Archives by Month: November 2011

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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Beyond “The Hill”

Campus is a pretty awesome place, but around the holidays, everyone starts thinking about all of the wonderful things that happen away from campus—typically, things in one’s hometown. But I think the key to college life is to schedule time on a regular basis to leave campus, and by this I don’t just mean on the holidays. I usually do this on the weekends. I live a chem-free lifestyle, so I think going somewhere fun and new each weekend—for my friends and I, this is usually a restaurant—is essential. Living on campus is convenient and enjoyable, but it is very easy to slip into a rigid routine that, in effect, produces ennui, or gradually, even encourages hermitage (I’ve found that, when living in a single, the latter is sometimes a very compelling state of existence). I think that the college does a great job of preventing this (the events of Friday’s Spontaneous Fun Day strike me as a quintessential example of this), but I still believe that it is fun to explore the area every now and then.

I admit that it can be hard to find the time and tools to explore Maine. I myself have a near mortal fear of driving and, in fact, only regularly drive to the Walmart/Starbucks plaza in Waterville. I’ve actually found that there’s a lot in that plaza (besides Walmart and Starbucks): Staples, a pizza joint, a nail salon, etc. Because I am afraid of the other half of Main Street, I usually just catch a ride with someone else when I wish to travel in that direction, but there are some cool places there too, like The Last Unicorn (which has great ribs) and a local favorite, Selah Tea. I’ve also discovered a nice Chinese restaurant in the area—they give you a lot of pork-fried rice, and they even give it to you in the shape of a perfect semi-circle. This restaurant is one of my favorites, just because there are certain things that, despite the fact that Colby’s dining services (and this may be an old statistic) are ranked fifth in the nation, you can never get in the dining halls. For me, this is Americanized Chinese food. Plus, I’m addicted to boneless spare ribs, and I like Lo Mein, too.

Of course, one can also travel to other towns/cities in Maine, places beyond Waterville. In fact, many people do. Cities like Augusta and Portland are popular and packed with interesting venues. Maybe, by the time I graduate, I’ll have the guts to travel beyond the Walmart/Starbucks plaza, so that I can more conveniently explore Portland or Augusta. We’ll see. I should probably work up the guts to explore the other half of Main Street first!

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Procrastination: Tools of the Trade

Pretty much all Colby students work hard and take their academics seriously. I think the key to being able to work hard and study effectively is learning how to compartmentalize your time, and more importantly, your mind. By that I basically just mean knowing how to effectively procrastinate and take breaks between study sessions.

This past weekend I have happily rediscovered a cornerstone of college procrastination techniques: Hulu. Hulu is amazing; pretty much all of your favorite current and off-air TV series in one place (although sadly my favorite series, “Boy Meets World” is not available). Watching TV is a great way to numb your mind to reality- i.e. the tests you should be studying for and the papers you should be doing. All sarcasm aside, doing any activity following studying that allows you to unwind and relax your mind is actually beneficial. So, in small doses, numbing your mind from reality is a helpful thing. (Major hazards to productive study breaks include Sporcle, refreshing Facebook, aimlessly perusing Youtube, Stumble Upon, and potentially frustrating games such as minesweeper or solitaire.)

A more Colby specific method of taking a study break includes going to the Spa. I am not referring to a health spa, but to the lounge area in Cotter Union that sells food and drinks until 1 AM every night. I am a fan of the curly fries. At just under two dollars and tasting delicious, I would argue that it is a better deal than anything else at the Spa, even the chicken quesadilla. A trip to the Spa can easily give you a study-free half hour or more to eat and socialize. Even if you go alone, there is generally going to be someone that you know passing through Pulver or getting something at the Spa as well.

The easiest way for me to get my mind off studying is to find someone else in my dorm trying to avoid work or who has a light amount of homework that night. In my dorm, East Quad, there is almost always someone I know in the lounge doing something besides homework. If that fails, which it rarely does, than there is a certain triple in East where work is never done. There is always someone there and homework is strictly prohibited. For the sake of anonymity we will call this triple, “Mike’s” room. Between the lounge and “Mike’s” room it is no challenge to spend an entire night doing absolutely no homework.

Those skilled in the art of effective timewasting adhere to the well-known cliché, “quality over quantity”. Following this simple principle will result not only in guilt and stress free procrastination but decent grades as a bonus!

