School Grief in the Time of the Coronavirus

While on a charter bus with fifty other College of Wooster students, I received an email from Sarah Bolton, president of the College of Wooster, saying that the College, under advisement of the governor of Ohio, would be switching to online classes due to the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio. Complete pandemonium ensued on the bus, and our band director sent us a text message saying to “keep calm.” We were on our way to Richmond for our fourth band concert of a six day tour. It was March 10.

We performed that night, and then prior to our departure to Alexandria, VA the next morning, we were told that the College had decided to cancel the rest of our tour and we would be turning back to Wooster. 

On March 12, another email was sent by Sarah Bolton, detailing the College’s response to the coronavirus. Not only would online classes commence, so too were all students expected to move out of the dorms. Normal, in-person classes were not expected to resume until at least April 6. We had to vacate our rooms and bring all school-related materials with us by Thursday, March 19.

I understand the steps the College has taken. In fact, I think they are doing the best they can and even better than some institutions I have been reading about in this difficult situation. There was a meeting for students and administrators that I wrote an article about, and I’m going to quote from my article to you can see why I think this is the right thing for the College to be doing:

“‘The moment you need to act, it will seem ridiculous to do so,’ Bolton stated. ‘But] by the time more people start to become ill, it is too late to take those actions. That’s why governor is doing things that seem drastic.’”

While I can logically accept all the steps the College is taking and the guidance the governor has been issuing, I am still extremely upset. Actually, if I’m being honest, I can’t really coherently sum up what I am feeling right now. 

First, the extreme uncertainty is hard to deal with. Some schools, such as the University of Michigan, have transitioned to online classes for the rest of the semester, and commencement is canceled. 

I can’t help but think that the same thing will happen to Wooster. Already some senior year traditions have been canceled—though the school has promised they will try to make it up to us. For instance, to celebrate the turning in of our senior thesis, due the first day after spring break, there is a day called I.S. Monday. No senior attends their classes, and instead we celebrate all day. I was looking forward to going to brunch with my friends instead of attending my classes and then attending the school-wide parade that would have taken place that afternoon.

A few weeks after I.S. Monday is I.S. Symposium, in which all classes are canceled and seniors present on their research. I was planning on doing a reading from the novella I wrote and talking about my writing process. My parents are coming to town for the event. 

Other traditions include the ceremonial stealing of the Wooster brick, and of course, commencement. While I do not know if these events will be canceled, the unknown is hard to deal with. I don’t know if this is the last time I will see my friends in a school setting. I don’t know if I will get to perform in my last band concert. I don’t know if I will wear a kilt again. Maybe I’m being too negative, but these are the thoughts swirling through my head. 

My friend Sarah invited myself and another friend of ours, Neva, to come home with her. She lives about a three hour drive away from Wooster, near Ann Arbor, MI. So that’s my current plan.  I want to be close-ish to Wooster so if anything changes I can collect my belongings and pack up my room. Or if we do in fact go back to normal, I can go back to school with relative ease. 

There is virtual meeting on Monday, March 16 with Wooster administration in which we are expected to get more information. In the meantime, I am happy to be with my friends during this period, and I’m extremely thankful for Sarah and her family for hosting me. 

Before I sign off, I would like to say that I’ve been extremely uplifted by the self-care tips that people have been sharing in order to cope. 

For instance, you can watch live cams from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Thanks Laura for sharing that. 

NPR created a Spotify playlist of calm songs called the Isle of Calm. 

There are virtual museum tours that you can take advantage of. 

Hang in there, everyone.

Classes

When I signed up for classes months before arriving here, I was told to pick eight or so courses and I would then be assigned a sixty credit schedule (twenty credits per class).  I picked all of the creative writing classes offered, all of the Scottish history classes, and all of the Scottish literature classes. I figured that whoever was going to make my schedule would get the idea. I was placed into two Scottish literature courses and one Scottish history course, so I decided that once I got here I would try to change out of one of the history courses and into a literature course. 

My first full day of being in Scotland, when I went wandering around campus, I eventually found the visiting students office, where I asked a lot of questions such as registering for the local health system. But one thing that I also did was ask to switch out of one of the history classes, and I was switched into Scottish Literature. Now I had a great schedule! It looked like this:

The History of Edinburgh, Scottish Literature 2, and Creative Writing 2: Prose.

