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The Old and the…Old: My “Halloweekend” Senior Day

Exactly three years ago, my new friends and I made a promise to each other. My new friend Fiona was told by my new friend Bubba that he had been Shrek the ogre the previous year. At more than six feet tall and shoulders as wide as a doorframe, he fit the character well. “Shrek and Fiona! We gotta do it!” he decided within two minutes of learning Fiona’s name. 

The group that was there to hear Bubba’s insistence never forgot it, and at the beginning of our senior year, my friend group decided we couldn’t let freshman-year Bubba down. Fiona got her costume ready, my five-foot self was told, not asked, to be Lord Farquaad, my other roommates got ears and a hat for Donkey and Puss in Boots, and their boyfriends were forced to be Gingey and Dragon. 

We had our plan set to dress up as characters from Shrek on what Juniata dubs “Halloweekend”, the weekend before Halloween. First though, I had to be again reminded that I had somehow been at Juniata for more than three years.  

October 30th was Senior Day for the Juniata Women’s Soccer team. Before our last game of the season, we had a small ceremony before the game. I walked with my parents through a tunnel of my teammates, received flowers and a framed plaque of my previous Juniata jersey, and heard my four-year stats and kind words from my teammates over the loudspeaker. I was met with fun decorations as I walked into our team locker room. Four tables filled with food met me after our game was done. Handmade scrapbook pages of funny memories and encouraging words were ribboned together in my locker. I felt a lot of love from my teammates and their families, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had grown three years older and wiser without my own permission. I cried a few tears but left our home field very full and very happy with arms full of gifts. I’ll be a mess after next semester’s lacrosse senior day, but I also imagine I will be happy looking back on my four year journey at Juniata, within athletics and outside of them. 

My friends and I have come a long way from our freshman selves, but I am so glad we’ve been able to keep our freshman year promises. We are finishing seasons, completing high-level research, reflecting on internships or studies abroad in real-world job interviews, telling new students about that time we had that professor and got that grade, and all other sorts of things we had promised ourselves we would get through but didn’t quite know we would. Senior year forces us to think a lot about the future, but there’s nothing wrong with reflecting on how far you’ve come and how old you may have gotten. 

Lessons I’m Glad I Now Know

As I set down the book of my Juniata Experience, I reflect on the many lessons I gleaned over my four years at Juniata College. From graduating with an individualized Program of Emphasis to coming to terms with being a student-athlete throughout COVID-19, here are some lessons I’ve learned at JC.

Don’t fret about what comes next. Even during my first year, there were students who had clear plans about what they wanted to do after graduation – going to law school, medical school, teaching or more. By my junior and senior year even more of my peers had plans set in stone. I was different. Sitting at my desk for hours each week brainstorming ideas, I still didn’t feel that same drive to commit to some idea of who I want to be that I wasn’t fully on board with. It wasn’t until my last semester of college that same drive to decide finally came. It’s okay not to know what awaits you after Juniata, but once something motivating jumps out, make sure to grab on to that next adventure and hold on tight!

Motivation can come from anywhere. This lesson I learned from the journey leading up to my next adventure after college. I’ve vacationed outside the US before, but never lived elsewhere for an extended period of time. When COVID-19 crushed my opportunity to study Communications abroad in Germany in Summer 2020, I felt even more motivated to travel overseas. I briefly held out hope that a reprieve would come in the form of a trip to Brazil for my men’s volleyball team to play in a preseason tournament my final semester. Not surprisingly, even that was postponed. In the winter when I was given the chance to continue both my academic and athletic career by getting a Master’s Degree in England, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Although the decision was my own, the opportunity given to me came thanks to the complete higher education experience that I underwent at Juniata. And, the motivation driving my leap of faith to move overseas to earn an MA was thanks to the strong encouragement to study abroad and opportunities for travel at Juniata that I was sad to have missed.

Live in the moment was the most important lesson I learned from Juniata. When people told me freshman year that four years will pass in the blink of an eye, I had no idea what they meant. It wasn’t possible then for me to see that one day soon, I would be walking across the stage to pick up my diploma, saying so long to the halls of BAC and having an especially sentimental final meal at Baker. It’s sad when the chapter titled ‘College’ in the book of our lives closes but part of living in my new present means living with our connection to Juniata.

As an alumni I expect to stay connected with both the lessons learned and people met through my alma mater. And when it’s your turn to leave the nest, I hope you don’t forget your eagle family either.

Gameday “Sticious-es”

Talia Bertrando
Talia Bertrando ’22, Business Communication and Spanish POE

“I’m not superstitious…but I am a little sticious” – Michael Scott

If you’re one of my roommates coming into my room as I do work, you know that some show like The Office will be on my TV. I’m probably sitting on my bed, I may or may not be taking another “break” on social media, and, if it’s past 3 o’clock, I’ve almost certainly had a snack already. When I’m in the thick of a semester, I like fun, spontaneous weekends, but weekdays are for strict schedules and daily routines.

I wouldn’t call myself superstitious, but I could sometimes be called a creature of habit, maybe even a little sticious. Which is why, on March 20th, I had a little predicament when it came to me and my sticious-es. March 20th was my first real game in a long time. It had been exactly 372 days (yes, my team did the math) since my lacrosse team had played a real game that actually counted toward conference play. As I rode on the team bus to Scranton, PA for the game, one of my most important sticious-es was challenged.

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The laments of a college athlete during a pandemic

Madison Wrightstone
Madison Wrightstone ’23

Being an athlete has always been a key piece of my identity. Now I fully recognize that that might immediately cast me in a particular light, but in all honesty, it is completely true. Everyone has that thing about them that makes life feel a little fuller and the world feel a little brighter. Since I was three years old, the world of sports has been a comfort, a safe space away from the troubles always looming close by. Having the ability to make the decision to continue playing softball in college is one that I was incredibly thankful for, and even though my experience has been incredibly nontraditional in so many ways, the role of being an athlete for Juniata has already made such an impact on who I am as a person.

So, what do you do when that safe space is suddenly ripped away from you in a matter of hours? An injury is one thing – a rational explanation that albeit awful, it at least creates a smoother tear in the wounds of your life. But what do you do when a global pandemic shut everything down for six months? I, along with athletes all over the world, lost 210 innings of softball I will never again get the chance to play. I lost practice hours, time with my teammates, and the chance to play the sport that has meant so much in my life. And while I am incredibly lucky at the prospect of getting to play my sophomore year, I am still losing out on a traditional season once again.

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How Juniata is thriving during the pandemic

Theo Weinberger
Theo Weinberger ’21, Multi-Sport Athlete

How is it possible that at Juniata, despite CoVID restrictions, I’m allowed to compete in the annual Bailey Oratorical speech contest in person? I get to eat food at Baker celebrating Mardi Gras at a table with four of my friends?  Juniata students are in the fortunate position of having found a new normal during the CoVid19 public health crisis while keeping our on-campus students’ test positivity rate– our rate of infection –just around 1%. Through the extraordinary performance by our school, faculty, and most importantly, our students, we’ve been able to enjoy what many other colleges cannot at this time.

Of course, if your school is like most high schools or colleges across the U.S., these privileges may seem unbelievable for you.  Dining, sports, being with friends? The option for in-person classes that maintain the quality of education that has been more familiar and effective than SOME online classes have been for many? How is it possible?

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