So, You’re About to Go to College…

So, You’re About to Go to College…

Dear Prospective and Admitted Students,

Imagine it’s your first day of the fall semester. You’re a college student! Butterflies are flash-mobbing in your stomach, your brain has accidentally wiped all your memory files, and your heart is doing that drum solo from the scene in Disney’s Tarzan with all the apes crashing the camp. (You know, the one where Rosie O’Donnell sings and Tantor plays an old-fashioned record player like a trumpet?)

Maybe you’ve been preparing for this day all your life or maybe you packed your suitcase a hour before you hopped in the car on your way here.

But with all the admitted students and prospies running around on campus last month, I thought it only appropriate to share a little sophomore wisdom—that is, wisdom derived from trial by fire.  If I may humbly suppose so, here is my advice on what to bring when you are first arriving on campus:

1.) Health kit. There’s no way to avoid being sick your first semester of school. You’re being flooded with tons of new information—maybe you’re trying a new sport, maybe you’ve messed up your sleep schedule. Whatever the reason, you’re going to get stressed and tired at some point. And that’s when it will happen. When you least want or need or expect it, that’s when disease will strike. So, while most college packing websites will tell you to bring an emergency aid kit, I also suggest bringing an urgency aid kit. This should have a thermometer, Tylenol or Motrin, vitamins, tissues, cough drops, tea (if you like tea) and those Emergen-C packets. (I know, they taste terrible, but you can’t afford to turn down 1000mg of Vitamin C) Even if by some miracle, you survive your first semester without sickness, you’ll get a return on your investment by the spring.

2.) Notebooks and folders. Buy them. Ahead of time. It can be one notebook with five subjects or maybe you like different notebooks for each class. Whatever you do, do it before you come. When you get here, you are going to be hit over the head with information and meetings. Even if you have a car, you won’t have time for a grocery run. And even though you won’t know how many classes you’re going to take when you first arrive, you can always use your extra notebooks later.

3.) Candy. Sweet, sour, chewy, crunchy, salty—whatever your preference. There are just gonna be days when you need the comfort of a Rolo or a peanut butter cup or and Oreo. (Can you tell that my go-to is chocolate?) But, I would only suggest one bag. It’s important to have it on hand, but you don’t want to go into some sort of sugar coma.

4.) Just as important are healthy snacks—trail mix, crackers, fruit. Once you get situated, you’ll know what you need and when and how to get it. But the first two weeks can be rough when you’re trying to get your bearings. Having some healthy, protein-rich food at your finger tips is a must.

5.) A water bottle is also a must. You’ll see almost everyone on campus carrying one. You’d be surprised at how often you don’t stop for water when you’re trying to get settled. Water bottles not only remind you to drink but give you access to water wherever you go.

6.) Now this is not a must have, but, if you have an item that you’re choosing for your dorm room, and you’re wondering whether to go with speakers or a TV, choose neither and opt for a printer. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just something that can copy and print and that can connect to your lap top or computer via Ethernet cable. So much time on campus is wasted by everyone I know running back and forth between computer labs trying to print things. You only have access to printers in Dana, Pleasants, and the Library. All the other printers are for staff use only, and all of the printers available to you are across campus from your dorm. Having a printer relieves tons of stress, and if you’re not an English major, you probably only need to buy ink once.

Throwback Thursday—Roman Adventure #1: The Curious Case of the Caravaggios

Throwback Thursday—Roman Adventure #1: The Curious Case of the Caravaggios

What I’m about to tell you is a completely true story. Really.

The gray sky drizzles, splashing the cobblestone streets and making soft plunking noises on my umbrella. I am in the heart of Rome’s centro historico, trudging along in muddy boots and trying my very best to make sense of impossible-to-find street signs. My art history teacher has given us a very specific assignment: locate the three churches in Rome housing Caravaggios and assess just how easily a team of thieves could steal them.

As my luck would have it, the first two churches are closed to visitors due to special events, so I shiver, soggy and searching, lost somewhere along Via Ripetta, holding out hope of finding the last church and completing at least part of my assignment.

By some miracle, I arrive at La Chiesa di San Francis, the final church, only to find that it too is closed for vague and unspecified reasons. I fume, and my angsty, angry inner Hemingway marches for answers over to a nearby member of the Carabineri, a division of the Italian Police force specifically charged with protecting antiquities. I strut over to the guard, plant a hand firmly on my hip and whisper, “Lei parla inglese?” so quietly that he asks me to speak up twice before he answers in the negative. What followed is a broken conversation in which we both exhaust our knowledge of the other’s mother tongue. Finally, after lots of gesturing and pointing and broken phrases on my part, I gather that I am being told to wait outside the church for twenty minutes. I shrug. I don’t have class for another two hours, and I’m already here. I can waste another twenty minutes, I think. I pop in my earbuds and stand on the steps of the church, watching the hoards of tourists, officers, and clergymen pass by.

