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Colby’s winter break is between two and three weeks long, depending on the scheduling of each student’s finals schedule. Compared to most other schools, this is extremely short. I am going back to school earlier than every non-Colby college student I know. And I’ve realized that this doesn’t bother me at all.

For me, two weeks is the perfect amount of time to see all of my friends from home; and not feel bored or guilty when I spend entire days wrapped in a blanket, being largely unproductive. More importantly, I will not be thrown back into an intense academic atmosphere upon return to Colby. For Janplan, I am taking “Anthropology of Utopias” from noon to two, Monday to Thursday. So, besides that one course, offseason stuff for soccer, and hopefully an on campus job, my schedule is free.

Most freshmen take a course on campus, but some go abroad or do an internship. For the students like me, this month is a transition period between an academic free break and a full course load for spring semester. I am anticipating that Janplan will primarily be a period to have a good time with my Colby friends, while avoiding the boredom that comes with having a winter break at home that lasts a month.
Even though it has only been about ten days since I left my Colby friends, I have found myself missing them more than I anticipated. Having to keep a list of time zone differences in order to figure out what time my friends might be awake in Europe or Africa is quite a switch from just over a week ago, when simply yelling down a hallway was all it took to know if someone was around to talk.

Much to my mother’s dismay, I’ve already started packing in anticipation of Monday. As much as I love being home, and seeing my family and friends, I can’t wait to get back to the hill.

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Top 5 Colby “Moments” of 2011

As the year is ending, it’s perfunctory for most websites to do a “Best of 2011″ list. Best music in 2011, best political events in 2011, best YouTube videos, etc. It only seemed natural that I start listing my most cherished Colby memories of 2011. So without further ado, here they are:

5). Jan Plan: Ah, Jan Plan. The wonderful transition period between fall and spring semester. It’s a four week period of relaxation, winter storms, and classes. For last Jan Plan, I truly enjoyed my American Law class and the field trips. It almost made our short winter break worth it. Almost.

4). ‘Spa’ moments: Since Colby is a pretty isolated campus, The Spa is where you go if you don’t want to eat dining hall food or if you just want a little more. I really enjoyed going to The Spa whether I was laughing with a friend or doing homework by myself with a chai latte at my side.

3). Coffeehouse shows: While there weren’t any coffeehouse shows this semester, I truly enjoyed each and every single show in Spring. The atmosphere at the Coffeehouse is one of those things that’s almost too incredible to describe, the musicians were great, and it was lot of fun. I also enjoyed being a part of the Live Music Committee and helping set up with each show.

2). Learning: I’m not a studious or good student by any means. But I truly enjoyed the majority of my classes and while I’m convinced that 90% of what I’ve learned has leaked out of my brain, the 10% that I’ve retained has helped me take a step closer into becoming a functional adult. Now I understand more things when I read or watch the news, have more to contribute at discussions with my friends, and am more understanding of the events around me.

1). Friends: All the moments I’ve spent with friends at Colby are my favorite. The biggest thing that separates college from high school is that in college, you’re surrounded by people your age all the time. I feel blessed that the people I’m surrounded by are people that are awesome.

Here’s to a great 2012!

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Daydreaming

I don’t care what people say about exam week – the worst part is not the exams. It’s not the studying itself either. For me, it’s the fact that I’ve spent way over my quota of time sitting inside.

By this point in the week, I’ve started to go a bit stir-crazy. It’s hard to sit still and my mind will wander at the slightest distraction. I know I’ve got to tough it out for two more exams, but in between study sessions I’ve been daydreaming about ice skating on frozen ponds, skiing through the woods, and standing on mountain tops. (The skating and skiing are really wishful thinking at this point, it’s 45 degrees Fahrenheit in Waterville right now).

These last few days will be rough. Still, we’re almost there. We’ve almost made it to winter break freedom, during which I can guarantee you that I will spend very little time sitting inside.

Sending out good vibes for all those studying and testing,

Alice H.

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Making the Minutes Matter

Today is the last day of classes, and although it will be nice to have time to study for exams without worrying about homework on top of it all, I am truly not looking forward to ending the majority of my courses! I have had some of the most thought provoking and interesting conversations and readings this semester, and have left many classes with my head spinning with new ideas. I legitimately did not want my anthropology class to end on Wednesday, and threw all of my effort, time, and energy into our group final presentation, which was that much rewarding because walked out happy and satisfied afterwards. So now that classes are over, would you be shocked to hear that while I have one test, three papers, and two exams waiting for me, I am not dreading this next finals week of school before break? I realized yesterday that I will be home in a week and am SO looking forward to Christmas celebrations with my friends and family; I also realized, however, that when I leave the campus on December 15th, I won’t be back on the Hill until February 1st…crazy! So, despite the work I am facing this week, I am also determined to savor my time with friends and enjoy every activity planned!

