Dead Week.

Since coming to Alma College, I’ve discovered something.

I am one of the only people that calls the last week of classes Dead Week.

Now, I’m not a native of Michigan. I’m from the corn state of Indiana where most of my high school friends went off to Purdue and Indiana University. I was mocked my senior year for choosing to go to Alma, and I was even laughed at when I spilled hydrochloric acid on my Alma shirt in my AP Chemistry class. (The worst part about that ordeal, besides the holes in my precious Alma shirt, was the fact that my dad was my teacher.)

Many of the big universities, especially the ones like IU and Purdue, call the last week of classes Dead Week. I guess I kind of adopted it.

That means that this week is… drum roll please… Dead Week.

Dead Week always has that kind of dark glamour to it. Everybody is super excited because, hey, it’s the last week of classes! After that, it’s just exam week! And once your exams are done, you can go home for Christmas! Which for me means going to Florida with my parents, where my mother hinted that we might go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I will probably die of happiness at the gates.

But Dead Week just isn’t a happy yay last week of classes! gig. It’s also that moment of “Oh crap. I have to study for all of my exams and turn in all of my projects and get everything done and live in the library and Highland Java isn’t nearly open enough, not that they’d have enough coffee anyway.”

Last year I made a list of what Dead Week and Exam Week look like at Alma College.

1. Grab all of the books and notes you own.
2. Spend an hour trying to find a place to camp out in the library, buy something with caffeine from Highland Java, and praise the extended hours.
3. Spend a ridiculous amount of time on Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube, or whatever you’re into.
4. Actually do your homework when you realize it’s midnight and the library closes at two.

Sound about accurate? I thought so.

Last year I started a Dead Week tradition that could probably only happen at Alma College.

I started carrying my eighteen year old vintage stuffed Simba around with me everywhere I went.

This is Simba at my carrel, which I like to call The Procrastination Station.

Simba goes with me everywhere during Dead Week. He has his own pocket in my backpack where his head sticks out so people can pet him. I take him out during class and set him on my lap where I can pet him and hug him. Most of my professors don’t mind that I come in every day with a giant stuffed lion. It’s Dead Week, after all.

Simba’s favorite places on campus are the library where he can sit on my carrel and look over my homework, and Saga, where lots of people come to pet him.

When you have eight billion things to do, you don’t remember what your room looks like because you’re spending so much time in the library, and you forget to eat dinner, it’s nice to have a piece of something you love with you wherever you go. For me, that would be my giant stuffed Simba.

Find something that can make Dead Week and Exam week bearable. It doesn’t have to be carrying a giant stuffed animal around everywhere. In fact, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it; people tend to stare at you and when you find out that your professors haven’t seen The Lion King, you get filled with an unhappy righteous indignation. (Because obviously The Lion King is the best movie ever and every single professor should have seen it by now. I mean, it’s been out for eighteen years.)

It’s Dead Week. There’s a lot to do. There’s a lot going on. You have ALL OF THE PROJECTS! And papers. And exams. But it’s only a week and then it’s exams!

We can do it! Simba agrees.

And if you happen to see Simba at Saga this week, he really does appreciate people petting him. And I also love to meet new people. So come say hello!

Nothing Says Break Like Going Home.

Today at Saga, while dishing up some macaroni and cheese, I couldn’t help but overhear people saying excitedly, “How was your break?!” to their friends and then hugging.

The usual responses were: “Great!” “I ate so much food!” and “My break wasn’t long enough.”

Amen to that third response.

I happened to have a pretty decent Thanksgiving, considering that Thanksgiving is probably my least favorite holiday. Everybody gets excited for that gigantic twenty pound turkey to come out of the oven, and I just become depressed.

Thanksgiving is a difficult food holiday for a vegetarian, and I’m the only vegetarian in my family. Sometimes rolls and potatoes just don’t make a Thanksgiving Day meal special enough when your whole family is eating turkey and your grandmother constantly puts bacon in the green bean casserole.

