Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Open Letter to the Class of 2019

To the SMCVT Class of 2019,

I've thought long and hard about what to say for this final post.

(For those of you who have followed me for the past 4 years, and perhaps discussed my blog with me at some point, you'll know that I wasn't sure if this day would come. After much deliberation, I have decided to close down "Lauren Likes Saint Mike's." Someday, possibly soon if I feel up to it, I may blog on some other forum, in which case I'll make note of it here. But I think I've outgrown this blog, for reasons you'll figure out as you read on.)

This post is coming to you over two weeks after graduation. I've needed time to think about it, especially because as I watched all my Facebook friends land jobs, get engaged, and generally move on with their lives while I sat around stuck in a sort of incredulous haze wondering how I actually got to this point, I suddenly lost the confidence that I had the authority to advise you on how to spend your next four years.

After two weeks of constant "What do I do with my hands?" moments, I realized that exactly what's making me feel a little self-conscious right now is in fact what gives me the position to say this--it's not authority. It's relatability, at a time when the people on both sides of this letter are in need of assurance.

Class of 2019, I am here to tell you that just like the majority of you, I do not know what I want to do with my life.

I struggled with this, and to a certain extent still do. As anyone would. I thought that this made me ill-prepared to graduate, and part of me was afraid for the coming of that day.

But it came. And when it did, I reported to Alliot, where a seat was waiting with my name on it in order to line up alphabetically for the procession. I was surprised to see that an envelope was waiting for me on the chair, with my name scribbled on it in pencil.

I opened it to find a brief, yet very important note. It was the letter I had written to myself during one of my first days at Saint Mike’s, in orientation.

It listed five things I wanted to accomplish during my four years, most of which I managed to do (how it is that I lived in Vermont four years and still never went skiing, I will probably never understand).

After the list, I wrote some notes to myself.

In big, bold letters: “TRUST SAINT MIKE’S.”

And the very last thing my wise 18-year-old self wrote: “Trust yourself.”

For those of you who may not know, Saint Mike's has gone through just as many transformations over the past four years as I have personally. They range widely from new bathrooms in the first-year dorms and my (unfortunate) bangs phase to an entirely new student center and my stint as a freelance journalist in Morocco.

Just as the exteriors changed, the faces changed, too. I had gone to Morocco during my Spring 2014 semester, meaning I didn't get to say any official congratulations or goodbyes to the people in the Class of 2014 who I had gotten to know so well. I didn't realize how hard that would hit me until I got back, of course. When I returned to Saint Mike's in the fall, I recognized almost no one, other than my friends in the Class of 2015.

Though I did meet a few of these new faces, I mostly kept to my now much smaller group of friends who were there before I left. At this point, I was totally consumed by my senior seminar documentary project. I was also working an internship, and trying my best to look outward and seriously consider what I wanted with my future.

Blame it on senioritis, or reverse culture-shock. Blame it on whatever you want. All I know is that at some point during my senior year, I stopped feeling like I belonged at Saint Michael's College. Although I had plenty of moments of rejuvenation--especially while giving tours and being able to remind myself what I loved about this place at least once a week--I was suddenly a stranger in a strange land.

Everyone has a Saint Mike's Story. How they got here, what they did, the experiences that made Saint Mike's another home to them. During the last months of my senior year, though I was scared to leave, I also felt as if I was trying to continue writing a story that should've already ended.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because you need to know, Class of 2019, that Saint Mike's is no longer mine. It's yours.

I think the straw that broke the camel's back was when we found out that the rumors circulating around Bergeron, otherwise known as Home of the MJD Majors Zombies, were true. The place that I grew up in over the past four years was being re-purposed.

There were good reasons for this change, mostly because it was going to give a much-needed update to our health services. However, most people in the department were against this decision. Bergeron wasn't the best space for us as it was, but we were making do and happy enough that we had our own place equipped with two multimedia labs. We were all very skeptical that the new plan that someone (not our department) had come up with, which was to relocate us (the third largest major) into the same hallway in Jeanmarie as the business majors (the first largest major), was going to work. 

Needless to say, I was glad to be graduating when I was, as I had serious concerns. 

Now back to graduation day. That letter to myself. The phrase written in big, bold letters.


I realized that my trust had faltered, knowing that Bergeron will not live to see another class of MJD majors. 

RIP Bergeron/Berg/70's Rest Stop/Pizza Hut/That place next to the tennis courts/Zombieland/and most recently, Ber_eron.

