Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why I want to learn Arabic

I wrote this essay for a scholarship application to Middlebury College’s Arabic Language School. The prompt was to write about the role of language in conflict resolution.
            I believe that one of the most pressing issues in America is an increasing sense of insecurity. I am not referring to the size and potency of our military forces, but the deepening sentiment that our self-identity as “the greatest country in the world” is somehow threatened by the economic and social agendas of other nations. Patriotism is becoming synonymous with ethnocentricity, and leading to the rejection of other cultures.           
The economic hardships and cultural prejudices that have dominated the post-9/11 era have created a dam in the flow of foreign policy. We engage in and threaten war in the regions that supply us with fuel, and yet withhold some of the basic structural and political support that would bolster our image as a true champion of freedom.
            Through my increasing interest in the Middle East in the past few years, I have become more aware of what I believe are the flaws in our international relations. I see a lack of appreciation for cultural diversity and pre-emptive judgment of others. American children are spoon-fed information about terrorists, but not about the localized populations who live under their regimes. I believe that if our media and foreign policy focused on these communities rather than the aggressive extremists who commandeer the political strata, Americans would begin to understand that military intervention is not our only superpower. Overzealous build-up of the Department of Defense does not make our country more secure. I think that a bullet is a cheap fix and a short-term solution, and the person on its receiving end usually has a son who will replace him with vengeance.
            Learning Arabic, for me, would be an opportunity to become a mediator toward long-term solutions. Our defense system is backward, and I believe that the most cost effective investment in the Middle East and Africa is to identify the societal discontents that terrorist organizations feed off of. The first step toward gaining trust and preparing for peace is to demonstrate genuine egalitarianism through language. Embracing cultural differences is the most American act possible, and in order to identify a mutual goal of peace, it is essential that each side be able to communicate and feel understood.
            Because my college doesn’t offer Arabic, I have tried to take advantage of other opportunities to learn more about the Middle East. I have been roused by speakers like Shabana Basij-Rasikh, an Afghan graduate of Middlebury who spoke at my college last year, and by stories from Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky. As the media tells horror stories about the abuse of women and the rates of violence, I try to understand the perpetuating factors of that cycle. I have learned that educating a generation can change the future of a country, and I believe that Americans have a great opportunity to learn here as well.
            Through Saint Michael’s Conversation Partner volunteer program I met Nora, a student from Saudi Arabia in the intensive English program. She has since become one of my closest friends, and because of our relationship I have learned more than any class could teach me. Nora’s desire to learn has inspired me to take this step in my own education. I want to retaliate to conflict with empathy rather than ethnocentricity, and learning Arabic will help me become a bridge of diplomacy. America needs a renewed foreign policy strategy that will emphasize its appreciation of cultural differences, its goal of mutual amity, and its continuing and unbending stance on freedom for those most oppressed and underrepresented. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

North Campus

Some people may not know this, but Saint Michael's owns several buildings on Fort Ethan Allen, about a mile up Rt. 15 from main campus. There are three residence halls and four apartment buildings, as well as the art rooms, a dining hall, the faculty daycare, and some maintenance buildings. There is a shuttle that runs 7:45 to midnight (2am on the weekends) every half hour between north and main. North campus is something that you can't really explain unless you've lived here, and some people on main give it a bad rap.   A common excuse for not wanting to live on  north is "I don't want my life to run around a bus." What people don't realize is that the bus is one of the best parts of living here.We have three full time drivers, Jim, Gary, and Zvovko who are all so nice. Jim makes it a point to learn every student's name so that when you get off and on the bus in the morning you hear "Good morning Amy! Have a good day Amy!" I've never felt like the shuttle was inconvenient, and when the weather was warmer I would often ride my bike to main. The school also just helped fund a new road which runs away from Rt. 15 and comes out near the back of the townhouses, which will make the ride even shorter.

I live in the smallest building on north, Linnehan (above). We have about 50 students and I know all of them, many from last year. Part of the building was opened up for honors housing, and we have a great mix of people. The girls on my floor are especially amazing- we do things like organize a "cup drop" in the hallway where we leave compliments to each other, or put paper up in the bathrooms to leave silly notes.  We also organized a sponsorship through Women for Women International, so every month we raise $30 from the floor to send to our sister in Iraq.

