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The end of the year at Juniata is a fun and exciting time that’s here and gone faster than you can say ‘finals’. One minute you’re picking out your Madrigal suit, the next you’re spending way too many hours awake studying for the final you’ve known about for three months but have been ignoring till two days before. The most fitting metaphor I can think of is that of a dance… and that’s not just because Madrigal was last weekend. When we got back from Thanksgiving break, the campus was abuzz with excitement about Madrigal, what dresses people were ordering, what tie was going to go with whose dress, and which professor would be serving you at the dinner. There is always a frenzy of activity the week leading up to the traditional dinner and dance because it is the last big event before the end of the year. As soon as we wake up the Sunday after the dance, we stop performing the excited happy dances of young people and start the exasperated stress induced dance of the overworked and under slept.
Finals week and the week leading up to it are not all that bad. They just sort of creep up on you. One minute you are going through RA training, the next you are living in some forgotten corner of an academic building trying to remember a semester’s worth of Inorganic chemistry in preparation for your upcoming test. Madrigal is rather well placed, because although it cuts a bit into study time before finals, it gives us one last opportunity to let loose with friends, to reminisce about the semester, and to hang out with some of the best people you will ever meet before you all go home for a month.
We go through the semester attending classes, completing homework, hanging out with friends on the weekends, procrastinating, procrastinating on the procrastinating, and before we know it another semester has come and gone, another year coming to a close. Similar to how I danced at Madrigal, I think as a school we go through the year in a very eclectic way. One minute you could be doing the hustle, the next dancing a slow waltz. One Thursday you are pulling an all-nighter to make up for your weeks of procrastination and Friday night you’re procrastinating again. And while this cycle may seem grueling at times, it really makes the time fly by.
The semester is almost over and that means the end of a lot of things. For me it’s the end of organic chemistry, a class that has reshaped how I think about science, and the first half of my sophomore year. There are those older than I that may be graduating and ending their time here at Juniata. The ending of anything brings with it a sense of melancholy. Even though I will be returning for RA training in only a few short weeks, another stage of my college career, however small, is over.
Thankfully with every ending there is a new beginning and I personally cannot wait to see what next semester has in store.
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.
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.
Pretty much everyone on campus is feeling it to some extent: that stress and bump in the road that happens around this point of the semester. It’s a conglomeration of everything that’s going on. We’re past Fall Break with Thanksgiving Break right around the corner, midterms are over and finals are too far away to worry about, clubs and activities are in full swing, some students are working on campus, study abroad applications will be due soon, it’s getting colder, and we have the added excitement of tenting in preparation for Madrigal.
It’s nice to have a lot happening. College is a time to build relationships with friends and faculty, to spend time participating in extra curricular activities, and to think about the future. However, perhaps the most obvious part of college life is taking classes. At Juniata College, academics are serious and challenging. The professors expect a lot from their students because they are deeply invested in our educations and want us to receive a strong liberal arts education.
I’m immensely grateful for my opportunity to receive a liberal arts education at Juniata, but this is one of the times in the semester where college can get a bit rough. Juniata students always seem to be busy with something. It could be work, volunteering, practice, labs, research, or anything else that other students get involved with. There’s so much going on with classes, clubs, activities, and work that, at times, it’s hard to sit down and get homework done. Not because of an excess of work, but rather because of an excess of opportunities outside the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll never catch me complaining about reading a book for one of my English classes. Doing concept maps for my biology class is a different story.
We’re eleven weeks into the semester with only five more to go. As it gets closer to Thanksgiving and finals, we’ll work our way out of the slump and finish strong both inside and outside the classroom. Then next semester, we’ll do it all over again.
