Democracy Awakening

I’ve been meaning to write about this on my blog since I got back twelve days ago, but with the end of semester rush to get work done and see friends before we all leave for the summer, I haven’t found the time. I did write about my experience in an opinion piece for the Campus, my third one this semester, but I wanted to write something more casual on here.

I was fortunate enough to go to this awesome protest two weekends ago in Washington, DC with a couple of other Allegheny students. We spend two days listening to speakers and talking with other activists about corporate influence in politics and capitalist oppression. I left feeling so gratified and so empowered to take this work back to the Allegheny community (and super sun-burnt). But, as often happens after leaving these big rallies, things sort of fall through the cracks and the work tends to fall to the wayside as more pressing things happen.

But back to the weekend. We left campus Friday night around 6, and with stopping for dinner and dropping one of our classmates off at her friends place, we arrived at 1 am at the church we were staying at in DC. The church had to kick us out at 7 am every morning because it needed to be used for other things, and our wake-up call was at 6 am, so we didn’t sleep very much that first night.

Saturday morning we went for breakfast and the National Zoo before the events started. The first day involved an opening speech or call to action, and then a couple of panels on different topics pertaining to democracy. I went to one on the fight for DC to become the 51st state, and another on voting rights for ex-prisioners. Then there was another call to action talk before breakout sessions for individual states (or groups of states), to see what action we could take locally. After the talks, we had this great Cuban food for dinner, where we shared the table with a couple of other people from the conference/protest/rally, and went to bed as soon as possible!

Sunday morning, we got breakfast and spent a couple of hours at the White House: walking around it, taking pictures, and trying to find our other Allegheny cohorts. Then we walked over to Dupont circle and a farmer’s market there before heading to the main event: the rally and march. The rally was in front of the Capitol building and lasted roughly two hours. We heard a member of the Federal Election Commission and the president of the NAACP speak, among other. Everyone was really passionate and there were a lot of really cool protest signs. Then we marched past multiple the Capitol, Congressional office buildings, the Supreme Court, and ended at Union Station. There were other rallies and a massive sit-in on Monday, but we had to get back to Campus. We left Washington DC around 6, stopped for dinner and gas, and got back to Allegheny around 1 am Monday morning.

Anyways, if you want to read my piece for the Campus on this same subject, here’s the link:

This is what democracy looks like.
This is what democracy looks like.
Me at the White House! My future home maybe?
Me at the White House! My future home maybe?

Mississippi Burning

I’m back at it again with another opinion piece in our school newspaper, The Campus. This week, I wrote about the horrifying new law in Mississippi that is oppressive of LGBTQ+ rights and is a human rights violation in itself. It was published on Friday, which is when The Campus comes out every week.

This law and others like it (such as the North Carolina one, which I wrote about in my last blog post) are making life hell on earth for LGBTQ+ people in the Southern United States. It’s terrifying to think that while gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, so many other rights can be and are being stripped away. You can still be fired for being gay, kicked out of your home, denied medical attention, and face a variety of other penalties for being yourself.

I’ve really enjoyed writing these opinion pieces for The Campus. I’m working on another one for this week about some protests I’ve attended in Washington DC. I’ve missed working on the journalist format, and it’s been nice to get back to that in some way. Also, I just like having another format to publish my writing! I do so much academic writing that nobody ever reads that it’s nice to feel like my writing matters, like my voice is being heard.

I think that LGBTQ+ issues are so important to write about, because the work isn’t done. Marriage equality in all 50 states is great, sure, but there’s a lot more ground for equality that needs to be covered. We need protection for workers so they can’t be fired from their employers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We need protection for those same people from being kicked out of one’s housing, from being denied medical care, from being denied the right to use the bathroom of one’s choice. This type of discrimination and oppression needs to be talked about more and I won’t stop writing about these issues until these types of laws don’t exist.

Anyways, if you’re interested, you can read the piece online! Here’s the link:

North Carolina and Trans Rights

This past Friday, I had my first opinion piece published in The Campus, our school newspaper. I was thrilled! It is about the recent legislation in North Carolina that has celebrities canceling concerts, major companies refusing to do business there, and generally receiving big heaping pile of well-deserved backlash.

