Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

Hello everyone and happy hump day!  For those of you on spring break, hope you're enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation!  I have been home in New Hampshire since Friday.  While I love being home (both because I like hanging out with my family and because it gives me a chance to take a step back and remember what I love about Saint Mike's), I'm excited to go back this weekend.

While my roommates have all been pretty busy lately (Lauren has her documentary that she's working on with our friend Sheila due April 1, Alex just finished her business plan, and Cait just had to give a presentation on her thesis), last weekend and this past week we found some time to relax in a way that was new for all of us: by painting.

On Saturday (during the weekend before break), Cait, Lauren, and I went out to A.C. Moore and picked out some canvases and paint supplies.  That night, we had a few of our friends come over and paint with us.  I ended up with some abstract art because I'm not the best with actual pictures:



 I've never really thought of myself as an artist (and I still don't really), but painting was surprisingly fun and relaxing.  We all commented on how quiet we were because we were so focused on each of our projects!  Even still, it was great to try something new and have my friends there to enjoy it with me.  Here's Lauren's fantastic elephant:




The day before break started (last Thursday) was Cait's thesis presentation.  Once we were both out of class, we decided we wanted to paint again, so we hopped in the car and picked up some more canvases.  Cait painted the whale tails for her uncle, which are on  the side on the highway (and always a signal for me that I'm close to home!):



I forgot to take a picture of my second project, but I painted this quote I recently found: "Take pride in what you have accomplished and faith in how far you can go." (There seems to be some speculation on who originally said it.)  Regardless, I thought it was quite fitting as I enter the final stretch of my senior year at Saint Mike's (yikes!).

Since we still have a lot of paint left, I definitely see myself picking up some more canvas before the semester is over.  I'm so happy that my roommates encouraged me to do this because it probably wouldn't have crossed my mind otherwise!

Time for me to get back to some homework!  To all the recently accepted students, congratulations!  Looking forward to seeing many of you next weekend at the Open House!

Thanks for reading!
~Merrill

PS I've been listening to a lot of random music lately, but a lot of my listening time has been devoted to the audio version of the book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I really like it so far!

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Beauty of a Liberal Arts School

Happy Friday everyone!  Can't believe another week has already flown by and that next week is spring break.  Even though I have a decent amount of work to do, I'm looking forward to seeing my family and my goat Jack. :)

As I'm sure you know, Saint Mike's is a liberal arts school.  This means that, as part of the curriculum, students are required to take classes in a variety of subject areas outside their major(s).  This is especially helpful for people who come in not knowing what they want to major in - it allows them to explore the many options Saint Mike's has to offer.  I came to Saint Mike's already knowing that I wanted to be a psych major, but because of the liberal arts requirements (LSRs), I decided to add a sociology minor.  Without the option to take Intro to Sociology or the encouragement of my peers, I might not have had the opportunity to even discover what sociology really is, and now I absolutely love it.

Another great thing about taking classes in different subjects is that they have this weird way of relating to each other.  I have found this to be the case during just about every semester I've spent here at SMC.  Here's an example.  You wouldn't think that Psychology of Marriage and Relationships would have anything to do with Demography and Public Health, right?  Wrong.  In my Demography class, we just finished up a unit on mortality.  One of the things we noted was that married men live longer than single men.  In my Marriage and Relationships class (aka the best class ever), when we were discussing gender differences, we talked about how men reap more benefits from being married, including living longer, healthier lives (I'm paraphrasing a bit here).  Interesting, right?  Even if it's just minor details from different classes that connect to each other, it always reminds me that what I'm learning in each of my classes contributes to my overall "collection" of knowledge, rather than just being important in that one class.

Another great thing about Saint Mike's is that I have friends within my major, but many of my closest friends aren't psych majors.  This means that I get to hear about what they're doing in their classes - ones that I might not have the opportunity to take.  All of the students here are extremely passionate about what they're majoring in, which makes listening to them talk about their learning that much more exciting.  Even though I'm sure I'll be able to speak to this more a few years after graduation, I truly feel like I'm getting a well-rounded education here at Saint Mike's, and I couldn't be more thankful.

