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Wildlife Student Conclave 2016

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In high school, and even in college, you work on projects that are hypothetical. They don’t play out in the real world, or really determine much in your life besides a grade. However, in college, I’ve found one project that really does make a difference.

As I have said in a few of my other postings, I am a member of The Wildlife Society here on campus, and we’ve undertaken a huge project. Every year, each region of the United States has a student chapter that hosts the Wildlife Conclave. Our chapter members decided last spring, “Hey! We can do this!” and signed us up.

When I signed up for Wildlife Conclave planning last semester, I wasn’t sure what exactly I would be getting into. It turned out to be a massive event – we have almost 150 people attending – that would require months of planning, budgeting, and long meetings.

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The planning committee

In attending events, I never really thought about how much time and effort went into it. It was just something I would go to, enjoy, and go home. In planning an actual event, I have learned that it is a lot more than that. We have to think about site logistics, funding sources, workshop assignments, making nametags, planning meals… the list goes on forever. At first, it was incredibly intimidating. It seemed like the planning would never end, and that this event would never actually happen.

Now, looking back on the past two semesters, thinking about how the event is only a week and a half away, I’m a lot less intimidated, and I realized that I have learned a lot. I learned to make a vanguard to plan when things need to get done, how to make a budget, how to coordinate orders, and how to be committed to deadlines. None of this would get done without the amazing work of everyone in The Wildlife Society, and the motivation to do that work.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, there is something special in knowing that the project I’m working on is a real thing. The pens and water bottles I ordered for this event are tangible. The people are coming, whether we’re ready or not, so we have to try like crazy to be ready. My work matters here, and that is an incredible experience to have.

If you are interested in learning any more about the event we are holding, or The Wildlife Society at Juniata in general, always feel free to contact me or to like our page on Facebook!

Random Roommate Roulette

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As an Eagle Ambassador and a freshman student here at Juniata, one of the questions I most commonly get is, “How do you like your roommate?” I have been asked this question at least a dozen times by parents and students alike, and I answer it the same way every time.

“Oh my god, I love her.”

Now, I know that statement does not make me seem like the most eloquent speaker (perhaps because I’m not), but it is the truth. My random roommate is one of the best things that has happened to me at Juniata and in life as a whole.

Before school began, I was pretty terrified of getting a bad roommate. I have two older siblings, both of whom had terrible roommate experiences, so I was expecting the worst. I tried to combat what I perceived as the inevitable by finding a roommate through the little bios on the Class of 2019 Facebook page, but somehow everyone had already paired off. I was left with the ominous reality of the random roommate. So, I filled out that little survey as honestly as possible, and prayed that I wouldn’t end up with an axe murderer.

Then I waited, and waited, and waited for what I promise you will feel like forever. Finally, in July, I got the name of my roommate: Bekah Ford. What I saw from my time spent Facebook stalking was old high school photo shoots, pictures from prom, and your other average things like photos of Alaskan landscapes, green New England mountain peaks, and a ton of pictures of a group of ragged-looking people hiking a 2,181-mile trail through the Appalachian Mountains. This odd variety of photos confused me. Who was this girl? Why wasn’t she shaving her legs? (A question I asked when I hadn’t yet grasped that she had just hiked the whole AT). Finally, and most importantly, would she like me?

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When I finally made it to Juniata in August, I was more than a little intimidated by Bekah. This girl had done what most of us only talk about doing: seizing the opportunities life has to offer. I was no match. I’m not going to say it was perfect at first interaction, because for a long time, we were simply acquaintances. I guess that’s what happens when you’re too intimidated by each other to have a real conversation. However, after one long night of making guacamole, we bonded. We haven’t really left each other ever since. We eat almost every meal together, share two classes, are currently raising a pet fish together, and I plan to live with her for just about… forever.

I could go on here for hours about how amazing my roommate is, or how she buys me candy, does my laundry when I’m sick, makes me laugh, or just generally brightens my day, but something tells me that is not what this blog is for. My point is, do not be scared of the random roommate. It could work out beautifully for you, as it did for me and so many others. Even if it doesn’t, you can very easily fix it, so there is nothing to be afraid of. Trust me, sometimes you have to roll the dice. If you do, you just might win it big.