What’s the law about, you say? Well, the state legislature passed a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that effectively overrides any local nondiscrimination measures and protects against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, nationality and biological sex—but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

The biggest problem is that because gender identity isn’t protected, transgender people are being forced to use bathrooms according to their birth certificate and not according to their gender identity. This is an incredibly discriminatory practice that puts the safety of trans people at risk every single day.

I have worked to speak out on the issue of all-gender bathrooms before: I passed a resolution for ASG last May demanding the school increase the number of all-gender bathrooms and increase the signage/visibility of them. That legislation was talked about and talked about, and I’m just happy it passed before the end of the school year. I was also happy to come back from study abroad and find out my efforts were successful! The signage and amount of all-gender bathrooms on campus have definitely increased.

But this legislation seems to continue despite backlash (and clearly being discriminatory). Bruce Springsteen cancelled his concert in North Carolina due to the law. Paypal cancelled moving its headquarters there because of the law. The Obama administration has come out strongly against the law, threatening to take away federal aid. And yet the President of University of North Carolina (UNC) will enforce the law. This line of thought is disgusting, outdated, bigoted, and just plain wrong. And as long as people like the state legislators of North Carolina and the president of UNC continue to believe they are right, I will continue to speak out and tell them that they are wrong.

Overall, it’s a piece that I’m really proud of, and I can’t wait to write another one!

Here’s the link to read at your leisure!

Spring Fever

Spring has sprung at Allegheny College, although it really barely ever left. We had a relatively light winter this year, due to El Nino and some other weather patterns, which is quite different from my other two winters at Allegheny, both incredibly cold and snowy. This winter had multiple days in the 40s and even 50s, meaning instead of the usual winter slump most students go through, we were faced with never ending spring fever. Meaning, everyone here has been incredibly restless due to the nice weather, and it’s only going to increase from here with spring break behind us.

I know it seems silly to be blogging about the weather, but it really does affect the overall mood of the student body. Everyone is in good spirits at the beginning of the fall up until late October, when the days get colder and the days get shorter. I myself find the spring semester to be much harder than the fall for that exact reason: anyone who has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year, is common among college students. You spend less time outside, you get less Vitamin D, so one of the recommended treatments for SAD is light therapy. I’ve never tried it myself, but I know others who find it very helpful. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, depression, fatigue and insomnia or excessive sleeping. So as you can see, the weather can significantly affect people’s behavior and wellbeing.

I myself know that the second half or the last third of the spring semester gets easier because the weather starts to pick up. Yesterday it was in the 60’s and everyone was psyched, as you can imagine. Today it’s raining and that doesn’t help. Like I said before, this semester has been easier because of the lighter weather, but we’ve had plenty of cold days and enough snow that it makes an impact. I know for more than a few college students, spring cannot come fast enough.

Time Management

As a junior, you would think that I have mastered the art of time management. You would be wrong. Okay, maybe not completely wrong. To some degree, I have gotten very good at scheduling myself and learning how to say no to things, or when to skip something for the purpose of self-care (eating, sleeping, emotional stability, etc.). Every semester though, I still seem to overcommit myself and leave myself stretched thin when the semester heats up and things get busy. Every college student knows what I mean by this: the two or three of four weeks in the middle of the semester where all of your classes have assignments due, every club is trying to plan events or produce something, all of your other extracurriculars seem to require meetings and your schedule is booked minute by minute from dawn until dusk.

I haven’t mastered this dance, this delicate balance of being involved but not too involved. I know very few college students who have and many more who are like myself.

While I have made it clear that I am no expert, I think I can still provide a few tips on the art of time management.

Class comes first. Always. Too often, I get caught up in my extracurriculars and devote so much time and energy to them that I will neglect class assignments in favor of club work. I love my extracurriculars, as they are a great representation as to who I am and what I want to do in my life after college, but the same goes for my classes. First and foremost, I am a student. I need to remember that more often and prioritize my schoolwork, always.

Person over project. This is a mantra I learned from working on many service projects while at Allegheny, and I am going to apply it to the other aspects of my life. If an assignment or a club or any other project is damaging to you or causing you turmoil, then put yourself first. I mentioned self-care before, something more and more feminist and poc and queer spaces are promoting, which is the act of taking car of yourself emotionally and mentally. Take some time for yourself: take a walk, read for fun, sleep in, get off campus. Self-care is important to thriving and maintaining your quality of life during these four years. Speaking of…

Sleeping more will help you in the long run. Seriously. Lack of sleep less to decreased brain function, dehydration, memory impairment, and a myriad of other health problems. You need more sleep than you think you need. Five hours a night every night is going to catch up with you and cause damage quicker than you think. The extra sleep will do better for your health (physical and mental) in the long run.

