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Reflections on Freshman Year

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Just a casual selfie with President Troha

I can’t believe it. Freshman year is almost over. This year, time has passed more quickly than I could’ve ever imagined, but I think that might just mean I’m doing it right. I could give you the stereotypical “there’s been ups and downs,” and honestly I probably should because that’s the truth. I wish I could write down everything I’ve experienced, but if I tried to even summarize everything for you, we would both be here for hours. Let me give it to you in one word: joy.

That’s all I can think when I think about this last year. My life has been filled with joy ever since I arrived at Juniata College. That does not mean times weren’t hard, or I was never sad. I’ve been distraught here. I’ve been mad, and I’ve cried. However, I’ve also laughed until I couldn’t breathe, I’ve smiled until my face hurt, and I’ve gone on an incredible amount of adventures with the people I love.

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Now that I’ve gone through the ups and downs of a year of school, I think I’m old and wise enough to give you some advice on what to expect when you come to Juniata College.

  1. Pack lightly. Be aware that even though our dorm rooms are fairly large, they will not fit everything you bring. I promise you, you will accumulate a lot of things over the course of a year.
  2. There aren’t exclusive cliques here. Yes, there are groups of friends, but all of the ones I have encountered have been incredibly welcoming, so take advantage of that.
  3. Don’t always wait for an invitation. Okay, no, you should not invite yourself to someone’s birthday party or third wheel on a date, but if someone is going to play Frisbee golf, ask if you can go along. College students don’t always know that some people are waiting for an invitation.
  4. Time management is so important. Juniata is an academically challenging school, but it is incredibly easy to balance those academics with other activities. Prioritize and manage your time.
  5. Ask for help. Everyone I have met here has been more than willing to help me, so if you need or even just want a support network, Juniata has an incredible one.
  6. Enjoy it. Don’t count down until you can go home for Fall Break or until the semester is over. Appreciate the people you meet and the experiences you’re having. It’ll be gone before you know it.

Wherever you decide to go (I hope it is here, because this school is wonderful), just make sure it’s somewhere where you can take advantage of all college has to offer, because let me tell you, freshman year is fantastic.

The On-Campus Atmosphere

As a rising senior, I was approved for off campus housing next year. It’s a bittersweet moment because I really love Juniata’s campus. I’m going to miss being able to look out the window and see the quad. I’m going to miss walking to dinner with my friends and only having to take a two minute walk to their dorms on the weekend, no matter my location.

Juniata’s on campus living experience is a memory I am fond of. My first year here, I lived in Sherwood, a freshman dorm. I was kind of disappointed with this, as a sophomore who transferred here, but was surprised with the experience it provided me. Sherwood was my favorite dorm. All of my friends were on the same floor. The walk wasn’t even two minutes—more like two seconds! We always had our doors open and were worried if a door was shut.

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I remember when the infamous “dress” started going around on social media. I heard a scream down the hallway and so I ran to my friends room and exclaimed “what’s wrong!?”

“Tell me this dress is white and gold,” she said about the blue and black dress.

“That’s definitely not white and gold,” I said.

Before I knew it, the whole floor was in her room debating this dress.

I’m going to miss that dynamic. I loved Juniata’s dorm experience from the beginning to end. It’s a bittersweet moment being approved for off campus housing because, as much as I’m excited to learn how to live in a house and pay rent, I am really going to miss the experiences I had daily on campus with all of my friends.

The Senior Resident Assistant: Juniata Residential Life gains a new position

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Figure 1: The 2016-2017 Juniata College Residential Life Staff

 

The Resident Assistant is a staple of collegiate residential life. They are simultaneously friend, advisor, and somewhat overbearing parent reminding you that it is quiet hours and even though you may not have class tomorrow, someone does. An RA is supposed to make their residents feel at home, which is particularly important for incoming freshman who may never have been away from home. Above the RA’s are the Resident Directors who oversee the RA’s and make sure the building runs smoothly. They all work other jobs on campus meaning that they can be a great resource for finding jobs or learning how to join an athletic team or club. Above the RD’s is the Director of Residential Life, and above them is the Dean of Students. Why am I telling you about the seemingly boring chain of command of Juniata College’s Residential Life Office?

Because next year it is getting a new player: The Senior RA. The college is beginning to shy away from the RD framework of leadership, instead opting for Area Coordinators (RD’s with a fancy new name) who are placed in the building that most need an RD and who oversee the running of several buildings, and SRA’s who will be experienced RA’s that oversee their individual dorms. While the SRA’s will technically answer to the Area Coordinators, their role is not just limited to looking over their building and reporting to their boss. The SRA’s will have a greater voice in the ResLife office, and will serve as much more efficient liaisons between the students and the administration.

