Study Abroad during Covid

Emily McDonald

News

October 20, 2021

One of the opportunities offered by Alma College is the Venture Grant, which comes with many travel options. One of these options often overlooked is a semester abroad. Semesters abroad can offer exciting experiences, even in light of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on travel.

An Alma College student who is currently doing a semester abroad is Moranda Johnson (‘22). She is studying at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, South Korea. She shares that she has had many great experiences so far such as hiking up mountains, visiting landmarks and meeting new people in spite of the current COVID restrictions in South Korea.

Johnson explains, “The Seoul area is under a level 4 lockdown, the toughest level the Korean government has, so it limits how many people can be in a group with exceptions to those fully vaccinated. However, the Korean government does not fully recognize foreign vaccinations, so I must be careful with how many people I am with. The university dorms also have very strict policies about traveling and staying overnight as well as traveling around the country, so it is hard to plan trips to see other areas of Korea.”

Thankfully, she isn’t completely without chances to explore. Carla Jensen, who works in the CSO with Venture opportunities, adds, “I think there is something to be said for investing in the local experience wherever one is studying abroad, rather than trying to see an entire continent with travel excursions every weekend and break. Staying put in their host community will help travelers mitigate risk, and also become immersed in the culture of that place.”

When compared to other travel opportunities such as spring terms, Johnson argues that “I feel like you get to immerse yourself in the culture with a semester abroad because you are living in the country for an extended period of time rather than just visiting for a few weeks, so you get to experience things differently.” Students interested in applying for a semester abroad can do so at http://www.alma.edu/travel. It is important to begin the application process a year in advance and to be aware of the US Department of State travel advisory. Jensen advises that during the pandemic students remain particularly flexible with their plans, making sure they have a backup location or two in case the travel advisory prevents students from visiting their initial choice.

Jensen would also like students wanting to do a semester abroad during the pandemic to “be prepared (psychologically, logistically, and financially) for the possibility of disruptions to their study and travel plans. . . risks are not necessarily greater than they are in Alma, but navigating those disruptions when away from home and campus support systems can be more challenging.”

Even with the challenges of COVID on a semester abroad, there is no need to be discouraged from pursuing the opportunity. Johnson says, “Traveling abroad is an amazing experience, a

once in a lifetime opportunity, and I think every student should take advantage of the study abroad opportunities Alma provides. The process will be hard at first, and there will be a lot of stress involved, but the rewards are worth it. You will get to see things and participate in things you never thought were possible. You will even discover sides of yourself you never knew existed and I think a semester abroad helps you grow as a person because you gain different viewpoints by travelling to other places. So, if anyone is thinking of studying abroad, do it. I promise you won’t regret it.”

Squid Games: The World-Wide Addiction

A black coffin wrapped in a pink bow, a masked person dressed in pink with nothing but a shape for a face and a giant doll that says “무궁화 꽃 이 피었 습니다” (Mugunghwa kkoci pieot seumnida) are the haunting images that are fixed in the minds of those who have seen Netflix’s recent show 오징어 게임 (Squid Games). With a worldwide audience of 142 million households, Squid Games has quickly become a cultural phenomenon in just the past month. But what about this Korean-produced show has captured the attention of so many?

When asking students about their thoughts on Squid Games there were two consistently different answers that students had. “I watched the first two episodes and had to stop. I thought it was so disturbing. There was so much death, and even beyond the brutal killings it was just sad to see all the depressing lives of the contestants.” said Alma student Kyla Fischer (‘23). Where on the other end of the spectrum some students had nothing but positive things to say about the show.

Whether you binged the whole show when it came out, just watched a few episodes, or only had heard about the show through the internet, Squid Games has made its way into your life in one form or another. The over circulation of the Honeycomb challenge and an abundance of different merchandise already being sold in stores has helped to push the popularity and revenue of the show. According to a Netflix revenue report, the show has generated almost 900 million U.S. dollars. Netflix also announced that on October 12th Squid Games had become their most watched show reaching 111 million viewers (Hirwani).

In more recent years Netflix has released an abundance of hit shows such as Stranger Things that is about to release its fourth season and the show You that just dropped its third season. However, Netflix has not just focused on American based shows. According to Times magazine, about 45% of Netflix’s content is international based, with many of the productions made not in English. However, most of the shows that are in the U.S. Top ten category of the Netflix homepage are in English. So, how has a show almost entirely in Korean broke all the streaming service’s records?