Here are some pictures of the snowy campus I don't think I've shared with you all yet (and that I have the privilege to see on my walk to class each day):

I was standing right in front of the library when I took this one.
Here you can see Hoehl (the Admissions building).
Have a great weekend everyone!  And to those of you participating in the overnight program on Sunday, have fun!

~Merrill

PS If you haven't heard, Saint Mike's now has a student run Instagram (knightlifevt), and I'm in charge of it this week, so feel free to check it out!
PPS This week I've been listening a mismatch of tunes, but this morning I was all about the band The Cab, specifically their album Symphony Soldier. (Thank you to my best friend Paige for introducing me to them!)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

Hello everyone and welcome to the weekend! As always, I'm excited to have a few days off to relax and catch up on work.  I'm also looking forward to this coming week for many reasons (one being the parent Knight Chat on Monday night).  Next week is winter break for Winooski High School, where I intern in an alternative classroom.  Though I really enjoy working there, I'm excited to have a few extra hours to myself next week!

Anyway, you may be wondering about the title of this post.  As you may have noticed at the bottom of one of my previous posts, I really love Sam Hunt (not to be confused with Sam Smith, though he's great too).  Naturally, when I found out he was coming to Higher Ground, a small but awesome venue just a few minutes from Saint Mike's, I simply had to go.  His show was scheduled for the day before Valentine's Day.  My friends Hanna (who I intern with) and Emma (my roommate for two and a half years) love Sam Hunt as well, so I thought it would be really fun to go as a Valentine's Day treat to ourselves.

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned, as I know all too well.  I was a little too slow in buying my tickets, and by the time I got around to it (only a few days after they had gone on sale), they were sold out.  Needless to say, I was pretty bummed.  Despite various efforts to get tickets, it didn't work out.

Here's where the title comes in.  Instead of going to see Sam Hunt last Friday, I ended up going to Starbucks - and getting a delicious chai tea latte - with Emma and our friends Sarah and Cara.  We probably spent about two hours there just chatting and having a great time.  When I arrived back at my townhouse, my roommates were waiting for me to tell me they were having a "Merrill Appreciation Day" party since we never had a birthday party for me (yes, we are in college and still have birthday parties, complete with cake, candles, and presents, for each other).  Emma and the girls had been in on the surprise and had purposefully kept me out for a while.  Even though I later put the pieces together and figured out that I'd had many hints throughout the day, I was completely surprised.  More than that, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my friends.  They got me my favorite snacks and dessert, and invited some of my favorite Saint Mike's people to come hang out.  I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually happy I wasn't able to get Sam Hunt tickets.  I'm sure he will go on tour again!



I'm not blogging about this to brag about how awesome my friends are (ok, maybe I'm doing that a little bit).  What I really want to get across is that this isn't an uncommon occurrence at Saint Mike's.  My friends and I had a surprise party for one of my roommates Caitlin during our first year, and just a few weeks ago we had a surprise birthday party for our housemate Lauren.  I have met some truly incredible people during my four years here, and I am so grateful for them.  They have made my Saint Mike's experience exponentially better.  (Shout out specifically to my roommates Lauren, Alex, and Caitlin as well as Emma.  Love you all!)


Had to include this because it's super cute!
To all of the recently accepted students - congratulations!!  I hope that, if you decide to make Saint Mike's your second home, you will treasure your time here as much as I have.  It is truly a wonderful place and I can't imagine myself anywhere else.

Have a great weekend, and remember, just because things might not turn out as planned doesn't mean they won't be ok (or more than ok) anyway! :)

Thanks for reading!
Merrill

PS This week I've been listening to a ton of different music, including Sam Hunt (obviously), Christina Perri, Paramore, and some film scores (thank you Caitlin for influencing my Pandora choices).

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lit Choir Trip 2015

Hello everyone and Happy Saturday! Not that I don't love every weekend here at Saint Mike's, but I am particularly loving this one because it's going to last three days (we don't have classes on Monday).  I started off my weekend by going grocery shopping yesterday with one of my housemates Cait (which, believe it or not, is something I actually love doing).  Then last night, a friend of Cait's who she met when she was studying in Ecuador last spring came to visit.  It was great to meet him and be able to hear him talk about some of the awesome things he and Cait did on the Galapagos together.

