Tuesday, May 28th, 2013...6:50 pm

Looking Back at Freshman Year

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Looking Back...

More than being a blog about theatre, music, art, museums, and miscellaneous cultural endeavors, Marina Nebro: Arts and Culture is a blog about a college student, making the most of her education and the opportunities given to her.  At the end of last semester, I posted about what I had accomplished in a mere 16 weeks – from academics to extracurriculars.  If you can believe it, I’ve accomplished a whole lot more since then, and I would love to share all my experiences with you!


One thing that I find really amazing about college is that every semester is drastically different from the last.  Whereas Introduction to Theatre Design and stage crew really defined my first semester, new activities defined my second.  Up until now, I have only been taking introductory courses in my majors – Art History and History – and therefore haven’t been too challenged or intrigued Professor Clare Carrollabout what I’ve been learning.  It has been my other classes – electives or general education requirements – that have pushed me to my limits and tested my ability as a student.  As a second semester freshman, I decided to take two Comparative Literature courses – Great Works of Literature II (102 intensive writing) and Global Renaissance (230 honors course).  When I first got the syllabi for the two classes, I went into a bit of a shock – so much reading, and both classes were writing intensive!  How was I going to be able to keep up with these two professors?  What I loved most about these classes – other than the fact that I was exempt from both the midterm and final in CompLit 102, and that my professors really appreciated me as a student – were the final assignments: 10 page research papers!  Most students would not recognize an essay as a gift, but being a freshman and having hardly ever written a paper over five pages, I accepted this challenge.  The topics were for me to choose, and again, this was demanding yet extremely rewarding.  I was able to explore areas that I would not necessarily look into otherwise.  Professor Clare Carroll of my Global Renaissance course helped us students formulate our ideas by giving us a structure: bibliography, annotated bibliography, thesis, rough draft, second rough draft, and so on.  I don’t think I would have been able to write her paper, in particular, without this strong foundational system.  But aside from the assignments, these classes gave me a greater outlook on life.  Comparative Literature 102 with Professor Fouyer gave me greater insight into travel literature (epistolary novels, memoirs, journals, and short stories just to name a few types).  This genre is important to understand when traveling and writing about my own adventures.  Professor Carroll’s class gave me a greater interest in the events that took place around the world during the European Renaissance.  Not only did I become very interested in the topic I wrote about for my paper (tobacco’s influence throughout the world during the Early Modern Period [c. 1400-1600]), I became interested in how the themes of my class relate to events and people today (for example, Jean de Léry’s description of the Tupinamba tribe of Brazil and the modern isolated Amazonian tribes such as the Korubo).  It was also extremely rewarding to be able to listen to the author of Vermeer’s Hat (the book on which I based my research paper) at a lecture at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Though the above two classes really defined my semester, it would be wrong to exclude all of my other classes, or at least two of Me and Professor Foglianithem that I totally enjoyed.  For my Art History major, I am required to take a language.  Originally, I was planning on taking two semesters of Latin and one of Italian.  Because Latin isn’t too popular these days, beginner Latin is only taught in the fall.  I didn’t want to wait to start my language requirement next year, so I decided to take one semester of Italian.  I never imagined liking it so much!  Now, I will be taking four semesters of Italian and perhaps 2 semesters of Latin – way over the requirement for Art History!  Professor Matilde Fogliani, a native Venetian, did an amazing job in teaching me the language and fostering a strong interest in continuing these studies.  It is hard to believe this was her first semester as a college professor!  The last course I will mention is my Macaulay Honors College seminar: Peopling of New York.  Previously, I wrote a blog about the seminar’s common event – a lecture given by a notable demographer.  This class focuses on the different cultural Foundation Logopopulations in New York City.  I’m not much of a social scientist, and therefore the readings never entirely caught my fancy, but I did enjoy participating in the final group project.  We were asked to choose a New York City based foundation that addresses the needs of a specific population.  As one of the leaders of the group, I chose the Kosciuszko Foundation that focuses on Polish Culture.  We visited the foundation building, as well as Greenpoint, Brooklyn (a Polish hub within the city, often nicknamed “Little Poland”).  Along with external research and interviews, my group created a website (designed by me) on which to display our findings: Polish New York.


