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I’m not sure why these things always seem to happen at once, but last week and weekend were crazy with horse-y events!  Immediately after we returned from spring break, we were practicing and planning and generally running around like crazy.  We had the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Equestrian Championships at Bridgewater College on Wednesday, then we hosted a South West Virginia Hunter-Jumper Association (SWVHJA) open show on Saturday, and finally we hosted IHSA Zone Finals on Sunday.  It was an incredibly long week; I’m still not caught up on my sleep, but we did manage to have fun as usual.

Up first was the ODAC show.  This competition is totally different from the IHSA shows in which we normally compete, and I was selected to be on the Hollins team.  ODAC is the athletic conference in which Hollins participates, along with other Division III schools from the area.  Only six of those schools have equestrian programs, and each school sends a four-man team to compete for the championship once a year.  Each rider completes two over fences rounds, receiving a score out of 100 for each.  Two riders from each team compete on the flat and again receive a score out of 100.  For each round, the scores are added together for each team, and the teams are ranked.  At the end of the day, whichever team has the highest cumulative rank wins.

Our ODAC day began at 4:30 in the morning, when we arrived at the Hollins barn to begin preparing our horses.  When everyone had been ridden, braided, and groomed to perfection, we loaded up and headed to Bridgewater.  There, we schooled over the course and put the finishing touches on our horses and ourselves.  I only competed in over fences, and I rode a magnificent horse named Candido Z.  I hadn’t ridden Candido much before this show, but we really bonded in the week or so we had together.  Our first round was a little fast and we missed a lead change, which hurt our score, but I was content with it.  Our second round included a trot fence near the end of the course.  Candido used to be a showjumper and is used to going as fast as possible around a course, so the idea of a trot fence was totally foreign to him.  Needless to say, we did not end up trotting the trot fence, so we received fairly low scores, but the rest of our round was perfect so I was happy!

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Candido Z

Overall, it was not Hollins’ best day.  None of us on the team had competed in ODACs before, and we did not have a whole lot of time to prepare, but I think we were all happy with our rides even though our scores were not as high as we would have liked.  Washington & Lee ended up winning the day, which I was very happy about; they rode very well and deserved their win.  I was honored to be named the ODAC Equestrian Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and I could not be more proud of my team.  For full results, go to: http://www.odaconline.com/sports/equest/2013-14/releases/040214-equest-champs.

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Candido & I after ODACs

However, our week was not over with ODACs.  Friday was spent preparing our facility and our horses for SWVHJA and Zones, which meant that we had to miss Gold & Greenway Day, but it was worth it to make sure everything was perfect.  I did not ride in the SWVHJA show, but I went up for most of the day and helped.  After the show was over, we made sure the ring was perfect and went to bed early.  Sunday saw us up at the barn at 6am, schooling horses for Zones.  Competitors at Zones have qualified from their region, and the winners go on to Nationals.  We had schools from all over Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland come, so we wanted everything to be perfect to show off our fantastic program.

Zones went about as well as any of us could ask.  Our horses were well behaved, the ring looked great, and no one had anything bad to say (that I heard) about it.  I could not be more proud of the entire Hollins riding program, especially everyone who got up early to hold horses all day.  I could not have asked for a more dedicated, willing, and cheerful (despite their lack of sleep) group of women, and I think our hard work showed.  Now that Zones are over, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself; it was the last show of my Hollins career, which makes me a little sad.  I am definitely going to miss the craziness of hosting shows, but I will enjoy the last month or so I have in the program.

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We painted the rock for the weekend of horse shows!

Spring Break just wrapped up here at Hollins, and the break could not come soon enough.  Everyone was definitely ready for a respite, though it is hard to believe the semester is already halfway over.  I knew that I wanted to use my Spring Break to catch up on sleep, spend time with my family, and try to narrow down my choices for graduate school.  I spent the first few days of break lounging around with my dog, waiting to hear back from several schools, and finally decided on Monday that I would travel to Boston to visit Simmons College.

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Selfies with Max!

Tuesday was a whirlwind of purchasing tickets, lining up accommodations, arranging an official visit at Simmons, and packing.  A Hollins alumna is currently studying in the program in which I am interested at Simmons, and she very kindly allowed me to crash in her apartment and show me around.  I left my house at 5am on Wednesday to catch the train in Charlottesville at 7.  Finally, after about ten hours on the train (thank goodness for WiFi), plus an hour-long stopover in New York City, I arrived in Boston.  I was absolutely exhausted, but so excited to start exploring the next day.

