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Mountain Day: A Retrospective

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When I was a freshman, Mountain Day was more of a myth to me than an actual event. There was a poster at Lobsterfest, letting people guess when Mountain Day was, and every now and again I would hear not-so-quiet conversation about the actual date. Plus, there was an art to the speculation. Everyone had their own telltale sign that let them know Mountain Day was tomorrow. But most of these speculators forgot the one important fact about Mountain Day: It is always tomorrow.

Of course when Mountain Day did come it was amazing! After all, it’s a day off from the rigors of academics and, for once, a day to sleep in. It provides an opportunity to rest, to have a break right before Midterms begin, and it can also be a catch up day, a time to study for the upcoming Calculus test or to work on an Organic Chemistry pre-lab. Whatever reason the students of Juniata College have for wanting or needing Mountain Day, they all let loose a collective sigh of relief, as the news of Mountain Day echoes across Campus.

For me, Mountain Day this year was meant to be a day to catch up on homework. But fate had other plans, and instead I spent most of the day catching up on sleep and friends. Looking back (a mere three days later) that is really what I needed. As classes get deeper into material and professors begin to expect more from their students as they get into the groove, we often lose track of some aspects of our lives. We forget to call home because we might have an essay due the next day that we have to finish (or start). Sometimes we even neglect our friends because we are so busy with keeping up with work that any free time that we have is dedicated to homework, a job, or sleep.

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A much needed nap

I found myself exhausted on Mountain Day from lack of sleep and from not having enough contact with my friends. They are the people who keep me from getting homesick, the people I confide in, and the ones who help me to hurdle barriers when I cannot do it on my own. Sitting under a tree at Raystown Lake, I was able to slow down and to even stop a minute and reflect on my first month as a sophomore, to be able to take just a moment to appreciate the people I have surrounded myself with here at Juniata. College is an amazing experience, and the one Juniata offers is unique in so many ways, but it does not come without its trials. Days like Mountain Day offer a respite from the rigors of everyday college life and life in general.

So my advice for next Mountain Day… just see where it takes you. In the end you might find that what you did was more worthwhile than what you had planned.

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.

My Senior Year Bucket List

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It is officially week 2 of my final year at Juniata College, and let me tell you, I’m already feeling pretty nostalgic.  I spent the entirety of last year studying abroad, first in Russia and then in India, and though it was an incredible year full of adventures and new experiences, I am so happy to be back at Juniata.  Everyone tells you about being homesick, but no one really warns you about being campus-sick.  You really do start to miss your college once you’re gone for a while, but thankfully I still have one year left!  Here, I have created a bucket list of things I will endeavor to complete during my final year here.

  • Attend every single tradition. At which other college are classes canceled on a random day and everyone picnics at a lake in the mountains?  And only at Juniata is there an event where freshmen risk bodily harm by charging at the rest of the student body, trying to fight their way past them. Juniata College has many unique and fun traditions, and I was insanely jealous every time I saw pictures of my friends participating in fun activities, such as eating lobsters at Lobsterfest and pitching tents on the lawn for Madrigal.  This year, I am not going to miss out on any of the events and activities at JC.
  • Find the secret spots. Because Juniata is located in the mountains, there are many different places to explore around campus.  One of my favorite spots is the Cliffs, only a 10-minute walk away.  The views are incredible, but another little known fact is that there is a rope swing at the bottom (how cool is that?!).  No one really knows where exactly it is, but it can’t be too hard to find.  In addition, there are great hiking trails not too far from campus, including 7 Geocaches within a mile (a Geocache is a container filled with an unknown object that you find using GPS coordinates).  I have never been Geocaching but who doesn’t love a huge treasure hunt?!  Before I graduate, I will leave no stone unturned.
  • Make lasting relationships. This may sound cheesy, but one of my goals is to make sure I leave Juniata having made enduring friendships. Juniata is a small community, and I know everyone here has my back and wants the best for my future.  I know I can rely on my professors and advisors to guide me both in my final year and after I graduate.  In addition to becoming closer to my mentors, I am also looking forward to meeting new people and getting re-involved in my favorite clubs, like Circle K and PAX-O (a Peace Studies club).  It’s my last year to really make an impact, so I hope to be as involved as I can!  Finally, I know I’m going to miss all of the friendly faces on campus, from Laura who works in Baker to President Troha.  These sorts of people make Juniata a happier, brighter place, and ultimately a college that is unique and irreplaceable.

As much as I don’t want it to, senior year is going to fly by.  No matter what I’m doing, whether I’m canoeing on Raystown Lake during Mountain Day or debating the meaning of life with a professor, I’m happy to be back home at Juniata.  I can’t wait to start checking things off my bucket list!

