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Well, this is it.  My thesis is turned in, I took all of my finals, and I am done with my undergraduate academic career.  On one hand, I am very relieved that all of my work is done—it’s been a long year!  However, I am sad that my Hollins career is coming to an end.

One of my biggest moments over the past few weeks was turning my thesis in.  I have been working on my thesis since July, and it was a constant part of my life for the past ten months.  I spent most of the last month furiously editing and revising to take the suggestions made by my advisors into account, and I turned in my final draft on Reading Day.  I then proceeded to take the rest of the day off!  The next few days were a bit tense, waiting to know the results of my readers’ deliberations.  I found out at the beginning of this week that I was approved for honors by both departments!  My thesis will eventually be available on the Hollins Digital Commons for anyone who is interested:  http://digitalcommons.hollins.edu/.

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Other than that, I spent finals week finishing up my last few classes and helping run the independent exam system.  As a member of the Academic Policy Board, I was responsible for helping the chair set up, pass out, and collect exams that are taken independently.  We were kept very busy making sure everything went properly, handing out exams three times a day and keeping track of all of them.  We finished up all of that on Monday, and the semester was officially over.

All that’s left now is for me to enjoy all of the fun things planned for senior week!  We had a lovely senior brunch, hosted by Alumnae Relations.  There’s a carnival and a bunch of other parties and gatherings before everyone’s families arrive on Saturday.  The weekend will be a whirlwind of rehearsals, celebrations, and ceremonies, culminating in commencement on Sunday morning.  After commencement, my mom and I are packing up and moving me to Maryland!  Training for my assistantship at UMD starts on Tuesday, so I don’t get much of a break, but I am really excited to start the next chapter in my life.

My four years at Hollins have been the best of my life so far.  When I arrived as a first-year, I was unsure if I made the right choice in attending Hollins.  I wasn’t sure that I would make friends, that I would be challenged academically, or that I would fit into the Hollins community at all.  I was quickly proven wrong, and I never regretted coming to Hollins.  These last four years have flown by in a whirlwind of papers, horse shows, travel, club meetings, and much more.  I am incredibly sad that it is over, but I am so grateful for all of the opportunities my time at Hollins has allowed me.

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Current and future riding captains!
Photo credit: Caileigh Bravo ’16

April Madness

With less than a month to go until graduation, things are starting to come down to the wire here at Hollins.  Everyone is descending into the chaos of finishing papers and projects, especially all of the seniors with theses, recitals, productions, and more to complete and turn in by the end of classes!  I know I have been working hard to finish up the last round of revisions on my thesis, and that has been keeping me very busy.  In addition to all of the schoolwork everyone has to do, there are a lot of big events happening these last few weeks that make concentrating on work hard!

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We painted the rock with a Clockwork Orange theme for one of my friend’s birthdays!

Last weekend was particularly big.  On Friday, we had the Library Spring Festival, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite traditions.  Last week marked the Wyndham Robertson Library’s fifteenth birthday, so there were festivities (including cake) all week, culminating in an afternoon of book cart races, cupcakes, mini golf in the library, and more.  This event was so much fun, and I love that our library is willing to do crazy things like set up miniature golf courses made out of discarded books in the library.  Friday also saw an acapella concert and the National Paddling Film Festival Roadshow, which I helped run through my work-study job with HOP (Hollins Outdoor Program).

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The Library Spring Festival, with part of the mini golf course visible.

The fun didn’t stop on Saturday.  Though I spent most of the day doing homework, I was able to relax and have a good time on Saturday evening, when we had Cotillion, our spring formal.  It was at the Roanoke Country Club this year, which was beautiful, and I enjoyed having an excuse to get all dressed up and let off some steam with my friends.  I fear that we are getting old, however, because a lot of us seniors were more than happy to go for a little bit, then come home and go to bed rather than party all night!

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I went for a nice hike on the greenway Saturday morning

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Fun on the bus to Cotillion

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Photo booth pictures from Cotillion

All of these events make it very tempting to neglect my schoolwork; I definitely have senioritis in that I just want to spend time with my friends before we graduate instead of working as hard as I should.  Making it even more difficult is the fact that I have finally decided what I’m doing after graduation.  I am going to go to the University of Maryland, College Park, to pursue a master’s degree in library science, with a concentration in archives and record management.  I am really excited; UMD is just outside of Washington, DC, one of my favorite cities, and I look forward to exploring it further.  I also received a graduate assistantship as an academic advisor, which is basically the same thing as an SSL, which not only takes a lot of financial pressure off, but I think it will be a lot of fun as well.  The only hitch is that training for my position starts two days after graduation, so I have to find a place to live and move up there amidst the typical end-of-semester craziness!

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

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