Thanksgiving break started late for me, as I’m an RA and I didn’t hit the road until five. My brother (Aaron Hollenberg ’13) met up with me in my room, we packed up my fish, put gasoline in the car, and we headed to the homestead in Indiana.

We also drove home with my brother’s newly acquired tarantula. I took a picture of it, but I figured that wouldn’t be a good thing to put on my blog.

Thanksgiving Day consisted of my brother and my parents driving to my aunt and uncle’s new house an hour and a half away, where we would spend the day with them, my two cousins, my cousin-in-law, and my grandpa. We would also be spending the day with their excitable dog Merlin, who my mother and I happen to be highly allergic to. Everyone makes sacrifices for family, including breathing properly.

Due to the awkward vegetarian in the family (me) my uncle decided that he would be making cheese enchiladas for Thanksgiving, as well as turkey for the rest of the omnivores. I was slightly apprehensive when my cheese covered tortilla was full of olives, but it was probably the best Thanksgiving meal I ever had, and nobody bothered to make green bean casserole, with or without bacon. My cousin made homemade rolls, and my grandpa happens to be a master chef of pie, and we had three delicious pies.

Instead of the usual tradition of football, my family has a tradition of playing board games after big family meals. This year we played “Would You Rather?” which involved my parents booty dancing and my brother and I having to decide which would be worse: eating your own finger or breaking our mother’s leg and never being able to tell her why.

After those festivities were over, my mother and I embarked on a great journey to go Black Friday shopping at the mall at midnight. I kept looking for Alma students, but as far as I know, nobody else lives in Fort Wayne Indiana except for my brother and I. My mother and I were terrified to discover that Macy’s had a DJ on a stage that was hovering near the ceiling of the store and that none of our coupons worked. We made it home by one in the morning, severely disgruntled and not very happy with our purchases.

On Friday we put up our Christmas tree, which is nine feet tall and involves using a ladder. My mom smashed a really old Christmas ornament that was given to her in the eighties and we said a small prayer over it before vacuuming it up. We then celebrated the holiday season by watching Batman.

On Saturday I spent an inordinant amount of time watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix instead of working on my English paper, which is the true spirit of break. We then got more into the holiday season by watching Captain America. Nothing says “Christmas Season” like superhero movies. We’re planning on watching the Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man over Christmas break.

Sunday is the worst day of break, where you realize that you need to get up, pack up all of your things that have somewhere dispersed themselves around your house, finish your laundry (I did six loads) and head back to campus. And even as you dread leaving your family, home cooked food, and realize that exams are coming up, you get excited.

Because Alma is your home, and you’re going back to Alma. That’s always a great feeling.

Welcome back from break, everyone. We have three weeks left in the semester, and we can do it!

The Hair Strikes Again.

The men around campus are getting beards.

You all know what this means. It’s time for No Shave November

I’m all too familiar with No Shave November; my brother is a member of Zeta Sigma and often participates until it gets too itchy, and I have quite a lot of friends in PMA that often decide to ditch their razors for thirty days. I also happen to be dating junior Jacob Hammer who probably has the biggest beard on campus. He’s been growing that sucker since June.

As you can see, his beard beard is pretty big. He’s also wearing my shirt.

Many RA  bulletin boards have been dedicated to No Shave November. They sport pictures of large beards and odd mustaches and talk about the history of the beard and facial hair.

But what about us women? I’m obviously not growing a beard in my spare time.

Women have their own version of No Shave November put on by the MacCurdy House. I got an invite for a Facebook event labeled “No Shave November!” and was instantly intrigued. So I talked to Amanda Coe, ’14, about what’s going on with it. She was pretty vocal about the subject of women throwing away their razors.

“I don’t know who all is doing it, but I’m not shaving anything! This event is to bring awareness to the incongruity between men and women’s grooming habits. Men are not perceived as gross or dirtier because they don’t shave their legs and armpit hair, yet women often are. It’s to proclaim that hair isn’t gross.”