Much of the addictive factor that both attracts and deters so many is the show’s use of controversial topics. Westernization and the idea of white supremacy are some of the repeating themes throughout the show. “This is a Korean show that has more American themes than Korean themes in it. For instance, Americans are typically viewed as greedy and have a lot of racial tension. Squid Games showed that with the character Ali, the other players were shaming him for being a foreigner.” said Alma student Abigail Ely (‘24) when asked about the topic.

A crucial theme of the actual games in Squid Games is that every player is equal. However, in any society some people will always be looked at worse than others given how fit they seem for their environment. Having a noticeable difference such as race, age, body type and gender can create discourse among group members. As a result, some contestants already had an advantage over others without having to do anything.

Women were an evident group in the show that were shown to be not as capable to compete as men. However, many of the characters such as Kang Sae-byeok and Kim Joo Ryoung used being a woman to their advantage. “I think women had an equal fight. For instance, Kim Joo used the traits of being a woman as a way to cheat in the game and gain allies from the men contestants.” explained Abigail Ely.

Whether Squid Games brought you contentment or discourse, it can be argued that the show made its audience wonder about deep and complex topics. From its use of character development to show inequality and its overall fight for greed and power, Squid Games has paved a new road for show content. The overscale popularity that the series brought Netflix will help in creating new interest in international film and has redefined the boundaries creators can push past both technically and morally.

Second Semester Class Registration

As second semester creeps around the corner, students begin to plan out their course selection for the winter term. As part of course regulation, students are required to have 68 general course credits to graduate. These credit mandates bring both positive and negative emotion among students around campus.

“General education requirements can give you a range of decisions as to what you want to major in. However, they can also be a waste of time,” said Andrew Ludden 24’. “Your GPA is at risk of dropping for a class that has no correlation to your major. It seems unfair.”

General education requirements, more commonly known as gen eds, in some students’ minds delay their academic process by steering them off track of their intended major course load.

“The requirement is unfair and is honestly a waste of money for some students. I consider myself one of those students. I still have a ton of gen ed classes to get out of the way and won’t be able to start any classes specific to my major [IPHS] until the end of my junior year. I don’t feel prepared,” said Grace Warmbier 24’.

Having a magnitude of options to choose from with limited time to complete them, students can get overwhelmed during course registration.

“Being a student athlete, taking over 16 credit hours is too hard of a burden. I must make sure I’m on track to finish my gen eds while also exploring possible career paths. They are important in a certain light, but there are too many to complete in four years,” said Amelia Lane 25’.

In response to the negative response of general education classes, students have created new ideas for a different structure to how they would like their education to be modeled after.

“I would really like our education at Alma College to be set up in the way that we start to take only our classes for our major right away, and not have any general education classes implemented . The more we know of our major the better we will be able to perform in our adult life and at our jobs, “said Warmbier.

However, some students do believe in the importance of these courses.

“Taking courses in the general education sequence should never be approached through a check the boxes mentality, as that trivializes and undermines the intended purpose,” said Brain Hancock, assistant professor of education. “Instead, it’s important for students to set a schedule that allows for time and space to truly think and engage in each course—including those in their majors and minors.”

“Each high school has different standards for things such as English and math. Giving a baseline course at college ensures that all students are on an even playing field to understand the bare

minimum [in regards to] these courses. Which in turn gives them the knowledge to ensure that they are successful at higher level classes,” said Austin DeRocher 24’.

The goal of these courses is to offer students the opportunity to become well-rounded in a multitude of different subjects.

“These courses are important to develop a broad base on which to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually, and push students to think in ways that might feel foreign,” said Hancock. “Education, broadly, is about expanding and improving human existence.”

Police Chase Ends Outside Campus

Aishwarya Singh

Local

October 21’ 2021

On October 18, panic ensued on the Alma College campus as the administration rushed to tell students to not leave the buildings they were in and issued a campus wide alert of a police chase that had ended right outside of the campus chapel. As students and professors peered out of the windows of their classrooms, a convoy of police cars with blaring sirens could be seen on Superior Street.

“This is the Alma College Campus Alert System. THIS IS NOT A TEST. The area along Superior Street from Wright Avenue to Philadelphia Street will be considered an active crime scene by state police until further notice. The suspect is in custody and the area is safe. There is NOT an active shooter. But please avoid this area until further notice”, said the campus wide alert.