In no time at all, I learn that I’m not the only one frustrated and surprised by the church’s closure. Tourists from all countries walk up to the doors, push on them (the doors had no exterior handles, probably for security purposes), and leave unsuccessful. One group, however, seems just as determined and clueless as I am: a small band of British backpackers huddle around the doors, knocking, whispering, consulting with one another. They make a once around of the church, searching for other doors, but there aren’t any open. I know because I’ve looked too.

As I watch them walk away, I catch sight of a pilgrim, a French priest by the looks of it, black frock, collar, and all, circling the church. He stops and stares at the facade for a while, just soaking in the large evergreen doors, the blue and red heraldic crest in the arch above, the smiling cherub hugging a door column, a decorative chipped carving of a dragon. I follow his gaze and stare at the emblem.

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It’s cut out of white chalky stone and shooting flames from its mouth like arrows. Unharmed, it sits in a bed of fire and straw and hay. I reach my hand out and trace the fading scales etched into its back and tail, memorizing the tiny grooves and lifts. Above its head is a crown, floating silently, waiting. The beast is encircled by a Latin inscription, which I can just make out. Erit christianorum lumen in igne: The light of the christians will be in fire. And I wonder if that means that Christianity will blaze bright as dragon fire or as brutally as a dragon. Rain drips over the roof’s ledge and I watch the drops fall against the background of the gray sky, blink as they wet my face and eyes. “Chocolate” by The 1975 is running through my earbuds, and, despite the day’s problems, I feel peaceful

Suddenly, I’m aware of someone’s eyes on me and I realize that the priest is staring at me instead of the church. His face is hard, maybe even wary, but I recognize curiosity in his eyes. I, knowing even less French than Italian, just give him a quick nod and a smile. He stiffens and sniffs and returns to the church doors, looking for the way in. Finally, like the Brits before him, he peers around the church’s sides, looks back at me and my sagging umbrella, and then makes his own once around of the place.

By this time, my twenty minutes are well up. The rain has lessened to a drip, and I close my umbrella, preparing for the trip home. Just as I surrender, the English tourists, backpacks in tow, reappear. To the right of the church is a door with a buzzer that I had assumed belonged to one of the embassies next door. The French pilgrim, back from his once around, also appears behind them. I hear a small mechanical tone, a beep, and the private doors unlock and open.

At this moment, I come to a grand realization: I am an idiot. The church was probably open the entire time; they must have just closed the doors to keep the rain out of the building. I dash down the steps and follow them into a courtyard, where we are greeted by a stern French man in a dark blue suit. He calls out in deeply accented French to a little English priest in a frock, who takes the British tourists into the apse to dry off and retire their umbrellas. The Man in Blue gives me a once over and asks the French priest something. They both look at me, and the priest nods and answers in the affirmative. The Man in Blue frowns, huffs, and gestures that I follow him inside where it is warm.

I drop my umbrella in the bucket and hasten to follow the other tourists into—an absolutely empty church. This thing is closed. The lights are off, the security is down, and the only company we keep is with the candles.

That’s when I realize I have somehow managed to join a private tour group. I am about to turn myself in to the Man in Blue when the British priest starts talking about the Caravaggio paintings. What would be the harm, I think, if I just wait until he finishes his tour? He leads us to a staircase that looks like something from a claustrophobic’s nightmare: a clay and stone spiral set of stairs barely as wide as my shoulders. Up we go, the backpackers clunking their bags against the walls, the priest narrating info on the cloister’s architecture. When we reach the top and exit onto a balcony, I am gasping for clean air—until the frescoes seven feet from my head take my breath away for good.

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The woman next to me whips out her phone, snaps a picture, and starts setting a new background for her home page. I take out my phone to do the same when I hear a loud rustle of paper behind me. I turn and am met with a piece of sheet music which the British priest holds in outstretched hands. The tourists unzip their backpacks and pull out violins and pitch pipes. I have my second revelation for the day: I wasn’t on some special viewing balcony. I had sneaked into a closed church with an imported English choir!

I look down at the sheet music. This was not going to end well if people were expecting me to sing. With a fluttering heart, I crack and explain my honest confusion and my pursuit of the Caravaggio’s. The entire balcony explodes in laughter, and the British conductor directs me to the staircase and points out the chapel I need to visit. I make my way through gold plated arches under the watch of weeping Madonnas and laughing cherubim. As I explore, the choir begins their song, the lights slowly glow, and for a glorious twenty minutes, the echoes and incense, the melody and canvas are all for me.