That's not to say that the incoming MJD majors need worry. If any of you are reading this right now, you should know that despite my opinions, I am still 100% certain you will receive the best education possible. That's because it doesn't matter where you learn on this campus, what matters is that you're here. And here, you have the best faculty and staff possible. Not only because they come from all walks of life, and they're all incredibly accomplished in their fields, but also because they care about you. They don't know you yet, but they will. They will know your name and face, and they will welcome you into their classes, their offices, and their lives. They will dedicate all of their time and energy to you. The professors in the MJD department are brilliant and resourceful people, and they will give you what you need. Jeanmarie will become the home to you that Bergeron was to me, because your professors (and classmates, by the way) will make it that way. Just as Bergeron was an integral part of my Saint Mike's Story, Jeanmarie will be a huge part of yours.

But the reason why recognizing where my trust lies now is so important because I know where my trust has shifted. It's because of the last line I wrote to myself four years ago.

Trust yourself.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2019, remember this: if, one day during your senior year, you begin believing that you don't need Saint Mike's anymore, then Saint Mike's has done you right.

And more importantly, you've done it right.

Yeah, you heard me.

If I'm being honest, my main reason for my vehement disapproval of moving MJD out of Bergeron was due to my fear of change and apprehensions about life after Saint Mike's. Saying goodbye to Bergeron was the beginning in a long string of goodbyes, the symbolic way of showing that my time here is over.

It's no longer mine. It's yours.

Right now, as you graduate high school and head into the Great Unknown, you need Saint Mike's. You need it the same way I did. And you need to TRUST SAINT MIKE'S.

And one day, four years from now, you will be glad you did. You will trust the education you received. Therefore, as you move on into the Greater Unknown, you will have something limitless, something that you'll carry with you.

You'll trust yourself.  

You need this, because like I said at the beginning, many of you--in fact, I bet most of you--will not know what you want to do with your lives. Graduation will come, and when it does, most of you will have changed your plans (I'm talking to you, kids who are certain they're going to grad school after this).

Just as you trusted Saint Mike's, you'll need to graduate trusting that you'll be okay, no matter what life throws at you. You'll know that it's perfectly fine not to have all of the answers. In fact, you might thrive off of not knowing in the end. Because once you decide you know nothing, you'll stop limiting yourself. The world will open up to you.

Saint Mike's is the first step. You've made a great decision, to be here. Take advantage of every opportunity that this amazing place offers you. Follow your instincts, not the path that you have imagined for yourself right now (some people are lucky enough to have their instincts match their imagined path; if so, you're much more figured out than I ever will be, kudos, and disregard this message). Consider the advice you receive from professors, friends, parents and mentors, but at the end of the day, follow your heart. 

I took me two years at Saint Mike's until I truly began trusting my instincts. Most of you know that story--it's what took me to Morocco. For two years, I trusted Saint Mike's whole-heartedly to get me to that point. In the time leading up to and during my semester abroad, I trusted Saint Mike's as the crutch that held me up when I was uncertain. On my graduation day, I trusted that the diploma being handed to me came with experiences that I could've only gotten at Saint Mike's. And now, I trust that that diploma is a considerably small step in everything that I'm going to achieve.

Make the most of these four years. Make them count. TRUST SAINT MIKE'S. Trust yourself.

Congratulations, Class of 2019. Saint Mike's is yours. 

In May 2019, you'll hand it down to the next lucky bunch. But for now, do what us Purple Knights do best: create your own Saint Mike's Story.

Dad and I goofing off on graduation day. I'll always be grateful for the day forever ago when he suggested I look at just one more school on the way home from a long weekend of college tours in Vermont (hint: it was Saint Mike's).

Best wishes of luck and love to you all. As my MJD friends like to say, "Keep calm and Berger-On."

- Lauren Kopchik

(PS: If you want to contact me about anything Saint Mike's related or my post-grad/alumni experience, please send an email to laurenkopchik@gmail.com as I won't be checking my SMCVT one as often. I may be heading off into the Greater Unknown, but I'd still love to talk about SMC with you!) 

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Do's and Don't's of Alliot Hall

I'll admit, my visits to Alliot--our older student center here at Saint Mike's where the main dining hall is located--have been very scarce lately. I tend to only stop in when I don't have time to cook for myself, and even then I'm normally in a rush so I grab something to eat on the go. I did have a sit-down meal for Thanksgiving dinner, an event I would never miss. But otherwise, I've enjoyed having a quiet, late-night dinner at my house, normally with one of my roommates.

Don't get me wrong, the food in Alliot is pretty great and it's always nice to run into friends or say hello to the friendly staff. But after the end of your second or third year, you'll probably appreciate having the option to not eat cafeteria-style every day as much as I do. And if you'd rather not cook for yourself, you can still keep your unlimited meal plan. Plenty of my friends use theirs daily, and they love the convenience Alliot offers as well as the well-balanced meals they can choose from.

Either way, it's good to know that Alliot etiquette is something to take note of. A recent visit reminded me that it's important to remember that this is a shared space, one that students respect and maintain as a way of making meals delightful for everyone.

