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Lessons I’m Glad I Now Know

As I set down the book of my Juniata Experience, I reflect on the many lessons I gleaned over my four years at Juniata College. From graduating with an individualized Program of Emphasis to coming to terms with being a student-athlete throughout COVID-19, here are some lessons I’ve learned at JC.

Don’t fret about what comes next. Even during my first year, there were students who had clear plans about what they wanted to do after graduation – going to law school, medical school, teaching or more. By my junior and senior year even more of my peers had plans set in stone. I was different. Sitting at my desk for hours each week brainstorming ideas, I still didn’t feel that same drive to commit to some idea of who I want to be that I wasn’t fully on board with. It wasn’t until my last semester of college that same drive to decide finally came. It’s okay not to know what awaits you after Juniata, but once something motivating jumps out, make sure to grab on to that next adventure and hold on tight!

Motivation can come from anywhere. This lesson I learned from the journey leading up to my next adventure after college. I’ve vacationed outside the US before, but never lived elsewhere for an extended period of time. When COVID-19 crushed my opportunity to study Communications abroad in Germany in Summer 2020, I felt even more motivated to travel overseas. I briefly held out hope that a reprieve would come in the form of a trip to Brazil for my men’s volleyball team to play in a preseason tournament my final semester. Not surprisingly, even that was postponed. In the winter when I was given the chance to continue both my academic and athletic career by getting a Master’s Degree in England, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Although the decision was my own, the opportunity given to me came thanks to the complete higher education experience that I underwent at Juniata. And, the motivation driving my leap of faith to move overseas to earn an MA was thanks to the strong encouragement to study abroad and opportunities for travel at Juniata that I was sad to have missed.

Live in the moment was the most important lesson I learned from Juniata. When people told me freshman year that four years will pass in the blink of an eye, I had no idea what they meant. It wasn’t possible then for me to see that one day soon, I would be walking across the stage to pick up my diploma, saying so long to the halls of BAC and having an especially sentimental final meal at Baker. It’s sad when the chapter titled ‘College’ in the book of our lives closes but part of living in my new present means living with our connection to Juniata.

As an alumni I expect to stay connected with both the lessons learned and people met through my alma mater. And when it’s your turn to leave the nest, I hope you don’t forget your eagle family either.

Gameday “Sticious-es”

Talia Bertrando
Talia Bertrando ’22, Business Communication and Spanish POE

“I’m not superstitious…but I am a little sticious” – Michael Scott

If you’re one of my roommates coming into my room as I do work, you know that some show like The Office will be on my TV. I’m probably sitting on my bed, I may or may not be taking another “break” on social media, and, if it’s past 3 o’clock, I’ve almost certainly had a snack already. When I’m in the thick of a semester, I like fun, spontaneous weekends, but weekdays are for strict schedules and daily routines.

I wouldn’t call myself superstitious, but I could sometimes be called a creature of habit, maybe even a little sticious. Which is why, on March 20th, I had a little predicament when it came to me and my sticious-es. March 20th was my first real game in a long time. It had been exactly 372 days (yes, my team did the math) since my lacrosse team had played a real game that actually counted toward conference play. As I rode on the team bus to Scranton, PA for the game, one of my most important sticious-es was challenged.

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The laments of a college athlete during a pandemic

Madison Wrightstone
Madison Wrightstone ’23

Being an athlete has always been a key piece of my identity. Now I fully recognize that that might immediately cast me in a particular light, but in all honesty, it is completely true. Everyone has that thing about them that makes life feel a little fuller and the world feel a little brighter. Since I was three years old, the world of sports has been a comfort, a safe space away from the troubles always looming close by. Having the ability to make the decision to continue playing softball in college is one that I was incredibly thankful for, and even though my experience has been incredibly nontraditional in so many ways, the role of being an athlete for Juniata has already made such an impact on who I am as a person.

So, what do you do when that safe space is suddenly ripped away from you in a matter of hours? An injury is one thing – a rational explanation that albeit awful, it at least creates a smoother tear in the wounds of your life. But what do you do when a global pandemic shut everything down for six months? I, along with athletes all over the world, lost 210 innings of softball I will never again get the chance to play. I lost practice hours, time with my teammates, and the chance to play the sport that has meant so much in my life. And while I am incredibly lucky at the prospect of getting to play my sophomore year, I am still losing out on a traditional season once again.

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How Juniata is thriving during the pandemic

Theo Weinberger
Theo Weinberger ’21, Multi-Sport Athlete

How is it possible that at Juniata, despite CoVID restrictions, I’m allowed to compete in the annual Bailey Oratorical speech contest in person? I get to eat food at Baker celebrating Mardi Gras at a table with four of my friends?  Juniata students are in the fortunate position of having found a new normal during the CoVid19 public health crisis while keeping our on-campus students’ test positivity rate– our rate of infection –just around 1%. Through the extraordinary performance by our school, faculty, and most importantly, our students, we’ve been able to enjoy what many other colleges cannot at this time.

Of course, if your school is like most high schools or colleges across the U.S., these privileges may seem unbelievable for you.  Dining, sports, being with friends? The option for in-person classes that maintain the quality of education that has been more familiar and effective than SOME online classes have been for many? How is it possible?

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Reflecting on my first semester during COVID-19

Madison Wrightstone
Madison Wrightstone ’23

I was in Florida on spring break with my teammates when we all first learned that we would not be returning to campus for two weeks. We had no idea at the time that we would not see each other again in person for almost six months. This is not a wildly unique experience I had – high schoolers and college kids alike missed out on their senior years, sport seasons, time with family members and friends, and the long list of experiences a person has while they are still young. The pandemic we have all been trudging through for the last year has put life on hold in so many ways, and yet life at Juniata has not become all that different as many of us thought it would.

I was ecstatic to come back to campus for in-person learning. Attempting to learn from a computer screen in my childhood bedroom hours away from campus for the second half of the spring 2020 semester was neither productive for me academically nor for my mental health. When I found out that Juniata was expecting to make a full return to campus, I – along with every single person that I told from home – was doubtful to say the least. How would a small liberal arts school in the (in what they like to say) “middle of nowhere” be able to control local outbreaks without endangering staff or the local community? How did we expect college kids to listen to all the rules in place? I bet we’d be on campus for three weeks max (which was very noticeable in what I chose to pack). And for maybe the first time in my life, I was very happy to be wrong about something. We were able to stay completely in person for the entire semester!

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