My first day of school was January 14, which feels like approximately forever ago. That Monday, my first class was Scottish Literature. It took place in a huge lecture hall with at least 300 students. I felt very overwhelmed by the entire thing, as the largest class I’ve ever had at Wooster was with maybe fifty students for an intro geology course. Furthermore, the lecturer had neither a Scottish nor an English accent, and I later discovered she was Russian. I don’t know why I was so put out by that. This culminated in a lecture on a critic and writer who I had never heard of, with barely an introduction to the course. I couldn’t tell if my liberal arts education with small classes and professors who know exactly who you are was coming to haunt me or if I genuinely had no idea what was going on, but the only thing I knew for certain was when she said something important I could hear the clacking of keyboards so I made sure to write it down. 

I spent the last fifteen minutes of the lecture in a highly anxious state because I had a ten minute walk to my next class, which was set to start ten minutes after the first lecture had concluded. I had practiced the walk before but I could not focus my mind on a random critic I had never heard of when confronted with the sprint from one unknown building to the next. The lecture ended (late of course) and I did a very fast walk/run, making it just in time to the History of Edinburgh. 

I felt so much more comfortable there as the lecturer first introduced herself, then the class, and then welcomed all of the visiting international students who were there just for the semester. I am very excited about this class because it is exactly what the title implies, and what better place am I to be taking this class? Also, I love the setup. We hear from a single lecturer at most three times. The Medievalist historian comes in during the medieval times, and the the archeologist for the prehistory, etc. 

After the end of the lecture, I had a meeting with my personal tutor, who is like our advisor and assigned for the duration of the semester. Her name is Dr. Gunderloch from the Celtic Studies Department. I told her that I wanted to switch out of Scottish Literature, and she advised me to go to the visiting students office in order to make the change. She also advised that I take Celtic Literature. So I went from that meeting straight to the visiting students office and signed up for an appointment for the next day.

I honestly can’t remember anything else from that day because so much had happened in one day alone. And yet I feel very content as a fully functioning independent adult human in a different country figuring things out for myself. I’m in a new environment and I am thriving. 

I woke up the day to an email from somebody in Scottish literature saying she had enjoyed the first tutorial and reminding us the all tutorials were mandatory. My stomach dropped. 

Tutorials are new to me because every class at Wooster is like a tutorial — a small session where everyone is expected to have read the material and participate in discussion. However, everyone at the visiting student office and at the orientation meeting told us that tutorials started week two, so I had ignored all mentions of a tutorial on my time table. That is why I was very confused and upset about the email as I had managed to miss a class that I knew nothing about. That just about sealed the deal for me, so I skipped my second Scottish Literature lecture in favor of dropping the class. I made an entire list of classes that looked interesting and less overwhelming because I was worried about availability, but that turned out not to be a problem, so I was able to join a class called “Songs, Swords, Rebels and Revivals: Modern Celtic Literature in Translation.” 

It turns out that not only had my personal tutor recommended that I take that class, she is also one of two professors teaching it. Furthermore, it is much more manageable in my eyes as there are about twenty five students total in the class. Maybe I’m backwards for coming to a giant university and finding small classes that are out of the norm here, but I feel like I have things more under control now. Also, Celtic Lit is so far fascinating. It is divided into two lectures and two tutorials a week, with the first lecture and tutorial focusing on the Irish see of Celtic Lit and the second on the Scottish side. I am feeling very Scotland focused and quite happy with that decision. 

My last class is Creative Writing. This class only meets once a week for the two hours and there are only ten students (again a great comfort to me with my Wooster experience). I love it so far as it matches my other experiences with creative writing classes. We read stories every week and dissect them as well as write exercises in class. Our first assignment was to acquire a notebook to carry around to write random bits of inspiration. My favorite thing I have written down so far is “questionable hauntings.” 

And I will stop there. I have other things to talk about so stay tuned for news about Harry Potter, ballet, and other adventures. 

What Is Happiness?

 

Today my French professor is dressed up as a medieval French soldier and in the middle of our French class the rest of the professors in the department came running in all dressed up as soldiers and they had a sword fight in the middle of the class. And then another guy dressed up as the Pope came in and then they all fake killed him. And then we went back to learning about adjectives.

I love college. That is all.

Okay, so the real reason I am writing this post is because it is because I was thinking today about how happy I am and have been these past two months, especially in comparison with last year. And then today in one of my classes during a discussion about the book we are reading (The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson, just in case you were curious) we ended up debating the concept of happiness. What is happiness?

One girl said that she thought the simple asking of the question implied that one wasn’t happy. I said that I would argue in favor of the opposite, because in the time right before the class I had just been recently thinking to myself about how happy I am. A guy brought up the point that feelings such as depression are very valid, and one can be depressed and still have happy days where they laugh and smile. And then another girl brought up the point that there is a difference between happiness and contentment.

