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When I decided to come to Juniata, I did so without visiting. I came because of the stories an alumnus told me and from the conversations I had with students who were already here and my fellow incoming freshmen. I arrived having no idea what the campus looked like or what the classes would be like and to be honest I was scared. For the first week or so I didn’t have an appetite because I was so nervous.
I was still nervous as I sat outside my new adviser’s office waiting to talk about my schedule and what my life would be like over the next four years. As I sat outside the office of Dr. Dan Dries I listened to his voice as he was talking to another of his new advisees. It’s hard to explain, and maybe harder to imagine, but his voice had a carefree lilt to it. His words were often interspersed with laughter and slowly my nervousness turned into curiosity. If he was as jovial as he sounded the next four years were going to be great.
Thankfully, he was. One of Juniata’s strongest and most beneficial programs is its academic advising. We had advisers at my high school and they did a good job helping students pick classes and encouraging us to apply to college, but Juniata’s adviser’s work much harder. Dr. Dries has not only advised me on the classes I should take for my POE but he has given me advice on whether I should attend Graduate or Medical school and where I might start looking for a good Graduate program. This past year I even started working in his lab which does research on neurodegenerative disorders, the area of neuroscience I want to research. He even invited me over for Thanksgiving when I had nowhere else to go. Over the three years I have known Dr. Dries he has remained supportive and enthusiastic about my coursework and my success.
I wrote about Ellen Campbell several weeks ago and just like her, Dr. Dries is not an isolated case at Juniata. Professors from all departments are highly involved in their student’s lives, inviting them over for club dinners, having them house sit and even baby sit. Juniata’s students are as close with their professors as they are with one another and I think that is one of the most unique things Juniata offers. The student to staff ratio of thirteen to one is not just a statistic it represents one of Juniata’s defining characteristics, our community.
When I came to Juniata College, I had no intention of living anywhere but a dormitory. I loved (and still do) that Juniata guarantees housing for all four years. When I was in the midst of the college search process, I’d immediately scratch any college that forced students off campus after a year or two off my list.
I made many of my friends through living in a dorm as an underclassman. If you end up on a floor with a lot of freshmen who keep their doors open, you’ll meet a substantial number of your classmates. With a meal plan, dinners and lunches become good times to catch up with friends about their days and even better times to procrastinate work.
I went abroad and ended up in a house with six Irish girls. My meal plan was gone and I was responsible for cooking for myself, cleaning the house, and buying necessary items like dish soap, aluminum foil, and toilet paper. A huge advantage to living in a dorm with a meal plan is that you don’t have to worry about a lot of these more mundane tasks.
After returning from abroad, I decided to keep the house-style living. But, as I said earlier, it was important to me that Juniata never forced me off campus. I made the decision for myself. Seniors have the option to apply for approval for off campus housing, and my house was accepted. Seniors, with the highest room draw numbers, also have apartment-style living options through Juniata, as well as single rooms in Nathan Hall or other double dorm rooms throughout campus. I have friends who still live on campus and those who don’t, and it really depends on each person’s preferences. The most important part of choosing a house for those of us off campus is that we are close to campus, because even when we’re not living on campus, we are still spending a lot of our time there – going to class, doing research, and working the jobs we’ve had throughout our time here.
While there are times that I miss aspects of living in a dorm (being only a few steps away from your friends’ rooms is pretty great), I do appreciate the chance to gain more adult experience. Sure, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to cook myself dinner. I also have to go outside to see the friends that I don’t live with. However, living off campus has been a positive experience overall and I value the chance to gain some extra responsibility before moving to meet whatever life has in store next.
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
My mother never thought I’d be happier than I was when I was in Ireland; I had a smile on my face every time we Facetimed. She told me over Thanksgiving break that she was surprised how quickly I adjusted back to my Juniata College life after a year in Cork. So, I thought about it, trying to discern what it was that was so appealing to me about Juniata this year in particular. I readjusted so quickly because I really missed my classmates and now that I’m back I want to spend as much time as possible with them.
I went to school with the same people for fourteen years before I came to Juniata, so I never really had to make new friends. I think that’s the case for a lot of students. The advantage to the small campus at Juniata is that it is really conducive to making friends since everyone is in close proximity and you see most people on a daily basis. My friend Elise and I connected through overlapping Inbound activities, and Maris and I met through a mutual friend. We’ve remained friends since the early days of the first semester.
