Fall Semester Recap: On Your Honor

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Check out that byline!

Last semester I wrote my first piece of long-form journalism– a 4,000-word exploration of the Honor Code at Hamilton College. This was a drastic departure from the 300ish-word articles I usually write for the school paper, so I was initially intimidated by the breadth and depth of the project. (I also thought the topic was super dry…. Academic integrity? Who wants to read about that? I recognized that it was an important topic, but I didn’t know how I was going to make the story matter to readers. Cheating and plagiarism is a Big Deal; people get fired from jobs and kicked out of universities on the regular for this stuff. But how could I make this dry topic more appealing?)

The project started coming to life with each interview I conducted. Everyone I spoke with during formal and informal conversations shared unique anecdotes and opinions about the Honor Code. The challenge, for me, was consolidating a myriad of perspectives into a coherent narrative. 

Click HERE to see the end result! (Surprisingly, I got some compliments from people other than my blood relatives…! Wahoo!) 

-A

Fall -> Winter

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Who doesn’t love a field of tall, yellow sunflowers? 

I took this picture in early September. And I just got around to uploading my camera to my computer. Good thing I have pictures to remind me of warmer days– just this morning I had to scrape frost off a car! Ugh. The cruel New England winter is just getting started… 

Anyway, let me catch you up on (some) what I’ve been up to this fall. I write for the weekly student newspaper… Just messin’ around, generating some publicity for deserving student-athletes…. Take a look if you wish. 

“Women’s Rugby Pushes Through Mixed Start to Season”

“Students Climb 43 Adirondack High Peaks”

“Swim, Run, Bike: The Wright Way”

“Men and Women’s Crew Make it to the Medal Stand at Head of the Genessee”

“Crew Makes a Splash with Top Regatta Finishes”

Stay warm! 

-A

 

Dog days of summer…

It’s that time of year again… when the back-to-school TV commercials wiggle themselves in between summer car sales event ad spots and the like. I specifically remember one commercial (maybe it was for Target) that came out when I was in middle school. A mom rolled on a shopping cart through Target aisles, grabbing school supplies left and right and signing that popular Christmas tune, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” My mom used to torment me and my sister by trilling the lyrics to the song in July and August- when we wanted to keep the reminder of school as far from our minds as possible. Thanks a lot, Mom.

This year I couldn’t be more excited to go back to school. August might mark my last “back-to-school”.. EVER. Weird. Because I studied abroad last semester, I am especially excited to return to classes, friends, and activities.

Anyway, one week remains for my summer internship. Yikes! T-2 weeks until the start of school.

What I’ve been up to this summer: (Show and tell style, if I can round up some good pictures.)

Who let the dogs out??

Ran a K9-5K in Falmouth, MA. I convinced two college friends to run with me, and our only regret of the day was that we didn’t take our cameras on the run with us. The participants and their dogs were HILARIOUS. At the start line, a speaker blasted “Who Let the Dogs Out?” to signal the start of the race. I dodged leashes, flying drool, panting pups, and a few dogs that needed to take poop breaks on the side of the trail throughout the 5K. The temperature outside was a sweltering 89 degrees. Plus humidity. One poor St. Bernard had to receive medical attention from the veterinarians since he was so hot! They gave him an IV to stay hydrated, and also treated him to a cool sponge bath. I guess it’s not really “a dog’s life” if you are running around with a big fur coat in summer heat!

Enjoyed seeing family and eating delicious food at a Nantucket clambake, an annual tradition in my family. By some twist of fate, the stars aligned and every single cousin, aunt, and uncle was able to attend this year (the first time in the clambake’s 10ish year history.) Pulling off a clambake is no easy feat– I’ll try and summarize the intensive process. 1. Dig a large hole on the beach. 2. Fill hole with large rocks. 3. Throw wooden pallets onto rocks. 4. Burn pallets. 5. Put wet seaweed on top. 6. Place two wooden planks across the hole. 7. Make one brave soul crawl across the planks to put lobsters, corn (de-silked, with the husks still on,) mussels, clams, on the seaweed pile. 7. Wait. For approximately 1 hourish. 8. Take all the food out, by having same brave soul crawl on the planks. 8. Devour the food. Yum.

On top of the world! Mt. Monadnock in NH.

Climbed Mount Monadnock with some high school friends and my sister. The “white-dot” trail we took was harder than expected. Definitely not your average walk in the woods. I was scrambling over rocks on my hands and knees for about 80% of the time. Our hardy bunch made it to the summit and ate lunch while gazing at the beautiful view.

Attended two GREAT concerts. I highly recommend both Walk the Moon and The Head and the Heart! Also, Ben Sollee did a killer opening act on his cello.

Went to a Red Sox game with French friends who are visiting the States. They loved Fenway Park, but didn’t quite understand why there’s suck a big hype for baseball in this country.