On November 30th, the MacCurdy house is having a hair measuring event for all those girls who participated, and whoever has the longest hair gets a free Stucchi’s dinner with the housies.

I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now; I am fully participating in No Shave November for women.

I’m not disgusted by having leg hair. As a freshman I was on the Alma College Swim Team, and if you’re friends with any of the members, you know that their shaving schedule is No Shave September, October, November, a quick shave in December, and then No Shave the rest of December, January, and February. Needless to say, I had some hairy legs my freshman year.

As for my armpits, that was a different story. It took me two days to officially throw away my razor and I can’t really say if I’m happy with this decision to let that grow. Amanda, however, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. “Personally, I don’t like my legs this hairy, but I’m keeping them till the end. I really like my hairy underarms though, I don’t think I want to shave those off at all.”

In terms of the differences between gender in hairiness, men are also encouraged to participate in “Full Shave November”, where they shave their legs and armpits daily and experience the hairless lives of women. Men, I’m telling you, it’s not bad.

And women, I’m also telling you that having hairy legs and armpits aren’t bad either.

No Shave November is a chance for men to grow out their beards, for women to experience life without shaving, and possibly for men to experience life with shaving.

It’s not too late to hop on the hair train!

It’s National Novel Writing Month.

For me, October is that crazy month.

You know what I’m talking about. Midterms. The promise of fall break in the future but it never quite gets there. Everybody’s joining sororities and fraternities and your professor is treating their class like it’s the only class that you have when you obviously have three others.

This year, November knocked on my door and said, “Oh hey there, Emily! I’m replacing October as your busiest month this year. Good luck with your Renaissance paper about Beowulf!”

I’ve been actively avoiding my planner. I took a look at it yesterday and I just about peed my pants. Holy college life, Batman, I have tests and papers and other activities and RA things and job interviews all within the next two weeks!

Typical Alma student. I wasn’t perturbed.

But then I decided that I was going to try this new way to sell my soul to being obsessively busy.

NaNoWrimo.

As many of you probably don’t know, November is national writing month. Which means that NaNoWrimo stands for… well… National Novel Writing Month. Or maybe the No part stands for November. Or maybe No One Can Actually Accomplish NaNoWriMo.

In a nutshell, NaNoWriMo is where you write a 50,000 word novel in a month, starting on November 1st and ending at midnight on November 30th. You go to nanowrimo.org, make yourself a little account, and you’re on your way. I made my account yesterday morning, put my small author biography as “my life consists of cereal and awkward moments”, titled my novel, and feverishly began to write.

I need to average 1,666 words per day to get to the 50,000 benchmark by the elusive November 30th. My Beowulf paper is due that day. I also have a big Active Minds gig. And four classes.

My first instinct when I realized what a large feat this was was to cheat. I have a 107,000 word novel gathering dust in a folder on my laptop, why not feed chapters of it into the NaNoWriMo website and drastically beat the odds? Well, friends, that would be cheating, and I don’t recommend it.

I started from scratch. Last night I feverishly cranked out 5,013 words of my brand new novel by midnight. I updated my word count, where the website told me that at this rate, I could finish on November 9th. (I obviously can’t, Spider-Man comes out on DVD that day. I have big plans.) After I updated my word count, I sat alone in my room and ate most of a birthday cake with a spoon and thought about crying. I then tweeted about the birthday cake episode and put it on tumblr.

So here lies the big question: why on earth am I doing this to myself? Torture? To see exactly how busy Alma College students can be? I’m not sure I’ve answered why I’m doing this, but Katelyn Gentner, ’14, obviously knows why she’s doing the same crazy thing I am. I asked her why she’s decided to devote the month of November to cranking out a 50,000 word novel.