After snapping my pictures and taking my notes, I pass through the main hall on my way to the exit. There, in one of the back rows, is the French priest, the one who looked at the carved dragon with me. His hands are clasped tightly in front of him, his head bowed. Quickly, quietly, he looks up at me and our eyes meet. He doesn’t say anything, he barely even moves, but, I think I see him nod his head ever so slightly. He returns to his prayer, and the whole movement could have been a trick of the candle light.

Regardless, I smile at him and walk toward the exit. Waiting for me is the Man in Blue, arms tightly crossed against his chest. I pick up my umbrella and head for the door. He follows me all the way to the exit.

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Take Back the Rock

Take Back the Rock

I don’t want to sound like a creep stalker, people, but I have a confession to make: I love walking around Moody when everyone’s eating—catching snippets of debates on Austin’s work or slices of geeked-out confessions about the latest episode of “Sword Art.” There’s nothing cooler that debating over Star Wars canon and table hopping for opinions on Hamilton. But lately I’ve been involved in some table conversations about the not-so-silent elephant in the room: the Rock Incident.

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And why wouldn’t there be discussion and outrage? Our beloved symbol of Hollins, our traditions, our community, our general zaniness, was marred, insulted, defaced. The Rock is our landmark, something that is intrinsically connected to who we all are as a campus—which is what made Sunday’s Take Back the Rock campaign and Monday’s Love Not Hate chalk-a-thon all the more inspiring and impressive.

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I’m so proud of our campus’s immediate and take-no-prisoners attitude to this whole tragedy. I’m inspired by the amount of students who are present and active on campus, ready and willing to come up with innovative and cool ideas to solve problems out in the world and within our Hollins bubble. We’re awesome, guys.

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That being said, I desperately wish the Rock Incident wasn’t the event reminding us of that.

The Tale of Rosemary Harris

The Tale of Rosemary Harris

Spring has most definitely arrived, and, along with beautiful blossoms and budding leaflets, spring has also brought some great acts and festivals to the Hollins campus.

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Back at the beginning of the month, we were very lucky to host a concert by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, who performed an intimate concert completely acapella at Dupont Chapel. The acoustics in the church were incredible, the harmonies exquisite, and the arrangements chilling.

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In addition to musical performances, Hollins also celebrated the Lex Allen Literary Festival, bringing us the writing talents of Ricardo Pau-Llosa, Meghan Daum, and Tom Drury, who provided us with brilliant stories of West Coast eccentricities and 80’s movies-inspired existential crises.

We were also blessed with a visit and talk by actress Rosemary Harris. While you might know her best as Aunt Mae from the Tobey Maguire Spiderman trilogy (remember that time before Marvel started rebooting their comic book characters every two years?), did you know that she was also a famous Shakespearean actress, performing alongside theatrical legends Peter O’Toole, Derek Jacobi, and Sir Lawrence Olivier? This woman could and did tell some stories–everything from being thrown out of Katherine Hepburn’s parlor to losing her wig on stage in Jacobi’s armor.

My favorite part of her presentation, however, came at the very beginning, before Mrs. Harris had even begun speaking. Ernie Zulia, our theatre director, brought in a TV so that we could watch a recorded performance of Harris from forty years ago as a means of introducing us to her skills. I, the lone English major in a room full of talented theatre people, was lucky enough to nab a seat next to a theatre professor and co-teacher of my Shakespeare class, who could explain staging and parts of Harris’ history in terms I could understand: Macbeth jokes.

About halfway through the video, he nudged me and directed my attention away from the screen and instead toward Harris. A quiet and slight figure, she sat totally engrossed in the play and, almost unaware of it herself, began to mouth each of her lines with perfect fluidity. An old retired Broadway star, played by famous actress Eva Le Gallienne, who passed away in the early nineties, died on screen. As her body is discovered, slumped over in a chair, a script at her feet, tears ran down the sides of Rosemary Harris’ cheeks, both onscreen—and as she sat in her chair a few feet away from me. I stared, unable to look away. Her lips whispered words like a chant, an ancient spell; water continued to drip down her cheeks but, as if in a trance, she couldn’t pry her eyes away from the screen.

Something about that moment made my chest forget how to pump air into my lungs. Maybe it was because I couldn’t imagine having something so ingrained in my mind that I could remember it over forty years later. Maybe it was because it felt like watching ghosts, the ghost of Harris; the ghost of her friend; the ghost of her husband, who was acting alongside her at the time and died a few years after Eva did. Maybe it was simply reflex, an instinctive reaction to hearing her cue for tears. But, whatever the cause, the moment felt too personal, too intimate for a stranger to look upon. Whatever the reason, I started tearing up too.