Last year I was not happy. Or rather, in the context of my class discussion today, I was not content. It took me a while to realize that, and really by the time I did, I was within my last month of my stay in Brazil, and I felt like it was kind of too late to make a decision to go home, or take any other drastic measures along those lines. And then when I got home I spent the first month being really mad about how my exchange in Brazil had turned out.

Now I have been in school for about two months, and I’ve been home for four. (Only four! It seems like it was so long ago.) I can think back about my year abroad without being so emotionally attached that I’m completely irrational, though to say that I’m completely subjective is not the case at all. Let’s just say that I don’t think about Brazil and want to go around complaining and throttling members of the organization anymore. I do have a lot of thoughts about it though.

A day where I was very happy. Chiara and I went to a soccer game because we needed something to do.
A day where I was very happy. Chiara and I went to a soccer game because we needed something to do.

Like for the fact that I was generally discontent didn’t mean that I didn’t have times where I was overwhelmingly happy. Like the times I hung out with my friends and the trips I went on and the family I gained. I am very proud of the things I achieved while in Brazil, such as becoming conversationally fluent in Portuguese and learning more about the bus system than most of the Brazilians I hung out with regularly and the huge amount of confidence that I gained. I do not regret going there because of the things I ultimately gained. But I’m not sure I would say that I was content while there.

We made structures out of marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti last Thursday.
We made structures out of marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti last Thursday.

But the basic idea is that I am happier now. I am content. I LOVE college. I am taking great classes that make me think and I don’t feel trapped in an apartment and I am making friends and my social group isn’t only compiled of five people that I talk to regularly. I can leave the dorm without being scared that something might happen to me and I have something to do every day, and there are always things that are going on if I don’t have anything planned. I am not bored. There are also the other things about me understanding the language without having to think really hard and I enjoy American food and I can go to the grocery store and know that I will most likely find the ingredients I came for. Let’s just say every so often I look around and say, wow, here are all of the things I missed while I was gone.

Happy Halloween!

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I’m Baaaack!

happy fall
happy fall

Today I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off of my phone because those are the two most distracting things in my life at the moment. Sit down to do homework, open Facebook, get up an hour later having done no homework. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time I gave the real world a try.

So what have I been up to? Biggest life change: going to college. The questions I am routinely asked: Where are you going to school? How did you choose said school? How do you like said school? What are you majoring in? What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Question 1: The College of Wooster.

Question 2: I read a book plus I listened to my super knowledgeable and all around awesome uncle.

Question 3: I love said school.

Question 4: If I had to answer this question today, I would say I’m majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. If you had asked me yesterday I would have said that I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in English. If you had asked me the day before that, I would have said I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in Early Year Education. This is the most annoying and yet most persistent question I get asked. Also so many people outside of Wooster think I’m crazy for going to school without having my life figured out. Guess what? I don’t have my life figured out. Whatever. I’m not supposed to. I’m not concerned about it. This is not the thing that keeps me up at night.

Question 5: Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHAHA. Why are you asking me that question; can you hear how annoying you are sounding? (Incidentally, for the rest of my life, I plan on living. How I will live, now, that’s the real question.)

What does keep me up at night? Whether I have tomorrow’s reading done. Global warming and climate change and the environment in general. The United States political system and this year’s presidential election, as well as big business and lobbyists and whether they serve a democratic function to the government or not. (Talk to my parents — I was yelling at my books during fall break and they told me I shouldn’t do anymore homework with them present.)

I hope you enjoyed this short post! I’ll try to keep up with the blogging world on a more consistent basis.

I’m Going to College… Eventually

wooster20logo_422926704So I told you that I would update you guys on where I decided to go to College.

So here’s the story. I applied to seven smallish liberal arts schools. And then I had a freak out because I had this irrational thought (that’s my new favorite word because I’ve been using it a lot in my AP Psychology class) that I wouldn’t get into any of those schools so I applied on a whim to CSU-Pueblo which is a really easy school to get into because they have even lower standards than Colorado State University and I didn’t have to write an essay or fill out the Common App for them.

And then I got into six of the seven liberal arts schools (one of them weight-listed me) and also got into CSU-Pueblo. So basically eight for eight. It sounds like I am bragging and I am because I’m super proud of myself.

My cousin Katherine goes to Macalester College and I spent a few nights on her dorm room floor and loved it but they gave me exactly no money, so while Mac was super high on my list of schools to choose from, that decided it in itself because every other school gave me a lot of money.