This morning, Cait and I got up bright and early to go to Smugglers' Notch.  (As Saint Mike's students, we get a season pass to Smuggs for only $65, which is less than the cost of a one-day lift ticket!)  We were worried it might be a bit crowded, but we got there early enough that it wasn't bad at all.  We had a great time and returned home with enough time to hang out and get some work done this afternoon.

Taking a break before our last run!
Though my weekend is going well so far (except for the fact that everyone in my house misses our roommate/fellow blogger Lauren, who is home for the weekend), I wanted to write about how much fun I had last weekend on the annual Liturgical Choir trip.

As I have mentioned before, singing in the Liturgical Choir is by far my favorite thing to do on campus.  The songs as well as the people in the group bring me such joy.  For the past few years, the choir has gone on an annual trip.  Traditionally, we leave on a Thursday night so we can sing at two high schools on Friday to wrap up Catholic Schools Week (which also usually happens to end with the Super Bowl...yay Patriots!).  We get to hang out on Friday night, then sing at a few Masses on Saturday and Sunday before heading back to school.

This year's trip was a bit different.  We were supposed to leave for New Hampshire (my home state) on Thursday night.  Due to snow in the forecast, we were worried that the high schools we had planned to sing at wouldn't have school on Friday.  Since our first Mass on Saturday didn't start until 4, we decided to leave early Saturday morning.

The trip was also different for me because our first stop was actually at my home parish.  I have to say, it was a bit disorienting having my two worlds collide.  Still, it was a lot of fun and I was happy to be able to share what I am a part of at Saint Mike's with some people from back home.  My mom, dad, brother, as well as the girls I babysit for and their parents came to our Mass on Saturday afternoon.  One of my good friends Rebecca came to one of Masses we performed at on Sunday.  I was so happy to see them!  

Grace and Genevieve, the girls I babysit for

As much as I love singing in the choir, my favorite part of the (shortened) trip was being able to spend time with some awesome people, including my mom, Jerome (the choir director), Marianne (an SMC alum who I adore), and of course all the choir and ensemble members.

Marianne, Jerome, my mom, and me
Me, Sarah, and Emma in my church!
Getting to be with these people, even if only for two days, reminded me how grateful I am to consider them part of my Saint Michael's family.  Being part of the choir is so special to me, and as much as I don't want to leave the consistency of seeing them each week, I know that I will always be welcomed back (thank you Marianne for being an example of that for me!).

To all of the students who've decided to make Saint Michael's their new home (I've been able to talk to a few of you on Twitter...love that!), congratulations!  I hope you can all find something on campus that makes you feel as welcome and happy as being part of the choir makes me. :)

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, and stay warm!

Merrill

Monday, January 26, 2015

MLK Jr. Day - More Than Just a Day

Hello all and Happy Monday!  As I'm sure you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In honor of this day, Saint Michel's (particularly the MLK Jr. Society) put together a host of events for students to attend throughout the week.  I attended the Convocation on Monday, with keynote speaker Kevin Powell as well as many other speakers from Saint Michael's and the surrounding area. Though it took a large junk of time out of my busy day, I'm so happy I went.


society racism groups media hip hop
Kevin Powell speaking in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel last Monday
For most of my life, I've thought of MLK Jr. Day as just another opportunity to miss a day of school. However, this year in particular, I viewed the day a bit differently. In light of many things, including the Convocation on Monday, my Race and Ethnic relations class last semester (arguably the most influential class I've taken at Saint Mike's), the many events that have raised our attention to the racial injustices in our society, coupled with my recent viewing of the movie Selma, I find that I have had a lot to think about throughout the past week.

First and foremost, as my Demography and Public Health Professor pointed out on the first day of class, I am lucky to be alive.  More than that, I am extremely fortunate to have been born into a family that has enabled me to earn a high school (and soon college) degree.  In two of my sociology classes, we have read an article by Peggy McIntosh about white privilege.  Each time I read it, I gained a greater appreciation for all that is granted to me in my everyday life.


