A Study in Sibilance: Snowpocalypse, Second Semester Senior Year, and Sappy Sentiments

I am still coming to grips with the fact that my final semester at Haverford is underway. Apparently the weather has had some similar struggles, bringing snow and ice storms and cancelling four days worth of classes. So, my semester has thus far been a combination of hibernation, intense thesis-ing, and making friends with the many snowpeople dotting campus.

Let’s start with a little photographic evidence:

photo 1-2This is Magill, our lovely library, and where I’ve currently been spending a bunch of quality time with my burgeoning thesis. I can now quote you sections from “Moon Tiger” and have a clear sense of the shape of the essay. Good thing, because my rough draft is due in a couple of weeks. Anyone interested in chronotopic/dialogic/kaleidoscopic commentaries on history, memory, and narrative theory should inquire within. I jest. In all seriousness though, yes, I’ve been engulfed in outlining, underlining, and rereading, but I’ve also genuinely enjoyed the process. Thesis is one of the best expressions of academic agency here; I have so enjoyed drawing from learning across my almost four years of study here in crafting my own critical contribution to the English discipline. It is satisfying and energizing.

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Food for Thought

November has been stuffed — with essays, thesis deadlines, and fellowship applications — and it’s been a little crazy (for you all, ED deadlines!). But it’s also been stuffed with some awesome outings.  Last Friday, I led a group of 40 students into Philadelphia for a cooking class at Reading Terminal Market — and oh how satisfying it was!

Before I get to the juicy details, I should explain FAB. FAB stands for Fords Against Boredom and is a student-run club that organizes on and off-campus events for the entire community. We run movies, organize Quizzo nights (this year featured a special “Beat the Librarians” round), provide tickets to Phillies and 76ers games, and most recently, acquired 40 FREE tickets to the Kanye West concert! All of the events are totally free for students, actually. Sweet deal.

I’ve been a member of FAB since my sophomore year, and this semester, this cooking adventure was my brain child. We arrived at Reading Terminal Market to find a pristine kitchen ready for us:

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Senior Sentiments

Coming into my final year at Haverford, I anticipated feeling a bit of denial and overwhelming nostalgia. While not an untrue statement, the transition to this transitional year has been smooth and natural. Dare I say it? I’m relishing being a senior and the productive, exciting opportunities it affords.

My thesis proposal is in, approved, and awaiting remarks from my newly minted thesis adviser. I’m going to be working with Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger and exploring construction of character through geographic and mental spaces, as well as time and memory. This thesis topic draws on my established interests in perspectivalism and temporality, and allows me to reflect further on theories of identity in relationship to place, which I cultivated during my extensive travels during my semester abroad. The senior thesis experience is a space for culmination and reflection, as well looking forward within the discipline. Continue reading

Music Musings and More

By Damon Motz-Storey

The first month of the new semester is nearing its close, and things are starting to feel settled at the ‘Ford.  The Class of 2017 is getting their bearings and integrating into the Haverford community by putting down their roots in classes, clubs, and organizations.  Fall colors are beginning to tease the tips of the campus treetops and the air is turning clear and crisp.

For me, the new semester is all about new perspectives.  Sophomore year means getting a fresh look at the campus that I know and love, while simultaneously getting to see the freshman class climb the ropes that I very recently scaled.  Classes are getting past the intro level and into challenging and rewarding new dimensions.  And for me, a math major, sometimes I’m literally learning about new dimensions!

In my all-male a cappella group, the Humtones, we are rehearsing our new repertoire and teaching our group’s traditions to our four new enthusiastic members.  I’m helping plan our group’s Fall Tour, and since there are so many colleges and universities within a two-hour drive from Haverford, we’re getting very excited by the possibilities of collaborating with other East Coast a cappella aficionados!  For me, music has been one of the fastest and truest ways of forming bonds of friendship at Haverford.  My group is planning to sing with several of the many other a cappella groups at Haverford over the course of the semester.

And speaking of music, I’ve been enjoying getting the chance to explore the music scene in Philadelphia in recent weeks.  Last week, I saw Vampire Weekend and Sky Ferreira performing on the Skyline Stage of the Mann Center.  It was only a 15-minute drive from campus, and the view was incredible!

The Mann Center in Philadelphia.  That’s me on the left, along with two friends from Haverford: Sarah Moses ’16 in the center, and Nyrah Madon ’16 on the right.

