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My last Mountain Day

No one ever thinks they want to be woken up by airhorns at 4 am, but trust me, you do.

Mountain Day is one of those glorious Juniata traditions where I never really feel like I can truly explain it to someone.

“Well, on a surprise day every year, all of our classes/responsibilities are cancelled. They wake us up at the crack of dawn to tell us that (usually with airhorns and loud yelling), and then once we all do get up, we pile into cars and go out to the lake for an entire day.

I’m usually met with a classic, “Do you even go to a real school?” The answer is yes, it’s just a great one.

Traditions within traditions! The annual Mountain Day tug-of-war.

Traditions within traditions! The annual Mountain Day tug-of-war. P.C. Candice Hersh

As a senior, this Mountain Day was bittersweet. While I was swimming and running and eating, I couldn’t help but have this little voice in the back of my head saying, “this is the last one.” However, that didn’t stop the festivities on what I believe to be is my best Mountain Day yet. The day was warm, the sun was shining (which seems to be a rarity this fall), and all of my friends were there. That’s definitely my favorite thing about Mountain Day – the fact that everyone can (and usually does) participate. Sure, we can plan lake days for ourselves, but usually someone has an essay or a test. On Mountain Day, we’re all free to race to the lake and spend the day in the sun without the worry of what is due tomorrow.

I returned home from Mountain Day sore, covered in lake water and sand, a little sunburnt (don’t tell my mom), and happy.

Posing for our yearly Mountain Day picture!

Posing for our yearly Mountain Day picture!

Who knows what my Mountain Day will bring next year. Maybe I’ll be teaching kids about watersheds. Maybe I’ll be writing for a journal. Maybe I’ll be in grad school. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find the time to escape down to a lake for the day. Whatever it brings and wherever I am, I’ll always have Mountain Day with me. It’s a Juniata tradition for life.

The Revelations of Traveling Abroad

Everyone at Juniata sells living abroad, and I have to warn you, I’m going to sell it as well.

 

Ireland seemed picturesque before I came here. It is rolling green hills, friendly people, good music, good beer. It is all of those things, but it also has its low points. I’ve gotten splashed by a car driving through a puddle (yep, it actually happens), I’ve gotten soaked inside and out by rain, I’ve gotten sick, and I’ve spent too much money on that good beer they have. But all in all, it has been an incredible, real experience.

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Living abroad is an opportunity to truly experience life in whatever country you go to. That includes the good and the bad. It’s not always as picturesque as one might imagine, but it teaches you more than a semester of classes at home ever could.

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I spent this semester in Cork, Ireland doing an internship at their Environmental Research Institute with UN Environment GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre. What that really meant was that I wasn’t really a student. I’m using my Environmental Fellows scholarship from Juniata to cover my cost of living and now that I’m done, I’m using my savings to explore a bit of Europe. It was odd working every day and not going to class, but I got to experience Ireland all the same.

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Cork has become my home in the past 3 months. This small little city has definitely taken a piece of my heart. The River Lee is always flowing past me. I can see farm fields on my walk home from work (and sometimes smell them). I have housemates who are kind enough to drive me to town when I need it. And the best part? All of the pubs have fireplaces. Now, I’m still 20, so I can’t drink in the states, but if anyone finds a bar with a fireplace there, let me know. Nothing is better than drinking a good beer and sitting in front of a peat fire.

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Overall, studying abroad has been an amazing experience. I’ve gotten to live with people from Ireland, and one of my best friends from Juniata. I’ve gotten to travel around the country to Kinsale, Killarney, Dingle, Dublin, Cobh, Waterford, and more. I’ve experiencing living outside of dorm life, buying groceries, making dinner every night, and working every day. I’ve gotten to live a different life.

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I love Juniata with all of my heart, but I am also so thankful for the opportunity Juniata provided me to live abroad. It’s no vacation when you’re studying abroad, that’s for sure. It’s definitely life with work, bills, bad days and good days… But it is also creating a whole new life for yourself in a whole new place. It’s not just limited to Ireland, either. Wherever you go, be it France, Australia, New Zealand, Spain­ – it’s an experience of discovering yourself and growing as a person.

 

Wherever you go, if you ever go abroad, jump into growth. See what part of yourself traveling will reveal. And if you’re lucky, have a good beer by a peat fire.

Adventures in the Adirondacks

27 hours in a van. 15 students. 4 instructors. 2 incredible location. 1 experience I will not forget anytime soon.

This past week, I went on a field trip with my Forestry class of 15 students to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Adirondacks in New York. We were on a forestry tour of New England, and it was amazing.

Moose Poop!

Moose Poop!