I don't want this post to sound preachy, but I do want to take a moment to be grateful for my life, as well as acknowledge the fact that not everyone has the same privileges I do.  Another one of my professors last week urged my class to go see the movie Selma in order to gain a better appreciation for the struggles that African Americans went through in order to obtain the right to vote.  As I said to my roommates (who went to see the movie with me), I don't get angry very often, but during the movie, I was quite mad at what I was seeing.  As I write this post, I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts into words.  But I think what I'm trying to say is that it is that people were, and still are, judged and looked down upon because of their race of ethnicity.  It is unacceptable.  And it's not just in the media.  Just this morning, my Psych of Health and Wellness class had a discussion about an article we read pertaining to the the fact that race and ethnicity both have an effect on interactions, treatment plans, as well as outcomes of those seeking medical help.  I understand that it might be easy to group people together and make assumptions based on their looks - some would even argue that grouping people is a natural human tendency.  However, just because people may have similar looks doesn't mean they're the same.  As one of my good friends and mentors says, we are all strategically different, and that's a good thing.


A few days ago, I was having a conversation about people from South America.  One of the people I was talking to was trying to make a distinction between two South American countries, while another spoke of the countries as though they were one entity.  Though I'm sure no harm or offense was intended, it struck a chord with me.  Last semester in my Human Geography class, Professor Kujawa brought to our attention the fact that so many people speak of the entire content of Africa as though it is one country, when in fact there are at least forty seven separate countries (depending on whether or not you count the islands).  People do the same thing with other people.  Not all non-whites are the same.  Not all Asians are the same.  Not all Europeans are the same.  And everyone deserves to know that they are valuable and important.


While the speeches I heard on Monday were important, inspiring, and heartbreaking all at the same time, I left the Convocation still unsure of exactly what I'm supposed to do about the current state of our country as a soon-to-be college college graduate.  The best I can think of so far is to continue the conversation, with my friends, parents, peers, and you.  I also feel want to point out that for many years it has been my gut reaction to tune out whenever people use the word "history."  Now, however, I am slowly coming to understand that maybe learning about history isn't so bad after all.  As my Practicum professor said last week, we cannot afford to pass up the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  We cannot just sit back and assume that others will take care of our problems for us, whether they have to do with racism, inequality, or something as simple as procrastinating on homework.



for the better

I have to admit that I had every intention of posting this on Friday as a conclusion to MLK Jr. week.  However, life got in the way, and here it is, already the end of the weekend and the start of another week.  After a moment of reprimanding myself for not posting this sooner, I realized that it's actually kind of perfect that I waited.  To me at least, it shows that conversation about these issues (and many more that I didn't discuss here) shouldn't be reserved to one week of the year.  The effects of people's actions have constant effects.  I hope that everyone continues to be inspired, in one way or another, to pay more attention to individual differences and to see the beauty in them.  We have a lot to learn from each other.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!
Merrill

PS I've been on a Script kick for the past week...no song in particular because they're all great! :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

One More Round

Happy Friday everyone! Even though I've been back at Saint Mike's for almost a week now, it seems like it's been forever (in a good way).  I am so happy to be back living with some of the best people I know and having as much fun as possible (in between classes and homework of course). I can't believe it's my last semester here - the time went by more quickly than I ever imagined it would. But before I get carried away thinking about everything I want to do before my time here is up, I thought I'd take a minute to update you all on my schedule for this semester:

I'm taking four classes, three of which count toward my psychology major.  The first one, which I have on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 8am (bright and early, I know) is called Psychology of Health and Illness.  Even though it's early, I think I'm really going to enjoy the class, because of the professor as well as the content.  I've never had a class with Professor Tomasulo, but she seems very enthusiastic about the material, which will certainly help me out on days when I might rather be in bed!  One of the main components of the class is completing a health genealogy project. While it might be nerve-wracking to learn about what I might be genetically at-risk for, Professor Tomasulo has assured us that, while we can't control our genetics, there are things we can do each day to improve our overall (physical, mental, emotional) health. When I'm home, my mom really encourages me to eat well and exercise often, so I'm hoping her motivation as well as this class will continue to encourage me to be healthy each day.


Thank you to my roommate Lauren for the inspiration to use funny pictures on my blog!

My next class, which I have on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, is the last class I need to fulfill my sociology minor.  It is called Demography and Public Health, taught by Professor Bolduc. I've never taken a class with Professor Bolduc before, but he has stepped in for a few of my previous sociology classes when my professors have been absent due to conferences, etc. so I have certainly seen him around!  I don't have much experience with demography except for what we covered last semester in my Human Geography class. Regardless, as I was reading just last night, demographic information has many uses that can be applied in a variety of areas, so I'm excited to be able to add this to my current sociological knowledge.