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Being so close to Philly means that there are lots of opportunities to see famous artists like Vampire Weekend. Philadelphia has a big arts scene with lots of galleries, museums, and concert venues like the Skyline Stage (above).

Anyway, the semester is off to a good start, and I’m feeling excited for the new experiences that lay ahead.  This year, I’m living on a freshman hall as a Customs Person, so I’m getting to know a handful of the Class of 2017 in a really unique way.  I can tell that they’re going to be a really accomplished class, and I can’t wait to see what they, and the rest of my peers in the Haverford community, do in the year to come!

Until next time!

City and Summer Livin’

Summer is awesome. The weather is beautiful, nectarines are in season, and the fireflies are enchanting. These lovely months also demand employment though; I’ve been lucky enough that my summer has been a trifecta of engaging work, great food, and regular firefly sightings (thunderstorms have unfortunately impeded on the weather requirement).

This summer I am working as an intern at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook through a Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) grant. I’m essentially working as a reporter, covering the… dynamic, let’s say… state of Philadelphia public education. I’ve covered community meetings regarding charter expansion, hunger strikes, and profiled laid off teachers. Needless to say, there is a ton going on right now in the Philly ed world, and I am really in the thick of it.

Let me back up about the CPGC quickly. The CPGC is one of three academic centers at Haverford, alongside the Hurford Center for Arts and Humanities and the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center. All three of them are wonderful funding wells for Haverford students, and students use that money for research, student-led seminars, art productions, and more.

The CPGC, specifically, provides students with funding for both international and domestic projects related to social justice; projects can be either self-designed or take advantage of an existing relationship between the CPGC and an institution. Defining “social justice” is really difficult. And it should be, because the phrase means something a little bit different to everyone. That means that students have a ton of agency in deciding what sorts of projects they would like to present to the CPGC, and the possibilities really are limitless. I have had friends teach English in Ghana, conduct medical anthropology thesis research in Brazil, and film documentaries with professors.

All of these projects are fully funded. CPGC grants include: travel and transportation costs, food stipends, and housing costs. If you are on financial aid, they also cover your summer earnings expectation, so you can get the most out of your internship without worrying about making money on the side. Also, when a place doesn’t have to pay you to work for them, getting hired at incredible places becomes much more feasible.

Quick recap of a lot of information: CPGC has a lot of money and they fully fund Haverford students to have incredible internships related to social justice anywhere in the world. This is awesome.

With my CPGC grant, I am living in West Philadelphia, just off of the University of Pennsylvania campus, with two friends from Haverford. The commute to work is simple – just a regional rail ride away. I’ve enjoyed indulging in the excellent taco shop and popsicle joint in my neighborhood, and exploring different nooks of the city. My favorite adventures have been noshing at a food truck festival, and perusing the Barnes Foundation and its beautiful artwork.

Ultimately, I could not have asked for a better summer job. As an English major, Sociology and Education double-minor, this internship presents opportunities to engage with all of my disciplines. I’ve interviewed major players in the Philly ed world, from district officials, to councilmen, to CEOs of charter schools. I’ve also talked with community members, and met with high school students who have formed their own student activism groups. I’ve been able to think and rethink about my own views of public education — the field in which I would ultimately like to work — on a daily basis, and expand my own network of possible professional endeavors.

And, when I come home from a long day of writing and interviewing, I can grab a nectarine, sit out on my porch, and watch the fireflies dance.

Abroad Musings, Vol. 4

I got out of the taxi, massive suitcase in tow, and looked around at HCA. The orange brick of the Haverford College Apartments now contrasted against trees full of green, lush leaves; the trees were bare when I departed 5 months prior. Students were scrambling to put boxes into storage for the summer, and families reunited; in December, I was the one frantically trying to organize my life, while weathering one goodbye after another. Where had I been for almost half a year? Had I really been in 14 different cities in 4 months? I could envision Vienna’s Ringstraße and its beautiful buildings with clarity, but everything seemed to have a warm haze around it. I felt rather Rip Van Winkle-esque.

