A cappella at Haverford

A cappella is a pretty big thing at Haverford! We actually claim to have the most groups per capita out of any college in the country. That doesn’t mean that everyone bursts into song (even though sometimes I’m guilty of randomly singing or dancing), but  if you want to get involved in a cappella on campus or just go to shows on weekends you will have no trouble with that here. Over spring break the a cappella group that I’m a member of, The Mainliners, went to Johns Hopkins to sing with a few of their on-campus groups. It was a blast to perform, hear other groups, and to be able to get to know some fellow students outside of the Tri-Co (Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore).

The Haverford College Mainliners

The Haverford College Mainliners

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Science painting in the snow!

Hi everybody!
This semester, my biochemistry classmates and I are studying the biosynthesis of skyllamycin (an antibiotic) in the soil bacteria Streptomyces. Throughout the semester, we’ve been learning about site directed mutagenesis, protein purification, molecular modeling on the computer, and many other lab techniques. But TODAY we perfected the most important technique of all….snow painting!
Thanks to Fords Against Boredom (a.k.a. FAB) for supplying me an my friend Ali with “snow paint” so we could amuse ourselves by drawing skyllamycin in the snow during our short break between lunch and lab.
~~~~Katie (and Ali!)

Theater, Film, & Food!

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Philadelphia is close and so much fun! Read on for a sampling of what I’ve done in the city this semester.

My suitemate did a summer internship via Haverford’s Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities with the Pig Iron Theater Company. In September when we were both back on campus, she invited me to come along and see what the company had been working on (for free!). The result of the summer’s hard work was 99 Breakups, an experimental, movement-based play about relationships, romantic and otherwise, that just don’t work out. The play was staged in and around the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), so I got to see a lot of great art in addition to a play. Read The New York Times review of the show.

This year was the 23rd Philadelphia Film Festival, so I headed downtown to watch Dietrich Brueggeman’s Stations of the Cross. Ever the film student, this was a movie I’d been wanting to see since I read the catalogue for the Berlinale (one of Europe’s most prestigious festivals) at my summer internship. Nothing like a depressing movie with heavy religious themes to kick off the weekend, am I right?

Alice's birthday dinner downtown.

Alice’s birthday dinner downtown.

Finally, a subject near and dear to every college student’s heart: food. Philly’s got a lot of tasty restaurants. Last Friday I went to University City (the Philly neighborhood surrounding The University of Pennsylvania) to celebrate my friend Alice’s birthday at a trendy sushi restaurant. Alice and I met when I was a PAF in her freshmen apartment last year—proof that Customs isn’t just an orientation program, it’s a friendship-maker! Check out the cute photo of us!

My Top 5 Haverford Highlights

Here is a list of just a few of my favorite activities. I hope they give you a sense of some of the great things you can do on and off campus while living at Haverford.

This is where I tutor twice a week.

Southwark School where I tutor twice a week.

1. Volunteering as an after-school tutor in Philadelphia
As an education minor, I love working as a tutor! I spend two days a week volunteering at Southwark School in South Philadelphia helping 1st and 2nd graders with their homework. It’s nice to get off campus to volunteer in the city. Through my volunteer work, I’ve learned so much about Philadelphia and the neighborhood surrounding Southwark School.

My Chemistry "Superlab" reaction!

My “Superlab” reaction!


2. Working indepedently in Chemistry lab
Now that I’m a Junior chemistry major, I’m spending more and more hours working in the lab. I love running complex reactions on my own. I’m glad that undergraduates at Haverford have so much responsibility and independence.




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The Nerd House Halloween Murder Mystery Party

A photo of our superb costumes: Teemo in his Fallout skin (Jesse Pazdera), a mummy (Harry Okun), Godric Gryffindor (ME!), Captain Hammer (Casey Falk), and the Eleventh Doctor (David Reilley).

A photo of our superb costumes: Teemo in his Fallout skin (Jesse Pazdera), a mummy (Harry Okun), Godric Gryffindor (ME!), Captain Hammer (Casey Falk), and the Eleventh Doctor (David Reilley).

The night was chill and dark. My companions and I gathered in our Halloween attire and set out for Nerd House. Upon our arrival, we encountered the eldritch scene: A mansion with ghoulish decorations, delicious snacks… and a sinister air. Continue reading

Customs: It’s so much more than an orientation program

Autumn has begun to fall onto Haverford’s campus, and October has brought with it chilly breezes, crisp apples, and the beginning of the arboretum’s colorful transformation from green to orange, yellow, and red.

Seniors are digging into their thesis topics and juniors are largely abroad or getting adjusted to upper-classmen levels of work.  Sophomores are starting to feel comfortable in their shoes as experienced members of the community, and first-years are starting to settle in and truly call this place home.

And, for many, Haverford does quickly begin to feel like home.  Whenever I speak with my family about traveling to and from the campus, I often say that traveling to Haverford is going home, and I mean it.  Haverford does an exceptional job of making the circumstances right for new students to feel comfortable in their own skin and get excited about engaging with the community they’ve become a part of.

The program that does the most to engage students right from the get-go is undoubtedly Customs.  Customs is Haverford’s version of new student orientation, but it’s so much more than orientation week.  Each freshmen hall gets eight returning students to help guide them through both their first week of college and the entirety of their first year.  On this team of eight, there are Customs People, who live with the freshmen and act as always-accessible support people; Upper-Classmen Advisors, who also live with the freshmen and help them navigate their academic decisions; Peer Awareness Facilitators, who host open-ended discussions about social issues and campus life with the freshmen; Honor Code Orienteers, who help freshmen get adjusted to life under Haverford’s unique Honor Code; and an Ambassador of Multicultural Awareness, whose job it is to connect freshmen with the resources they need to hold on to and celebrate their unique cultural identities as they transition into adult life.

