, including buying maple syrup.
On Saturday Oct 17, a day before our return on campus, we had a little dilemma; after having visited the Musée de la Civilisation (the Museum of Civilization), we could not find our bus. Our driver and mentor could not recall the parking space where he had last parked the bus. After searching the area on foot for about 30 minutes, we found our beloved magic school bus hidden in plain sight, across the vast parking space. Feeling relieved, we quickly got onboard, destination, le Parc de la Chute-Montmorency–Montmorency Falls.
Seeing the waterfalls was very exciting. We took multiple selfies and helped each other take individual pictures as well. The waterfalls ran fast and strong, and walking across them on the bridge felt exhilarating. We had to take the endless wooden steps to go back down the mountain, which was not as exciting because my legs were shaking, and the height made me tense. However, I had the opportunity to see a painting of Montmorency frozen during winter, which made me decide to definitely visit this beautiful city and this site again.
Our visit came to an end the next day, and I had a hard time saying au revoir to Québec. We once again woke up very early to prepare for another 12 hour trip. This time around, we encountered a very harsh custom agent, who took two of our group members in her office for further questioning; we were stuck in No Man’s Land, for a good 40 minutes, waiting for our friends. Indeed, there was nothing wrong with their visas, so they returned with us safe and sound.
At 11:18pm, on Sunday Oct. 18, we “landed” on campus—as Professor Henderson announced—safe and sound, and went in our dorms, reserving the next day to recount our trip and its anecdotes. As I am writing this story, I am grateful for having gone on this trip and thankful to my teacher and the French Club for organizing this unforgettable visit.