Before I left Vienna, the IES Abroad director sent out a long email about reverse culture shock, or re-entry culture shock. Essentially, he warned that we may experience some of the cultural shifts that we had experienced coming to Europe upon coming home. Our vision of home would, perhaps, have shifted. As I looked around HCA, a wave of emotions rushed: immense happiness to be back; ache for my friends from abroad, now dispersed throughout the world; a brief moment of Are you insane?? Why didn’t you fly directly home to Seattle?; and then, simple fatigue. Perhaps the most shocking, and the most wonderful part of my reverse culture shock, is that it hasn’t felt shocking at all.

On May 17th, I finished my German final, and technically became a senior in college (!). On May 18th, I flew back to Haverford, PA. On May 19th, I watched the HC Class of 2013, and many of my best friends, graduate. Jet lag? Please. Among the honorary degrees at graduation was Hunter Rawlings, a member of the HC Class of 1966. As he commenced his commencement speech, he said simply but emphatically, “I love this college.” I was still feeling a lot of feelings, but the most profound was that simple. Yes, I was still struggling to comprehend that I had been on a different continent mere hours prior, the bittersweet joy of friends’ graduations, and even the simple fact that the summer months awaited. But overwhelmingly, as I looked out at my friends, I just felt, I love this college too, Hunter.

I am so, so grateful for the time that I spent away from campus; all the cheesy stuff you hear about abroad is true. You do grow as a person, you do become more independent, and you do broaden your horizons. My reverse culture shock has manifested it most concretely in my severe cravings for European dairy products, but my definition of home hasn’t been altered, simply ratified.

 

Heimat (feminine noun). The direct translation from German is home or homeland. This is one of those cases where a lot gets lost in translation. Heimat is more than a home – it refers to the cozy and intense feelings of connection to a specific place, a community. I consider Seattle to be a Heimat, but my birth-town in Germany equally so. But Haverford is my current Heimat, and coming back didn’t feel shocking, but rather comfortable and easy, like waking up from a very enlightening dream.

Abroad Musings, Vol. 3

Indicatively, I find myself writing a blog in the Vienna airport once more. This time, it’s off to Deutschland for a family reunion. My flight is delayed, but only 10 minutes, which already puts me in a position about 10000x better than my last harrowing flight experience. To finish off that epic tale:

I ended up poorer, but 24 hours in Istanbul richer, after booking a last minute flight for the morning thereafter. Istanbul is the most incredible city I have ever seen, extremely eclectic, bustling, and simultaneously reminds me of times spent in Vienna and Viet Nam. My friend Hiba Dhanani, who is currently on her own study abroad excursion there, busted out her Admission skills and gave me a wonderful tour of the city.

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Next up on the ancient city tour, Athens. My friend and Haverford alumna Kat Wyly is teaching English in Athens on a now-Fulbright fellowship, so I had the incredibly good fortune of having a friend, hostess, and guide waiting for me when I disembarked my plane. It was so nice to see a close friend after almost a year, and surreal to do so in Greece! The Haverford network is seriously global. I spent my weekdays wandering ancient ruins and eating delicious gyros, and my Saturday with Kat on Hydra, a nearby Greek island.

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Life was good. Extremely good.

So in the end, as terrible as that rebooking fiasco was, the days that followed were just that incredible.

The following weekend I was in Rome, eating the best tagliatelle, gnocchi, gelato, cheese…

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After this trip to Germany, I’m off to Budapest, thereafter to Dublin and Copenhagen, and then I have a mere two remaining weeks in Vienna before flying back to Haverford for commencement. Life is currently beautiful insanity. I knew how quickly my time abroad would fly by; I remember thinking on the bus ride into Vienna, “at some point a couple of months from now, you’ll think back to this moment and be in disbelief that it’s already been so long.” Good work, Sonia from the past, that is absolutely true, but it doesn’t make the realization any easier to internalize.

Seniors at Haverford are finishing up theses, pinwheel day has come and gone, and I can finally retire snow boots to the back of my closet. My time here is waning, and that brings simultaneous anxiety and excitement. I’m sad to think of goodbyes to friends, Käsekrainer, and Kaffeehäuse; I’m a little scared but very excited to be thinking about my thesis, last year in college, and life thereafter; but I’m also looking forward to seeing my friends again, an incredible, paid internship in Philadelphia this summer (cue the next blog post), and reflecting on the incredible experiences I have had and will have in my time away from Haverford.