Five nights, sleeping outside in tents and competing in random competitions in the middle of a cold Pennsylvania November… punishment?? Nope, it’s something we call tenting. Tenting is honestly my favorite Juniata tradition, even though it results in zero to four hours of sleep for a week. The purpose for tenting is to determine the order that groups of students can buy tickets to Madrigal. Madrigal is a winter themed formal dinner and dance where the students are served dinner by the faculty. One of the traditions at Madrigal dinner is to sing Christmas carols as a student body, with most of the attention going to the singing of the “12 days of Christmas”. The 10 tables that are the closest to the stage and musical performing group are the tables that get to stand on their chairs and belt the “FIVE GOLDEN RINGS” line of the song. These are the most coveted tables at the dinner. Now, what’s the big deal of being able to do this? It doesn’t sound like that big of a thing. To quote my one friend who decided to try tenting this year and competed to get a Five Golden Rings table, after the dinner he said, “For three years I thought tenting was stupid and pointless, just to be rewarded with a table that gets to sing one line in a Christmas song. But the week of tenting and going to the Madrigal dinner and singing with everyone has been the most fun I’ve ever had at college.” During the dinner, the musical group that was performing said they had visited hundreds of schools and audiences around the nation, and they had never seen a school that loved each other and loved their school, as much as we did.
There are limited tables at the Madrigal dinner and each table is only allowed to seat six or eight students. Therefore, tenting was developed as the traditional way to determine which students got to buy their tickets first and thus, choose their table first. After all the groups that tented buy their tickets and choose their table, then the remaining tickets can be sold to the rest of the student body. But once the tenting groups get their tickets, there are not very many tables left for the rest of the students to buy.
Tenting takes place either one or two weeks before Thanksgiving break and starts with an air horn. And it can sound at any point on Sunday or Monday of that week and once it does, it is a race to see who can set up their tent the fastest. The first group to set up their tent completely is head tent, and they get to plan all the activities for the entire week and keep track of the order of all the tents. This year there were 30 tents competing. The fun part of tenting is that it takes place from 5pm until 8am, every day of the week. Every day there was a major competition, like a dance competition, scavenger hunt, rap battle, baking competition, cardboard box race, etc. On top of this major competition, there are also lots of little competitions mixed throughout, like stuffing marshmallows in your mouth, paper airplane races, or water balloon toss. But because they can happen at any time, we would be woken up from our tents in the 28 degree weather at 4am to do limbo in the cold, or make a house of cards in 30 minutes. There were over 50 challenges we competed in this week of tenting. It’s an exhausting week, but honestly so much fun to compete against other students with a group of your friends. While going to class the week of tenting, I find myself distracted, thinking about what we’re going to do for tenting that night. Every year I’ve done tenting, I’ve always come out having grown close to a lot of people in other groups, because we all share one thing in common… we all survived tenting week.
My first semester at Juniata went by so quickly. Just a few months ago, I was going to high school graduation parties and wondering what college would bring. I think that these feelings are fairly common among soon-to-be freshmen. I was nervous about making new friends and what college life would be like. Also included in my anxiety was whether or not I made the right choice.
So, yes, making friends can be difficult. Before college, I never really had to make new friends. Most of my friends were with me from preschool or kindergarten to high school graduation. But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. A few days into the semester there was a knock at my door followed by, “I heard that you’re a vegetarian. I am, too. Let’s be best friends.” That’s the kind of unexpected thing that can happen at Juniata, and we are now very good friends.
College life is a lot like life at home, but it is also very different. In college, you’re accountable for yourself. There is no one there to remind you to do something or to go somewhere, but the basic schedule of “school, activities, homework, sleep” from high school is still present.
So here we are at the big question: did I make the right choice? Yes. Juniata is a really great place. It may be small, but everyone is so friendly. Sometimes, that smile and wave from someone on campus is what you need to brighten your day. All of the professors that I have had so far have been great, and they really care about what they are teaching and about their students. Activities like clubs and sports and traditions like Mountain Day and Madrigal provide a nice break from the academic side of college. Now, looking back, I realize that being nervous was really unnecessary. Juniata College is a welcoming, interesting, and fun environment that I am happy to attend.