Here’s to living up the last dog days of summer….

-A

À bientôt, Paris

Phew! Crazy that I am typing this from the USA. I arrived home last Tuesday, and finally got around to writing a final blog post (about Paris, I’m thinking of keeping the blog around.) Here goes!

As my remaining time in Paris dwindled alarmingly quickly, the skies cleared and the temperatures soared. I made a personal goal to spend as much time as possible in the jardins.

Gardens in France are a bit different than those in the US. Like a majority of French men and women, they are well-groomed. There’s usually lush green grass just tempting you to slip off your shoes and pad around barefoot. But attention (ahh-ten-shee-on)! Grass is for admiring in most jardins, not for rolling around in. There are the colorful flowers, arranged in neat little rows. There are sometimes large stone fountains, the running water making a soothing tinkling sound. There’s an abundance of metal chairs placed around the Luxembourg and Tuileries Gardens, where people of all sorts sit alone, together, soaking up the sun, reading books, chatting, sipping beer, taking drags of cigarettes.

In the Bois de Boulogne, a few friends and I rented a row boat. The Bois de Boulogne is a park on the edge of the 16th arrodissement, so technically outside the city of Paris. Wikipedia says it’s 2.5 times the size of Central Park in NYC, and I’d believe it. The place is huge, with trees, grass, and a beautiful lake.

It was the type of day where nothing could go wrong because the sky was devoid of clouds, the sun shone brightly, and our bellies were full of camembert and madelines. All five of us crammed into the wooden vessel and pushed off from land, into the sparkling water. We heaved and hooed and paddled around.  My friends groaned as I corrected their rowing form, and we all screeched as the meandering boat lurched a little too close to the grassy banks. We had a close call when the boat almost ran over a bird’s nest that was camoflauged in a pile of driftwood.

The boat floated by a flock of swans, and of course, Cara mentioned the famous scene in The Notebook where Rachel McAdams’ character in a row boat with her first love, Ryan Gosling. It starts out as a picturesque scene with the two of them talking in the boat, surrounded by white swans. Soon, the skies open and the two are soaked with a torrential downpour. Gosling paddles back to land and McAdams gets mad because she thinks he never wrote her, but he says he did (everyday!), and the share a passionate kiss that is like, THE movie kiss of all time. Ok, ok, it’s the type of cheesy romance that makes you want to vomit and ball your eyes out at the same time.

Thankfully, it didn’t rain on us that day in Bois de Boulogne. It didn’t even get cloudy. That afternoon, I felt at peace with Paris.

It’s hard not to give in to temptation and sugarcoat my experience abroad. To say to the eager listen, “Well, yes! Paris was so fantastic and amazing and beautiful and fun!” Most people want to hear this, and most people imagine the city this way.

For me, Paris was not welcoming. It was a big, loud, smelly, uncomfortable city that also happened to speak a foreign language. Sure, I adored gawking at the pastry window at my neighborhood bakery, but it was usually interrupted by the whooshing sound of a dude peeing against the wall just a few feet away in the somewhat seedy 18th arrondissement. It was hard to be bombarded by catcalls, daily on my street. Hard to dodge men selling counterfeit cigarettes outside my métro stop. It was hard to live with a family that wasn’t mine. Hard, and weird, to feel jealous of my host brothers (12 and 1 and a half years old) who had their mom around, when mine was so many miles away. It was easy to tune out professors who lectured for hours in another language.

If I had to assign one word to Parisians, it would be selfish. This might sound funny, considering that the French just elected a socialist president! I don’t mean selfish in a negative way, more in the way that, above all, they value ME time. Americans are obsessed with “living the American Dream,” but Parisians are obsessed with living. There is no dream, no constant need to be productive, no drive to be “successful”. (How can you even go about defining that word?) Living, for Parisians, entails taking the time to enjoy simple pleasures. By oneself (Paris won’t judge if you feel like eating lunch by yourself) or with close friends. It’s slowing down to smell the flowers in the gardens, to crack open a crispy baguette and slather it with chèvre, to stop talking on a cell phone for just a second and ask a pretty woman comment allez-vous? as she passes you on the street. Parisians aren’t as hurried nor as stressed as New Yorkers, but they smile less. I’d say they swear an equal amount.

Paris taught me to be a little selfish. To do what I wanted to do even if everyone else was doing something else. To withhold approval until it was merited. To not be an automatic people-pleaser.

I was happy and excited to be in Paris in the beginning. It was uncomfortable and new, as expected. What I didn’t expect was a total lack of belonging. I kept holding out, but started losing faith as weeks went by. Since Paris insisted on continuing with its cold and unfriendly façade, I declared mid-semester to my friends that I didn’t like Paris, either. That I was a country/nature girl and was not down with city life in Paris.