I spend a good portion of my week with my fellow Writing Center tutors, and they’ve become some of my best pals. Here, you can see Katie and me bowing to the newly crowned Mr. Juniata.
I always tell people that one of my favorite aspects of Juniata is the students; we are both intensely passionate about their areas of interest and willing to drop all that we’re doing to participate in an event or a tradition to have a good time. We do our schoolwork and take it seriously; we pursue internships and opportunities ravenously. However, we also want to have fun and embrace the quirks of Juniata and its students. Maybe there’s another school where students sleep outside in tents for a week just to sing one line in one Christmas song, but Juniata’s ambitious dichotomy in both fun and work is unique.
When I visited Juniata, I ate lunch with a friend who attended my high school and then went to Juniata. She asked if we could end lunch a bit early and partake in a sign language scavenger hunt. I obliged, and the resulting half hour is one that I talk about often. The rules of the scavenger hunt were simple: get people who were not in the class to do the actions that you wanted them to by only using sign language (think “sign language charades”). When students on the quad dropped their backpacks and sprinted around and football players did cartwheels in the Ellis Ballroom, I knew that Juniata was a place where I could learn and get the school portion of the college experience, but also that it was a place where I could have a good time and make some fond memories. That memory-making potential is what really drew me back in after my year away, and it’s what has me excited for all that is to come with the remainder of my senior year.
It was a normal day. The team woke up and prepared hair and got dressed in spanks, body liners, shells and skirts and awaited to board the bus for the two hour trip to the Harrisburg Farm Show complex. This was a normal occurrence as we traveled away to the boy’s football games often. The only difference was that this time, the cheerleading team was competing!
I can recall all of the nervousness in each girl. The chaotic mess of that morning scrambled everyone’s minds while their anxiety settled in. This didn’t help as several of our girls have never competed before and did not know what to expect. The other captain, Faith, and I have competed before several times and knew what was about to happen. Needless to say the day wasn’t too overwhelming for us. Our coach was probably the most nervous out of all of us. She has been with us since the very beginning of the routine and wanted us to do well. I should also mention that she is pregnant meaning her mom genes kicked in a lot throughout the day. We were told several times to use the restroom.
When we arrived we all settled down to finish our hair and makeup while our fan club (our parents and boyfriends) began to show. At this point, I noticed that every girl was listening to the music and going through the routine step by step. Everyone knew that we could get it down. We have marked it through so many times and we all knew where to go and what to do. The only issue was, we had never run the routine full out (this meaning with tumbling, stunts, and dance). This was probably what threw everyone’s nerves off the most. We were competing a routine that we had never completed before!
In the end, only one stunt fell which wasn’t bad. As the scores showed, the judges actually liked our routine! Not too shabby for a couple of college kids making up the routine on the fly one day after deciding to compete.
2016 is a year to remember for Juniata College as this is the first year JC has ever sent a cheerleading team to compete and guess what… We won first place! Check that one off of the bucket list.
I wanted to do something big before I graduated; I wanted a big project in order to go out with a bang! The Juniatian has been the project for me. It’s been a roller coaster of a journey and it’s really just getting started.
It began when administration had to make the executive decision cut newspaper as a course. This was devastating to many of us. However, it was the opportunity for the newspaper to become something even bigger than it was.
Over the summer, I worked very closely with the Provost and administration to figure out what we could do to evolve the paper into something new and different. I learned a lot from this experience. Not only did I get to sit face to face with my president (not exactly something you get to do at other universities) and give a sales pitch (I still remember how sweaty my palms were!), but I also got to work closely with the Provost who then helped us take the next steps.
One of the most exciting achievements that came from the summer was the creation of the paid positions. We were able to create paid positions for Juniatian staff.
Because we are one-hundred percent student run, it’s students who run the interviews for these positions. So, this week I held interviews in our office. It sounds so official, I know! It’s been such an experience to be recognized for initiative, work with administration, and interview students.
I am honored to be in the position I am in and I look forward to what comes next. I am so fortunate for the opportunities Juniata has allowed me to surround myself with.
There are a lot of things if your life that you must learn how to unpack. The hardest will be unpacking your passions. Especially as a high school senior, college student, college graduate, and many times as an adult you are going to have a dark night of the soul when you have to ask yourself what you want to do for the rest of your life. Its normal.
