Syracuse’s Welcoming LGBT Community

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Walking down the promenade on a windy Monday afternoon, the banner above Schine Student Center caught my eye. Schine almost always has a banner above the doorway, advertising a University Union event or bringing awareness to a campus campaign. This one held my attention, because it said, on a rainbow background “Queer and Trans Existence is Beautiful”.

LGBT resources and community spaces were not something that I looked into while determining my college of choice, but I have found that Syracuse University has many. The first week of classes, I was able to attend an event put on by the LGBT Resource center, and solidified my first friendships here while sitting on the front lawn eating ice cream at their kick-off Ice Cream Social. I haven’t attended many of their discussion groups, because often they are comprised mostly of graduate students, but that first event I went to, where students spilled out the front door of the building and covered the lawn, was a powerful motivator to find more resources and forms of community on campus.

Noah Mendez, a sophomore Forensic Science major, took some time to tell me about his experience with LGBT communities and resources on campus – specifically the LGBT learning community housed in Lawrinson hall. During his freshman year, he was able to meet people like himself, make connections, and feel a sense of community among the members. The friendships he made were lasting, and based on a shared identity. Other past and present members of the learning community comment that, as a freshman, having the learning community was a welcoming way to start their college careers.

Pride Union is a registered student organization on campus for LGBT students. It meets on Friday nights in the Hall of Languages, and it’s a great source of community on campus. They also put on some pretty cool events throughout the year: a drag show, which two years ago had RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Milk as a special guest. A less extravagant event that I’ve always enjoyed was the Pride Union clothing swap, where you can bring clothes that you no longer wear and pick up new clothes that other people have brought to pass. It’s great for sprucing up your wardrobe, and getting rid of clothes you don’t wear anymore – particularly if you’re looking to trade your old blouses for men’s button-ups or your jeans for skirts.

Syracuse University has shown me a lot of different places of community and resources for LGBT students, a refreshing and unexpected change from high school GSAs.

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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Filling Time During Spring Break

Students working on a project for the Near West Side Initiative–an organization that students regularly volunteer with

Spring Break is the one week off during the school year where you probably don’t have any obligations. In the fall, there’s Thanksgiving, and in the winter, there’s Christmas, New Year’s, sometimes Chanukah depending on the calendar. That means family holiday parties, traditions, family time. Spring Break does not have any of that! The closest thing it has to a big, important holiday is Saint Patrick’s Day, and that is really more of an excuse to eat green food.

So what does one do with a whole unencumbered week smack dab in the middle of the semester? Here are some things that Syracuse University students do:

  1. Volunteer

Nothing gives you the warm fuzzies and keeps you busy like taking your free time and using it to help others! Friends of mine stayed local this past spring break to build tiny homes for homeless people in Syracuse. Syracuse is a city with one of the largest wealth gaps in the country, so even though the area around the University is clean and nice, coming down off the hill to help the community is a great way to give back!

  1. Work

Yes, it’s boring, but going home and picking up shifts is a great way to fill up your schedule as well as your pockets! Plus, a few nights of babysitting and house-sitting is all it takes for me to feel like I’ve had a productive week off, even if I spent the rest of my time sitting around like a couch potato.

  1. Visit Friends

If your spring break lines up with other friends from home, you may just want to go home and visit them, but it’s also a great time to go visit with college friends too! Bringing someone home for Spring Break made my spring break way more fun – I had an excuse to go to the hipster coffee joints and stores that I would not have ventured to otherwise, to show a newcomer the cool parts of my town and city. Plus, a buddy who will yell at the TV with me while we watch bad reality television.

  1. Travel

Traveling could be as simple as road-tripping to Toronto or Niagara Falls for an afternoon, or as wild as jetting down to somewhere much warmer, sunnier, and maybe even beachier than Syracuse. I know people who have gone to Europe, to the Dominican Republic, to Florida, and people who drove down to see friends at nearby schools. Spring break is a great time to explore the world! Or the state. Or the campus of someone else’s college.