Here's a few things to keep in mind:

1.) DO pronounce it Alli-OH. Silent T. We're French here, folks.
DON'T say Alli-oT. Everyone will know you're a noob.

2.) DO refer to the dining hall as Alliot.
DON'T call it the "Green Mountain Dining Room." Ever. Yes, that is its formal name. No, nobody actually uses it. If you do...again, noob.

3.) DO have your Knightcard ready for Rosemary to swipe at the front desk.
DON'T wait until you get to the desk to go fishing through your bag, pockets, etc. trying to find it. Nobody likes to wait in line behind someone who's unprepared when they're hungry.
DON'T wear your Knightcard on a lanyard around your neck...trust me, just don't.

4.) DO get to know Rosemary well. Ask her how her day is going or what she recommends on the menu. Believe me, she's a cool lady and being friends with her has its perks (can anyone say, free coffee? Swiper no swiping!)
DON'T make Rosemary angry. Ever.

5.) DO bring in your laptop, books, notebooks, etc. ONLY when it's not busy. Wanna grab a snack while you work on that paper? No problem, as long as it's off peak hours (like 3-4, when it's too late for lunch but too early for dinner) and you sit in a corner space where you're not taking up a ton of table room.
DON'T expect to work on homework during dinnertime. It's too loud, crowded, and distracting. Leave your laptop in your backpack and place it in a cubby or the coat-check area, or drop it off at your dorm between class and dinner.

6.) DO make solid plans for what time to meet your friends for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and make sure you all show up together.
DON'T expect to be able to find them or get a seat near them if you don't make those plans.

Because on Thanksgiving, you want to be able to chow down in front of people you're not self-conscious with.

7.) DO wait patiently in line at the stir-fry station or the grill.
DON'T cut the line or yell at the servers if they got your order wrong. Come on guys, we're adults here.

8.) DO feel free to mix and match at each station. Wanna grab a burger, but also try the quinoa salad at the vegan station? There's no judging here. Go for it!
DON'T cross-contaminate food. There's a reason why the peanut butter is at a separate station than the jelly. Use the utensils provided for each food, and be conscious of what it touches on your plate.

9.) DO use the bagel tongs. And the cookie tongs. Please, just, if there are tongs, use them.
DON'T pick something up with your hands, look at it, and put it back.

10.) DO participate in a cup-drop IF and ONLY IF you have an empty cup available to you.
DO pick the cup back up after dropping it.
DON'T throw your cup.
DON'T drop your cup if there is liquid inside of it.
DON'T start a cup-drop just because. Cup-drops happen after one person accidentally DROPS a CUP.
DON'T drop (or throw) anything else on purpose, including but not limited to: utensils, food, people.

11.) DO let a worker know if the creemee machine is broken.
DON'T break the creemee machine and then walk away.

12.) DO invite others to sit with you, if you're feeling in the spirit.
DON'T keep asking if they said no once already.
DON'T feel offended if they say no--chances are it's a good reason, like they're waiting for someone, in a rush, working on something, or maybe they just want some alone time. They know the offer stands and they're surely grateful for it, but they also don't owe you their presence--or an explanation.

13.) DO clean up your spot when you're finished eating.
DON'T leave a mess. Come on. Not cool.

14.) DO scrape any unwanted food from your plate into the compost bin, and place your dishes neatly on the conveyor belt.
DON'T throw something that's not biodegradable in the compost. It is not a trash can. One thing that many people don't know can't be composted--the string to your teabag. Detach it from the bag and leave it on your plate. It'll be taken care of when it goes through the conveyor.

15.) DO take as much food as you want. After all, you're paying for it and it's buffet-style for a reason.
DON'T waste food. If you're still hungry for more you can always go back up for seconds (or thirds...we're all guilty of it).

16.) DO talk to our amazing staff at Alliot about your food restrictions or allergies.
DON'T suffer in silence. Please don't do that.

17.) DO be considerate of Alliot's hours of operation. (7:15 am-8:00 pm on weekdays)
DON'T expect to have a huge selection for dinner if you walk in at 7:50.

18.) DO ask the Alliot staff about the bag lunch option if you're in class or on the run all day.
DON'T go all day without eating because you think you're too busy to stop in Alliot.

19.) DO take advantage of our other dining hall, Knights at the Round Table (but please, call it Sloane--it's in Sloane Hall), the restaurant-style option on North Campus. It's included in the meal plan.
DO call and make reservations before you go.
DON'T forget to check the Sloane menu, which changes every two weeks!

20.) DO make requests/give compliments on the comment cards in Alliot and Sloane. They're there for you and your voice counts!
DON'T forget to thank the awesome staff--DON'T let their hard work go unnoticed!

Well friends, bon apetit!