“Nanowrimo is an opportunity to jump-start my career as an author. I’ve babied ideas for years now but never had the gumption to sit down and write any of them. By taking part in this, I’m joining a support group of other writers who can help me when I falter and offer ideas and suggestions when I need them.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. She’s not entirely worried about other commitments, too, which is something I could definitely work on. When talking about the time commitment to writing a novel in a month, she says, “I’m really worried that towards the end of the month I will have to stop in order to keep up with my classwork and clubs, but as of right now I feel like proper time management is giving me the time. As research paper deadlines approach, though, I may have to take a few days off to make sure that my classes do not suffer because of this.”

On Saturday night, I went to a NaNoWriMo Write-In hosted by See Spot Run. We were supposed to be in the Rotunda, but with all of the construction, there wasn’t any power, so we sacked out in the Wright Hall Lobby. Erika Schnepp, ’13, editor in chief of See Spot Run brought food, writing prompts, and contests. There was a ten minute word-off to see who could write the most in ten minutes. I won with 459 words and I got a really cool pin with Yoda on in that says Jedi Master. At the Write-In there were six of us, including me, with our laptops, our earbuds, and our writing pants on. Write-Ins are going to be every Saturday this month at eight pm in the Wright Hall lobby. November 30th is See Spot Run’s Night of Dangerous Writing and a NaNoWriMo sprint to the finish and a celebration if you accomplished your goal.

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NaNoWriMo is calling all writers, literary enthusiasts, and crazy students that believe that they can write a novel in November. I’ve decided I can make it work.

Can you?

It’s the Strange Opportunities.

“Only One Alma” is a phrase that we throw around a lot. And why shouldn’t we? There truly is only one Alma for a number of reasons.

Where else would I get the opportunity to go to England to study medieval theatre this spring? Where else would my brother be able to go to Peru to study Incan civilizations? Where else do you become this close to professors and are presented with this many opportunities?

But sometimes it’s the little things that make Alma only one Alma. Like the banana I saw in line today getting pizza at Food Day. There was also someone in a gorilla suit. I hoped that they met up and ate lunch together.

But yes, there are little things that make Alma Alma, and one of those things at least for me, was that I had class at Walmart today.

There are stories that go, “It was warm today so our professor let us have class outside on the football field! It was so nice!”

My story went, “Today we had class at Walmart and we’d been planning it for about two weeks! And it was creepy.”

I’m a writer. I have to be, I’m an English major and a writing minor. I’m currently in Dr. Vivian’s Fiction Workshop, English 291, and we spend a lot of time looking at people and the stories that they can possess. Do you ever walk in Mac Mall and look at someone and instantly wonder about their life?

Maybe that’s just me.

Our assignment: we had to walk inconspicuously around Walmart and study people. We had to write a five page story about them due on Monday. We had to be discreet. And we needed to buy something small, because the last time Dr. Vivian attempted this, the class aroused suspicion and got thrown out.

This was perfect. I needed a new bottle of children’s Benadryl and some toothpaste. So after a short meeting with Dr. Vivian by the Halloween decorations, we set off alone through Walmart, trying to be discreet and basically stalking people.

I’d like to say that I was inconspicuous and nobody thought that I was a creepy writer wandering around with an Avenger’s backpack, but I probably wasn’t as discreet as I thought. I hoped I would find someone in the toy aisle where I contemplated buying a Spider-Man mask, but it was nearly deserted. I then wandered toward the electronics and all I could find were middle-aged men wandering aimlessly. I picked up some Colgate and moved to the groceries.

There I ran into an older Mennonite couple that seemed very pleased with their loot of fruit and I followed them until the woman asked me if I was looking for something. I then hid in the pharmacy to grab my Benadryl and I found what looked like a hardcore biker dude looking at eye drops. He was very interested in them. When I left the pharmacy, I ran into four people that I knew outside of my fiction class and I literally crouched behind an aisle of craft supplies to listen in on their conversations.