For the past year I have worked as an RA in Sherwood Hall on the first floor, and along with the reapplication process RA’s who had worked for at least two semesters were allowed to apply for the Senior RA position and I would like to share my last paragraph of my application essay:

“I am excited for the new SRA position and the impact it will have on Residential life and the Residence Halls, especially the first year Halls. There are many changes coming to Juniata in the next few years and the best place to address those changes with the students is in the Residence Halls. We as a staff are liaisons between administrators and students and in the coming years I believe there is a lot we can do to make the students feel like their voices are being heard. Having a student in a position where they come into close contact with both students and administrators alike on a much more personal level than say, a student government officer, will be a huge step in getting the students’ voices heard, and will make Juniata feel that much more like home.”

In the past, I believe the RD has been some nameless faceless entity that lives in some hard to find corner of the Residence hall and it is near impossible to form any kind of relationship there.  Now, we have students leading students. Your SRA next year might be in your Survey of Western Art class, or the TA for your Integrated Chemical Principles Lab or a co-member of the Dance Ensemble. You will study with them, or they’ll help you with an acid-base titration or help you perfect that last dance move of your set. But more important than that (okay less important than your grades…) is the bond you will have with them. You may not become best of friends but you will most likely be more comfortable voicing your concerns to them than at a forum put on by the administration. And because of the SRA’s new found proximity to the administration the divide between administration and the student bodies’ voice will be that much smaller.

Politics and Galas: A Sweet Mixture

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Although short, February has been my longest and busiest time in college! In addition to my 18 credits work load, I became involved in student government, as a Common Interest Sector (CIS) Representative and member of the Student Advocate for Universal Respect (SAUR), and have been actively participating in cultural clubs: the African-American Students Alliance, the French, Korean, and Japanese Clubs and the newly immerging African Club! To top it all off, there were numerous interesting events that took place on campus, many of which were considered extra-credits for class!

One the goals that I had set for college was to acquire valuable leadership skills and experiences. This objective, combined with my interest in political science, prompted me to join the student government. Every Wednesday afternoon, I attend CIS Rep meetings, and my role is to represent cultural clubs on the Student Senate. In fact, I am actively involved in many cultural clubs which helps me serve as a bridge between those clubs and the senate! My attendance is also required during senate sessions every other Monday, during which we discuss and vote on allocations for clubs; when needed, the administration makes an appearance and asks about our opinions regarding changes to the curriculum and student life.

Juniata has a diverse student body, and members of SAUR speak on those students’ behalf in order to have their various needs met. SAUR is divided into 3 main sub-committees, and I am specifically in the training sub-committee, which is tasked with facilitating cross-cultural dialogues. Other committees include major events and campaigning. Soon, these two committees will hold a Caribbean Carnival and a social media campaign called “The Anti-Assumption Project”, which aims to eliminate certain generalizations and stereotypes. Although being an active member of the student government can prove challenging, given the various branches and responsibilities involved, I highly value the experience, for it simulates the politics taking place in the real world. Furthermore, I learned the importance and the power of having a vote; if we can vote on issues and policies, then we can change the environment around us to meet our needs!

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Aside from the politics, I have also been helping in various clubs. By far, the Chinese New Year’s Gala was an event that marked the month of February. The Chinese New Year’s festival, (also known as the Spring Festival and Chūnjié in Chinese) is the longest and most important holiday in China, which dates back as far as 17th century BC! This year was that of the Monkey (Written as,“猴” and pronounced, “Hóu”), one of the twelve animals of Chinese Zodiac. On that Saturday (Feb. 20th), the atmosphere in Baker was quite sophisticated! The color red, which is considered to be a token of fortune, wealth and prosperity in China, stood out! The tables were covered in red cloths and at the center were varieties of delicious Chinese crackers and candies! The main course was composed of pork or beef with rice, and a vegetarian option! There were performances as well, such as playing an instrument, singing, dancing, and demonstrating martial arts movements. My group and I, called “The Sherwood Babes” since we all lived in Sherwood, performed a dance choreography to a song called “Mama” by Exo-M. After hours spent practicing, we finally pulled it off and delivered a great performance!

The Chinese New Year’s Gala is only one of many cultural club events that take place this spring—The French Club alone will host an entire week-long festival, with dinners, performances, presentations and films—all of which I look forward to with enthusiasm!

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.

To Be, or Not To Be (Involved)

The spring semester theatre production of “Hamlet” opens this week and I am so incredibly excited. Not only are they performing this weekend and next, but they get to travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August! I was not cast in this show, but just because you’re not cast doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines and watch from afar. I hopped on the opportunity to work backstage with the costume crew. This was my first experience working on the technical side of theatre, but my supervisors were appreciative, understanding and helpful with our tasks.