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The College Search Process is Like a Uniquely-Colored North Face

I’ve been reading a lot of Simmel lately and, consequently, have thoroughly convinced myself that the college search is comparable to the fashion industry. In his essay on fashion, Simmel argues that we use clothing and fashion trends as means of both conforming to social norms and rising above those norms. That is, each morning, when one decides what to wear, s/he selects an article of clothing that, generally, conforms to current fashion trends, but in some way, individualizes those trends (This is why North Face fleeces come in several different styles and colors. Heck, I’ve even seen people with custom-colored fleeces—colors not sold in stores. Simmel would love that).

I think the college search operates much along the same lines. In today’s ridiculous economy, the college experience has become popularized—college attendance is expected of people, and is less of a choice than it was in the past. But your choice of a college is ultimately an individual one; in your senior year, it defines you. I remember that there was a great deal of fascination surrounding peers’ college choices in high school—at least that’s what I remember from senior year. And now I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent, because I think it’s important: I’m an academic myself, so you’d think that I’d find the fact that the college experience has become popularized exciting. But sometimes I think that, while it is good that we are educating our society, it is a shame that we don’t have more paths in place for people who might not find academia as exhilarating as I do—in that respect, the popularization of the experience is a concerning trend. A professor once told me that something like 45% of college-bound high school students are not prepared for the rigors of a four-year institution. And still, they are forced into this path. In essence, I’m telling you in this tangent that I oftentimes find myself wondering why there are not any more, equally beneficial, paths available to people. Still, if you’re reading this, you are definitely engaging in the college search process yourself, and in that respect, I encourage you to look for a system that preserves and values your individuality—a system that, while integrating and creating a feeling of community on campus, doesn’t mask your autonomy.

I do think a liberal arts college does this, academically at least. Science majors, for instance, aren’t pushed to abandon their creative side; instead they are encouraged to take art and creative writing classes that interests them. People truly are pushed to develop themselves as whole people, as modern day Renaissance men/women, but as Renaissance (wo)men who still have that autonomous talent that they love, and that allows them to stick out from the bunch. Similarly, I’m a humanities person, but I also like the social sciences, so I’ve taken a statistics course and other classes that might typically deviate from a humanities agenda—though the humanities are not conventionally understood to be as dichotomous from social sciences as, say, the sciences are from the arts. Essentially, what I’m saying is that this is the place for integration and individualization, but it is your job to utilize the resources that make it so. I myself am guilty of attaching myself so strongly to English and sociology that I often forget that there are courses in American Studies, psychology, or philosophy that might interest me as well. But that’s why there are 8 semesters at Colby, and 4 Jan Plans!

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People Power

You know the feeling when things turns out right unexpectedly? It’s something like surprisehappinessdisbeliefandexcitement, wouldn’t you say?

I had one of those moments yesterday. When I heard the news that the Obama administration delayed their time frame to make a decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline, I just sat there dumbstruck for a minute, then I laughed, and then I ran a victory lap around the common room.  “You’re so weird ,” one of my friends told me as I ran around the couch he was sitting on with my arms in the air.

The reason why this decision by the Obama administration is such a big deal to me is that experts are saying that it might entirely kill the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Pipeline, if you haven’t heard, is a scary thing. It would carry huge amounts of oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, through the heart of America to the Gulf Coast. Once there, the oil would mostly be sold off to foreign nations. If this Pipeline is killed, the threats of monstrous CO2 emissions, oil spills in America’s farmland, and the destruction of vast amount of wilderness would be killed as well. The plan for the Keystone XL Pipeline is still on the table, but this delay has definitelty halted any forward progress.

Last Sunday a huge demonstration against the Pipeline rallied outside of the White House in D.C. I was lucky enough to attend with five other Colby students, and I have to say that it was one of the coolest things of which I’ve been a part. At 6:00pm on Saturday, we got on a coach bus filled with Mainers going to the protest and drove through the night down to Washington, D.C.

Before we left for DC, we’d heard that 6,000 people were planning on attending. When we got there, we were just a few of the 12,000+ people that gathered in Layfette Park for the event. The energy of the crowd was almost tangible as we stood together and listened to speeches by various leaders of the Pipeline opposition. With cheers, songs, and excitement, the crowd split off into groups and encircled the White House in a “hug”  to show our support for denying the Pipeline.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is of such magnitude that if it were built, it would have impact on all of our lives. For that reason, I was thrilled to see people of all ages, races, and places gathered at the protest in DC. The speakers at the event ranged from James Hansen, NASA’s top scientist, to various religious leaders, to Tom Poor Bear, the Vice President of the Oglala Sioux tribe. There were college students, families, old people, young people from every corner of the nation. This universal response to a universal issue felt incredibly powerful.