I eventually gave up at trying to be inconspicuous and I bought my toothpaste, my Benadryl, and a box of doughnuts. I then plopped down in front of Subway and I ate my doughnuts, watching people check out.

The most interesting person that I found while munching on my chocolate doughnuts was an older man that was wearing mascara. I’m pretty sure I’m going to write my story about him. While I was munching, a nice old lady sat down next to me, pointed at my backpack and said, “I see you like Spider-Man.”

Yes, my friends, I like Spider-Man.

I also like the opportunity to have class at Walmart. At Alma we don’t have to be defined by our academic buildings. It’s nice to escape the lecture halls and labs of Dow and the classrooms of SAC. It’s nice to meet somewhere strange, somewhere new, whether it’s Peru, England, New Zealand, or Walmart just down the road.

So if someone asks you what only one Alma means, you don’t automatically have to jump to something like, “Well we can take all of these cool spring terms and we can travel and our school is small and we get lots of individual attention from our professors.”

All of that stuff is true, and all of that stuff is wonderful. But there are also little things, like having class at Walmart, or seeing a kid in a banana suit at Saga on Halloween.

Alma: We Define Busy.

Here’s a common question that I’m constantly asked.

“How’s being an RA going?”

I usually respond with something along the lines of, “Oh, sure, it’s going great, I have a great hall and I spend all my time taping things and printing off posters and making sure that people aren’t shooting off flame throwers at three in the morning.”

But, believe it or not, I do other things on this campus than just make sure that nobody is harboring illegal flame throwers. I actually have a life outside of being a resident assistant, and believe it or not, so do other RAs.

Like the typical Alma student, my schedule is so ridiculous that it’s color coded outside of my door and I have a planner that’s larger than my medieval literature Norton Anthology for my British Literature class. Even then, sometimes I remember that I had a meeting an hour ago that I completely forgot to go to because more than likely I was somewhere else.

Last week you may have noticed that there was a large collection of yellow flags outside of the library denoting the 1,100 college students that die by suicide each year. As the Publicity Chair of Active Minds, the mental health advocacy group on campus, I was out at seven in the morning sticking those flags in the ground (and dreaming of coffee and dreading my eight thirty class). I’m also in charge of making Stall Street Journals and I’m the culprit behind the posters that say Take What You Need.

Have you ever stepped in the Chapel for Sunday night worship at eleven? You guessed it, I’m there every Sunday with a nametag that says “Hola, me llamo Emily!” because I like to remember the good old days when I was a Spanish minor. I went through Alma College Christian Leadership last year and hanging out at the Chapel is one of my favorite things to do.

This Thursday I’m about to be inducted into the English Honorary, Sigma Tau Delta. I’m not entirely sure what kind of time commitment that entails, but it’ll look pretty sweet on my resume when I apply to be an English teacher. Plus I get cool cords to wear at graduation. So why not?

And of course, I can’t forget Greek Life. I’m an active member of Gamma Phi Beta and I’m Philanthropy Chair, so I get to plan all of the fun fundraising events like the spaghetti dinner and the pancake breakfast. And just as a heads up, our pancake breakfast is on November 30th, so make sure that you save room for some pancakes cooked by some awesome sisters. That money goes to help young girls go to camp to become strong women, so you’re eating pancakes for a great cause. All Greek Life philanthropies and events go to a great cause, not just ours, so make sure that you peruse the other events too.

When I’m not out and about doing these things and making sure that people don’t have flame throwers, I like to spend time on social media, which only makes sense since I have a student blog. Besides having this blog, I have a personal blog, a very active Twitter account, a generic Facebook, and another blog called a Tumblr that I’m still trying to explain to my mother. I also manage to find time to read Harry Potter, watch Lord of the Rings, and go to zumba in my spare time.

I’m not the only one on campus with a life like this. My other RA friends are involved in anything and everything from Greek Life to FCEE to sports. (I did sports my freshman year. It was an interesting time.) And I guarantee that YOU aren’t only involved in one thing on this campus.