Abroad Musings, Vol. 2

Being abroad means a lot of things. It means having to adjust to living in an entirely new country, making new friends, and learning to live without a regular supply of peanut butter. It also means dealing with a lot of very annoying, very tedious bureaucratic messes by yourself and in different languages. Some of these things are more fun than others. I hope you all find some humor in this travel saga; as I write this from Berlin, I am only beginning to appreciate its future storytelling clout.

I’ll start by sharing a few excerpts from my journal, written as I weathered a 5 hour delay in the Vienna airport a few days ago: ‘No one conveniently told me my original flight had been cancelled, so lucky me gets to spend the afternoon in the Vienna airport instead of Berlin.’ and ‘[text has been altered to omit rather colorful expressions].’ Apparently I was feeling philosophical, because then this followed: ‘Patience and flexibility — I guess that’s something I’m really starting to take away from this trip. Miscommunication? Let’s try again. Oh, this operator only speaks Turkish? Who else can I talk to? Who can I go to for help? When should I and what can I accomplish by myself? What risks am I willing to take and when should I listen to my gut and back off?’ Philosophical it may be, but those are important questions that I do end up asking myself almost everyday.

I wasn’t quite so into introspective questioning after finding out that I had not actually been rebooked to Istanbul, as my rebooking confirmation stated, at 1 a.m. in the morning. I was less into the introspection after spending hours on hold, speaking increasingly tense and decreasingly polite English/German, after 4 hours of stressed half sleep. And after breaking down, cancelling my original booking with no guarantee of a refund, and calling my folks in Seattle at 4 a.m. Pacific time to figure out how I was going to get to Istanbul in time to catch my flight to Athens, I just wanted some peanut butter and a long nap.

I am now eating some stale rice and a rather mealy apple, and appreciating my family’s swift response. I am not writing exactly what my plans are because I am terrified of jinxing those too, but I’ll reveal the conclusion to this saga in my next blog post.

The last 24 hours have been the most stressful ones I’ve had recently, but there is a lot of learning to be had. Patience and flexibility are very valuable virtues that I am still cultivating; get receipts for absolutely everything every time; don’t be afraid to ask for help; apparently this is what being an independent adult is like (not actually, but at least at times); and if all else fails, there’s a lot of chocolate in Europe, and the new Justin Timberlake album works wonders on the nerves.

I promise more photos in the next post!

Abroad Musings, Vol. 1

I’m an English major.  I do a lot of reading and writing, and believe heartily in linguistic power.  For this blog, however, I owe a disclaimer.  I really don’t think it’s possible to describe what I’ve been experiencing in Europe thus far with words.  I will supplement with as many photos as possible, but you, dear readers, will need to supplement with a little of your own imagination.

Where to begin?  I got into Europe about a month ago and have been on a nonstop adventure ever since.  I live in an independent apartment in Vienna proper, about 15 minutes outside the city center.  This is the view from my apartment window:

I just wrapped three weeks of “Intensive German” and am currently writing this blog from a hostel in Berlin; we get a 10 day break post Intensive German-ing, and I’ve been on a jaunt through eastern Germany – Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin — since (most non-casual casual parenthetic ever: also had a quick weekend trip into Prague).  Photographic evidence:

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I hit the ground running once I’m back in Vienna, as my full course load commences.  I’m taking an Eastern European Comparative Literature course, Sociology of Immigration, The Cultural Heritage of Vienna (auf Deutsch), and continuing with my German class; I also have an Education internship, working with a local Viennese public school.  Conveniently enough, these courses will also garner credit for my English major, and both Sociology and Education minors.  Haverford doesn’t have any of its own, independent study abroad programs, but instead has established relationships with different universities and  study abroad programs; I am currently a student with IES Vienna.

As I write this, I have to admit that my brain feels a bit linguistically schizophrenic, and I find myself thinking of German phrases in place of English ones, or accidentally inserting an “ß” in place of a double-‘s.’ The language immersion is definitely playing its role well.

Though Austrians speak “Deutsch,” they are certainly not Germans.  It’s been fascinating unearthing the subtle, but culturally hugely important, differences between the two countries.  Some of it comes in slight differences in pronunciations, but there are some real cultural disparities.  Exhibit A:

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This doesn’t happen in Germany.  I went to a ball last week – a legitimate ball, complete with Viennese and non-Viennese waltzing, ball gowns, bow ties, and breathtaking atmosphere.  Those photos were taking in the Hofburg Imperial Palace – as in the place where the Habsburgs from the Austrian-Hungarian empire ruled.  Here’s a good place where my linguistic schizophrenia is coming in handy; that night was “traumhaft,” or literally like a dream.  There’s really no other way to describe it.