From 0 to 400 in One Semester

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Because I’m a freshman, I’m expected to take the intro classes – the easy ones. However, this semester I decided to do something different. Back when I was signing up for classes, I decided to take a 400 level biology class called Environmental Toxicology.

Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with how class levels work (honestly it still confuses me a little bit). Essentially, I decided to take a class designated for juniors or seniors who had taken more than the single biology class I had taken, and perhaps a chemistry class or two. Simply put, I was crazy, or at least that’s what my friends told me. I was worried, but not too much because I had another freshman friend who would take it with me! Well, as it turned out, he had to drop the class, and so on the first day of classes I walked into Toxicology more than a little intimidated by what I had signed up for.

The class is taught by Dr. John Matter, who is one of the professors for the freshman biology class. I enjoyed his section of the course so much that I decided that I would take a class with him in the spring semester. As it turned out, the only class he taught that I could possibly take was Toxicology, and so I decided that would be my class. I had to do a few things first: get his permission, and my advisor’s permission.

When I went to get Dr. Matter’s signature, I was a little worried he would just say “no” with no debate to be had, and so I was pleasantly surprised when he smiled at me and said “sure!” He assured me that even though it might require some work, he thought I could handle the class. With this newfound confidence in myself, I went to my advisor’s room to get her signature. She gave me a funny look and said, “Are you sure?” and then gave me her permission as well.

Walking into a room full of seniors and juniors on the first day of class was intimidating, but as it turned out, there were some faces I recognized. The first couple of classes went well, and I did not feel lost. Dr. Matter was hilarious as usual, and so I stayed in the class. It’s week three, and I’m still (and hopefully will continue to be) enjoying myself.

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The point of this story isn’t that you should take Environmental Toxicology when you get here because it sounds easy, because it’s not. The point isn’t that Dr. Matter is a hilarious professor, even though that is true. The point is that throughout the whole process, nobody told me “no” or “you can’t do this.” Throughout the whole process of signing up for this course, I was the only one considering holding myself back. You can do anything once you get here, like take crazy classes or join all the clubs. You can do whatever you let yourself do, and that is the best thing I’ve encountered about being at Juniata.

Tenting for Madrigal: the last tradition of the semester!

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Tents tents tents!

 

Sometimes in life you’ll walk past something happening, and just think to yourself “who would ever think that was a good idea?” Tenting at Juniata is one of those things.

Everyone says that Juniata is all about traditions, and you know what? They’re right. We really are. I have made it to November, meaning I have overcome the challenge of prying open a lobster with just my bare hands at Lobsterfest. I tried my best to break through the ranks of rugby players for Storming of the Arch and was thrown to the ground many times as a result. I eagerly awaited the arrival of Mountain Day, and was disappointed many, many times before it finally came. Finally, after that barrage of traditions, we have reached Tenting.

Tenting only consists of a few simple things. You have to gather a group of 6-8 people and take turns sleeping in a tent for six nights. Also, it’s in November. Oh, and they wake you up for roll calls in the middle of the night with an air horn. I almost forgot… when they wake you up in the middle of the night, you might have to compete in challenges like a game of Ninja or Four Corners. One more thing: we have different competitions every night to earn points for our tent.

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For the scavenger hunt competition, one of the required items was a photo with William J. von Liebig.

 

You might be thinking: why would you ever do that? Well, at Juniata we have a yearly dance and dinner right before Winter Break called Madrigal. At this dinner, professors serve you food, you get to dress up, and you get to sing The Twelve Days of Christmas. The purpose of tenting is to get tickets to that dinner. Groups get dibs on tables based on their ranking at the end of the six days. So obviously, it’s worth it.

I’ve never been a person to function well off of small amounts of sleep. Tenting this week is going to force me to change that. I’ve also never been a person who enjoyed freezing in my sleep, but tenting might just change that as well. I realize that I’m making this wonderful event sound awful, but that’s just the two hours of sleep talking, so don’t take it to heart. In all honesty, based off of the one night I have done it, tenting this week seems like it’s going to be a blast, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the week goes. Plus, why start skipping out on traditions now? I’ve made it this far.