Starting on campus at 7am on Monday morning, we loaded up in the vans and headed to the White Mountains. When we arrived (11 hours later, I might add), we spent the night in an old farmhouse. The next day, we took a tour of Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest – one of the most famous sites of forestry research in the world. We went out in the field to see the research projects and were able to directly apply what we had been learning in the class. We also saw some moose poop! From clearcutting experiments, to calcium drops for sugar maple health, and climate change studies conducted by heating the soil, the research was beyond impressive. After the tour and lunch, we loaded in the vans again for a 5-hour drive to the Adirondack Ecological Center.

My friend, Annemarie, pretending to be a deer for a capture demonstration

My friend, Annemarie, pretending to be a deer for a capture demonstration

AEC, which is managed by SUNY ESF, is a beautiful site. The campus is situated on a lake with a 50-foot natural beach right across the street from Goodnow Mountain (which we did get the chance to hike!). Our next two days were filled with forestry tours, wildlife research lectures, a friend of mine pretending to be a deer, and a trip to the Wild Center – an incredible nature center in the Adirondacks. It was an experience I never would have gotten outside of class, and I’m still so in awe of everything I got to experience on the trip.

The beach at the SUNY ESF Newcomb campus

The beach at the SUNY ESF Newcomb campus

On Sunday morning, we all begrudgingly loaded into the vans to come back. The trip was over. Luckily, before it ended, we all were told about the multitude of internship opportunities at the sites we had visited, which I’m sure some of us will be applying for!

A portion of the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in the northern Adirondacks

A portion of the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in the northern Adirondacks

Being back on campus now, I’m not missing the hours we spent in the van. I don’t quite miss the early mornings and almost complete lack of Wi-Fi. However, I am missing the high mountains splattered with the colors of fall. I’m really missing looking for moose out the roads. I miss the egg salad that I got to pack for lunch every day. I’m missing the stars. I hope I can make it back up to those high mountains soon.

The Wildlife Society Northeast Student Conclave

It’s that time of year again – the time for The Wildlife Society Northeast Student Conclave.

Northeast conclave

I’m realizing that these words probably mean nothing to you, but that’s okay. I’ll give a brief explanation. Every year, the Juniata Chapter of the Wildlife Society attends Northeast Student Conclave. To break that down even further, it is a weekend gathering of wildlife and nature nerds, and it’s the best. This year’s Student Conclave took place this past weekend in Halifax, Pennsylvania, and had almost 150 participants.

The Northeast Student Conclave was full of mammals, wildlife competitions, presentations on falconry, reptiles and more, but my favorite part about this weekend was the Bioblitz competition that took place on Sunday. For this competition, the group from Juniata was competing against other schools to see who could find the most species of plants and animals in an hour.

Sunday morning, the 5 of us did what any reasonable college student would do – we woke up early, and went out to look for plants and animals. As the hour began, we were off. We wandered through the woods flipping rocks, searching in streams, analyzing tree bark, and listening for bird calls. As we ran around in that early morning hour, we identified over 100 species of plants and animals. As that time was wearing on, I slowly began to realize how much I actually knew, and how much the people around me knew as well. It was incredible.

Me and my friends Now I’m guessing what you’re thinking right now is  “oh my gosh, that girl is a super nerd”.  Well, on one  hand, yes. I am just a super nerd, but that isn’t the  whole point. My point is that this past weekend, I  got to spend all my time with a group of almost 150  people who shared the same passions as me – 8 of  them being from Juniata. That’s what happens here.  You get connected with people who love the things  you love, and there is no feeling better than sharing  a passion.

Oh, and we got 2nd place in the competition! Fun  fact about wildlife nerds – they give you animal  skulls as trophies.

Bailey Oratorical

You’ve all heard it before… Juniata is a special place. We all have heard it, we all know it, and we all sell it. For some reason, however, whenever I’m asked the question “why?”, my mind goes blank.

How can I tell you why Juniata is special any more than I can tell you why gravity happens or why bananas are the best when they’re mostly yellow with just a touch of brown? The words escape me, and it just seems like a fact of life. However, one thing recently gave me a true reason, a true piece of evidence to prove that Juniata is a special place – The Bailey Oratorical.

Winner of the 2017 Bailey Oratorical

Winner of the 2017 Bailey Oratorical, Anh Ha.

The Bailey Oratorical is the longest standing academic tradition at Juniata College, this being it’s 107th year. It is a speech competition that happens every spring and has 7 contestants who each give a 6-8 minute speech answering a prompt. I could go on, but these statistics of the Bailey, the history, the prizes, the try outs – they all pale in comparison to actually being in that room. None of those things are what amazed, captivated, and touched the audience this past Tuesday night. What we felt that night was pure heart and pure love.

