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Home Away From Home

This year, Stephanie Letourneau is living at the Raystown Field Station and running her own blog about the adventures there! To not miss any of her updates, follow her blog Pursuing Passions.

Waving hello from the lake!

The Field Station Harbor

The Field Station Harbor

On August 22nd, I successfully moved into the Raystown Field Station.  We had a presentation after moving in on field safety and then went down to the fire pit by the lake for s’mores and residential life information.

The schedule at the field station includes having one class all day each day.  Our first day was an introduction to the station, tours, and logistics.

My class schedule is:

Mondays – GIS

Tuesdays – Sense of Place Seminar and Nature Photography

Wednesdays – Research

Thursdays – Aquatic Ecology

Fridays – Limnology

Our first class was Limnology on Friday.   We have only had a few classes, but so far, we have designed a leaf decomposition study as a class to evaluate nearby ponds and Raystown Lake.  Our labs the past two weeks have comprised of going out on the lake on the boat and measuring the lake’s physical and chemical properties.

Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake

Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake

For GIS, we have been exploring the program and practicing creating maps or finding information.  I am very excited to learn how to use GIS more and how it can help with my research.

Sense of Place seminar began with a boat tour of Raystown Lake, which included the basic science and history facts of the area.  Who knew you could have a lecture on a boat?  We also discussed our research projects for the semester.  I am not sure what I am exactly studying yet, but I will be researching an acid mine drainage site.

The first two weeks, we did not have anything on Wednesdays because we do not have our research projects established yet.  My professor said, “Either make it a very productive day or a really good day.”  I did a combination of both; I did some homework in the morning and spent the afternoon kayaking on the lake with some classmates.

Photo Aug 29, 2 59 11 PM

Nature photography is a lot of terminology and learning the basic concepts of how to take a good picture.  It is particularly difficult to take pictures of wildlife because of their movements so we have learned a lot of specialized techniques so far.  Our first project was a picture of a wildflower. I am looking forward to improving my skills.

Aquatic Ecology has been an introduction to ecology and learning the applications of these concepts in aquatic ecosystems.  This course is unique because it is taught by Dr. Lane Loya from Saint Francis University.

 

One afternoon, we had a mini Lake Symposium to listen to researchers discuss the previous studies on Raystown Lake and the potential issues for the future.  The presenters included a park ranger from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and from Juniata, Dr. Sharon Yohn and Dr. Chuck Yohn.  It is interesting to learn about an ecosystem in which you live and about the different issues that have to be monitored.

I also enjoyed kayaking and going on a firework cruise on the lake with my mom on Labor Day weekend.

From September 10th to 14th, our class at the field station travelled to the Finger Lakes region of New York to study lakes and streams.  We stayed at the Cornell Biological Field Station and the USGS Lake Ontario Biological Station.  On the way home, we stopped at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Our Limnology and Aquatic Ecology professors joined us too, which provided an immersive experience to apply everything we have learned and will learn this semester.

 

I wanted to end this post with some fun from Juniata’s traditions, Lobsterfest (Yes, sometimes I actually go back to campus.)  It is an opportunity for students to sign up for clubs and enjoy delicious lobster on the quad.

Letourneau_Lobster

Another tradition at Juniata is Mountain Day.  One day in the fall, classes are canceled, and the school provides buses to take everyone to Seven Points Recreation Area on Raystown Lake for a day of outdoor fun including a picnic lunch, kayaking, slip and slide, inflatables, tug-of-war, and more.  However, no one knows in advance when it is going be.  As the Juniata website states, “trying to guess the date of Mountain Day is one of the most popular topics of conversation among the students and faculty in the weeks leading up to the event”.  It really is.  Students and professors will place bets when they think it will be and students will stay up all night if they think it might be the next day.

Luckily, Mountain Day didn’t happen while we were in NY, so we were able to sail the research boat across the lake to join in on the festivities!

 

Here’s to more adventures and beautiful sunsets on the lake.

Letourneau_Sunset

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.

From Inboundee to Inbound Leader

This year I had the honor of being an Inbound leader for the incoming first year students. I signed up to be a hiking leader – I don’t know why. I am not a hiker and I have no idea what was going through my brain when I filled out the application, but I was determined to make the most of it.

The Inbound leaders of my group last year were fabulous. They were relatable and basically the spirit guides of my first week at Juniata. I wanted to be like them for my group of Inboundees.