I will be spending my JanPlan in Uganda, working at a Malnutrition Clinic at the Nyakibale Hospital in the Rukungiri region, where I spent a month of my past summer. While the majority of freshman stay on campus to fulfill both distribution requirements as well as the one required JanPlan on campus, many of my sophomore friends are traveling abroad this JanPlan, either through one of the many opportunities that Colby offers, or on their own. However, as we sat at dinner a few nights ago, we all admitted that while we knew we would have amazing experiences, we were torn about missing out on JanPlan activities and fun with friends on campus. I am planning on studying abroad in the spring of next year, which only leaves me one semester on campus with my friends who are graduating in the spring. Since several of my good friends are also planning to study abroad, but in the fall, it also means that we only have one semester together before our senior year. With all that in mind, I have found myself trying to achieve the perfect mindset going into finals: powering through the work, but enjoying every moment on campus and with my friends as I go!

It is definitely not my usual approach to finals week to be scheduling in “fun” breaks as I go, but that’s what I’m doing. I have been taking “Broomball breaks” during playoffs this week, and the opportunity to blow off steam and have fun with friends on the ice has been well worth the extra late-hour or two I have to put in to finish up work. Over the next week I am looking forward to LOUDNESS this weekend (James Bond theme), seeing my COOTers for the annual “COOT Slideshow” on Sunday, a COOT Committee informal lunch, watching the Grinch with friends (the perfect 30 minute study break), and a pizza dinner with the crew team, courtesy of our coaches, as a fun dinner break on Tuesday before exams start Wednesday. I am not ready to leave Colby yet until February, but am going to take advantage of every, single minute here, whether it’s working hard towards finals or on the ice in a broomball game!

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Reading Period

This weekend marked the start of reading period, and the thing about reading period is that time passes kind of curiously during it. For me, all of the days start to blend together. I am stripped of my typical weekday routines because classes are over, and all of the sudden I find myself with a ton of papers to write in a short period of time. So I basically do the same things in the same order each day: wake-up, exercise if I don’t decide to skip it in order to sleep more, eat, write, eat again, write more, and then sleep. The lack of variability in my schedule makes reading period a bit rough, and no day feels normal, not even exam days. This year, my only in-person exam (the rest of my exams are essays) is on a Saturday, which feels odd, because obviously I don’t normally frequent the classroom on a Saturday.

I have found that it is nice to try to add a few moments of variability into every day. Yesterday I went to Olive Garden for a couple of hours (actually, I think the time my friend and I spent waiting to be seated exceeded the amount of time we actually spent eating but, hey, it was actually enjoyable to play “I Spy” while passing the time in the waiting area). Today I did a thirty-minute ab workout on my dorm-room rug while listening to Pitbull, which pumped me up for essay two of my Qualitative Research take-home exam. Tomorrow, who knows what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll go buy more peanut butter granola bars. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll need more of those for a quick energy boost during the exam period.

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Not all those who wander are lost, but I might be

One of the things I find to be hardest about Colby is that it makes you want more. You’ll get really interested in a class, and then it ends. A speaker will present about an idea that blows your mind, and it’s all you can think about until you talk to a classmate about something amazing that they’ve accomplished.

Everywhere you turn, there’s fascinating people and ideas catching your attention. I feel constantly distracted, and not just by goofing around with friends, but by real issues and avenues of exploration.

Coming to college is sort of like getting your foot in the door of the wider world. You can see glimpses of and learn something about the infinite possibilities ahead, but you can’t go running headlong into it quite yet (you’ve paid a little too much tuition money to just go gallivanting off at this point).  In a place like this, how could anyone ever choose just one goal to pursue? The thing is, I don’t know that anyone does.

Still, an undeniable purpose of attending college is to help solidify yourself as a person. College is meant to train you how to do something of your choosing, and I feel so lucky to  have this privilege of choice. At some point, everyone has to pick a general path to follow, or at least a major (or two).

But I’m not even a full semester into my college experience. I think I’ll wander a little. If I learn nothing else from college, it will be this: Never pass up an opportunity to learn something new.

Alice H.

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Only at Thanksgiving Camp

I did essentially three things over Thanksgiving break: sleep, eat, and ski. What a life. I was with the Nordic Ski Team in Stoneham, Quebec for a training camp, and I think of it longingly now as I wade through homework.

Each day we skied at Foret Montmorency, a trail system north of Quebec City. There were only about four kilometers of groomed trails open, but gliding on snow again after months of dry land training was heavenly. We’d ski for most of the daylight hours along a trail that circled a frozen pond surrounded by mountains. After our training sessions, we’d return to our houses and feast.

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving camp (besides the fact that it’s incredibly fun) is that we get the chance to really focus on training and on the team. At school there’s always other things on my mind, but at training camps we live without obligations. I appreciate this chance take the time to think only about my skiing. It feels selfish in a way, but it is something vitally important to improving as an athlete. Each night we’d learn about sports psychology and everyday we’d practice like it was our job. Life takes on a narrow focus at Thanksgiving break, but for a few days it feels oddly refreshing.