That’s actually a pretty apt word for Vienna in general.  I’ve never been in such a pristine and beautiful city before.  Just look:

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A square about 5 minutes from the Study Abroad center

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I am really, really relishing my time here.  As I upload my own abroad Facebook albums, however, I can’t help but feel a slight twinge of homesickness when I stumble upon my friends’ albums of Haver-life.  Campus looked beautiful with a fresh dusting of snow, and there are some incredible classes being offered this semester. My dad’s side of the family is German, and so much of this experience feels like coming home and reconnecting with my German heritage, but I also miss my friends and life back on Haverford’s campus.  I absolutely melted when I found out my professor’s four-year-old, whom I normally babysit, asked about me the other day. That said, though I am physically thousands of miles from my Haver-life, this is absolutely enriching and deepening my college experience.  I am so thankful for this time abroad, and owe Haverford much for enabling this adventure.  Bis bald, und viele Grüße!

Expanding Networks

I got into a spat with my fifteen year-old brother the other day.  The keystone question: who’s the cooler sibling?  Well, if we’re being honest, my brother is a soccer star, plays bass and guitar in a rock band, and pulls off pierced ears with panache… but, I decided we should settle this debate by looking at how many Facebook friends we each have.  He has 759; I have 904.  Victory was mine.  I conveniently ignored the fact that I have a few more networks at my disposal – high school, work, college, etc. – than he does, but these are just details anyway, right?

Unfortunately for sibling rivalry’s sake, networks really aren’t negligible “details.”  As I prepare to jet off to Vienna – at least physically leaving the Haverford network – I’ve come to realize just how important and immensely helpful networks can be.  Sometimes networks mean funny coincidences; my Sociology minor advisor’s good friend conveniently works two doors down from my dad.  But networks carry larger implications too.  For example, midway through the schlump-fest that is finals week, I ignored my trusty sweatpants, wriggled into interview ware instead, and headed to the city to see about a possible summer job.

Given my impending international adventures, over this past semester I’ve been making as many inroads as possible for summer employment.  That meant reaching out to the entirety of the Haverford network: from my friends, to alumni, to former colleagues, to former colleague’s friends, to professors, to professors’ colleagues… you get my drift.  It’s meant sending a lot of kind of awkward emails introducing myself to strangers.  They’re really only pseudo-strangers, though; there’s only one degree of separation from me and all of these possible employers – we’ve got some mutual friends on FB, let’s say.  I soon accumulated a growing list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses in the “Contacts” section of my planner, and all of a sudden, job opportunities, internships, and interviews started to materialize – all catalyzed by the Haverford network.

This has all been pretty informal, but tapping into these networks has also highlighted just how wonderfully, and formally, connected Haverford is.  Janice Lion, the domestic internship coordinator for the CPGC, for example, noted the many bridge programs the CPGC offers for those interested in education and education reform post undergraduate life.  I’m still focused on this summer’s employment options (whilst still beyond excited for Vienna!), but post-Haverford employment, aka real life employment, we’ll lovingly call it, looms.  In addition to the CPGC, our Career Development Office, or CDO, links current and graduating students with alumni, polishes resumes, and conducts mock interviews.  The CDO straddles one of the strongest networks, the Bi-Co, providing Haverford and Bryn Mawr students the resources and connections of both schools.  Knowing these established connections – in addition to the many that are just a phone call away – exist, is like a warm cup of “kaffee mit schlag” (coffee with whipped cream) to those real life employment woes.

Haverford’s community is incredibly strong, and from a friendship standpoint, it’s one of, if not my, favorite aspects of Haverford.  I have made some of the deepest and most genuine friendships here, and that’s been the best.  When all of these incredible friendships also become incredible links, that’s doubly the best.  So, the bestest?  I have just under a week left before it’s “Guten Tag” to Vienna, and “Aufwiedersehen” to Seattle and Haverford friends.  I really hate goodbyes, but I take solace in the fact that Skype is an incredible invention, I’m off on an adventure, my Haverford friendships and connections will remain strong, and this four-month hiatus is just another way of expanding that incredible network.  And I’ll have more FB friends to boot!