The world really is your oyster, and there’s so much that can be seen, done, and accomplished in one free week. So take it and run with it!

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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Built-in Bestie

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The summer before I came to Syracuse University, I heard piles upon piles of sage college wisdom. Aunts, uncles, teachers, older friends, each dispensed their nuggets of College Knowledge on my waiting ears. They expected me to be stressed – about classes, about leaving home, about making friends – and tried to assuage my fears with fun stories about their time at college. Whether it worked or not, I can’t say, but I tried to absorb it all as if I was studying for a final exam.

Overwhelmingly, the advice wasn’t about classes, or dining halls, or getting lost on the first day (though to be fair, that stuff turned out to be pretty straightforward). Everyone wanted to tell me about their college roommates.

Every story seemed pretty much the same: lasting friendships, sisterly bonds. An aunt told me that my roommate would be the first person to come through for me in a jam. My dad was in one of his college roommates’ weddings.

It’s really cathartic to know going into a new, scary place where you don’t know anyone, that you’ve got a built-in friend on your very first day. Many of my peers and I were of the opinion that Facebook is mostly for moms, but everyone I knew was putting that aside to scour Groups and Pages for the perfect roommate – their perfect first friend. That seemed like a lot of work for me, so I put in a request for a random roommate and let fate guide me from there. It was only afterward that I started to fret about it. What if we didn’t like each other? What if we weren’t friends? Would my college experience be ruined?

(Spoiler Alert: no.)

Fast-forwarding to my first few days after move-in, my new roommate and I quickly realized we had next to nothing in common. She was nice and smart, and she kept to her half of the room, and for my entire freshman year, that was about as far as our friendship went. We sat in companionable silence and did our homework on opposite sides of the room. I offered her pizza when I ordered too much, and she offered me some leftover fries. Beyond that, we kept to our own circles.

At first, I felt a little gypped. I’d heard all these great roommate stories, where was my automatic BFF? But as the semester went on, I quickly found my own friends, in dining halls, in classes, on other floors of my dorm. People I did have things in common with, who I really jived with. Within a week, I had a veritable circle of new friends, who I’d only met because I wasn’t attached to my roommate all the time. One trip to the dining hall by myself, one “great T-shirt, dude, I love that show!” and I didn’t even need a built-in best friend. I’d found the people that would become my best friends all on their own.

The one thing nobody told me on my journey toward Syracuse was that in the end, you don’t have to be best friends with your roommate. At this point, I think it was better for me that I wasn’t. I branched out, met more new and interesting people than I would have otherwise.

Now, though, as a sophomore, I can tell you that having a roommate that’s also your best friend? Also a pretty sweet deal.

 

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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Finding Your People

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Students on the promenade

My roommate story continues this semester as my newest roommate, a transfer student who moved into the room my best friend vacated when she went abroad, packed up and dropped out last week. It was very sudden and unexpected, but there were external factors, and she was struggling to acclimate to such a large school. Sometimes it can’t be helped. It made me think, though, about what I like about going to a “large” university, with a little over twenty thousand students. I do like it, a lot, but I know that it’s not for everyone.

I like the anonymity that comes with going to a school where you can’t possibly know even a third of the population. It means that you meet new people every day – your classes are full of new faces. As I get more specialized in my major and take fewer gen-eds, I’m finding that I see more and more familiar faces, but even in classes of thirty there are always people I haven’t met. I like walking down the promenade in my own little world, getting my coffee and heading to class among people who are also doing their own thing.

Another thing that I like about going to such a big school is that it allows for a lot of diversity in extracurriculars. If I went to a school that had five thousand people in it, I probably wouldn’t have my pick of six different environmental clubs, each which focus on and do different things. I certainly couldn’t login to OrgSync, a portal for student organizations on campus, and find over three hundred different student organizations.