The Wildlife Society Travels to Winnipeg

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The group (photo credit: Zachary Adams)

When you’re applying to college, everyone will tell you about the size of classes, the statistics on graduating in four years, and employment after graduation, but that isn’t all there is to it. It’s also about the opportunities. Of course, when I applied to Juniata, they tried their best to convey to me the abundance of opportunities available, but I don’t think I really understood at the time. Well, I understand now.

Over Fall Break, I was given the chance to go to the North American Wildlife Society Conference. As a Wildlife Conservation POE, this was a huge opportunity. In attendance would be professionals, graduate students, and other undergraduate chapters of The Wildlife Society. To top it all off, the conference was to be held in Winnipeg, the capital of the Province of Manitoba. After some convincing from the other members, and some discussion with my parents, I was definitely going to go.

In total, there were nine of us going, including our chapter advisor, Dr. Chuck Yohn. We spent three days in the beautiful Canadian City of Winnipeg, two of which were filled with talks ranging from “The Importance of Evolutionary Adaptive Capacity when Preparing for the Impacts of Climate Change” to “Indigenous People’s Involvement in Wildlife Management.” By the end of those days, my brain was sore. It was so much information to even attempt to absorb, but it was beyond worth it. I was able to hear from some of the most innovative and creative thinkers in the field today, not to mention we got to spend a whole other day exploring the area. If you’re wondering, Canada is a lovely country, and I highly suggest a visit.

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(photo credit: Zachary Adams)

When the year began, I wasn’t expecting to go anywhere but home for Fall Break, but plans can change, and sometimes they should. To tell you the truth, the thing that really convinced me to go was one of those messages in the Dove chocolate wrappers. It said, “Go anywhere but home,” and so I listened. That was one smart chocolate.

Truly, the rule with any situation is that it’s what you make of it. All of the opportunities here would make no difference in my life if I didn’t choose to take advantage of them, so when you’re here, or wherever else you may be, take advantage. Do something that might scare you. Introduce yourself to people even if they may seem intimidating. Go to Winnipeg last minute. When you’re there, eat at a Tim Horton’s and experience poutine. Most importantly, always remember to listen to your Dove chocolate wrappers. You never know where you might end up because of one.

When Juniata Starts to Feel Like Home

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I was terrified to come to Juniata.

Okay, terrified might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I was scared. I had never been away from my family for more than a week and a half before, and unlike most college freshmen, I wasn’t in the business of actively trying to get away from them.

Juniata is exactly three hours from my hometown of Springfield, Virginia. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a really long walk if you don’t have a car. My mom wanted me to get adjusted to campus life, so “See you at family weekend!” is what my family said. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and I appreciate that she did that because she was right to leave me some time to get adjusted, but family weekend was a month and a half away. That’s a staggering amount of time to stare in the face. So what did I do? I tried to keep busy, and if I hadn’t already had that in my mind as a plan, Inbound had it in mind for me.

Inbound was a great time, but my group didn’t quite stick together as I had hoped it would. Alas, I was friendless and in possession of free time – a horrible combination. This is where step two of my plan to survive a month and half without my family came in: I would have to be outgoing. So out I went. As it turns out, what everyone tells you is true. It is insanely easy to make friends in the beginning of college. Honestly, I think it would be more challenging to not make friends. Between classes, groups of friends, and clubs after Lobsterfest came around, I was certainly (and still am) very busy.

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Somewhere in all of that business, I forgot that I was supposed to be sad, homesick, or whatever I expected to be. I was busy going to the Farmer’s Market or hiking down to the river. I was preoccupied playing late night pool in Eagles Landing and listening to speakers from The Wildlife Society. In all of that shuffle, any glimpse of tears was lost.

I still miss my family in Virginia. I miss sitting on the couch with my Mom and sister, going on meandering car rides with my brother, and eating dinner together. Of course I miss that. I think everyone does. But in keeping busy, I found a family here too. We watch movies together, go on long car rides (we go to Wal-Mart, but we’ll call it long), and everyday we try to sit down to eat dinner together. I’m starting to realize that when I go home, I’ll miss my family here as much as I missed my family when I left.

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