Initial confusion and panic were caused by rumors that someone from the Alma College campus was involved since the incident seemed to have transpired very close to campus premises. As videos of the incident, showing an armed man in a confrontation with multiple armed police officers circulated among the student body, students waited for more details to determine whether or not moving around campus was safe.

Later in the day, the campus administration as well as the Michigan State Police came forward to clear out the details of the incident. The chase involved a 28-year-old armed man, by the name of Tyler Monero, with no connection to the college. As Alma Police were leaving their headquarters located towards the end of Superior Street, the suspect was waiting for them outside, next to his car, with a loaded weapon. Upon witnessing an officer leave, the suspect began to fire on them leading the officer to retaliate with gunshots from his end. The suspect eventually got into his car and a chase ensued with multiple cop cars following him, ultimately ending outside the campus chapel at around 11:30am.

During the chase, Monero was flailing his gun inside his car while also randomly shooting at people along the street, leading one pedestrian to call 9-1-1 and say, “A man just shot my truck.” More gunshots were fired outside campus premises leading the perpetrator to be injured. However, no police officers were injured in the confrontation. The injured suspect was eventually taken to be treated for his gunshot wound before being sent to the Gratiot County Jail where he will be held until further investigation. For the remainder of the day, the officers closed off the roads, starting from Wright Avenue all the way to Philadelphia Street including Superior Street on which multiple campus buildings are located.

Since then, the college administration as well as multiple professors have reiterated to the student body that mental health services and safe spaces are available all throughout campus in the event that the incident was troubling to some students and they need assistance in dealing with it.

An issue like this brings up an ever-present debate within American political discourse- that of gun control for the sake of a safe society versus the right to bear arms for the sake of self-defense. Much like the American populous, the campus body remains divided on the issue but

despite which side of the political spectrum one falls on, an incident like this is capable of destabilizing a community and creating concerns for student safety on campus.

Possible Elimination of Michigan’s Menstrual Tax

Claire Hipps

Features

10/20/2021

Earlier this month, Michigan’s House of Representatives advanced legislation that eliminates the “tampon tax”: the 6% sales tax that is currently applied to menstrual products, which are currently considered “luxury items”. If this legislation is both passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Whitmer, Michigan will join the 20+ other states who have either ended menstrual taxation or never taxed those products in the first place. This list of states includes Ohio and Minnesota, according to AP News.

Although the tax brought in more than $7 million in government revenue annually, Gov. Whitmer has stipulated that this money will not be taken from the School Aid Fund. The state does not tax various other types of medication or other medical supplies.

This tax is great news for menstruating people everywhere, who do not choose menstruation, as pointed out by Claire Wittlieff, ‘24.

“I feel that this will majorly benefit [people who menstruate] because it will lower the cost of products, and yet it may lead to a bigger conversation around the importance of said products.”

Similarly, lifting the tax “will benefit women greatly” and that this is “a great move towards financial equality” for women, said Kate Stymiest, ’22.

“There is no reason there should have been a tax on menstrual products to begin with, so I’m happy to see this happening,” said Stymiest.

Although the lifting of this tax is a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of work to be done.

“While getting rid of the 6% tax is a great step in the right direction, we can’t deny that the regular price of menstrual products can be absurd,” said Wittlieff, who also mentioned education has a barrier for people who menstruate.

“While students typically learn sexual education in middle school/high school, I believe there should be a more in-depth focus on periods. There is a lot of misinformation that is spread about menstruation,” said Wittlieff.

People who menstruate, especially people of color who menstruate, still face considerable barriers to financial and medical equality.

“For women of color, sometimes it’s even harder medically speaking because our body functions in a different way than others, which makes some health issues very common for us but might not be common for women who are not of color.” said Prarthita Nath, ’22.

“Women in poor countries often have to choose between buying menstruation products and medications or food.” said Marwa Assiad, ’24, highlighting the financial barrier.

The legislation passed in the house by a bipartisan vote of 94-13 and is supported by several organizations including the MI Department of Treasury and the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Alma College Venture Program

Campus

Megan Neeley

October 19, 2021

Alma College provides students with the opportunity to travel, serve and explore by financially contributing to their personalized journeys provided by the Alma Venture Program.