We hiked several different trails, and I went through like a bottle and a half of bug spray, but it was worth it. On one of our hikes, an Inboundee licked a slug against our recommendation. Turns out, when you lick certain slugs, the bottom of a slug it makes your tongue go numb. It was quite the week of learning.

My 19th birthday happened to be on the second day of Inbound, and we had a mini birthday celebration at the lake. We stuck candles in Rice Krispy treats and wore birthday hats and tiaras while we kayaked. It was the first-time kayaking for some of our Inboundees, and it was really cool to share this experience with them.

Me and my Inboundees at the bottom of 1000 Steps.

Me and my Inboundees at the bottom of 1000 Steps.

We hiked 1000 steps (the name is a lie by the way – it is more than 1000 steps), and I barely made it up. At every break in the stairs, the group would all take a break and turn around to watch me drag myself up the steps about 100 feet behind them. Around step 300 I waved them ahead with the other group leader and stopped for a break. I decided I couldn’t handle anymore hiking and told them I would meet them on their way down.

They sent me inspirational quotes and pictures of the view at the top to motivate me to keep going. I arrived about 20 minutes later than everyone else but I made it. They all applauded me when I arrived at the top of the lookout and immediately collapsed on the ground in a heap, gasping for breath. After I got over the fact that my legs were so tired it felt like they would never work again, I appreciated all of their motivation and support. I almost gave up, but I didn’t. It awoke a new determination within myself for the rest of our hiking adventures. I still always ended up bringing up the back of the group, but I wasn’t as far back as I was before.

The last day of Inbound got rained out, so we made tacos in one of the residence hall kitchens. I was low-key thankful to not be hiking another day, and eating tacos was a better bonding opportunity in my opinion.

We hiked, went kayaking, made tacos, played a lot of ice breakers, and made some pretty strong friendships. I’d say this Inbound was a success. I hope I was as good of an Inbound leader as mine were.

My Last Blog

After a week or so of settling in at Juniata College in the fall of 2013, I received an e-mail from my admissions counselor asking me if I’d be interested in joining her staff of bloggers. Here I am, four years later, at the tail end of my college career, writing my last blog.

Juniata has given me an abundance of opportunity. I had multiple campus jobs, studied abroad in Ireland for a year, and took some amazing classes with really great professors. I’m thankful for the jobs because I was able to engage with what I’m interested in: sharing information about Juniata and working with writing. Studying abroad was a great opportunity for me to meet people from around the world and expand my worldview. Finally, while I may heavily favor the English department, I thoroughly appreciate the liberal arts background that Juniata has given me through the courses I’ve taken outside my area of study.

I have taken the majority of my English POE credits with Dr. Mathur, so a last day of class selfie was a necessity.

I have taken the majority of my English POE credits with Dr. Mathur, so a last day of class selfie was a necessity.

I’ll always remember my days at Juniata participating in classes, giving tours, and tutoring in the Writing Center, but I’ll also remember the shenanigans like tenting for Madrigal or getting those early morning calls as part of the Mountain Day wake-up crew. Yes, I developed academically and professionally, but I also had fun. When people ask me what I love most about Juniata, I often say “the people.” I then follow that with a story from when I visited campus. The student whom I ate lunch with had to do a sign language scavenger hunt in which she had to have other students outside the class perform certain actions by giving them instructions in sign language. Students she approached dropped what they were doing to pay attention to her and to try to decipher what she wanted them to do. She had strangers doing cartwheels and football players sprinting to race each other. That’s when I realized that Juniata students are smart, but they’re also fun.

 

My good pals and fellow Writing Center seniors and I enjoying our last shift after three years of working together.

My good pals and fellow Writing Center seniors and I enjoying our last shift after three years of working together.

Thanks, Juniata, for a fun four years, and thanks to any of you who have followed my Juniata journey!