Thursday morning saw me get very lost trying to find Simmons; luckily, I left two hours early for my appointment because I was fairly sure I would get lost!  This gave me time to explore the area around Simmons as well as the campus itself.  Simmons is a small, private, women’s liberal arts college like Hollins (though their graduate program is coed), so I felt right at home.  I was able to take a campus tour, meet another prospective student, and sit in on a class.  While the class made my head spin a little bit, I really enjoyed it.  I’m still not sure if Simmons is my first choice, but it’s definitely a possibility.

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The Main Building at Simmons.

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Boston Latin School next door to Simmons.

Later that evening, I met my hostess in Cambridge, where she showed me all of the cool historic houses and churches (things that history geeks really enjoy but no one else really gets excited about).  The next day, we set out to do pretty much every touristy thing Boston has to offer.  We started out with the Boston Common and Public Gardens, then hit the Boston Public Library (a must for two future librarians), Faneuil Hall, the North End to see Old North Church and to get some delicious cannoli, then down to Jamaica Plain for the Sam Adams brewery tour and to visit my hostess’ favorite hat store.  By the end of the day, we were both very tired, but it was worth it!  I got to see a lot of cool things in Boston and really get a feel for the city.

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A church in Cambridge.

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In Boston Public Garden, recreating a picture of me at age 9.

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George Washington in the Boston Public Garden

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CANNOLI

Saturday was another long day of travel; I left Boston at 6:40am and got home around 8pm.  Though it was a fairly exhausting trip, I am so glad I took the opportunity to visit Boston; even if I don’t go to Simmons, I still got to explore a new city and see a lot of the East Coast from Virginia to Massachusetts through a train window.  As I wait for more information from every graduate program to which I applied, we are gearing up for another busy week of riding events at Hollins, from the ODAC equestrian championships on Wednesday, to hosting IHSA Zone Finals on Sunday.

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Union Station, Washington, DC

February is always a hectic month for the Hollins riding team as we try to fit all of the spring IHSA show season into a few short weeks.  This year was no exception; in fact, it was possibly even busier.  Some of us had been on campus for J-term, riding and keeping the horses in shape, but we started practicing in earnest as soon as classes started.  Our IHSA season started immediately after the semester began, with shows at Randolph College and Sweet Briar College the first weekend of the semester.  Bridgewater College was supposed to host a show the second weekend of the semester, but the massive snowstorm that hit us around Valentine’s Day caused it to be postponed.

The Bridgewater show was rescheduled for the third weekend in February.  However, there were already two shows scheduled for that weekend, so we had a fun, but exhausting, three-show weekend.  Bridgewater was on Friday afternoon, Hollins hosted a show on Saturday, and the University of Virginia hosted a regular season show as well as regional finals on Sunday.  Having a show the day before we hosted our own show was a little stressful, because it left fewer people to help prep the horses for our show, but the riding club really stepped up to ride and bathe horses and clean tack.  Our show went off without a hitch and it was even warm and sunny out!  At the end of the day, we were all pretty tired, but we did laundry, went to bed early, and woke up even earlier to head to Charlottesville the next day.  Three of us, myself included, had qualified for regional finals and I know I was nervous!  In the end, I was happy with my ride, but I did not place highly enough to move on to zone finals.  While I am sad that my IHSA career is over, I could not have had a better experience with better people.  I felt like our team really bonded this season, and we always managed to have a lot of fun at shows no matter what the results were.

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The other Intermediate Fences rider and me with our matching ribbons (and the spirit stick) at Bridgewater!

Luckily, the fun was not over!  Last weekend, Hollins hosted the first annual Hollins Spring Welcome, a nationally rated horse show at the Virginia Horse Center.  It was spread out over four days in four rings, with hundreds of horses and riders competing.  I did not ride, but I went up and helped on Saturday and Sunday.  I presented ribbons in the Reel arena, which hosted the pony hunters (among other classes).  It was a little chilly, but I loved watching the ponies go!  The highlight of the weekend, however, was the Collegiate Cup on Saturday night.  Schools put up three-man teams to ride against each other over fences and on the flat in three divisions.  Virginia Intermont College, the previous host of the show, had dominated the competition for the last few years, but Hollins emerged victorious this year, with our teams earning first and third places.  One of our riders also earned the highest point total overall!  It was a wonderful way to kick off what will hopefully be a long and successful tradition.

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The Waldron Arena in the Coliseum at the Virginia Horse Center

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Ribbons!