Some of the ladies of Linnehan in our pink onezies purchased for $2 from the Salvation Army<3

Linnehan is as far as you can physically live from main, and we love it that way. The rooms on north are larger and have massive windows. All the halls on north have kitchens, and next week we are hosting a Linnehan "family dinner" before Thanksgiving break. They are the most considerate girls and everyone respects our living space. The janitors have complimented us on being one of the best groups ever in this building. It really does feel like a big family sometimes- a community within the St. Mike's community. The people on main don't know what they are missing.

Some of the residents of Linnehan at our recent Halloween Party (I'm the one leaning on the column in the white dress in the center, to the right of Peter Pan).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What it's like

I try to blog about things that are relevant to Saint Michael's and also give a personal sense of what it's really like to be a student here. So this is what it's like, for me, right now.

I'm currently in the middle of a family emergency at home that has dominated all my thoughts. I live three hours from home and it really has been the ideal distance. I always said, "I want to be far enough that I don't have to come home, but I can go home if I need to." Right now, I need to be home, at least for a few days. I received some bad news last Thursday (and more on Sunday) and have felt torn all week. It's almost like being two people; I have my amazing Saint Michael's support system, and then my Milford family. I don't really want to get into details here, but I can speak to the outreach available on campus. 

  I love my friends so much. I live next door to my two best friends (and have a best-guy friend downstairs) and I know that they are always there. I've had friends offer to drive and fly me home, and I know I can go to them any time of day or night. I was so lucky this year also to get a roommate for the first time. There's something about having someone in the room while you sleep that helps you hold it together. She has been so understanding and I really appreciate her company.

  I'm very close with my professors, especially my advisors for my English and Religion majors. They are always there with doors open, ready to listen. When I nearly crumbled my poetry workshop on Tuesday, my adorable Irish professor was completely understanding. My work-study boss in the library has also been incredible. She's more than just my supervisor, she's one of my biggest sources of support. This weekend she is even meeting my mom half-way to get me back to school for classes next week. I don't know how to thank her.
  In addition to these people, I also spoke to the assistant dean this week, who made sure that all my professors knew why I would be missing class. She was a discreet and supportive resource.

Residence Life
  Last weekend two members of the Residence Life staff stopped by my room to introduce themselves and make sure I was doing all right. I also spoke with my resident advisor who has been so wonderful and involved with the girls on my floor. We do nice things for each other, like an anonymous compliment 'Cup Drop.'

Walk-In Counseling
  I have been never been to the Walk-In Counseling, which is available a few nights a week, mainly because I have so many other sources of support. We have several on-campus counselors available at specific sessions, in addition to services available through the switchboard 24 hours a day. There are many support services available in the Klein building. Here is a link to the personal counseling page.

Campus Ministry
   The Edmundites on campus have a definite presence, with offices in Alliot and a residence hall near the Hoehl Welcome Center. I have done community service with one of them and we constantly cross paths. Last year at a very difficult time I found it very comforting just to go to the empty chapel and sit quietly for an hour; it's a peaceful place.

The copious resources available to us on campus have really helped me out. Situations like this are not something you plan for when choosing a college. As much as I may feel like no one can understand what I'm going through, it's nice knowing I have such a tightly woven safety net beneath me.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hometown Love

College is the most wonderful place in the world,
but don't forget the people who got you here.

Thanks to all my friends, professors, and employers 
who are getting me through this week.

Sending love to my hometown,
I'll be there soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oh, I'm going to miss this

This is what Lyons 316 looked like on August 26th last year.

Onto bigger and better things! Linnehan219<3

Want to feel smarter?

Or nicer, or more tolerant, or just a better person all-around?
Or, do you just want to have another excuse to ridicule Michele Bachmann?
If you answered yes to any of the above,
check out this link from my blog, Warring with Trolls.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tips to Stay Healthy

Hey Baby Knights!

