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My Unconventional Path to Joining Student Government

So, I have a funny story about how I got involved in Student Government at Juniata College. Before I came to Juniata, I attended orientation. One of the speakers was the acting president, and he announced that he was planning on running a newsletter for the college. I expressed my interest, and he told me to attend a Student Government meeting once school started. I was sitting with three other freshmen who were all interested in joining the policy committee. After a week, they began inducting the freshmen who were interested in joining Student Government, and called for those interested in the policy committee to stand so we could be voted in. Not one of us caught what we were supposed to do, so he motioned for all four of us to stand, and we were voted in. That’s how I went from writing a newsletter to joining student government—possibly one of the best mistakes to ever happen to me. 

This is the Class of 2025 Board for this academic year! I’m pictured bottom right standing next to Khushi Kanani, our vice president. Behind us is Jalen Denson (left), our president, and Isa Wisenburn (right), our secretary.

Student Government is an independent, student-run organization with the goal of implementing the student body’s concerns to make the college a better place. Members of the Student Government communicate a lot with both faculty and the senior leadership team consisting of high-ranking employees in the college, such as the president, provost, and dean of students. Currently, we have had continuous contact with the campus life office, attempting to establish a new tradition on campus. 

While my journey began by accidentally joining the policy committee my freshman year, I have since joined my class’s board as acting treasurer. I enjoyed my time and involvement in Student Government, so I decided to take on a higher position. As treasurer, I budget and track funds for my board to make sure we host many fun events on campus, building up to senior week for our class before we graduate. We’re also responsible for the senior gift our class will sponsor. 

There’s so much hard work that goes into our projects, but it’s so rewarding seeing our work make a permanent impact on the campus. We’ve had a huge hand in a lot of policy changes at the school, and hosted tons of fun events for students. Seeing everyone benefit from our hard work and leave our events with big smiles reminds me why I spend so much of my free time working with Student Government. Showing interest in a newsletter was the greatest decision I’ve ever made. 

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at @jcclassof2025

Juniata: My home away from home that keeps giving.

You’ve probably read many student blogs that describe college as a “life-changing experience,” but I am here to challenge that notion and say that being a Juniatian is more meaningful than that; it is a life-enhancing experience – it makes you more aware of how exciting life can be.

I don’t particularly think that you become a Juniatian; I think that you have always been a Juniatian, and all it took was enrolling to get to the place where you belong. There is a special thing about choosing to attend a liberal arts college like Juniata because you learn a lot about yourself and discover new aspects of your identity that you might never have thought existed. It makes you feel like you can transform the meaning of the word “education” and truly get out of your comfort zone to venture into different areas of knowledge and to learn new life skills.

A selfie (Millie P, Rachel S, Alexa C, Quynh N, and Emma H) to commemorate summertime with my inbound group. Sophomores who were online got a chance to meet in person and share the Juniatian spirit at Raystown Lake, and connect with previous Inbound Leaders.

If you asked me two years ago where I would be today, I would never have guessed that I would be sitting here writing this blog. I did not know that I was looking for Juniata until Juniata found me.

Before coming to campus, I was an online student for a year. Even though all of my interactions with people from Juniata were limited to a computer screen, I built connections very fast, and before I knew it, I was part of a community. When I finally got to PA this year, I was able to truly capture the beauty and greatness of our 300-acre campus and meet the people who contribute to its greatness. I was able to immerse myself in American culture, be part of traditions, and make new ones. Before coming to Juniata, I never thought of getting tackled by the rugby team as something that could happen. When I got here, I was able to take part in the storming of the arch and get tackled by the rugby team! I didn’t make it through, but I got very close! (The trick is to be a silent attacker.)

A relaxing and mindful moment at the Peace Chapel during International Orientation. Joined by our dearest Dean of International Education, Caitlin Murphy, and incoming students from around the world, we enjoyed the setting while sharing laughter, building community, and playing fun games!

Get to Know the Center for International Education with Kei Takahashi

Juniata’s Center for International Education (CIE) is an office that maintains and administers international programs including Study Abroad, International Student Services, Intensive English, and exchange programs. I have been working in the office as a student worker since the summer of 2021. What I have done so far includes: making a podcast for incoming international students, managing international student orientation at the beginning of the semester, creating study abroad information by country, and organizing various on-campus events for international education. The workplace is very comfortable, and I love the people I work with.

            Working in the CIE, I have made a lot of connections on campus. At international student orientation, the CIE welcomed about 70 new students from all over the world. During 3-day orientation, I talked with all of the students, and, thanks to this opportunity, I still hang out with them or have a talk whenever we see each other. Some of them knew about me before coming to the campus through the podcast that I made in summer, which was surprising and made me happy. As the CIE runs various international events on campus, I see a lot of the international students at those events. We have been trying to create a space for anyone to come and enjoy the international/intercultural community. At the International Music/Dance Festival, one of the events that one of my co-workers and I hosted during International Education Week, the participants were dancing, singing, and listening together to appreciate music as a tool to connect people. They enjoyed learning about other cultures.

            The CIE supports multiple events throughout the year. Multicultural Story Fest is one of the biggest events, an annual cultural celebration of art, music, dance, poetry, and more. This event showcases students from around the world and all of their talents and passions. We also have a fashion show, where you can see beautiful, colorful, and traditional clothing. As an international student from Japan, I participated in this event last year. It was a great opportunity for anyone to appreciate the diversity and cultures all over the world.