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On my way to present some ribbons

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We stopped at the Pink Cadillac Diner (with its King Kong statue) in Natural Bridge on the way back from Lexington

Two major Hollins traditions for seniors took place last week:  Hundredth Night and Founder’s Day.  Hundredth Night was only a few days after the massive snowstorm that hit us, but luckily we were still able to hold our event.  Founder’s Day happens every year in February, and it celebrates the birthday of Hollins’ founder, Charles Cocke.  Both of these traditions are especially important for seniors, and I enjoyed participating in both.

Hundredth Night takes place on the night that marks one hundred days until graduation.  The seniors all gather (no other classes are allowed) to drink champagne, eat cake, and reminisce.  The senior class cabinet puts together a slideshow with pictures from our entire time at Hollins, starting with our new student photo taken at the rock during orientation.  There were a lot of pictures that I had never seen or that I had not seen in a long time, and it was really fun to watch with the rest of my class.  However, the reality that I am graduating and will have to leave Hollins in less than one hundred days has finally hit me, making me very sad and excited for what comes next all at once.

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My roommate and I at Hundredth Night.

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One of my oldest Hollins friends and me.

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Hundredth Night champagne

The other big tradition we celebrated last week was Founder’s Day.  On Founder’s Day, seniors process in their robes up to the cemetery to lay a wreath on Charles Cocke’s grave.  It was a really muddy walk from the two feet of snow melting!  Traditionally, the senior class asks a faculty member who has had great influence on us to walk with us, and this year we asked Professor Julie Pfeiffer of the English department.  After our walk to the cemetery, we go to the chapel for an assembly with a faculty speaker.  This year, to celebrate Hollins’ designation as an All-Steinway School, the program was music-themed, with performances from Hollins students and faculty.  My fellow students’ talents always amaze me, and this performance did not disappoint.

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Walking up to the cemetery for Founder’s Day

However, my favorite part of the Founder’s Day ceremony this year was the presentation of the Roberta Stewart Service Award to Elise Roschen, our barn manager.  Elise has been at Hollins for 29 years, and I am fairly certain that the barn would collapse and chaos would reign without her.  She keeps all of us (students, horses, and coaches) in line and is totally dedicated to the program.  I can think of no one more deserving of recognition than Elise.  Her award was a wonderful cap to our back-to-back traditions and put us in a great frame of mind for a busy weekend of horse showing!

Snowpocalypse 2014

I have been waiting for a snowstorm like the one we got last week ever since I saw pictures of Hollins in 2010, when I was a senior in high school and Hollins and my hometown both got over a foot of snow.  For my entire Hollins career, I have been dying to sled down the hill by President Gray’s house and see Hollins made even more beautiful with a large blanket of snow.  Finally, in my last semester, my dreams came true.  Hollins got well over a foot of snow from Wednesday, February 12 into Thursday afternoon.  Classes let out early on Wednesday and were canceled on Thursday and Friday, giving us a long, wonderful weekend with which to enjoy the snow.

The excitement on campus was palpable.  By Wednesday evening, we already had a few inches and people were beginning to sled down Tinker Beach.  In the apartments, people tried to snowboard down the road between rows two and three.  My roommate and I and a few of our friends had a breakfast for dinner/movie night with homemade waffles, Nutella, homemade whipped cream, blueberries, and bananas.  By midnight, we had over six inches of snow on our back patio!

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Waffle night!

When I woke up on Thursday morning, the snow had temporarily stopped and a group of us met midmorning to go sledding.  We headed out to the hills between President Gray’s house and the tennis courts and began breaking paths through the foot of untouched snow.  It took us a little while, but we finally ended up with a really fast, good sled run.  After an hour or so, we were exhausted and soaked through and the snow had started to fall again.  However, I was elated because I fulfilled my long-time goal of sledding at Hollins and had broken my four-year sledding drought.

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President Gray’s house in the snow

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Sledding!

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Backyard snow pictures!

Thursday afternoon was spent watching movies and playing board games.  We collectively decided to ignore our academic responsibilities and take the day off, which was a lovely break.  We were supposed to have a horse show at Bridgewater College on Saturday, but it was postponed, giving us an unexpected free four-day weekend.

I am so happy that I finally got to experience a big snow at school.  Hollins in a foot of snow was just as beautiful as I imagined and everyone had so much fun!  However, trekking through large snow banks to get out of my house is getting a little old; hopefully it will all melt soon!

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Campus in the melting snow.

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Snowy mountains

A Freezing J-term

My last J-term has been spent trying not to freeze at Hollins.  Officially, I am working on my thesis, but staying warm has become a full-time activity with days every week with temperatures in the single digits.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t snowed much, so my dreams of sledding down Tinker Beach have yet to be fulfilled, but I’ve managed to keep myself occupied despite the debilitating cold (at which my New England friends scoff).