When Prospies Attack…

Batten Weekend is over! It came and went like the warm weather here: all too quickly. For one weekend only, the campus is filled with prospective students, interviewing for scholarships, participating in workshops, and investigating different programs via Q&A panels. There are also a lot of fancy dinners and luncheons.

Like many other students, I was asked to sit on a panel and discuss Hollins’ traditions, the creative writing program, our study abroad opportunities, and our internships. And every year, it’s always great to hear from parents and meet the women who will be coming to campus in the fall. #Classof2020!

There’s one question, however, that I always have trouble answering at these kind of events, and it always gets asked –  sometimes it comes from a moderator on a panel, sometimes from a parent, and, other times, from prospective students themselves: why did I choose Hollins?

I’ll talk about the easy access to study abroad, praise Hollins’ extensive alumnae network and internship programs – maybe I’ll even talk about the Batten Leadership Institute. But, no matter what quantifiable evidence I manage to give, I always come back to trying to describe the intangible, that feeling on campus, the fact that I’m an individual, not a number; the fact that I know my voice can make a difference, not because of the smaller size of the school, but because people are willing to listen; the fact that there is a very real, very permanent sense of sisterhood, infecting the dorms, the dining hall, the senate. It’s an atmosphere that is dynamic, comforting, and yet challenging. I can’t think of a better place to grow. And that’s why I chose Hollins.

Now if only I could manage to say that on a panel…

Thus Begins the Semester-Long Adventure

Thus Begins the Semester-Long Adventure

Our first month of the spring semester is flying by, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve visited the registrar’s office more times than you can count, you like to pretend you’re not harassing your advisors, and you’re slightly concerned that your current course load is killing you softly with its not-so-silent song.

So many cool things happen on campus during the month of February. This year, we hosted the Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl during which our campus was flooded with philosophy, communications, and business majors from private colleges across Virginia. This year, Hampden-Sydney took the trophy, but I’m sure Hollins will steal it back from them next year.IMG_9121

Last week, we got snowed in. Ice and a foot and a half of white powder made walking to Moody for dinner a hazardous and time-consuming operation, especially for the coordinationally challenged and snow intolerant like myself. I am not one to slip and tell, but I will say that there was an incident with an ice patch and a hill that went rather unfortunate for me on one of my walks around the loop. But, if you’re not slipping on pavers, sledding down Tinker beach, building a snowman on the soccer field, binge-watching Netflix with hot chocolate, singing “Frozen”at the top of your lungs on the hill behind the library, or dead to the world with sleep, you are not living the Hollins snowed-in lifestyle.

But the month’s not over yet. Stay tuned! There are more adventures to come, especially as the prospies take over campus.

J-Term, Snow, and a Whole Lot of Post-its

J-Term, Snow, and a Whole Lot of Post-its

Can you believe it? J-Term is practically over! This month flew by so fast. Pretty soon, we’ll all return from our studies abroad in Rome or Japan, our nation-wide internships, and back home to Hollins. As I’ve heard it, large piles of snow have fallen from the sky and splattered on the ground, threatening to drown our campus in white. This Floridian’s sending up a prayer that it all thaws before I return to campus and it never snows EVER AGAIN.

I have been told that my cause is hopeless. But a girl can dream, right?

The Snow

In Chapel Hill, NC, we received the slushy leftovers from the blizzard that hit DC and New York. I don’t think we had more than three or four inches of white mush, but most people lost power or were stuck inside anyway. Just another reminder that the South is in no way equipped to handle the bitter frost of the North.

What am I doing in North Carolina, you ask? I am interning with the lovely folks at UNC Press, and before you start thinking about all the cliche office disasters that I might be prone to, let it be known that I only broke the printer once, and I refuse to talk about the sticky note incident.

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The University of North Carolina Press is an academic publishing house that specializes in creating the books that our professors will inevitably ask us to buy at the beginning of every semester. Most of my work involves emailing authors; scanning book reviews for quotes to post on amazon; and mailing out blads, ARCs, and comped copies for editors. On the weekends, I bundle up in my many layers, brave the cold, and explore Chapel Hill’s historic downtown.Downtown Chapel Hill

Whilst here, I’ve been supported by an amazing group of alumnae: Joanna Ruth Marsland, who set up my internship at the press; the sister of an alum, Virginia Guilfolie, who has graciously welcomed me into her home for the month; the co-founder and acquisitions editor of Algonquin books, Shannon Ravenel, who sat down for a chat about the publishing world; and even Wyndham Robertson, who not only shares her name with our library, but also became the first female assistant managing editor at Fortune magazine back in 1981.

I have been so blessed by the generosity, kindness, and humility of these fantastic women. I look forward to returning to the institution that gave them the tools to brave the world and conquer it. My blessings for everyone’s safe travels back to campus! Here’s looking towards the Spring!