In order to apply classroom experiences to the real world, a minimum of $2500, and sometimes more, is allotted to each applicant who seeks an individualized experience on- or off-campus. In fact, over 1.5 million dollars has been awarded to students since 2015.

These awards often fall into two categories within the Alma Venture Program. The first is the Junior Year Applied Experience. This is a clinical experience, research opportunity, or study abroad adventure that consists of a minimum of 150 hours.

The second category is listed as the Serve Generously, Lead Purposefully, and Live Responsibly Venture Awards. Eligibility under this category includes: volunteer experience at a nonprofit organization; presenting research at a conference; or an internship experience that allows students to explore the next steps in their personal or professional life.

There is no maximum number of times that one student can apply for a Venture grant. Many students apply multiple times and have used these Venture grants in a wide variety of ways. Some students stay on campus and some travel overseas. Kyle Kansman ‘17 used his Venture grant to help offset the cost of the Animal Rehabilitation Internship at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.

Kansman insists that “the experience reassured [his] passion for animal rehab.” In further reflection of his Venture experience, he mentioned that he has always had a love for wildlife, but “now that [he’s] had this experience, [he] knows this is where [he] belongs.”

It is evident that the Alma Venture Program provides students with the opportunity to explore career paths and passions. This program is just a small part of how Alma College aids students in the process of living up to the college’s mission to “prepare graduates who think critically, serve generously, and live responsibly as stewards of the world they bequeath to the future.”

Despite Columbus Day being the well-known national holiday, people around the world have turned to celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 11th. The purpose of this is to educate the public on Native American history and culture, as well as reject the racist history of Christopher Columbus.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day also raises awareness of the United States’s long history of discriminating against its Native Peoples. It calls attention to the losses caused by warfare, disease, massacres, and forced assimilation in the past as well as how these things are still very present and ignored today.

Alma College Students have the privilege of studying among a very diverse student body and should be aware of the secret history behind Columbus Day and the existence of Indigenous Peoples’ Day to promote their social and political consciousness.

Campus Housing Limitations Extended

Aishwarya Singh

National

October 19’ 2021

As of October 6, the Alma College Office for Residence Life has extended the housing limitations mandate which prevents large gatherings within small, on campus housing such as fraternity and sorority houses for the sake of containing the virus and preventing an on campus spread.

“Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 in Gratiot County, and with guidance from local health officials, we ask that no large gatherings take place in small houses until Nov. 1, 2021”, said Sandra A. Gadde, Vice President for Student Affairs.

This announcement came in light of the fact that while Gratiot County recorded 0 new COVID cases on September 30th, there was a 70-case rise recorded just one day after that, on October 1. Consistently after that, about 75-80 new cases have been recorded every single day in the county with a population of just 40,000 people. This brings the total number of positive cases in the county since the start of the pandemic to 8,399.

This announcement came as a disappointment to students living and involved in the events of small housing on campus, especially since this became the third time the mandate has been extended. A direct consequence of the mandate was students’ inability to hold gatherings on homecoming weekend, their inability to practice age-old tradition related to fraternity and sorority recruitment of new students and now, their inability to celebrate Halloween and hold related events inside small housing.

For fraternities, there were no formally held runouts after they were cancelled for the second year in a row. For sororities, all events during recruitment week were held outside at various venues across campus.

A student, member of a fraternity on campus, came forward to talk about his experience of being involved in a fraternity during COVID. The student, who chose to be anonymous, said, “We understand why the campus does what it does. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s been hard on all students to try and put up with the mandates. To many students, it continues to feel like their college years are passing them by while there is not much they can do to truly live the college life they thought they were going to get. Obviously, it’s nobody’s fault that we are in this situation and that we have these rules. Hopefully we can return to normal soon.”

As of October 18, the campus has 55 positive cases including faculty, staff and students with 77% of the student body and 92% of the faculty and staff fully vaccinated. That is still enough positive cases on campus for the college administration to lift or relax mandates with a lot of caution. Moving too swiftly in going back to normal may put unnecessary strain on campus resources leading to worse consequences in the longer run.

By December of this year, we will complete two years of living under the pandemic. Many hope to see more normalcy by then, in and off campus. As students will return for winter semester in January of 2022, many hope to have no mask mandate on campus anymore and hope to be able to be involved in more vibrant on campus events as more students get vaccinated and we near the end of life under the pandemic.

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