Presenting at Liberal Arts Symposium

This time last year, I wrote a blog post about the experience of participating in Juniata College’s Liberal Arts Symposium as an observer. Now, one year later, I can say that I’ve crossed an item off my Juniata bucket list; on April 23, I presented at Liberal Arts Symposium with some of my colleagues from the Writing Center. This LAS marks the tenth anniversary of LAS and the first LAS presentation by the Writing Center.

To be honest, I was not supposed to present at LAS. Another Writing Center tutor had to back out since he had a job interview. Since the presentation was all about how working in the Writing Center prepares student employees for the professional world, we, of course, had to make accommodations so that he would be able to go to his professional world interview. A position opened up to present with the Writing Center team, I seized the opportunity, and I am very glad that I did.

The Writing Center’s presentation was inspired by a series of focus groups that provided us with valuable feedback about our operations and how other students view our services. After we were introduced by our supervisor, Professor Carol Peters, we began our presentation that covered the various skills that Writing Center tutors acquire and that other student employees could also acquire by modeling their employment style on the Writing Center’s. We covered leadership, communication skills, teamwork, and accountability, but my section in particular was the acquisition and use of communication skills as Writing Center tutors. After our presentation concluded, we watched the other two presentations that were assigned to the room with us, which were both very informative and intriguing.

The feeling of a completed Liberal Arts Symposium presentation is well-worth the anxiety and nerves that precede it, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in one of Juniata’s great traditions, “The Mountain Day of the Mind.” I’m hopeful that senior year will bring another Liberal Arts Symposium presentation my way!

Be My Valentine, Juniata.

Roses are red,

violets are blue,

some people like Valentine’s Day,

but those people aren’t you.

An example of student made valentines

An example of student made valentines

As someone who calls herself “professionally single,” Valentine’s Day is not that important to me as a day for expressing my romantic love.  However, it is too popular a holiday to completely ignore, which leaves me with few ideas about how to celebrate.  Luckily, though, Juniata College provides students with options for people who want to spend the time doing fun/silly things with friends.

In the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, clubs sell Valentine’s Day-themed items in Ellis lobby as fundraisers for their clubs.  Traditionally, the Dance Ensemble sells carnations, which students purchase for friends and partners ahead of time and the dancers deliver on Valentine’s Day.   Many of the clubs sell food- chocolate covered strawberries, fudge, cupcakes- that taste way better when you don’t have to share them with anyone else.  Buying food is both delicious and productive- while you’re devouring that delicious fudge from Amigos de Guanin, your purchase is helping fund projects in the Dominican Republic.

In addition to fundraisers, clubs and groups on campus hold events the week of Valentine’s Day.  Some residence halls hold card-making parties for residents to make cards for friends and for distribution to local agencies like the Huntingdon House.  The Social Dance club often holds a dance, sometimes on Valentine’s Day, where experienced dancers and beginners can swing the night away to all their favorite tunes.

While some students enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day swing dancing or eating chocolate-covered strawberries, others choose to spend the night with friends.  Some of the residence halls have kitchens available for use, and they’re often heavily used on Valentine’s Day weekend as groups of friends make fancy dinners and bake heart-shaped desserts.  Still other groups of friends check DVDs out from the library and host movie marathons with friends.

Whatever your stance on Valentine’s Day as a single college student, there are lots of ways to celebrate as much or as little as you’d like.  Buy yourself fudge, make cards for friends, swing dance the night away, or watch movies with friends.  Whatever you do, have a happy Valentine’s Day!

This Week at Juniata Week 13

Tenting Essentials

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Every year, sometime between fall break and the beginning of December, dozens of students pitch tents on the pathway leading to Ellis Hall, competing for the best tickets for the Madrigal winter dance. The date of tenting is a secret until the students organizing tenting gather on the Ellis steps and blow air horns to signal the start of tenting. An email is then sent out to the entire student body stating that tenting has started and explaining the rules for tenting. The first tent to be pitched becomes “Head Tent” and the students in that tent are responsible for organizing events throughout the week and doing roll calls. Tenting is a popular, long-standing Juniata College tradition that is meant to be fun. Sometimes, though, it’s stressful, frustrating, or just not enjoyable. For anyone considering tenting next year, here are some essentials you should have (in addition to a tent):

A sense of humor

Head Tent will probably call roll at 3:30 in the morning, interrupting your precious REM sleep. You might play musical chairs at midnight. You will get very cold or, if you’re not so lucky, wet in the tent. I’m not trying to scare you away from tenting; rather, I’m saying that a sense of humor will help you get through tenting. You can get through it and you can have a good time with tenting, but you need to let the small things just roll off your shoulders.