Although I had my doubts that we would be heard, apparently the movement was pretty powerful. Powerful enough to throw a hitch into the process, to make the Obama Administration stop and reconsider. Now that’s power of the people.

 Have a great weekend, hopefully full of surprisehappinessdisbeliefandexcitement.

Alice H

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The Best of Both Worlds

I woke up this morning shocked that in only two weeks I would be headed home for Thanksgiving break. Compared to this time last year, when I was calling my parents begging to come home and counting down the days until I could return to the dear Midwest, this semester I have barely thought about going home. That being said, there is no doubt that the highlights of first semester have included seeing my family in different settings and culminated in the four of us spending Colby Family Weekend together on the Hill!

While I saw my sister during Fall Break and the whole family came to the Head of the Charles, I was most excited for Colby Family Weekend, the last weekend in October. I really looked forward to their arrival, in part because I wanted them to see how happy I was here and how much I had changed and grown to love Colby since they had last visited. My grandparents also visited for a few days leading up to Family Weekend, and I am so grateful that they made the trek from Minnesota to Maine and now can envision my other “home” at Colby when I share stories about my life here.

One highlight (of many!) from the weekend was when I brought my dad to Crew practice. Under grey, threatening clouds, he donned the ever so flattering “exposure suit” that coxswains wear and braved the chilly weather and water to sit on the launch and watch/be a part of the practice that consumes my every afternoon. I have often tried to relay techniques or stories our coach Stew tells, or have tried to describe the beauty of Messalonskee Lake at sunset and how much it resembles northern Minnesota, but some things are really hard to put into words. On that launch, watching practice, my dad was able to see the focus and dedication of the team, and just how hard we work every afternoon. Having my dad experience yet another aspect of Crew, besides the races, meant the world to me.

Going out to dinners with friends from school allowed my mom, dad and Kristina to put stories and names with faces as they got to know some of my closest friends, and dinner was full of laughter and story telling. My family had heard lots about COOT, but actually got the chance to meet Raymond and several of my COOTers during the weekend. Names and stories aren’t quite the same until they can be associated with actual people, and I found myself constantly wanting to introduce them to various people who matter in my life here at school, and to introduce my family to my friends.

Other highlights included the a cappella sampler concert where we got a kick out of the crazy costumes and pointed out friends who were singing in different groups, and also met my friends’ parents and families. We had fun watching the Mules football team trounce Bates at the Homecoming football game(!!!!!), and spent waaaay too much time at the Bookstore where they stocked up on (more) Colby gear. And, I will admit, having the very loud and cheerful Tester clan at the annual Colby-Bates-Bowdoin home regatta was a great way to end the weekend, as there is no one else I would rather have cheering me on in the last race of the fall season! For Halloween weekend, my twin sister came out with me in costume as the “Minnesota Twins” (literally and figuratively!) and we had a blast celebrating Halloween with lots of friends in creative costumes and the first snowfall of the season!

It took me a few days after my family left to fully appreciate and understand the impact that they have had on my experience here at Colby, despite the miles that separate us. They have supported me through every step of my transition to CoIby life, and my experience here has been enriched by their efforts to come and visit, to share my joys and my struggles, and to really make an effort to know me and my life here. Our families define us and I loved hearing the “ohhh, now I get it!” as my friends saw me in the context of my family, and saw aspects of my personality in my parents, sister and grandparents. I was so lucky to have them all here, and can’t wait to be reunited again in only two weeks for Thanksgiving!

3 generations! Decked out in Colby gear

Out to dinner after practice

So lucky to have such great fans at the CBB Regatta!

Halloween!

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A Beautiful Mosaic

In a couple of days, it’ll be time to select courses for Spring semester. Usually, I’d be jumping for joy; course selection time is a nerd’s version of Christmas. But for the first time in awhile, I didn’t plan out my courses five months ahead of time. Actually, I keep wavering between whether I want to take “Social Class and Schooling” or “The Sociology of Gender,” as well as which section of Critical Theory I want to take. I thought I had it figured out this morning, but then I changed my mind a few hours later. Plus there are about 5 more classes that I desperately want to take, but can’t, simply because it’d be insane to take nine classes (even though my advisor told me that a Colby student once did that, back when the standard course load was five classes, not four).