I could keep going, but I like to keep these short and sweet, so I’ll end my list there. I hope these are helpful to other students and even other readers/full grown adults. I’m certainly not an expert on time management, or even all that good at it. I’m working on it. That’s all anyone can ask for.

Win, Lose, or Draw

Last week, I ran my campaign to become the president of Allegheny Student Government. I have been involved in ASG for the last two years, and it is an organization that I am incredibly passionate about. I love being involved in so many different issues, and I love working with students directly to better their Allegheny experience. After a debate Monday night and a flood of social media posts, students voted online all day Thursday and Friday, and by Friday at 5 pm, the results were in: I had lost. I was disappointed, yes. But that’s life. The President-elect and Vice President-elect are both strong candidates who I think will serve ASG well. It’s in good hands. But this isn’t the end of the line for my ASG career. It doesn’t mean that my work on ASG hasn’t had an impact, or that I haven’t done a good job as a senator. This year and potentially next year, I will continue to do the work I have started and continue to serve my fellow students as best I can.

I love this school. Allegheny has become my home, and I am so happy to be here. I love these people. They are my classmates, my professors, my friends, and my support system. ASG has been a great organization for me: I have met some of my best friends through it and the support I have been given there is incredible. I have been empowered to take on big projects and to make some noise in order to get what I think the students need. I learned how to listen, how to follow through, and how to lead. I want to help make ASG and Allegheny the best it can possibly be, in whatever way I can. I want to empower, inspire, and lead. All I can hope is that it will continue to support me in my ventures.

Time Flies

Where does the time go? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself all week. How is it already the sixth week of classes? How am I a second semester junior? How has my birthday already come and gone? Time seems to be the object of my focus this week. Time is going by faster than I would like it to and I’m just trying to grasp onto it as soon as possible.

It doesn’t feel so long ago that I was a freshman, moving into Baldwin and saying goodbye to my parents. Now, I have been at Allegheny for three years, travelled to seven countries, and really started to become an adult. I’ve taken all of these classes and formed all of these relationships in what seems like a very short amount of time, but three years is nothing to scoff at. What an incredible three years it’s been too. Through all of the ups and downs, twists and turns, Allegheny and the people here have always come through for me.

With thinking about time comes regret. All of the projects I wanted to pursue, all of the club I meant to join, all of the people I meant to connect with. I still hypothetically have time, of course, since I don’t graduate until next May, but junior year is already incredibly busy, and next year will be filled with comping and focusing on graduating and job-hunting. But that doesn’t mean I am not going to try. With three semesters left, I am excited to try all of the things that fell to the wayside at one point or another. We’ll see how many I get to!

My favorite writer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, talks about time in the commencement speech he delivered at Wesleyan College last May. He talks of two clocks: one keeping time on your four years of college, and one for the rest of your life. The last lines of his commencement speech, after quoting a passage from his Broadway hit “Hamilton”, are as follows:

“That clock you hear is the sound of your own heart. Sink your teeth into this life, and don’t let go. Congratulations.”

I’m not sure which clock he is talking about, but I like the sentiment. That is something I am going to strive for in my last three semesters at Allegheny, and in the rest of my life: sinking my teeth in and not letting go. Because like the title of my post says, time flies.

Musical Musings

I love music. It flows through my veins. It’s in my head 24/7. I see music in everything and everyone. Speaking patterns, footsteps, doors closing and opening. To me, the rhythm of my heartbeat is music. My life is one big medley.

My love of music goes beyond listening, although it’s rare to find me walking around campus without my headphones in. On campus, I play in two ensembles, Wind Symphony and Jazz Band, and I take lessons. I also am a DJ for WARC Meadville, Allegheny College’s radio station. It feels like a lot of commitment at times, but music is important to me. It’s a creative outlet. It’s a stress-reliever for when I get bogged down with school work. It’s fun and energetic and I’ve made great friends from my involvement with music.

I started playing trombone at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I really wanted to join our band, and on a recommendation from my band director, I took up the trombone. After playing all four years of high school in our band and orchestra, I put the trombone on hold for a while. Not consciously. I just got caught up with freshman year of college, trying all of these new activities and classes and meeting new people, that it slipped through the cracks. But at the beginning of sophomore year, it felt like there was something missing. So I decided to try and take up the trombone again. I was rusty, yes, but playing six times a week catches you up pretty quickly, and so I was back at it.