Warm clothes

And when I say “warm,” I don’t just mean sweatshirts. I mean leggings, Under Armour, thick socks, hats, gloves, and other winter gear. Make sure you have multiples of all of these items, as well as sweatshirts and sweatpants because, chances are, you’ll be wearing several layers every night. While we’re talking about warm clothes, don’t forget about your sleeping arrangements. Heavy, warm blankets and a sleeping bag are extremely helpful.

Awesome talents

Chances are there will be a talent show of some kind during the week. It’s helpful if someone on your team (or several people) has a talent or, at the very least, can make something up. There are also lots of other challenges conducive to talents. This year, we had a rap battle, dance competition, cooking competition, and talent show. It seems that, if you don’t have a talent, all hope is not lost. As long as you’re willing to make a complete fool of yourself of 100 of your closest peers, you too can win the competition.

My tent that was home for a week with some of my closest friends.

My tent that was home for a week with some of my closest friends.

Friends

Whether they’re in your tent or laughing at the fact that you’re actually tenting, friends are the single greatest asset to an awesome tenting team. This seems obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway: make sure the people you tent with are close friends. Through all the stress of tenting week, it’s easy to get grumpy or frustrated with your tentmates or with tenting in general. If they’re close friends, it’s easier to repair the friendship or let the small stuff go (see #1). It’s also important to have friends who aren’t in your tent. When they’re not laughing at all the ridiculous stuff you have to do, they might just bring you late-night hot chocolate.

This Week at Juniata Week 10

New Beginnings

As I pulled into a parking space outside of Tussey Hall, I wondered if I had made a mistake. I wasn’t sure if this was the school I really wanted to be at. I was nervous about finding friends, keeping up with my schoolwork, being so far from my friends from home, and being unable to fit in. However, Juniata College quickly proved me wrong.

Celebrating Mountain Day with my closest friends on campus. (Raystown Lake)

Celebrating Mountain Day with my closest friends on campus. (Raystown Lake)

I began my adventure participating in Inbound, a program that allows first-year students to arrive early to campus and do different activities that they are interested in. Wanting to enter the school year as relaxed as possible, I joined the Mind Body and Spirit course. I spent four days doing meditation, rock-climbing, yoga, and arts & crafts. Several people I met during Inbound are some of my best friends on campus now. The Inbound Program was incredibly helpful and enjoyable, and allowed me to settle into campus before all of the upperclassmen arrived.

When classes began at the end of the week, I’ll admit I was overwhelmed. The professors entrusted us with this immense amount of freedom that was almost foreign to me. This was the first time I was taking the classes I wanted to take, not courses required by my school. It took a week or two for me to completely pick up the routine of Juniata and how everything and everyone functions. Surprisingly, I have been here for a month now, but it feels like I have been here for years. I have met so many welcoming and supportive people so far and I have an amazing group of friends.

Although entering college can be intimidating, the best advice I can give is to arrive with an open mind. If you stay in your room watching Netflix and talking to friends from home instead of going out, socializing and exploring different events and groups on campus, you won’t get the full package that Juniata has to offer. This school has already showed me I made the right choice, even in a matter of weeks.

Lobsterfest 2014

Lobsterfest on the quad.

Lobsterfest on the quad.

This past Saturday was Lobsterfest. For those of you who don’t know, Lobsterfest is a Juniata College tradition established in 1988 in which students have an opportunity to join a variety of campus organizations. Registered student organizations line up on the quad and offer other students information about the club and a chance to sign up. Then, lobster is served for dinner (steak, chicken, and a vegetarian option are available, too).

Lobsterfest definitely attracts a lot of students to the quad. As a freshman, I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed not only by the amount of clubs available, but also by the variety. With over one hundred clubs and activities to choose from, it’s easy to find ways to get involved. Personally, getting involved with Eagle Ambassadors and the Juniata Activities Board really helped me to make some friends as a freshman. Juniata has organizations for students interested in art, advocacy, club sports, communication and business, culture, the outdoors, science, service, and spirituality.

The best part about Lobsterfest is that it is an event that is inherently Juniatian. Everyone is friendly and welcoming; if you want to join a club to learn a new skill, that’s not only acceptable, but is also encouraged. If you’ve never touched clay in your life and you want to join the pottery club, go for it. If you want to learn the art of beekeeping, there’s a club for that, too! Also, Juniata students are characteristically very passionate about their interests. Lobsterfest is a way for (especially new) students to find students who care about the same activities that they do and to be welcomed to a part of the Juniata community.

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