  So I know you're in planning overload stage, but I wanted to write about something that's kind of hard to plan for, but usually preventable. One of the worst things about being at college is being sick at college and missing your mom and your couch more than anything. This year I managed to stay abnormally healthy, but I watched a few friends suffer through the flu, strep, stomach bugs, and colds. Being sick away from home is never fun, but what's even worse is paying for classes that you have to miss. Plus tissues are expensive. The main point is to avoid getting sick, so here are some tips to stay healthy:

1. The most important thing to maintain a healthy immune system is GET SOME SLEEP. I had a major issue adjusting to the college sleep schedule (mainly because I decided it was more productive to clean and get ahead on homework instead of sleeping... maybe I'll blog about this later) and trust me, if you're not sleeping you will feel like absolute POOH.

2. Keep a pump-bottle of hand sanitizer near your door to use whenever you come home. Keeping the germs out is important. You can also bring a travel size for Alliot, or use the sanitizer-stands provided near the door.

3. CLEAN YOUR ROOM. Pick up laundry, throw away trash, do your dishes. Letting trash and grime build up on your surfaces is nasty, visually and bacterially (yes this is a word. I'm an English major and I can make them up).

4. The Res-Life staff might yell at me for this one, but... open your windows every once and a while. Dorm rooms can get really stuffy, and circulating fresh air is important. You need to be careful about this in the winter, because if you leave your windows open, the PIPES WILL FREEZE (it happened last winter and did major damage in Founders).  Last year I tried to open my window a little for an hour or so while I was in the room to make sure it didn't get too cold. If you're worried about forgetting to shut your window, leave the door open and angle your fan so that it will blow in fresh air in from the hall.

5. VITAMINS! As a vegetarian, I'm a big fan of my vitamins. I take Vitamin C, Calcium with Vitamin D, and Iron (I can't take a multivitamin because they make me sick). Taking your Vitamin C is important, even if you drink orange juice because most of that stuff in Alliot is from concentrate and mainly water.

6. Speaking of Alliot, eating healthy is SO important. I'm really bad about remembering my veggies, even as a vegetarian, so it's good to make a rule for yourself like "eat one salad a day at lunch or dinner" or "grab a banana in the morning to eat during class" (I follow both). Before I went to college, I NEVER ate a banana- the texture grossed me out- but now I eat them almost every day. My friend Derek would also want me to add here that eating yogurts with ACTIVE LIVE CULTURES is really good as well, something like Stoneyfield, or a greek yogurt (YUM).

7. Wash your hands! The dorm bathrooms DO NOT provide soap, but most RAs will collect money to buy a community soap bottle. We do have alcohol sanitizer, but don't settle for that. Keep on your RA's butt about replacing it, or bring your own- the huge refill bottles at Walmart are really cheap. Some RAs will also provide a hand towel, but I recommend avoiding this. Usually I brought my own towel to the bathroom or waited until I went back in my room.

8. Don't be a make-out monster. Yes, kissing is lovely, but do you know how many mouths that mouth has been on this week? Oral hygiene is an entire blog post in itself, but the basics are: Take care of cold sores, use a good lip balm for chapped lips, BRUSH YOUR TEETH, and don't kiss everything with a tongue. On a similar note, DON'T SHARE CUPS, BOTTLES, FLASKS, CANS, GLASSES, OR STRAWS. Do I need to say more? Please refer to Health Services for more questions, located in the basement of Alumni.

9. Change your sheets, especially your pillowcases, regularly. Beds can get really nasty, especially when they also serve as couch for your friends. Getting sleep is important, but so is having a germ-free bed.

10. Finally, some basic supplies to keep around: I recommend a can of LYSOL (spray everything down when you move in, before you start setting up), a household surface CLEANER like Windex (I used mine to clean my mirror as well as wiping down my desk and bureau), and an air-disinfecting spray. As far as medical supplies, in addition to vitamins and hand sanitizer, I kept a bottle of Aleve or Ibuprofen. I also have friends who swear by Emergen-C. Another really important item is SHOWER SHOES. Last year I remember hearing that a bunch of girls had gotten some kind of un-mentionable fungi and... ugh, just wear shower shoes, okay?

  I hope this helped remind you of anything you may have forgotten! Maintaining sanitary habits means that you are less likely to miss class, and make your mom cry because she can't take care of you.