Mountain Day of the Mind

One of my favorite events Juniata has every year is the Liberal Arts Symposium, or LAS for short. Each year, classes are cancelled for the whole day, and students and faculty are encouraged to travel across campus and attend student presentations about work/research they have done during the year. There are a lot of different types of presentations, and most common presentations are often in the sciences. This year however, I was able to present my own work at LAS, with focus on the Theatre Department.
This semester, I decided I wanted to do an independent study with one of my professors, Leigh Hendrix, and I wanted to attempt to write a full-length play. I have written several short plays (10 minutes or less) throughout my time at Juniata, but I have never tried to write something as complicated and in-depth as a full-length play. I came up with the idea to write a murder mystery, because that is my favorite genre to read/watch. I’ve always loved crime shows and mystery novels, but I never realized just how difficult it is to write a mystery yourself! There is so much background work that needs to occur before one even starts writing in order to create a successful, fluid piece. Once a week, Professor Hendrix and I would meet to look at my writing progress, and map out the entire storyline of the play. I honestly didn’t think I would finish this semester. I know that it sometimes takes years for people to complete a play, and shoving this project onto my already packed work load was definitely difficult for me. However, a few weeks ago I managed to finish a first draft! As soon as I finished the draft, it felt like I had given birth! I had worked hard toward this goal that I didn’t think I would reach, and I did! Over the following few weeks, I printed out the entire script and edited it over and over again. I then recruited a bunch of my friends to aid in my presentation for the Liberal Arts Symposium.

 

The cast of the staged reading of "Airborne", an original murder mystery play at Liberal Arts Symposium.

The cast of the staged reading of “Airborne”, an original murder mystery play at Liberal Arts Symposium.

Since I was just doing a public reading of half of the play, it was a less strenuous rehearsal process, since the cast only had to meet once the read through the piece before presenting it at LAS. My play has eight different characters, so I had to ask a lot of different people to be involved, but everyone did such a great job reading their character at the presentation! After the reading, my mentor facilitated a talk-back session, where I could ask questions of the audience and receive feedback about the process. My first question to the audience was: Who do you think did it? To my surprise, although the audience guessed five different characters, none of them had correctly guessed the killer! That was definitely a confidence-booster for me, and it showed me that I wrote a really great play. I received such amazing feedback from the students and staff and outside audience members who came to listen to the reading. It truly was an amazing moment of pride, excitement and joy to hear my words being read out loud, and receiving positive feedback from so many peers.
Although the semester is coming to a close, that does not mean my work on this play is done. For most, a play is never done. There are always changes that can be made. I hope to keep editing this play and make it longer and stronger, and hopefully be able to stage the show at some point next year! Overall, the Liberal Arts Symposium was such a great experience for me to present a project I had put so much effort into, and see how others reacted to it. I can’t wait to keep working on my play!

SPRINGFEST: A Tale of Many Sunburns (and some other fun stuff too)

Hands down, today was the best day I have ever had at Juniata.  To start, the weather was beautiful, especially compared to the nasty conglomeration of precipitation the meteorologists like to call “winter mix.”  The sky was clear and the wind that had plagued us all week had diminished to a light, almost refreshing breeze.  All of this provided a lovely backdrop to the amazing event of Springfest.  Every spring, our Juniata Activity Board, more commonly referred to as JAB, puts on a day-long event to celebrate the coming of spring and the sun and the warm weather that comes along with it.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

This year Springfest was Coachella  themed, as the JAB member who  planned the event told me.  They  brought in four performers from  across the northeast, including Lee  Dewyze the winner of season nine of  American Idol, and an amazing  acapella group out of Canada call  Eh440 (check them out they were  AMAZING).  The event ran from noon  to seven in the evening and every hour  of the event was packed with bouncy  castles, food trucks, three encore  performances from the Downbeat  Percussion group, and a Ferris Wheel.

For me, it wasn’t the terrifying awesomeness of a Ferris Wheel (what?  I’m afraid of heights) or the red chili chicken burrito served from a food truck that mad the day so memorable.  I think I can take the liberty to say that for most, Springfest is the first day in a long time that they can leave their rooms and homework, and bask in the warmth of a sun that is too often hidden during the winter months.  It’s a time to let loose a little before the final projects and tests start flooding in, robbing us of any time that we might otherwise have spent on the quad, lazily hammocking.

Even though I still have several homework assignments ahead of me tonight that I should have worked on today, I don’t regret spending my entire day outside.  Sure, I’ll be a little more tired this week, but it’s also only three days long for me (thank god for Easter weekend and not having classes on Thursdays).  My skin will also be red as a beet and burning up due to sunburn, but being uncomfortable for a few days will be well worth the day of music and food and fun that I just had.

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.

 

It’s Mountain Day!

Four years ago, when I was a senior in high school I browsed around different college websites hoping that something would catch my eye and nothing did for the longest time. It wasn’t until I found the traditions on the Juniata College youtube page that really peaked my interest. One of the main reasons why I decided to come to Juniata was not because of the academics; it was because of the traditions that occur throughout the year.