We’re Alma College and we’re proud of our lack of sleep and of the crazy lives of our students. We wouldn’t be Alma without it.

So what’s coming up on campus soon?

  • Song Fest
  • Political Debates and other fun stuff at the Model UN House
  • Various Greek Life events like Derby Days and recruitment events
  • Fall Festival
  • Farmer’s Martket and Healthy Food Day
  • World Kitchen Events
And of course, if I missed something, there’s always posters all over campus.
I’m really curious about the poster that says Elvis is coming to the math symposium.

It’s Okay to Push the Big Red Button.

It’s that time of year. That time of year when signs start cropping up on lawns, when your friends are suddenly more opinionated than you thought, and you can’t watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother without terrible Michigan commercials.

It’s election season.

For me, the Michigan commercials are slightly baffling; I live in Indiana and couldn’t tell you who the governor in Michigan currently is. My father, however, has been emailing me and telling me who’s running for what in Indiana and who I should vote for.

I voted in Indiana on Friday October 19th for the first time. But for those of us who didn’t get the opportunity to vote early over fall break, there’s always absentee ballots.

More than half of Alma’s campus is first time voters. There are movements such as Rock the Vote to help us register and let us know that it’s important that we, as young Americans, push that red button on November 6th. But what’s Alma doing to make sure that we vote?

During Orientation Week there was voting registration going on in the Rotunda. I was planning on going to register for my absentee ballot, but of course, like many Alma students, I had other places to be. I missed this rather important event.

When touring Mitchell Hall looking for a friend to help me with hanging up posters, I came across a bunch of posters that were covered in college student myths. One such myth was “The candidates don’t care about me.”

No, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney probably don’t know your name and probably can’t feel the pain of your genetics fruit fly lab, but they do care about the youth of America and they’d like to you to vote. Professors and some groups on campus would like you to vote, too.

Alma has a Democrats Club, and you can probably guess that where there’s a Democrats club, there’s a Republican’s Club. They even have neat t-shirts, which is always a plus when joining a club. Both clubs are active on and off campus, volunteering in the city of Alma to get students and regular people that actually live in town involved in the election process.

The Model UN house, always a political hotspot, has been serving free food during the debates on television. I wish I had known about that during the last debate because I watched it alone in my room while stuffing my face with popcorn.

There have also been election movies put on in SAC, usually 113, about voting and how you as an Alma College student can be a part of the election process. If you want to catch a movie, find a poster somewhere in SAC; they’re everywhere. And don’t be afraid to talk to a political science professor. The only thing you have to fear is a prolonged political discussion.

If you’re like me and you’re a first time voter, it’s not as scary as it sounds. When I went to vote on Friday on who would lead our great country, I simply showed my driver’s license, signed a few papers, and was taken to a voting machine. There was even a nice lady there to explain all the buttons to me. When I was all finished, I got to click a big red button that lit up and made noise.

If you don’t have a reason to vote, pushing that button should be a reason, because it’s a really cool button.

And trust me, you won’t be the only person on campus involved in politics. If politics is your weird hobby, even if it’s only during election season, you’re not alone. During each debate I sit on Twitter and I watch Alma students following and tweeting about the debate faster than I can type. I guarantee there’s someone on campus who would LOVE to talk politics with you and is just as happy that you’re interested in voting as they are.

There’s a lot you can do on campus to get involved in politics, or to even just find out about politics a little more to form your opinion. The Model UN house has free food and nice people living in it, so that’s always a plus if you find yourself in the small housing area. The Democrat and Republican clubs are always looking for new members and new volunteers to help get the word out, and if you’re a libertarian, you can always talk to Student Congress about starting a club. If we had a Squirrel Club at one point, I’m sure there’s room for Alma College Libertarians.

Alma wants you to get involved and vote. What will you do? And who will you vote for on November 6th?