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Speed dating was never a good idea to me. The concept always seemed so uncomfortable. However, when Juniata’s Health and Wellness student intern hosted a SpeedChat event on campus last week, I decided I’d give it a try.
SpeedChat was an event to help students get to know each other. When I arrived to Sill Boardroom, I was surprised at the large amount of people who were attending. The chairs were set up in a few lines and were facing each other. As students arrived, they were given a ticket. You sat with the person whose ticket number matched yours. In between the chairs were questions to help prompt conversation.
I sat down waiting for someone’s ticket to match mine and to my surprise, it was actually someone I already knew! When the five minute round of chatting began, we asked each other some of the questions on the sheet.
I learned a lot about her. Even though I see her four days out of the week for class, I didn’t know how much we really had in common. As the round came to an end, we agreed to talk again soon.
The next few people I met were just as interesting. There’s no one who isn’t interesting at Juniata. I learned a lot about different places in the world, family ideologies, different POE’s, and so much more. I really am happy that I talked myself into going.
It’s important to attend events at Juniata. You learn so much about fellow students, about the school, and about the community as a whole. Talking to different students, even if it didn’t create friendships, creates a unit. Juniata is a unit of individuals who think differently, broader, and more outside the box. I think that this event really helped remind me of my love for Juniata and I am glad I have creative and fun opportunities, like this one, to give me a break from all the studying for midterms!
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!
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!
After almost a month of winter break, spent mostly sleeping, I was back on campus in a flash, a week earlier than anticipated, in order to serve as an orientation leader for new international students! Meeting new students, international students in particular, is always an experience that I look forward to with enthusiasm, for I was in their shoes not too long ago.
On January 12, the new international students started to arrive and so did the snow storm. To assure their safe arrival on campus, Juniata provided them with various transportations, including Maidens Taxi, Juniata shuttle buses, and my supervisor’s own personal car. Once on campus, I, along with four other orientation leaders, were responsible for guiding them to their designated dorms. The students came from all over the world, including Mexico, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Czech Republic, England, and France. The next day was composed of helping them fill out required documents, showing them around campus, locating major academic buildings, and later, showing them around town, especially the Weis store, Standing Stone Café, and Sheetz! That was only the beginning of an amazing welcoming week.
In the days that followed, the new students were treated with some American food, which to some, was a mix of American cuisine and other countries’ cuisine. For example, María, a girl from Mexico noticed that the tacos in the States were hard and crunchy, but she believed it should have been soft like in her country. She concluded that this was an example of Mexican-American food. The Chinese students also came to a similar conclusion during our dinner at China Buffet after they noticed that Chinese-American food tended to be sweeter.
The most exciting moment of the orientation week was when we went to see the 7th Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. To many of the students, including myself, this was their first time seeing Star Wars! Now, I plan on watching the 6 previous movies during my spare time.
To this day, the International Office and Juniata College as a whole continue to make new students feel welcome. Going glow-bowling this upcoming weekend, taking a trip to State College, painting, and discovering Central-Pennsylvanian dishes are future events planned for the new students! I believe that this is the essence of Juniata: always striving to create meaningful experiences for all of its students, and I am proud to be a part of it.
After three months of school, it was time to return home for Thanksgiving. However, I did not go home alone; I invited my friends, all French speakers, to Germantown, Maryland, to spend time with my family.
My friends and I might appear to be an odd bunch to some people. However, although we speak French, we come from various parts of the world. Among those who came to my place were Joël from Burkina Faso, Élora who is half Turkish and half Algerian living in France, and Cécile who is French-Korean. We also have this particular habit, almost like a ritual—as Cécile would say—that involves mostly me preparing spicy ramen for everyone on Friday and Saturday nights. I don’t know how it started, but when we are out of energy and have nothing else to eat, “ramen seems to be life.”
Being back in Germantown and seeing my mother felt comforting. After my friends were settled, I took them out to see what the city had to offer. Our ultimate goal was to find a pistachio flavored ice-cream, which was Élora’s favorite. They had the opportunity to see both my middle and high school, and in 3 hours, we ate at a Chinese restaurant, had ice cream at Cold Stone, and, as if we hadn’t had enough to eat, Karl, my cousin, offered us two pepperoni and cheese stuffed crust pizzas; we were so full to the point that even my mother’s delicious peanut butter soup could not persuade us to eat another spoonful.
Finally, it was Thursday, Turkey-day, and my mother spoiled us to bits. In addition to the roasted and succulent turkey, we had jollof rice (West African fried rice), sweet potato and spicy tomato soup and alloko (Ivorian fried plantains). To my friends and I, the food seemed inexhaustible, for my mother kept refilling our plates! With our belly full, we went to the living room after dinner to watch Stomp the Yard.
After Turkey-day came time for a make-over, during which Yasmine took the initiative to twist my hair into Bantu knots in order to condition them for crochet braids. The other girls used the opportunity to do some shopping at the mall on Black Friday. With our break coming to an end on Sunday, we packed our bags, and of course, my mother included some food to eat on campus. It was a Thanksgiving like no other that I will always remember.
When I was applying to colleges, a student from the Juniata Enrollment Center called my house to talk to me about the school. I told her I was interested in Theatre and English, and she mentioned several different classes for each POE that she thought I would like. One of those classes in the English department was called Lift Evr’y Voice. It’s a class that organizes a coffee-house, celebrating the works of African American writers. It sounded amazing, but this semester I actually got to be a part of it.