And then I visited the College of Wooster to audition for a music scholarship and fell in love. Because it was Audition Weekend, Wooster went all out in order to make us feel like Wooster was the right choice. And, I tell you, it worked. They had this thing where after our auditions were over they gave us dinner and we sat with different people in the music department at Wooster. Like students, faculty, etc. I sat next to a fourth you in a button down tweed shirt and a bow tie and round glasses. Like Harry Potter glasses. I kid you not. And he was a member of the Wooster Quidditch Team and lives in the Quidditch house. So I was all like, sign me up right now.wooster-cricket-2jpg-2161873298eccf58

After the dinner, we divided into different groups depending on our instrument. The band instrument kids got to go participate in a band rehearsal, the orchestral instrument kids did the same thing, you get the idea. I sat next to the first chair clarinet and had a ton of fun because the music was awesome and they were just having a good time. At one point, the first chair (one of the only music majors in the group) told me to play his solos with him, so I said okay, and then when his solos came around he stopped playing. His solos became my solos. It was scary as heck, but also amazing. Wooster also has a marching band (they wear kilts and are led by bagpipes!!)

The next day, my mom and cousin and I went on an actual tour group of the campus. It basically just sold me more.

But I didn’t want to make a decision yet because I still had two other schools to visit: Trinity University and Knox College. At this point Trinity, Knox, and Wooster were my top three schools.

My mom and I visited Trinity together. I liked it. I didn’t love it. My dad and I visited Knox together on Admitted Student Day. I knew almost twenty minutes into the visit that I would be attending the College of Wooster.

I had no idea how much the “vibe” factored into my decision until I just knew and couldn’t really nail down a concrete reason of why.

A part of it was definitely the music. I knew that I wanted to be able to play in a band without necessarily being a music major which helped me narrow it down. Knox has a kick butt symphony and not a concert band. They have a good jazz band though. Me and my dad and a few other kids had a meeting with the jazz professor so we could ask her questions about my chances of getting into the symphony. However, at this point, I had already decided that I would be going to Wooster, so I almost had zero interest in going to listen to the professor. But I hadn’t told my dad yet since I wanted to hear his opinions before I did anything.

And then I got super low and kind of lost myself in the low blood sugar haziness that we all love and hate so I ate some smarties while I heard that it would be essentially impossible to be a part of the symphony.

At the end of the meeting, my dad asked me if he should go grill the professor about my chances of getting into the symphony, and that’s when I told him that I had already made my choice.

So, for the record, I will be attending the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio for the Class of 2020! I have deferred admission so I don’t have to reapply next year.13363192

Love you lots!

The Nature of Chords

IMG_7647I graduated yesterday! Yay! It seriously was awesome and exciting.

I’m mainly writing this blog post to talk about the fixation humans have on outshining each other, and shoving our achievements in each other’s faces. I didn’t realize I fixated I myself was until I realized how much I was comparing my achievements to those of the other graduates.

At my school, any person who has a 4.0 unweighted GPA and has taken a certain number of AP classes is eligible to be a valedictorian. So, unlike other schools, we have a ton of valedictorians, compared to the single valedictorian at most schools. My high school had eighteen valedictorians. During the graduation ceremony, each valedictorian is honored by receiving a medal and having their plans for the future announced.

So they have a medal. Good for them.

Furthermore, there is a class called Socratic Seminar at my school. All students that take Socratic Seminar and have an unweighted GPA of 3.75 or higher attain the accolade of being a Distinguished Scholar and this achievement is marked by their wearing of a black stole at graduation.

As for chords, there are four chords that a scholar might receive. A black chord marks a weighted GPA of 3.5 to 3.74. A blue and white chord marks a weighted GPA or 3.75 to 4.0. A gold chord represents a recipient of a Faculty Award, and a white chord represents a recipient of a Department Award.IMG_7565

I was very proud and honored to wear a white chord and a blue and white chord.

Here’s the catch: I spent a lot of my senior year stressing over my GPA, wondering if it was worth taking a class to become Distinguished Scholar just to get the black stole, hoping I would get honored on Senior Awards night, etc.

Yesterday during the graduation ceremony, there were kids who I think are lovely people and enormously smart who had one or no chords, and there were kids who played it safe or were teachers’ pets who had three chords and a stole. And then I decided that while I was very happy to have two chords, I also have great respect for those who lack chords.

So I guess my point is, that we as humans spend a ton of time looking at ourselves and others for our flaws. But in the long run, it doesn’t really matter. Chords at graduation simply are a way for humans to find another way to feel better about ourselves.

I took Socratic Seminar this past semester, and I tried my hardest to get out of the class because I thought that everyone was going to look at me differently because I wasn’t going to be Distinguished Scholar even with the class. I failed, but I eventually decided that I was “beating the system” because I was taking the class and bettering myself, rather than taking the class just to get the stole, like almost everyone else did. While the reason I took the class in the first place was to get the stole, I like to think that I have expanded my horizons.