WARC is a different story. My first overnight host was on the board of WARC and so we spent all night hanging out in the office with other board members. I loved these people and couldn’t wait to come here and make friends like them! I’ve been a DJ four out of my five semesters on campus now, and there’s something therapeutic about sitting in the booth, picking and choosing from my curated playlist and keeping track of the clock. I can remove myself from the craziness of campus and hide out in the booth, with nowhere else to be. It’s two hours a week where I can kick back, relax, and nod along to my favorite songs.

So whether it’s playing or listening or DJing, music is a part of my everyday life on campus, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Readjusting to Campus Life

Hello! With a new semester comes new adventures and new challenges. Now that I am back from study abroad, I have been getting back to my routine and readjusting to life on campus. I am very happy to be back at Allegheny, of course, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy to be here. I was gone for eight months, which is a long time to be away from a place that moves at a lightening pace. You miss a lot, and there becomes a gap between your college experience and your friends’. Neither is necessarily better than the other; they’re just different.

I am noticing a sort of disconnect between myself and the rest of campus. This week, I have been so excited to see everyone and catch up, while everyone who was here last semester is still wishing they were on winter break. Classes have started and there is work to be done, but all I want to do is socialize and hang out with these people I missed so much. I keep getting asked about my experiences abroad, and all I want to talk about is what I missed on campus while I was gone. My program was so radically different than other study abroad programs, moving around during the semester instead of being enrolled at one university, that I can’t compare or relate to the other students who are also back from study abroad. When I left, as with every student that leaves to study abroad, I left a void, a vacancy in my social spaces and in my extracurriculars. That void was filled in my absence, and now that I am back, it feels like there isn’t any space left for me.

This semester is shaping up to be one of my best. I’m taking four great classes: Documentary Tradition, Intro to Environmental Science, Queer Lives, and my WGSS Junior Seminar. I’m back to working with Lambda Pi Eta, the Communication Arts Honors Society, and Overkill, the literary magazine I’m involved with. I’ve moved in and unpacked (for the most part) and have sort of resumed life on campus. But as with everyone that goes abroad, there’s a process of re-integrating yourself into the campus community. I’m just happy to come back to such a warm welcome!

Dublin On My Mind

So during my vacation, I spent two non-consecutive nights in Dublin. One after my time in Belfast, and one before my flight home to the States. So although I wouldn’t have even one full day in Dublin, I tried to make the most out of my time here.

My first night, I didn’t arrive until late afternoon, so my time for museums and attractions was limited. I went to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, walked around Grafton Street and Trinity College, and generally tried to take in the city as much as I could after five p.m. There were a few sites that I walked by as part of a writer’s walking tour that my dad found, such as the Abbey Theatre and the General Post Office, but I didn’t spend more than a few minutes at either. I wanted to see as much of Dublin as possible! I also treated myself to Spectre, the only time I went to a movie theatre while abroad.

In the morning, I went to Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedrals before taking the bus down to Galway to visit my friend. All of the major tourist attractions in Dublin were more or less open 9 to 5, so I was up bright and early to make up for the night before. Both are beautiful cathedrals and within walking distance from each other, so it was easy enough to hit two major things back to back. Dublin is a walking city in general, so getting around wasn’t a problem. It was probably the most walkable city I visited during my whole semester abroad (Krakow comes close though).

My next night in Dublin, after a weekend away, I got in around five pm, so my options were limited. Mostly, I just ate dinner and took in the holiday decorations on Grafton Street again. I kept it pretty low key, as it was also my last night abroad, so I wanted to relax as much as possible.

My last morning abroad, I went to the James Joyce Cultural Centre and did the last of my souvenir shopping. There are so many things to do in Dublin, and I didn’t have nearly enough time to do them all. I wish I had had more time there this semester, but I also wanted to be home for Thanksgiving with my family. It just means that I have so much to do when I go back. I absolutely love Dublin, and I can’t wait to go back!

Grafton Street all lit up for the holidays!
Grafton Street all lit up for the holidays!
The Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin
The Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin
Thank you, Dublin, for an amazing time. I'll be back soon!
Thank you, Dublin, for an amazing time. I’ll be back soon!