             Another big event that the CIE runs is Study Abroad Fair. Usually held in September, international students and study abroad returners promote the programs to the students who are interested in studying abroad at Juniata, sharing their own experiences. Even if you do not have any plans or interests, just stopping by the event and talking with other students is great inspiration to make a first step toward studying abroad. 

            In the future, the CIE is going to run more events for the campus community to learn and enjoy international/intercultural communication and cultural exchange, while providing students with various opportunities for study abroad. In working to create a more globalized campus community, we are always open to any voices and participation from the students, faculty, and staff.

The Odd-yssey: A Student’s Tale of Freshman Year and Finding Home

I know my way around a Homeric epic or two. Having picked up ancient mythology as a kid with both hands and having yet to let go, I love not only reading these tales over and over again, but also interpreting, analyzing, and seeing how they apply to myself and all of us in ways we don’t really stop to consider most times. Looking back over last year, my first year as a college student here at Juniata, I realized how closely my own journey to where I am now corresponds with Odysseus’s in the Odyssey.

The Exposition

Graduating from high school in 2020, I don’t think I’m far off in comparing the period from March of 2020 to August as a parallel to Odysseus’s challenges before his long journey home. No war was fought, and while it was no ten-year enterprise, it certainly felt like it at some times. Not only was I beginning to find my way as an adult and preparing to truly take care of myself for the first time, but I was also learning how to t adapt to a quickly shifting world and a reality that was new to everyone.

Voyage to the Phaeacians

Moving from Pittsburgh to Huntingdon isn’t what I would call a journey, per se, but for places merely two and a half hours apart, they certainly feel like different worlds. Coming from a sizable suburban area to such a small town was jarring, yes, but also incredibly comforting. Like Odysseus, I was uprooted from what I knew for years and placed somewhere new, but the place in which I found myself was a place where I felt like I was valued, appreciated, heard. Here, I was introduced to a group of people that would grow to become my greatest friends and support system.

Odysseus Recounts His Adventures

Here, we move into the meat of the Odyssey, and likewise the bulk of my freshman year. Navigating classes, living by myself, building a routine, and establishing relationships and their dynamics occupied most of my time from August 2020 to May of 2021. Not all of it was fun, just as not all of Odysseus’s adventures turned out great—there was stress, a breakup, mental health to parse through, growing pains—but I’d say all of it was necessary.

Returning to Ithaca

Much like the Fates requiring the son of Laertes to return to his kingdom, the end of the second semester of freshman year meant it was time for me to move back out to Pittsburgh. Homecoming was bittersweet for me as well as Odysseus—I couldn’t wait to see my family, friends, and cats again, but I knew how desperately I would miss the new family I had built at Juniata. I would have to go downstairs for food, rather than just reaching under my bed for a bag of chips; I couldn’t walk across the hall and wander into my friends’ rooms on a Tuesday night.

Defeating the Suitors

While my homecoming wasn’t exactly like Odysseus’, there were still the metaphorical suitors to deal with: adjusting my newfound independence to being home again, old friends moving on, missing Huntingdon and my friends, creating a new at-home schedule. Those had to be slayed (symbolically) before I could find home again. Or, at least, the home I had left to make another.

            The Odyssey, as I see it, is a long story about going home. I guess that’s where mine separates from the king of Ithaca’s—I came home in the end, yes, but I also found a home here at Juniata and with the people I love. One that I’m very glad to have returned to.

The Old and the…Old: My “Halloweekend” Senior Day

Exactly three years ago, my new friends and I made a promise to each other. My new friend Fiona was told by my new friend Bubba that he had been Shrek the ogre the previous year. At more than six feet tall and shoulders as wide as a doorframe, he fit the character well. “Shrek and Fiona! We gotta do it!” he decided within two minutes of learning Fiona’s name. 

The group that was there to hear Bubba’s insistence never forgot it, and at the beginning of our senior year, my friend group decided we couldn’t let freshman-year Bubba down. Fiona got her costume ready, my five-foot self was told, not asked, to be Lord Farquaad, my other roommates got ears and a hat for Donkey and Puss in Boots, and their boyfriends were forced to be Gingey and Dragon. 

We had our plan set to dress up as characters from Shrek on what Juniata dubs “Halloweekend”, the weekend before Halloween. First though, I had to be again reminded that I had somehow been at Juniata for more than three years.  

October 30th was Senior Day for the Juniata Women’s Soccer team. Before our last game of the season, we had a small ceremony before the game. I walked with my parents through a tunnel of my teammates, received flowers and a framed plaque of my previous Juniata jersey, and heard my four-year stats and kind words from my teammates over the loudspeaker. I was met with fun decorations as I walked into our team locker room. Four tables filled with food met me after our game was done. Handmade scrapbook pages of funny memories and encouraging words were ribboned together in my locker. I felt a lot of love from my teammates and their families, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had grown three years older and wiser without my own permission. I cried a few tears but left our home field very full and very happy with arms full of gifts. I’ll be a mess after next semester’s lacrosse senior day, but I also imagine I will be happy looking back on my four year journey at Juniata, within athletics and outside of them. 

My friends and I have come a long way from our freshman selves, but I am so glad we’ve been able to keep our freshman year promises. We are finishing seasons, completing high-level research, reflecting on internships or studies abroad in real-world job interviews, telling new students about that time we had that professor and got that grade, and all other sorts of things we had promised ourselves we would get through but didn’t quite know we would. Senior year forces us to think a lot about the future, but there’s nothing wrong with reflecting on how far you’ve come and how old you may have gotten.