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The Exciting Transition of Senior Year: What I’m Looking Forward To

It may just be a side effect of the severe jet lag I’ve been feeling since leaving Canberra, Australia, to travel all the way back to my hometown in Ohio, but I can’t seem to stop thinking about transitions. For example, the transition from Canberra local time to Ohio local time, which is a 14-hour difference, feels like a pretty big deal at the moment. But there’s also the transition from my life as an exchange student at the Australian National University to living at home briefly. Soon, will be the transition to move back to Rochester to complete a summer internship at the George Eastman Museum, and then another transition back into academics with the start of the fall semester. Not to mention the gravity of the impending, penultimate transition—completing my fourth and final year, graduating, and starting a new life outside of Rochester.

This current and forthcoming set of transitions will constitute major themes of my senior year, a daunting yet promising thought. In the final week before my return to Rochester—after a seven month long hiatus—I feel as if I’m in limbo. I’m on the precipice of a truly exciting year, transitioning from my adventure in Australia into all the adventures senior year will offer. While this transitory state carries some less pleasant emotions, such as stress about an uncertain future and nostalgia for the past three incredible years, I mostly recognize and appreciate the wonder, joy, and fulfillment that will surely accompany the coming months, given the countless opportunities I have to look forward to.

Serving as a teaching assistant for Anthropology 101

The first opportunity I’ll be seizing during senior year is that of assisting one of my favorite anthropology professors in teaching the introductory course to cultural anthropology. I’ve always wanted to work as a teaching assistant sometime during my undergraduate career, so when junior and senior anthropology majors were invited during the early months of 2017 to apply to serve as TA’s for ANT 101, as the course is known, during either the fall or spring semester of the 2017–2018 school year, I couldn’t pass up the chance to achieve this goal. A few weeks after applying, I received the email notification offering a position as one of four TAs in the fall, at 2:30 in the morning on an overnight bus from Melbourne to Canberra, due to the time difference between Australia and the States. Despite my sleepiness, I was ecstatic and quickly drafted a response that I’d send in the morning, and my eagerness for the position hasn’t faded since then.

Since I ultimately want to be an anthropology professor, the opportunity to gain experience in facilitating first and second year students’ learning of anthropological research methods and major topics in the field is an invaluable one. Not to mention, I’ll have the chance to work alongside talented anthropology peers and friends, which will surely enrich my experience and add to the fun. Finally, the professor (Professor Kathryn Mariner) I’ll be working with taught my favorite course last fall, “The Black Body: Intersecting Intimacies,” which was about the embodied experience of race in the United States. Plus, Professor Mariner currently advises my honors research, which is another exciting endeavor that I’ll discuss next.

Writing my senior thesis

Another aspect of senior year I’m particularly excited about also falls within the realm of my anthropology major. Anthropology students, like many students in many other disciplines at Rochester, are offered different avenues to complete senior requirements, such as teaching assistantships and capstone projects. Although my teaching assistantship would count for the senior anthropology requirement, I’m choosing to complete a capstone project in the form of an honors thesis for two reasons. First, completing a thesis means that I’ll be able to go about fieldwork and a subsequent extensive writing project for the first time under the guidance of the wonderfully supportive anthropology department, and I’ll be especially mentored by my gracious readers and advisors, Professor Mariner and Professor Llerena Searle. Second, my honors thesis will strengthen my future applications for graduate study in anthropology.

My thesis, which will focus on the cultural imaginings of drug addiction (particularly in terms of the heroin epidemic) in rust belt America, has already consumed a great deal of my time and effort, as I’ve made use of the brief time I’m home to connect with local officials and professionals involved in combating the heroin epidemic through treatment and public awareness campaigns, as well as nonprofits, journalists, and more. I’ve been conducting interviews and fieldwork at various sites and events, and will continue to do the same once I’m in Rochester to gain a comparative lens of addiction in another rust belt, deindustrialized city. I’ll also continue doing phone and Skype interviews with relevant parties in Akron. Throughout the year, I’ll also be doing extensive reading of anthropological theories of addiction and urban issues to frame my findings as well. This strenuous project will culminate in an approximately forty-page thesis, which I’ll submit for review late in the second semester of senior year. While it’s already taxing, it’s an incredible opportunity to undertake supervised research efforts in an area of study of my own choosing and interest in order to apply what I’ve been learning for the past several years outside the classroom.

Rush Rhees
I can’t wait to be back on campus for a beautiful Rochester fall.


“Senior privilege”

Another aspect of being a senior that excites me is, well, being a senior. Jokes aside, senior status truly does confer privileges. For example, I’ll be living with three friends in a fourth-floor apartment off campus, in an upperclassman living complex called Riverview Apartments. The complex is owned by the University, which means we’ll have air conditioning, a beautiful view of the river and campus on its other side, fully furnished bedrooms and a common area to share, and maybe best of all, a kitchen in which we can cook healthy and nourishing meals. I’ve lived in campus housing for the past three years—I lived in a triple in Gilbert, a freshman dorm on the Quad, and then in a suite in Kendrick, a building in the Hill Court residential complex, for the next three semesters. While I’ve had a single since sophomore year, moving to Riverview is a major upgrade in terms of the air conditioning, views (although to be honest, I have always had beautiful views, whether of the freshman quad or the Mount Hope Cemetery behind Hill Court), more space, and the kitchen. Freshman dorms and Hill Court both come equipped with public kitchens, but having our own kitchen will make life that much easier. Plus, speaking of privacy—we all will have our own bathrooms! I can’t wait to live with friends in a more “grown-up” apartment a bit removed from campus, and I’m eager for all of the relaxation and laughter that will bring.

As seniors, we’ll also have a wide variety of programming and events to look forward to. While the year will conclude with the annual senior week festivities, we have all of the senior nights at local bars the 2018 class council will plan to look forward to, in tradition with the senior class councils before them. I’m looking forward to the chance to bond and make further memories with my class in this year prior to parting.

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Figuring out the future

Finally, though the uncertainty of life after senior year certainly feels overwhelming and scary at times, it’s overall a promising, invigorating process to figure out where I’ll end up. For example, I’m currently in the process of constantly revising my application to be an English teaching assistant for a year in South Korea through the Fulbright Program for at least a year after graduation. The thought of potentially living, teaching, traveling, and studying in Korea for an extended period of time makes all of the stress and uncertainty feel worth it—if it means I’ll end up on such an exhilarating path, I’ll take it. If a Fulbright ETA isn’t in my cards, I’ll hopefully pursue a different sort of teaching fellowship or even full-time work, perhaps in a museum, for a year or two before entering a PhD program in anthropology. These are the plans for now, at least.

In the meantime, I have one more year of living and studying with my best friends and some of the most interesting people in the world at the University of Rochester. I’ll cherish every moment of it, from my Sunday afternoon online radio show with my co-DJ and best friend, to grocery trips to Wegmans, to five-dollar movie nights at the Little Theatre downtown. Because as preoccupied as I am with transitions currently, there will be a lot to live for in the moment throughout senior year.

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