My last class on Mondays is Practicum II, which is a continuation of Practicum I, which I took last semester.  The major work for the course is done outside the classroom via an off-campus internship. I will be continuing the work that I started last semester in an alternative classroom in Winooski High School, just a few minutes from Saint Mike's. I was able to learn a lot last semester from my internship, and hope to do the same this year. I will be at the school Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. My schedule this semester allows me to be at the school at different times than last semester. I am happy about this because it ensures that I get to see different parts of the school day and how students motivation, etc. changes throughout the day.

My final class, which I have on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is called the Psychology of Marriage and Relationships. I have wanted to take this class since I first heard that Saint Michael's offered it, so naturally I was extremely excited when I was able to register for it last fall. Professor Millwood teaches the course. I took Research Methods II with her during my sophomore year, and am looking forward to having another class with her. From the discussions we had this week, I am fairly certain that this will be my favorite class of the semester, and potentially my favorite psych class altogether. I'm sure I'll be dedicating many future posts to it!

In addition to my classes and internship, I'll be giving a weekly tour on Mondays, leading Liturgy of the Word (LOW) lunch on Fridays, and of course, singing in the Liturgical Choir, which is by far my favorite activity on campus. I'll also be doing my best to have as much fun as possible - this week my roommates started a semester bucket list, which we hope to complete by graduation. First on my list: get to Smugglers' Notch and go skiing!


Oldie but goodie of Cait and me at Smuggs!
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!
-Merrill

PS To continue my tradition from last semester, I've been listening to Ed Sheeran non-stop this week. Specifically, the songs "The City" and "Gold Rush." I've also been listening to Nick Jonas' latest album (no shame). :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Belated Shout-Out to my Awesome Professors

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!  I have been home in New Hampshire for a little over two weeks after surviving finals week and am somehow just sitting down to write this post!  I wanted to thank two of my professors in particular for going out of their way to help me during the last few weeks of the semester.

As you know if you've read some of my previous posts, singing in the Liturgical Choir at Saint Mike's is my absolute favorite activity on campus.  During the Thursday of finals week (December 18), Deacon Lino Oropeza was ordained into the Society of Saint Edmund.  As a member of the Lit Choir, I had an opportunity to sing at this ordination (the first of its kind in almost 20 years).  One problem - my final for Human Geography was scheduled to be right in the middle of ordination.  

A bit nervously, I have to admit, I went to Professor Kujawa's office hours and told him how I, as well as one of my fellow classmates, would really appreciate it if he could move the final for us so that we would be able to sing at the ordination.  Moving finals isn't necessarily ideal for professors - it takes up more of their time and they have to reserve a room - so I was happily surprised when Professor Kujawa agreed to let my friend Maureen and I take our final a day late.  The ordination was an absolutely wonderful experience and captured everything that I love about being in Lit Choir - great music, spiritually enriching time with my friends, and that wonderful community feeling that is Saint Michael's.  I was actually a bit sad when it was over (partially because  I had to return to studying, but more so because I had such a great time).  So, a big thank you to Professor Kujawa (as well as other professors who did the same for other students) for being flexible!

I also wanted to thank my psychology senior seminar professor, Professor Kuntz, for giving each student in our class cards on our last day of class.  Though she knew some students better than others, she still took the time to write each student a card expressing her gratitude for our participation in the class as well as her best wishes for our futures (though some of us, including myself, are taking more psychology classes in the spring, our senior seminar is the culminating course for psychology majors).

In my card, Professor Kuntz  included a rock that says "Kindness."  This was particularly special to me for two reasons: one - because I happen to love rocks with words on them (I have a small collection), and two - because it indicated to me that she understood through my actions in class that I do my best to be kind to everyone, and it's always nice to have that recognized!


The card reads "Behind the complicated details
of the world stand the simplicities. - Graham Greene"
While I was quite relieved when I completed all my finals, I have to say that I am looking forward to the upcoming semester.  All the classes I will be taking pertain to either my major or minor, and they all sound quite interesting!  You will certainly hear more about them in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you for reading!  And if you are in a place where it's super cold, stay warm!

-Merrill