It was only when I adopted a selfish attitude that I felt some sense of belonging and an ownership of Paris. My favorite parts of the city were the gardens and the cafés, where one can spend a glorious morning or afternoon for little money. It seems so selfish, to stop walking, talking, exploring, and just sit. I felt so guilty in the beginning, not taking each and every moment to discover every nook and cranny of the city. Constant motion isn’t always best. I found that the Parisian ritual of sitting, relaxing, taking ME time is very pleasant.

Expecting to have a lot of ME time on the eight-and-a-half hour flight back to the US, I bought a book at the airport with my remaining six euros. I was dreading it, that probable last interaction in French when I handed over my boarding pass and walked down that tunnel to the American Airlines stewardess who would inevitably speak English.

I ended up sitting next to a Parisian law student who was going to NYC for the first time sans her parents. We talked for three hours in French, something I don’t think I could have done on my flight way back in January. Page ten of my book was folded down in the corner, and my book sat on my lap atop the red fleece airplane blanket. I smiled, she smiled, we smiled. We. Me and this friendly Parisian. I realized ME time was never just me. There was always Paris, the one permitting me to enjoy, profiter, to live.

On the lake in the Bois de Boulogne, trees were casting long shadows on the glassy water as the sun started its descent in the sky. Plus, our rental of the rowboat was only for one hour. We paddled back to land after losing an impromptu race to a trio of rowdy French teenage guys. It was sad, climbing out of the boat and putting on my shoes on the mainland, when the swans were still sunning themselves out on the lake. But time was up, the daylight fading, and we  all needed to go home to shower before our next adventures.

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-A

Feast Fit for a Birthday Queen

On my last Friday in Paris, I fêted Cara’s 21st birthday at a traditional French restaurant, Au Vieux Paris D’Arcole, located on the Île Saint-Louis. Sunshine and crowds were plentiful as I passed the Notre Dame on my way to the restaurant around midday. Anna, Cara, and I sat at an ancient wooden table and admired the walls adorned with lavender flowers and long red curtains. The restaurant was almost cave-like, with only about five tables downstairs. Our amicable waiter brought us a feast fit for our birthday queen! Champagne (santé!), escargots, les coquilles saint jacques, chicken, haricots verts (string beans), and desserts. We sang in English and French when Cara’s decadent chocolate cake arrived with a candle flickering. The couple next to our table was from Germany, so they also chimed in with a “Happy Birthday” rendition in German!

The meal felt like a fitting denouement for our semester. Cara is an old friend, and I felt so lucky to have her around as a partner in crime in Paris. Anna’s a new friend whom Cara and I loved getting to know as we explored the city, improved our French, and shared daily victories and struggles of abroad life.

It’s hard not to feel like you are breathing in history when walking down the rues and boulevards of Paris, and this quaint restaurant really felt like an old château where one might eat after praying in the Nôtre Dame back in the 18th century.

Un grand merci to Cara’s mom for the special meal! 🙂

-A

Normandie

This past weekend I visited my dad’s cousin in Bayeux, a town in Normandy. Penny lives on a 500 year-old horse farm. Rustic living- only some of the rooms in her house are heated! She has over 50 cows, and she breeds horses and is constantly bringing them to shows.

I fell asleep on the two hour train but did see a bit of the French countryside as it whizzed by. Lots of green grass and open pastures.

The weekend was a funny mix of worlds colliding. I spoke in French and in English, since Penny’s husband does not speak English. Topics of conversation included my family, the horse industry, the recent election in France, the town of Bayeux, and more.

Unfortunately, it rained around 80% of the time while I was there. I did get a chance to walk around the town of Bayeux as well as Penny’s large property. I helped her pick up a mare that had just been inseminated by the vet. I also drove stick shift (the first time outside of a parking lot!)

Penny took me to a museum that displays the Bayeux Tapestry, a really large embroidered cloth that depicts the events associated with the Norman conquest of England. It is giant!

I loved taking a break from Paris and relaxing in the countryside. Penny has a really cute dog and cat, plus tons of friendly horses! I never really got the horse obsession that some little girls have, but after hearing all of Penny’s stories now I want to learn to ride! Hopefully someday…

I’m inserting a slideshow of some of the MANY horse pictures I took!

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-A

A look ahead…

Things I’m looking forward to seeing/doing:

1. My fam!

2. My new dog!!!!!!!!!!

3. Talking new dog on walks!

4. Cooking and baking in my own kitchen, with measuring instruments I understand.

5. New summer job! Making money and feeling productive.

6. Running, biking, actually doing exercise for the sake of exercise.

7. Summer books.

8. Getting back into Words With Friends scrabble games.

9. Beaches!

10. Not having to French people complain about politics.

11. Legit breakfast. Pancakes and drip coffee.

12. Peanut butter.

13. Driving with the windows rolled down.

14. American pop music on the radio (American pop is on the radio here, but it’s a few months en retard)

15. My fam!

-A