You’d think that as a sophomore it’d be easy. As a sophomore, you’ve jumped through the freshman hurdles, and technically, by this point, you have an entire two and a half years left to plan out the logistics of your life. Yes, you’d think it’d be an easy year—a transition between the awkwardness of being a freshman, and the demands of being a junior. But sophomore year has actually launched me into several I-must-plan-out-my-life-immediately crises. I’ve found that I actually have a lot more planning to do than I had expected. There’s study abroad to think about, and honors theses, internships, and, of course, course selections—all fun, but all at least a little bit stressful, too. Or maybe I just don’t like living with uncertainty, so that’s why I plan a lot. That’s definitely part of it. Eustress, that’s what this is. Or at least, that’s what a psychologist or heath professional might call it.

I’ve organized a lot of meetings lately, so as to start organizing my life. I think I’ve made progress, and to be completely cliché, I’m beginning to think it’ll all come together with time—that is, if I plan out a different piece of the future each day. Yeah, hopefully it’ll all come together and create a beautiful mosaic.

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whiteboard scheming

You know how in lecture halls there are often layers of whiteboards? The boards all slide and move around so that several of them can be filled and seen at the same time.

After coming to college and encountering these mobile whiteboards for the first time, I now quite appreciate them. So many concepts can be written out and presented together as a cohesive unit, helping me keep track of the big picture during class.

The other day, a few friends and I tried out these whiteboards for ourselves. We set upon them with fresh markers and a goal: to brainstorm how we could “fix” Colby. Don’t get us wrong, Colby is a great place. Still, that doen’t mean great places shouldn’t become greater places.  

The inspiration for our impromptu brainstorming was a movie named “Home”. The film, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, goes through a brief history of planet earth, focusing on how recent human activity has led to the depletion of resources and degradation of the climate. For me, watching the movie was scary. The stunning images on the screen were a reminder of just how much we have to lose if we do not act now.  

However, after the movie ended, one of my friends who watched it asked how it made us feel. While I sat there, bug-eyed with worry, he said, “this makes me want to scheme.”

With that, we went into a nearby classroom and filled the whiteboards. Breaking down the problem into manageable bits, we wrote about what we want to change, made webs connecting ideas, listed small steps we knew we could take to lessen Colby’s impact on our environment. At the end, I stepped back and looked at the wall of whiteboards full of ideas. ”Now we’re getting somewhere”, I remember thinking.  

We called it quits at about one o’clock in the morning. We wiped the boards blank, but left with our heads filled with ideas that we can take and run with. I was reminded that night of my own insignificance as one of 7 billion on the earth, but at the same time how a good idea might change the world. All you need to start is a marker, whiteboard, and a little bravery.

“Home” can be watched for free at http://www.youtube.com/user/homeproject?blend=1&ob=4

Got any ideas?

Alice H

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Death Row

On my path to breakfast every morning I am forced to be constantly vigilant about where I am walking. Even on my short path from East to Bob’s there are a few hazards on frat row that must not be overlooked. In the past few weeks puddles from the rain or snow that has befallen Colby are abundant along this short route. This requires the journeyer on their path to the dining hall to partake in a clumsy dance, resembling the less than deft coordination of a weekend party-goer attempting to navigate through a crowd of people, in order to avoid having wet feet at 8 AM.

This early in the morning, I generally like to literally and figuratively drag my feet to any activity I am involved in. If it was possible for me to lazily shuffle my way around the puddles, dragging my feet would still result in serious injury upon arrival at the first set of granite steps. Even without precipitation, the morning dew (or more recently frost) causes these stairs to become deceptively slippery. Wet granite is essentially a giant sheet of black ice; it looks no different from dry granite when casually strolling by.

On frat row there are 4 sets of these stairs that must be braved. The second set of stairs has the most dangerous hazard of all: the second step is about half the size of the others. As a result, each day dozens of students end up tripping and letting out a surprised yelp at their sudden loss of balance. Even the nimblest of people have to plan well ahead about how to deal with this particular step. Most people on campus have more sense than me and will walk the extra thirty seconds to Dana or take a different path to Bob’s. If you choose to continue on the perilous route however, a plan of action should be developed when approaching this part of the journey. A favorite tactic of mine is to take the stairs two steps at a time. Other tactics include: walking next to the stairs (on the rare occasion that the decline is not muddy and slippery), or slowly walking down the stairs while clinging to the railing like a toddler taking his first steps.

If the trek to Bob’s does not end prematurely due to a broken ankle, wet socks, or smashed teeth as a result of the numerous dangers along the way, the omelet bar is quite good. And if you are lucky, chocolate chip pancakes will be on the menu.

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