Group bonding during Customs Week 2014

Group bonding during Customs Week 2014

This entails a whole lot more than just a smattering of enthusiastic orientation leaders who lead orientation week and then disappear after the semester begins.  The Customs Team sticks with freshmen throughout their first year at Haverford to help them get the most out of their first year of college life.  It’s also more robust than having resident assistants who are paid to act as disciplinarians: instead, all Customs Team members are volunteers, and their job is never to punish first-years, but help them to thrive, succeed, and get back on their feet if they falter.

Last year, I was a Customs Person (CP) for a group of first-years in Gummere Hall.  This year, I am a Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) for a group in Barclay Hall.  Customs Week this year was an exciting and fast-paced orientation week, filled with all sorts of fun activities such as the campus-wide scavenger hunt and the Fords Against Boredom Block Party.  There were also opportunities for freshmen to learn about the school’s traditions, such as a trust walk to illustrate living under the Honor Code, and a cultural timeline event to learn more about each other’s cultural backgrounds. The majority of the events that happen during Customs Week are intended to help first-years get to know one another and build meaningful friendships right away.

During the campus-wide scavenger hunt, one of the tasks to to photograph first-years in a laundry machine. Left to right in machines: Jess, Amanda, Emily, and Anna. Left to right on top: Max and myself (Damon).

During the campus-wide scavenger hunt, one of the tasks to to photograph first-years in a laundry machine. Left to right in machines: Jess, Amanda, Emily, and Anna. Left to right on top: Max and myself (Damon).

Now that the year is under way, it’s time to get down to business with my Peer Awareness Facilitator partner, Ellie Greenler ’17.  She and I are planning discussions on a wide variety of topics, including race & ethnicity, religion, gender & sexuality, disability, and more.  More frequently, Ellie and I (along with the rest of our Customs Team) spend a large portion of our free time just hanging out with the freshmen that we have been assigned to.  We may have explicitly defined roles, but one of the best parts of Customs is simply that it sets the stage for first years to make new friends with each other and their Customs Team.  In many cases, these bonds last for many years beyond freshman year and beyond our time at Haverford.  One of my Customs Persons from my freshman year, Dan Fries ’15, is now one of my best friends and roommates.

Me with my Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) partner, Ellie Greenler '17. On top of being a chance to get to know one another and get oriented to campus life, Customs is a ton of fun.

Me with my Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) partner, Ellie Greenler ’17. On top of being a chance to get to know one another and get oriented to campus life, Customs is a ton of fun.

Customs was named as such because it offers freshmen the opportunity to learn the customs of Haverford College.  One of the most important customs that Haverford holds in high esteem is our tight-knit, caring community.  Thus, friendship and fellowship are some of the most important customs that we have to show each incoming class of students.  So, as the Class of 2018 settles in to life at Haverford, they can be rest assured that a friend is never too far away. 



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

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!

Journey Through The Mid-Atlantic

My thesis project examines Bayard Rustin, perhaps most notable for serving as the deputy director of the 1963 March on Washington. Yet, he led a lifelong commitment to civil and human rights in America and abroad. A pacifist, Rustin modeled nonviolent action (as a reflection of his belief in Gandhian principle) as a means to bring about social change. Raised by his Quaker grandmother, Rustin went on to become a Friend* himself. Scholarly discourse regards Rustin primarily for his Civil Rights era contributions, leaving his lifelong career largely unexamined. That is, aside from biographical texts and collections of his writings. I remain interested in how his Quaker background influenced his commitment to and actions toward social justice in America and abroad.

Mary Poppins might say, "Feed the birds!"

Having poured through the seminal and subsequent Rustin biographies, I decided that I would take advantage of my prime location in the Philadelphia region to travel to Washington D.C., where the Library of Congress holds the Bayard Rustin papers, a vast collection of Rustin’s speeches, letters, memos, photographs, and other materials. The first half of this blog post I wrote while in the Madison Reading Room. Now, I write to you from Union Station’s Starbucks (with the bar seating, that is!) where I have begun chugging a dirty vanilla chai to renew a bit of my energy.

To recap, I departed Tritton Hall, where I live on campus this year, at 6:30am. Before heading to the Haverford train station an 8 minute walk away (if you’re speed walking), I swung by Bruegger’s bagels to devour a rosemary olive oil bagel. A DC (Dining Center) banana proved to be a nice snack on the 20-minute train ride to 30th street station where I quickly made my way to the MegaBus departure location. The 3-hour bus ride was the perfect time to read a short story (and watch its film adaptation) for my Japanese Literature and Film course before taking a half-hour nap. Surprisingly, Google Maps led me in the appropriate direction to the Library of Congress building, at which point I went on a wild goose chase to receive researcher authorization from several bureaucratic centers. In the end, I was able to spend 4.5 solid hours in the reading room with a cornucopia of Rustin papers, some of which will be invaluable to the future of my thesis.
Now an hour away from Philadelphia, I think I’ll make this post final. Here’s a photograph I captured of Union Station as I made my way back from the Library of Congress. How nice the 58 degree weather (F) was!

As Night Consumes Union Station



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:





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:


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:


Domes on Domes on Domes

A square about 5 minutes from the Study Abroad center


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!