36…7..3…and beyond. From 36 tryouts, to 7 finalists, to our top 3, and to hundreds of people who received the gift of hearing these speeches last night, the Bailey is a treasure. The speeches ranged from Claire Delaval’s questioning of the assumptions of the prompt: “At the heart of the liberal arts is civic engagement: How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?”, Nitya Chagti decidedly stating that we are all her family, and Maeve Gannon welcoming us into the world of social change. It was heart wrenching to hear their personal stories, to feel their presence reverberating throughout the room. In the end, they were accepted and appreciated by each and everyone one of us in that theatre.

The second place winner of the Bailey, Nitya Chagti and myself.

The second place winner of the Bailey, Nitya Chagti and myself.

The first prize for the Bailey is undoubtedly impressive – $1,000. However, I do not think a single one of those seven finalists that night was thinking about money. I know a few of them personally, and their actions were not driven by a desire to win, make a quick buck, or get a resume booster. Each of them had an idea that they thought could make the world better if they shared it, and I think that they were right.

The love, friendship, and support I felt in that room was endless. And that feeling, that one of fullness, pride, tears welling in my eyes, warmth exuding from my heart…. That is what makes Juniata special. For as little as I can put it into words, I hope you all know what I am talking about, I hope you have all felt it before. There is no feeling like it.

If you ever get the chance, I suggest you tune into the Baileys. In person is preferable, online is second best. You will be surprised, happy, sad, angry, hopeful, loved. The people here will love you, and that is beautiful.

 

Juniata Snow Day

Thursday morning I woke up around 2 AM, and looked out my window to see before me a winter wonderland. It was the picturesque snow – the one which rests easily on the trees and transforms your whole view of the world. It was gorgeous. I promptly appreciated it for a minute, and immediately fell back asleep, because nobody needs to be awake at 2 AM.

 

Snow Day

Now many of you may be thinking, “Oh cool, a snow day!”. I hate to break it to you, but absolutely not. Very rarely do we ever get classes canceled here at our little mountain college. You see, we are hardened to the snow here. We are unaffected by the cold. We are winter warriors! …sort of. Because most of our professors live in town, and Pennsylvania is well educated in snow removal, classes being canceled is a rare treat, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the winter weather.

Snow Day

After classes were over on Thursday, a few friends and I took off to frolic in the snow. The fresh powder wasn’t quite right for building snowmen, but we did throw a snowball or two. It was perfect for writing giant messages in the snow, taking a walk around campus, and finally, finishing the day with a walk to the cliffs.

Only a few minutes walk from main campus, the cliffs are a Juniata gem. The views are breathtaking, and while it looks good in every season, there was something magical about that landscape being covered in a fresh blanket of snow. Of the things I’ve learned being at Juniata, there is one main one that comes to mind right now: very few things are more beautiful than Juniata with a fresh coat of snow. I mean, just look at those pictures.

Snow on the Cliffs

So yes, while we don’t get very many classes off because of weather, we still get to enjoy the fun of the snow and the beauty of central Pennsylvania, which all in all, I would consider a win.

I am a Researcher

I’d never considered myself to be much of a “researcher”. Yes, I love environmental science, and most science learning, but when I thought about my future, I never saw research in it. Now, as a first semester Sophomore, I’ve found myself leading my own research project under biology professor, Dr. Norris Muth.

Last year, I began working on the project of mapping the street trees of Huntingdon Borough. I continued that project into this year, but a few weeks ago, Dr. Muth and Jim Savory (a member of the Tree Commission) approached me with a new project – the Huntingdon Champion Trees project. Well, that’s not quite our official name, but it sums it up fairly well. Essentially, our goal is to find the biggest tree of each species across Huntingdon County.

 

My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.

My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.

 

We had an article published in The Daily News (Huntingdon County’s newspaper) about our project, and the tips started rolling in. So far, people around the county have contacted me about almost 20 different trees. I’ve been going out a few times a week since then just to try to keep up with it!

 

The article written in the Daily News about our project

The article written in the Daily News about our project

Besides the fact that it’s incredibly cool to have my own project so early in my college career, the project itself somehow managed to combine everything I’m interested in. I love Urban Forestry (trees in cities and towns), history, people, and Huntingdon. I’ve met someone who lives in the same house that their grandparents once lived in, I went to one home that had an old carriage house, and a ramp in the front yard so people could get into the carriage, and I’ve seen some really, really huge trees.

I know trees are not everyone’s thing. Heck, they’re barely anyone’s thing. However, that’s not the point. Even though Juniata does not have a forestry program, I was able to invest myself fully in my interests.

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.

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  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.