For me, I came to Juniata and I knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to travel the world and get paid for it. However, after my trip out of the U.S. it took me a long time to unpack that experience and understand it in terms of my own passions. And to be honest I still do not fully understand the impact it had upon me as individual.
For a Juniata student, I think that it is even more difficult to admit that my study abroad experience wasn’t one of the best experience of my life, because at a school where most people study abroad, all you hear is “my study abroad experience changed me,” “It taught me who I am and what I want to be”. After a lot of unpacking, I can honestly say that my study abroad experiences were not the best experiences I have had over my college career.
My study abroad experience challenged me, it helped me grow, it broadened my horizons and it did make me understand what I didn’t want to spend my entire life abroad. However, unpacking my last 4 years here at Juniata. I can honestly say my defining moment that helped shape me as the person I wanted to be happened on October 30th, 2014. That was the day my grandfather died.
When he died, it was echo that pushed me outside of the reverberations. For me it was like superman died, and very slowly all I saw were cracks in my foundation. For so long I was convincing myself that traveling was my passion, but it wasn’t. When he died, everything started to crumble and it was in that suffocating mess that I realized the void he left.
Being raised by my grandparents I was raised in a legacy. We were farmers. We raised cows. We gardened. We canned. That was our identity. After his death, I was fighting for that to stay my identity. I grew a horrible garden, but I grew a garden. And in many ways I thought that maybe I could connect the pieces of my life that seemed to fall through the cracks, but it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t good enough. Because gardening wasn’t the only part of my identity I need to unpack.
Two summers ago, I told myself, was going to be the best summer of my life – a whole summer in China. Being 20 years old at the time, the toughest thing about life is doing all the right things in order to ensure that after college you have some sort of job waiting for you. For most college sophomores and juniors summer is about trying to put something amazing on your resume. I was thinking of teaching English, interning or doing anything to make my resume pop. Before I hopped on that plane I was excited, because this summer was the summer that I wasn’t going to sit at home – I was actually going to do something that may land me a job someday. Little did I know at the time, I would be coming home a month early with little to nothing to put on my resume. However, traveling is not always going to be about another bullet point on your resume, but learning about yourself.
One of my greatest experiences in China was climbing Wu Dong Mountain. For everyone who hates the stairs or the steppers at the gym – ME- this is all out-of-shape people’s biggest fear – a 3 mile hike ALL UP STAIRS. 30 minutes into this hike when all of the track and field stars and gym fanatics wiz passed you – you feel the tenseness in those muscles from the hips down, and the burning in your abs. It’s one of those moments when you hate yourself for not taking the cable car. As you ascend, the steps get steeper and at some places you are pulling yourself up the mountain, the chains clicking with lovers’ locks. The sun has a chance to rise and peak through the trees, covering you in its unwanted heat. I made it to the top sticky, out of breath, and surprised by the shops around me selling tea eggs and starchy corn.
There is a mist covering the trees, making it feel like only the clouds and soaring birds were higher than I was. The view from a top takes the last remaining breath I have out of me. The view isn’t very clear at all. I found that no matter where you are in China- in the cities, on the mountain tops – you always have the feeling that China is hiding something from you.
Hidden here at Wu Dong Mountain for 20 years is a Daoist monk named Hermit Jia. He is a little old man with wrinkles and a huge smile that touches your heart. He lives in a cave overlooking the world in a place where it seems like time has stopped. There is no television, cellphones, jeans or T-shirts. If you’re a fan of Chinese movies you have seen his outfit, the black and white curled up shoes, loose pants and a traditional three button shirt.
He is befriended only by bees buzzing from inside of the cabinets with yellow honey comb shining through the cracks of the wood. A boy asked if he was ever stung by the bees – he smiled and everyone couldn’t resist to smile with him. No, he answered, I leave them alone and they leave me alone.
I traveled half way around the world, and I came upon this little piece of paradise and a smile that was so welcoming you didn’t need to speak the same language to understand the simple, simplistic but very powerful life you could have as long as you did what made you happy. Sheltered only by a dark cave this man on top of the mountain lived by one philosophy: being.
I wasn’t able to find a job or any “resume poppers” that summer; however, my discovery of a little old man on top of the world was the greatest treasure of my summer. In many ways this man reminded me of grandfather. Both men with heart melting smiles, and the courage to do what they loved most. For my pap it was gardening, for Hermit Jia is was simply being. In this big bustling world we live in we become human doings instead of just human beings.