Mountain Day

Each fall semester of every year holds a random day when students get the entire day off of classes to go to Raystown lake and play games with peers and professors. The catch is, that no one knows when this day is going to be. Not even the professors know when this day is. This past Thursday was this glorious day known as mountain day and everyone woke to the sound of wonderful air horns and pots and pans at 5am to hear the incredible news. (When you are a student here, you will understand the feeling of excitement when those beautiful air horns sound in the morning.) As I am a senior with a car I didn’t have to wake up in time to get the buses that leave for the lake in the morning, so I slept in and made it to the lake just in time for lunch. Each year there are a variety of different bouncy houses and activities for students to enjoy. This year, there was a zip line, inflatables ranging from the original racecourse to trying to knock people off a pedestal with a wrecking ball, a caricaturist, a create your own spin art frisbee section, an air brush tattoo artist, and a photo booth, along with the many types of games and general activities that go on at the lake. It was a beautiful day to spend with my friends and just relax. It is not just a day off from classes but a time to connect with both of your peers and professors to create a stronger bond. Also, it was nice not having to worry about the test that I was supposed to have that day.

This year was my last mountain day and I have to tell you, I think this is the tradition that I will miss the most. I love the secretiveness about it and the thrill it gives you when you hear an air horn outside of your window. When I graduate, dependent on what profession I go into, I may not be able to call off for a random day of the year. I will just have to sit back at work and hope everyone else enjoys his or her mountain day. I have always proposed that we should have a mountain week. Maybe one day I will make that happen. A random week off in the beginning of the year is what everyone needs when life gets stressful. Don’tcha think?

Relay for Life

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The hula-hoop lap

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to participate in Relay for Life here at Juniata College. I was a team captain for the club Amigos de Guanin. This year, we decided to sell lemonade. Last year, we sold ice cream on the quad. Although we didn’t collect the highest amount of money, it was still really great to be a part of this event. It’s refreshing to be a part of something so fun around the time of year when things start to get really stressful. It’s even more fun to experience such a rewarding activity and spend the day in the sun!

Raising money for cancer research is one of my favorite things to be involved with on campus. I really enjoyed planning what we’d be doing for this event and I even more so enjoyed walking and participating. Some of my favorite parts of Relay this year were the cartwheel laps, the Zumba lap, and the clown lap. I really enjoy the survivor lap, too; it’s really empowering and inspiring to watch the survivors and their caregivers take on the track.

At the end of Relay, there is a luminary lap in which participants honor someone they’ve lost to cancer. The lap is done in silence as participants walk around the track. The track is outlined with glowing paper bags with names on them of people who have lost the battle to cancer.

Following this lap, there is a ceremony. Poems, personal stories, and songs were shared. It was a beautiful and empowering day from 10am-10pm. I am so honored to have been a part of Juniata College’s Relay for Life, 2016.

LAS 2K16: celebrating undergrad research

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Some of the presenters and their presentation titles (including me!)

 

The Liberal Arts Symposium is one of the most popular traditions in the spring semester, and is where classes are cancelled and the entire college community celebrates the research, project development, and performances of Juniata students. I remember my freshman and sophomore year attending the different presentations and thinking with excitement, “I’m going to present MY thesis senior year!” Well that day came, and let me tell you, I was not feeling excitement anymore but sweaty palms and a knotted up stomach.

This entire year, I’ve been working on my senior honors thesis. As I wrote in my last blog, I’ve been looking at how the Indian media talks about corruption, and though I’m still writing my paper, I was able to share with my friends, classmates, and professors my preliminary findings. (Which is that the way we think about corruption, innocence, and guilt in the West is very different than the way Indian newspapers frame it in a specific politician corruption case.) I practiced my presentation a countless number of times, but that didn’t keep me from feeling extremely nervous before I went.

It ended up going pretty smoothly though! To be honest, I don’t remember anything about it except that I think I talked pretty quickly. Whenever I stumbled over my words or suddenly felt uncertain about what I was saying, all I had to do was look out into the audience, where I had so many friends and classmates supporting me. After it was over, I felt so proud; it was so incredibly rewarding, sharing what I’ve been doing with the Juniata community.

Other presentations were just as good! One friend presented on U.S. immigration policies, and another presentation I went to was on research looking at how to genetically modify mosquitos to halt the spread of malaria. My favorite presentation, though, was about synesthesia and the museum experience – the two presenters are even designing their own art exhibition based on their research findings! All in all, the Liberal Arts Symposium was an amazing day!

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