Furthermore, I am beyond proud of myself for what I have accomplished over these past few years. I was a part of one of three groups that were selected to perform musical selections at my graduation ceremony. I am going to Brazil next year for a youth exchange program. I am attending an awesome college the year after. I have won a ton of academic awards. I got a huge band award. I could keep going on, but I will stop. The short story is that I am proud of what I have accomplished and I am happy with where my life is going.IMG_7605

 

 

Back To School

Me and my bro and sis. Good times. I'm gonna miss them when I go to college!
Me and my bro and sis. Good times. I’m gonna miss them when I go to college!

So guys, I’m battling Senior Slump even though I haven’t even applied to college yet. It’s bad. Well, I’m actually doing all of my work on time (except for this really stupid thing for an online thing that I had a deadline for that I even went to my teacher for help – and then forgot to finish. Sad day.)

Senior year! I’m pretty excited about that – I’m so happy to be able to escape all of the mean girls and preppy gossip queens that I’ve been stuck with for the last few years. I only have until May! I realize that there will be mean girls in every place that I go, but at college it seems more likely to be able to escape them.

Side note: I have yet to get my senior pictures done. That’s been bugging me.

And I’m actually working on college applications. For like my first two years and maybe a little more of high school I would run away screaming whenever anybody brought up the subject of college, but now it’s actually here and I can hold down a conversation about what I’m thinking about doing in the future. At least I have something to say to people when they say, “Oh you’re a junior/senior – what are your plans for college?” That question used to make me so mad.

I hate how everybody seems to have a concrete idea of what they are doing already even though they are only sixteen and seventeen! My goodness.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering: My plans (extremely tentative as they are) are to apply to several schools (I don’t want to go in state but I’m going to apply to a few as a contingency plan) and then I plan to defer admission for a year. I want to take a gap year to figure out more of where my interests lie because I seem to change everyday in terms of what I want to major in. During the gap year, I am thinking of either enlisting in AmeriCorps for eleven months or just working and maybe doing an internship and save some money before I head off to college. Although college is definitely in the books eventually.

Well, tata for now! I hope all of you who are stressing about this will take some deep breaths with me. We are all in this together!

Of Prom and Pumps

Hi guys! Long time no see, err, write! So guess what! I finally finished AP exams, and I really only have two classes to worry about right now, except that I’m not worried because those classes are fine. It’s chemistry and Algebra II. Chemistry can be tricky, but I’m doing fine. But that’s really not what I want to talk about tonight (see title).

Prom was on Saturday! It was really cool to be able to go, because as I’m sure pretty much everyone knows, it’s like the iconic high school dance. But the whole question with prom was: How does managing diabetes fit in?

DSC05230I got a dress that is had some artful wrinkles so my pump would be hidden under my dress. I think I succceeded. My dad said you could only tell that it was there if you looked for it. I also wore shorts underneath my dress so I had something to clip my pump onto.

My group went to P.F. Chang’s for dinner. My plan was to go to the bathroom whenever I needed to bolus (because it’s pretty awkward to hike your floor-length gown up to your waist for any reason, no matter how good it is), and it worked because I didn’t have one high blood sugar. I’m actually pretty proud of that. Also, everyone knew what I was doing when I went to the bathroom, so everything worked out pretty nicely. Oh, and story! There was this three or four year old kid who was sitting at a table that was next to ours, and he kept on staring at us. We noticed but didn’t really say anything. But then his mom and him came up to us, and the mom told us that the little kid thought that we were princesses and to tell him that we were. So I told him, “Yes, we’re princesses, and these are the princes, and we’re going to the ball.” The kid’s face was priceless. His mouth was wide open and he stared at us in complete surprise and shock. He totally believed it, and his parents had to drag him away. He was so cute! He kept coming back to observe the “princesses.” It was awesome.

I did get low during prom, but they had a bar so instead of having the smarties that I brought, I got a Sprite. Haven’t had one of those in a while. Shame that I didn’t really get to enjoy it. DSC05241

And After Prom was a ton of fun too – my boyfriend and I basically just played Texas Hold’em the whole night and got Henna tattoos and ate smoothies and pizza. It turns out that it’s a thing to dress down for After Prom (like sweats and t-shirts dressed down) which Conner (my boyfriend) and I were unaware of, but we went home first and changed so we didn’t stick out. Good thing, too.

Well, that’s prom for your! I can’t wait until next year because it was a ton of fun! If you went to your prom, tell me your stories and how you managed diabetes with it! Either comment or email me.

Lots of love and talk to you soon!

Claire Montgomery

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