You and I are different people

Okay, yes that is an obvious fact, but it’s also an important one. If you do decide to come to Juniata (which I truly hope you do), you won’t have the same experiences as me. We’ll be on the same small campus, we’ll probably have mutual friends, and perhaps even a class or two together, but I can never tell you what your experience will be like. I know that. So, on that note, I’m not going to tell you about me. Instead, I’m going to tell you about some of the incredible people here who you might someday get a chance to meet. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be telling someone else a story about you.

To kick us off is a very good friend of mine. We didn’t meet in the usual way, but rather, he walked by my room when I was having a really rough night (I had just lost a bunch of shoes that didn’t belong to me after borrowing them for a scavenger hunt). When he looked in, he saw me huddled in the corner eating off-brand pop tarts, nearly crying, and instead of walking by, he walked in. We talked for hours about nothing, and yes, I later found the shoes.

I have another friend who is just incredible. Last summer, he worked in a hotel in Germany, and this summer he’s sailing around Tahiti and Australia for a couple of months. In the span of an hour, he encouraged me to work in New Zealand this summer at a horse trekking farm, simply because I can. I would never have had the courage to actually go for it without his inspiration and encouragement.

Friends

It isn’t just the peers that are amazing here. One of my professors, who happens to also be The Wildlife Society advisor here, hired me to work in the Field Station Office this year. Every time I go in for work, he starts off by asking me how I’m doing, and I can tell he truly cares. He knows I have a busy schedule this semester, and he wants to make sure I’m not overworked. Every week, it makes me feel a little better knowing that someone is looking out for me.

One more thing that happened recently really stands out to me. Walking to dinner, I saw a bunny in a storm drain. It was a baby, just huddled in the corner. When I saw that it was still there the next day, I went to President Troha’s office to tell him about it, because I knew he would help me. Even though he wasn’t in at the time, his secretary was on it. She was not about to leave that baby bunny in the storm drain either.

There are so many stories from so many different people on this campus, I couldn’t even make a dent in them if I tried to tell them all. From a girl who made it her mission to change the world because her life was personally affected by genocide, to a friend who works six jobs here on campus but still manages to do well in all of them, to a professor, whose parents told her that she only had a limited amount of options for her life because she was a woman – the stories are endless and incredible.

Group

Although I’m surrounded by all of these incredible people, I don’t feel lost in the shuffle. I don’t feel like I’m competing, and I don’t feel put down, because we are all a piece of what makes Juniata so amazing. Without our myriad of backgrounds, and intense variety of stories, Juniata wouldn’t be what it is today. It’s a patchwork I’m proud to be a part of, and if it fits you, hopefully someday you’ll be a part of it too.

 

Reflections on Freshman Year

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Just a casual selfie with President Troha

I can’t believe it. Freshman year is almost over. This year, time has passed more quickly than I could’ve ever imagined, but I think that might just mean I’m doing it right. I could give you the stereotypical “there’s been ups and downs,” and honestly I probably should because that’s the truth. I wish I could write down everything I’ve experienced, but if I tried to even summarize everything for you, we would both be here for hours. Let me give it to you in one word: joy.

That’s all I can think when I think about this last year. My life has been filled with joy ever since I arrived at Juniata College. That does not mean times weren’t hard, or I was never sad. I’ve been distraught here. I’ve been mad, and I’ve cried. However, I’ve also laughed until I couldn’t breathe, I’ve smiled until my face hurt, and I’ve gone on an incredible amount of adventures with the people I love.

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Now that I’ve gone through the ups and downs of a year of school, I think I’m old and wise enough to give you some advice on what to expect when you come to Juniata College.

  1. Pack lightly. Be aware that even though our dorm rooms are fairly large, they will not fit everything you bring. I promise you, you will accumulate a lot of things over the course of a year.
  2. There aren’t exclusive cliques here. Yes, there are groups of friends, but all of the ones I have encountered have been incredibly welcoming, so take advantage of that.
  3. Don’t always wait for an invitation. Okay, no, you should not invite yourself to someone’s birthday party or third wheel on a date, but if someone is going to play Frisbee golf, ask if you can go along. College students don’t always know that some people are waiting for an invitation.
  4. Time management is so important. Juniata is an academically challenging school, but it is incredibly easy to balance those academics with other activities. Prioritize and manage your time.
  5. Ask for help. Everyone I have met here has been more than willing to help me, so if you need or even just want a support network, Juniata has an incredible one.
  6. Enjoy it. Don’t count down until you can go home for Fall Break or until the semester is over. Appreciate the people you meet and the experiences you’re having. It’ll be gone before you know it.

Wherever you decide to go (I hope it is here, because this school is wonderful), just make sure it’s somewhere where you can take advantage of all college has to offer, because let me tell you, freshman year is fantastic.

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