Juniata College actors rehearse the upcoming play "Hamlet"

Juniata College actors rehearse the upcoming play “Hamlet”

I was a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t know how to sew, but the costume designer for the show, Tara Webb, taught me everything I needed to know. I worked to sew buttons and labels while she made alterations to the actor’s costumes.

Another great part of working backstage is that I get to see the whole process of the show being put together. Many of my best friends have been cast in the show and it is
so amazing to see them killing it on stage! Not to mention, “Hamlet” is not an easy show! Any Shakespeare play has some serious memorization and text work that needs to be done before the play can even begin to be blocked in rehearsal.

“Hamlet” opens this Thursday, February 18th, and will perform the 19-20, and the 25-27th as well. There is a male cast and a female cast, and the casts alternate each night. I’m so proud of my friends for all of the work they’ve put into this show, and I’m so glad I can be a part of it, even thought I’m not in the actual show.

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.

Samuel Beckett Circus

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Lauren Dobbs (on lyra) while Alyssa Newberg (right), my director Nate Dryden (left) and I watch in rehearsal.

This semester, the Theatre Department’s main production is the Samuel Beckett Circus, which I have the incredible opportunity of being a part of. The show combines four Beckett plays, as well as different Beckett texts and circus acts. There’s music, trapeze, crazy creatures, magic, and some unbelievable performances by my fellow cast-mates. This is the first show I have ever been in at Juniata, and I have been having an amazing time throughout the rehearsal process.

Last year, I was very hesitant to be a part of the productions because I knew they would be time-consuming. I was right. I am constantly juggling assignments, rehearsals, running my own club on campus, and a social life, while still finding time to sleep, eat, and do my laundry. It’s definitely a lot to handle. However, having such a busy schedule has pushed me to become better with my time management, and to do as much as I can in the time that I have. 

I have also learned so much from working with the different performers and my wonderful directors. They each inspire me to work harder inside and outside of the theatre. I’ve flown on the trapeze (which is something I would never have guessed I would learn in college), ran up stairs while hoola-hooping, and worked on some pretty tough scenes during rehearsals.  I can definitely say I am a much stronger performer after being cast in this show. 

It’s so crazy to think we open in two weeks, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when the show is over! The show will be running from October 22-24, and 29-31. If you get the chance to stop by the black box theatre, I would definitely recommend seeing The Samuel Beckett Circus! I promise you will not be disappointed!

Having Fun Along With the Workload

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Looking pretty for the Homecoming dance! (Photo: Morad Chihab)

We’re finally in October, and as the Fall Break approaches, we can’t help but feel excited! Well… not so fast.

First off, this month is when the college workload finally shows you its true colors. From CWS courses wanting 4 page essays, plus reading responses, plus lap journals and mandatory freshman meetings, to history courses wanting research papers and 200 page readings per week, college just dumps everything on you at once! Oh, did I mention the commitments that you have to clubs?

I actively participate in five different clubs: Plexus, Chinese club, Japanese Club, French Club and the African club. The clubs are all very diverse and do their best to stay true to their moto. Just last week, the Chinese club not only organized the Chinese Moon festival (also known as the lunar Mid-Autumn Festival and zhōng qiū jié in Chinese) and shared moon cakes with others, but they will also organize Chinese dinners (monthly) at the Chinese village. Ok, I must admit that the Chinese club is one of my favorites because, after all, I am a food person! The Japanese club does not hesitate to invite members to cook with them, and the French club puts together movie nights (the next one is this Friday!). Speaking of French club, they organized a trip to Montreal and Quebec City during Fall Break, for which I happily signed up. My Fall Break is going to be a blast!

I had the most amazing Friday on campus thanks to the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra. I was expecting the show to be dull and average, but the next thing I knew, everyone around me, including the lead singer and the entire orchestra, was moving with energy and dancing their souls out! You couldn’t help but move along. It felt very refreshing being in the Halbritter Auditorium that night. Thank you, Juniata Presents!

Homecoming, something that my friends (mostly Francophones like me), were looking forward to, took place last weekend! Before the actual soirée, we saw families arrive on campus to visit their students. Tears were shed, hugs were given, and students’ rooms were cleaned up. My international friends were feeling homesick. Seeing other students’ families made them miss their own families and friends back in their home country. I missed my mother as well, who was not able to come visit me that weekend even though she was about 3 hours away in Maryland. Nevertheless, I had a great time dressing up for homecoming and dancing with my friends.

As I am sitting at the library and writing this blog, regardless of the workload (4 more research articles to go through, 3 IA assignments to turn in, 2 reading and a research topic that I need to start), I enjoy being at Juniata. If you are like me and procrastinate from time to time, well, start early, take things one at the time and see where the wings take you. Remember the light at the end of the tunnel?

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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