I’m thankful for being a part of the Nordic team, a group of incredibly focused and talented atheletes.  

Have a great weekend!

Alice H

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Is it Really Week 13 Again?

Today marks the end of week 13 (out of 14 weeks) in the semester for me. Naturally, I have a plethora of essay deadlines approaching, and it’s very stressful. During this time of the year, everything except school seems to get put on the backburner (though I’ve found this is often the case in other weeks, too): exercise, food, sleep, etc. I vividly remember this time of the year during my freshman year, because I had four essays due within a two day period, so I had to basically write an essay each day of my weekend (Friday-Monday, because I try to schedule all my courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays if I can, though that tends to only work out in the fall semesters for me, I’ve found) in order to meet the deadlines. I am thankful that the situation is not so bad this year.

Actually, despite the fact that I have three major essay deadlines coming up, I am reasonably at ease. Partially, this is because I like to work ahead, so I’ve already written outlines for my essays. But I think I’m also at ease because, having worked up to upper-level courses in my majors, I was given a lot of flexibility in terms of my essay topic for each of my assignments. This allowed me to select research paper topics that truly interest me, and that are interdisciplinary, in a sense, which I like. I was able to use my sociology knowledge to set up the argument for my English paper, just as I was able to use my knowledge of critical theory in my sociology paper. Colby classes, I’ve found, often promote opportunities to incorporate knowledge from other classes and disciplines into major research papers. I’ve found the fact that my papers are of a somewhat interdisciplinary nature to be very helpful in surviving week 13 of the semester—which is notorious for throwing stressful paper assignments at students all at once—because it spices up the assignments a bit, and makes them truly engaging. Yay for interdisciplinary learning!

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Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me… Kill me

The greatest thing about college is living with your friends. I went to a private high school, so many of my friends back home live in a different town than me. Over Thanksgiving break I was continually annoyed that I had to drive 25 minutes to go see my friends. I never really thought of this as a big deal in high school, but after being spoiled at Colby by simply having to walk across the hall or go downstairs to see friends for the past three months, driving anywhere felt like a drag. However, I made the numerous drives and had a great time at home with friends I haven’t seen since the summer. In both groups of friends, it was and is easy for me to put aside academics and have a good time with my friends instead.

After having my dreams of grandeur concerning the amount of work I would do over break hastily crushed, as a result of the excitement of returning home for the first time since coming to Colby, I returned to school to find my work steadily piling up. The obvious result is being forced to spend numerous hours at my desk and in the library grinding through research and studying for tests, secluded from any personal interaction with my classmates. Self-inflicted isolation has become a norm for many students as the end of the semester approaches. As everyone retreats into their personal academic universes, myself included, a line from Good Will Hunting (which happens to be the greatest movie ever made) comes to mind, “you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you could’ve got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.”

In order combat the danger of slipping into the self-centered, isolated academic atmosphere referenced in Good Will Hunting, Colby has Loudness Weekend before finals week. During this particular Loudness, the main event will be James Bond themed semi-formal dance. The goal of Loudness is to relax students and enable us to take part in the Colby community (the reason students choose Colby over other institutions) before finals; it is a therapy of sorts. Whether it will act therapeutically, or as the calm before a storm of realizations about inevitable failing grades, remains to be seen.

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Spontaneous Fun Day!

People were antsy, bags were getting packed, and sighs of relief were audible as midterms and papers were finished and turned in, and the anticipation of returning home for Thanksgiving break grew. In the midst of all the work, lectures, discussions, and various activities on campus, I woke up one morning to an email from our Student Government Association (SGA) and Student Programming Board (SPB) declaring that it was “Spontaneous Fun Day!” I was told to be on the lookout in our student center, Pulver, for activities and surprises throughout the day. I didn’t realize how much I had needed something unexpected and fun to brighten the bleak November days and the long countdown of the last few days before heading home until I got that e-mail; I could barely sit through my first class!

I walked into Pulver that morning to free “Spontaneous Fun Day” shirts being thrown off the balcony, gelato and hot chocolate to cool down or warm up with, a cookie decorating station, and shutter shades and trucker hats. Music was blasting from the quad and you could FEEL the energy boost on campus as students went from dazed disbelief as they walked in, to fully embracing the chance to laugh, blow off steam, forget papers and midterms and just relax together. I know that a great deal of planning went into this “spontaneous” fun day, but it was the sheer unexpectedness of it, the gift of a surprise, that added to the whole fun and experience of the day. While I have thanked my close friends on SGA and SPB for putting in the time to plan the event during a time that was, for them also, very hectic, I also want to thank those who I do not know as well: members of the administration who supported the event behind the scenes, and everyone who thought outside of the box to meet students’ needs beyond the classroom at this stressful time of year. The energy from Spontaneous Fun Day got me through the last few days, and on the plane home to Minneapolis!

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