My main activity this January has been working on my thesis.  I did a bunch of restructuring and culling at the beginning of the month, which hurt a little bit, but it’s going to make my paper much stronger.  Since then, I have been revising and rewriting what I have, and I have gotten through over half of the paper.  It’s been a blessing to have the entire month to just work on my thesis; I was so busy last semester that it was difficult to devote the amount of time I would have liked to my thesis.  I have also been able to go to Virginia Tech weekly to use their online databases of primary sources.  I have been able to spend all day down there, working and exploring Blacksburg some, which I have really enjoyed.

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Newman Library at Virginia Tech

While my afternoons have been occupied with thesis-ing, my mornings have largely been spent at the barn.  During J-term, we try to keep as many of the horses going as possible so that they can be in decent shape when lessons start again in February.  We also try to keep ourselves in shape for the spring IHSA season, which begins the first week of February.  February is a crazy month for us on the Hollins riding team; we have five IHSA shows in three weeks, then we are hosting a huge “A” rated show at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington the last weekend of the month.  I am excited, but it will be super busy!  Our efforts to ride have been thwarted by the weather; it’s bad for the horses to be ridden when it’s ten degrees out, so we have had to skip riding a few days each week due to extreme cold.

When not riding or working on my thesis, I have found other ways to keep busy.  My roommate has gotten me hooked on Sherlock, the BBC’s modern spin on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories.  We’ve been watching that daily, plus I have tried to take advantage of the workout classes offered during J-term.  I’ve also continued to work on graduate school stuff.  I found out a few days ago that I was accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill (my first choice), but I’m waiting to hear back from my other schools before I make a decision.  A Hollins alum who graduated a few years ago and is currently in library school was kind enough to let me call her and ask her all kinds of questions about library school, which has helped immensely in the decision-making process.  J-term has been the laid-back, relaxing break I needed between the craziness of last semester and the craziness of February, but I am glad that everyone will be back on campus soon!

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I took my mom to see Donna the Buffalo in Charlottesville for Christmas!

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We got a few inches of snow on campus last night! Someone decided to take a new approach to painting the rock :)

It’s every college senior’s least favorite question:  “What are you doing after graduation?”  Luckily, I have a tentative answer.  If the stars align, I will head off to graduate school next year to pursue a master’s degree in library science.  I have known that I wanted to work in the library profession since high school; I love books and reading, and my mother is a librarian, so I was basically raised in a library.  Several internships in libraries have confirmed this for me.  I am specifically interested in the archives and special collections side of librarianship, in which I can combine my interests in libraries, history, and research, plus I get to play with cool old books.  A lot of people choose not to go to graduate school right out of college, but almost all library jobs require a master’s degree in library science, so I do not see the point in putting off my degree.

As excited as I am to go to library school and become a librarian, applying to graduate school is just as annoying as applying to college was.  I am applying to five schools:  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Drexel University, Simmons College, and University of Maryland at College Park.  All of these schools are ranked in the top ten for their library science programs; UNC-Chapel Hill and Illinois are tied for first.  I am optimistic about my chances for admission; I just hope that I will be able to get an assistantship or a scholarship somewhere so I can actually pay for my degree.  My first choice is UNC-Chapel Hill, because I love Chapel Hill and the whole Triangle area, it’s a great school, it’s not freezing cold (unlike Simmons in Boston and the University of Illinois), and it’s my mom’s alma mater!  However, I am definitely limited by finances—realistically, I will probably end up wherever offers me the best aid package.

Each school requires a slightly different essay plus multiple recommendations, a lengthy application form, and transcripts from any college I have attended.  A few also required GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, but I took that test (which was even worse than the SAT) and sent my scores out in September so I could focus on my schoolwork during the semester.  I worked with the director of the Writing Center at Hollins to craft a good general essay, which I then tweaked for each school.  I wrote the basic essay over the summer (when I was not furiously studying for the GRE), and then spent most of my Christmas break tweaking the essay for the slightly different questions and length requirements of each school.  Upon my return for J-term, I have requested recommendations, sent transcripts, and paid exorbitant application fees.  At this point, all of my applications have been submitted, and I am in the worst part of the process:  the waiting.  None of my schools have any indication of their timeline for admissions, so I am currently focusing on writing my thesis and trying not to freak out about these decisions that critically affect my future.  I am grateful that I had J-term to work on these applications, though; I was so busy last semester that I did not have time to give them the attention they deserve!

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