The class met once a week, and we split up responsibilities for creating the event. One student was in charge of writing articles about the event to send out to the Juniatian and other local newspapers, another created flyers and displayed them all over campus, and others worked to recruit volunteers. We chose the theme “Music of Poetry” which incorporated black poets and black artists (we had some musical performances as well!).
Each student in the class (there were seven of us) had to perform something during the night, and any volunteer who wished to perform could as well. For my performance, my a cappella group, The Eagle Tones, performed “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae. We had over 120 people attend our event and everyone had a great time! It was so amazing to see this event come together in the way that it did, and the overall idea of celebrating black writers was very meaningful to me. I’m so pleased that I was finally able to experience one of the things that brought me to Juniata.
Last Thursday at Juniata, I had the opportunity to hear the courageous story of Kristin Beck, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who came out as a transgender woman at the age of 45.
Since the time Kristin was in the 3rd grade, she knew that she identified as a woman. She got caught wearing her sister’s dress a few times and received punishment from her parents for not fitting gender norms. She joined the Navy SEALs so that she could “protect herself, build armor, and hide her true identity from others.” Due to social stigma in the previous generations, Kristin did not come out publicly until 2013. She said, “This is who I am. This is what I got to do. I’m going to start living my life how I want.”
Many people were shocked by her dramatic physical changes since she had gone from a macho-looking Navy SEAL to looking like a “Barbie doll.” Kristin explained that change doesn’t always have to be this drastic and that even changing your major could help you become closer to the person that you want to be. “Live your dreams. We get one life. Go for your dream, and work hard,” said Beck.
Since retiring from the Navy SEALS, Kristin has become a civil rights activist and is running for Congress. If elected, she will be the first transgender person in Congress; however, Kristin expressed that she doesn’t want to be looked at as the “first transgender,” but rather as an “American.” She said that her mission is the same now as it was when she was a Navy SEAL: To build bridges. As a Navy SEAL, Kristin physically built bridges in countries around the world, but as a civil rights activist, Kristin hopes to build bridges between people of all different backgrounds. “I want to fight for peace at any cost,” said Beck.
Kristin Beck’s story is not only inspiring for other people who are struggling with gender identity but is also inspiring for the population as a whole. Oftentimes, we face discouragement from others when wanting to express ourselves in a way that might not fit societal norms; however, Kristin serves as a model of hope for those of us just waiting to take that next step in discovering our true selves.
I have always been different than the people around me. I have been asked frequently about how I feel about being “different” or about being a part of the minority. It was interesting to be interviewed for the Juniata Diversity Magazine and seeing the view of those considered “different” but I don’t think of myself as different because of the color of my skin. Although I am Jamaican and Chinese, I think of my experiences as what makes me different. Juniata has been welcoming from the start and has successfully been increasing the diversity to our community, which is nice so no one feels alone and they can have someone to connect with from the same background. Yes I am a part of the minority on the campus of Juniata, but that is not all that defines me. I just want to be a young women achieving her goals, who has been successful and created a bright future for herself. I am more than what people see on the outside and there is more to my story than what you can tell from an initial meeting.
Life is more than first impressions but to those that are “different”, we don’t get that luxury. The color of our skin is seen first, which then leads to stereotypes that people place upon us. The same goes for those with different gender preferences. No one deserves to have expectations or lowered thoughts placed upon them for something that they can’t change. I am not saying that everyone does this, but from experience in my last semester it has happened pretty frequently. I guess it is one of those things that you can’t avoid in life, but Juniata tries its best to help any discomfort and educate people.
My only hope for the world is for those that are “different” to no longer be considered that way based on their appearance. Everyone is more than what meets the eye and it is important to accept that not everyone is the same and that it should be normal. Juniata embodies that through the students chosen to attend this college. There are many different groups of people, but it isn’t like cliché where you have to stick to one group. We are all different in our own unique way and there is beauty in that. There is beauty in everyone, we just need to get passed the prejudice and judgment to see that. Treat others the way that you would like to be treated goes a long way as well as being conscious of the feelings of those around you. So be the change you want in the world and accept those for who they are, not what they look like. I think that Juniata community has begun to implement these changes and encourage others to do so as well.
Despite the most noticeable demographics, Juniata College is pretty diverse. There are people from different ethnic backgrounds, countries and cultures, socioeconomic classes, religions, hometowns (cities versus small towns), and personalities. This type of diversity presents a variety of issues because of what I have personally pinpointed as lack of exposure. Just as some people ask “stupid questions” about my hair or look at me weird for walking around most days in outfits that to some of my peers seem too dressy, I ask “stupid questions” about animals I had never seen or the deer hunting culture that is so prevalent in Huntingdon.
Juniata has an entire office, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Campus Ministry, that is housed in the Unity House, dedicated to helping with culture shock, understanding our unique community, and is a great resource for support.
There are always discussion panels that various clubs and offices hold during the school year that is essentially an open forum to discuss specific topics of differences. I love the fact that at Juniata, there is a yearning for growth and knowledge, and it is displayed by the good turnouts to such events. One of my favorite series that Juniata has is the Beyond Tolerance series. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion brings in guest speakers and performers to do workshops with students, staff, and faculty. This year, some of the programs include African American Historical Trauma, an alumni panel discussing various forms of diversity and how their time at Juniata has positively effected their current careers, women’s rights and advancements, and urban activism and its toxic effects.
By attending such events, you can be eligible to receive a P.E.A.C.E Certificate. It is a nice acknowledgment of your desire to be a more well-rounded citizen and the certificate is even signed by the President of the school. I was so excited to receive my Bronze level last year, after attending six events and I hope to work my way up to Gold before I graduate.