Last semester I did a lot of work with the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Dance.  I planned on continuing my set work with JEWthem, but found my schedule too busy to fit in stage crew.  What was eating up my time?  As I mentioned at the end of last term, I was becoming increasingly involved with Queens College Hillel.  I took over the KOACH internship position that Alyssa Blumenthal left behind as she traveled to Prague for Study Abroad, and was given the responsibility of creating monthly events and building a larger community.  It might not sound like a lot of work, but let me tell you, it kept me busy and stressed!  For some reason, I thought it would also be a good idea to apply for another Hillel-based internship that focuses on outreach and relationship building – PNEI.  I didn’t succeed in obtaining the interning position, but that shows you how involved I have become!  It wasn’t rare, this semester, to MUSIChear me say, “Sorry I can’t hang out tonight, I have a Jew event to go to.”  Additionally, I was asked to be the assistant editor for QC Hillel’s online publication, Tribe, where my responsibilities included writing and editing articles.  Being Jewish is really time consuming!  But I guess it didn’t eat up all of my time, because I also became more of a musician this semester as well.  The conductor of Wind Ensemble asked me to start taking private lessons to help strengthen the third clarinet section.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I was up for that sort of commitment.  I’m glad I did, though, because private lessons are amazing – especially when you have such a good teacher as I do!  Alejandro Ceballos was the first clarinet of our ensemble when I joined.  You know you’re in for a treat when your teacher is in love with what he does – playing the clarinet.


I remember applying to Macaulay Honors College and listing all the awards I received during my four years in High My Italian PrizeSchool.  As I noted the many accolades I accrued, I remember thinking to myself, what do these awards even mean?  At the end of each year, all the departments would get up on stage and give out recognitions left and right.  If that slacker student in front of me is getting a prize, how much is my prize even worth?  At first, this is how I felt this year when I got letters in the mail saying I had won a couple of awards.  But then I realized – not everyone is getting recognized!  Let me start off with departmental awards.  I have only just begun my Italian studies, but apparently made such a good impression that I was invited to the Italian Consulate by the European Languages and Literature Department at Queens College to receive a prize: a Level B Italian Language story book with exercises and a CD!  Most people wouldn’t be excited to be rewarded with a book.  Let me tell you, I much prefer getting something Golden Wrenchconcrete rather than a certificate that ends up in a scrapbook.  It’s amazing, though, if you think about it.  I was invited to the ITALIAN CONSULATE!  I technically was invited to stand on Italian soil.  For my dedicated work back-stage during my first semester, I was honored by the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Dance with the Golden Wrench Award.  I must have made a really good impression, because I only worked 27 hours in the shop (25 of which were mandatory for Introduction to Theatre Design).  Many students are required to sacrifice some of their time to help out the department, so why was I chosen?  Perhaps it is because I showed a greater interest in helping out after my requirement was completed and hope to work on crew over the summer.  At the Hillel Gala, Tribe won the Leadership Initiative Award for being an innovative and engaging platform for creating conversation within the Jewish community.  Finally, just this evening, I received a book titled The Observant Life from Rabbi Elyse Winick, my KOACH supervisor, for my efforts this semester – what a lovely and unexpected surprise!

Academic and departmental awards are one thing, and it is great to be recognized by the school for hard work and dedication.  But Award from the Center for Teaching and Learningthis is not the only sort of award with which I was honored!  My blog has truly been what my life has been revolving around this entire school year.  Every cultural event, theatre performance, and music concert I attended has made its way onto Marina Nebro: Arts and Culture.  I put a lot of work into designing the aesthetics of the site, but even more work into creating the site’s content.  Early on this semester, I won a ePortfolio ExpoNOOK Tablet from the Center for Teaching and Learning – for an art piece I created centering around the idea of my blog and my desire to bring arts and culture to the masses.  Just this month, through Macaulay Honors College, I won an iPad Mini for my blog as a whole – content and design, a true honor!  I was also one of the top 100 bloggers in an international competition (The Big Blog Exchange).

Looking Back…

The facts are all nice and dandy, but how was my actual freshman college experience?  Did I enjoy myself, was I stressed, did I learn anything important?  Last night, I spent time with old friends from high school for the first time since Thanksgiving.  I was expecting to hear great things about their experiences at college, what they’ve been up to, and what they had learned.  I was disappointed to find out that no one really talked about his or her accomplishments of this past year.  Why was this?  I can speculate all I want, but what I know is this: I experienced everything to the fullest and took advantage of every single opportunity that was thrown my way.  I spent an entire school year living on my own, learning how to take care of myself – though I was able to speak with my family every day.  I made several new friends, and met tons of new people even though I was on a commuter campus!  When my peers would complain that Queens has nothing to offer, I proved them wrong and sought out tons of great opportunities.  So how was my year?  It was definitely enjoyable, a little bit stressful (but not too much), challenging in some ways but a breeze in others, and certainly a learning and educational experience!  I was sad to say good-bye to my lovely dorm room for the summer.  What’s in store for me now?  Well, I’m flying off to Israel for Birthright on May 29 – depending when you read this, I may already be in the air!  After an eventful 10 days, I will be returning home to cool down and rest before I go back to school for a six week course on the history of Modern South Asia.

Thank you for taking this year-long journey with me, and I hope you stick around for a whole new adventure: Sophomore Year!

Thank You!

Marina B. Nebro

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