Around 70 of them are just greek life, meaning that there are 70 different social, leadership, or professional fraternities or sororities at your fingertips. If, like me, greek life isn’t your jam, that leaves just about 250 other things for you to try. Want to try hosting a radio show? We’ve got that. Want to join a religious club focused on outreach in the community? There’s a bunch. Want to write for a student publication about politics? Music? lifestyle? Campus news? Jerk magazine, 20 Watts, Equal Time, and the Daily Orange are all waiting for your voice. With so many clubs and orgs, it’s so easy to make your Syracuse experience unique, and find people who like the same things you do.

Even outside of clubs and organizations, with twenty thousand students – around fifteen thousand undergrads – there’s so much room to find other people like you. I can’t imagine that, if I’d gone to a small school, I’d have been able to pull together around ten other people willing to sit around and play Dungeons and Dragons with me. I’ve carved out my spot here at SU, and even though the University is big, I’ve never felt like I couldn’t find my people.

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

 

Location, Location, Location

Me, a family friend, and my dad, when they came to visit for a Syracuse Men’s Basketball game.

When I first started thinking about where I wanted to go to college, I thought I wanted to go somewhere far, far away from home. Instead, I opted for Syracuse University. It had so many things I wanted: a beautiful campus, fantastic study abroad programs, a massive network of alumni. However, unlike High School Meg expected, it was less than a hundred miles from my hometown outside of Rochester, and I’ve found that it is pretty much the best possible location for me.

I’m far enough away from home that I don’t go to the same places I always did, and I don’t see the same people around as I used to. Only two or three of the people I graduated with came to Syracuse too, so there aren’t many familiar faces – which is what I was hoping for.

I’m also far enough from home that I don’t see my parents all the time. It’s easy for them to get here, if they want to or need to, but I still get to be independent and do my own thing.

However, when they do want or need to come down to ‘Cuse for a visit, it’s super convenient for everyone involved. It’s a painless drive, only about an hour and a half. That makes it too far away to justify coming just to drop something off, but not far enough away that a visit would mean booking a hotel for the weekend.  

For example, a few weekends ago, my parents came to town for the football game against Middle Tennessee. They got here mid-afternoon, laden with groceries and tailgating food. After a few weeks of ramen and hamburger helper, my friends and I felt like royalty as we crowded around my South Campus Apartment table with our pulled pork sandwiches. After I, my neighbors, my roommate, and my boyfriend all finished indulging in delicious, free food (free food!), we headed out to the football game. Afterwards, my parents drove home, and were back by eleven! An easy, stress-free day that I was able to spend with my parents, and then the rest of the weekend spent being a college student – eating poorly and avoiding doing laundry.

Last spring, being close to home meant that I could spend a weekend with my family, and not just for long weekends or breaks. Twice freshman year, I went home with a friend or two and soaked up the TLC of a weekend at home. For all that it’s nice to be independent, a good home-cooked meal and a bedroom to myself after a particularly stressful month is practically revitalizing.

Syracuse University strikes a perfect balance for me. I dreamt of going somewhere new, of being independent, of being able to begin college on a clean slate, and was able to accomplish that. I wanted holidays and trips home to be low-hassle, and I was able to accomplish that too. Truly, I believe I managed to have the best of both worlds here at Syracuse.

 

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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Hangout Spots

We’ve all been there: you get out of a class, you step out into the brisk Syracuse air (or in the case of the past few weeks, the blistering Syracuse heat), you check the time on your phone, and you’ve got a whole hour to kill before you have to be anywhere else.

It’s not enough time to make going home worth it – or maybe it is, but there’s no way you’d be able to face going back out again when you’re home, where your bed is. I’ve managed to narrowly avoid this situation for most of the semester thus far, but on Wednesday, I got out of a test 45 whole minutes early, leaving me with just over an hour until my next class. What was I going to do, twiddle my thumbs? Wander aimlessly around the quad? No! Here’s what you do:

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Hendricks Steps

Hendricks Chapel is probably one of my favorite buildings on campus, but in the interest of full disclosure? I’ve never actually stepped inside it. Are there pews? Are there pillars? I’ve heard it’s beautiful. A friend of mine had a choir concert there last year and said it was lovely. The thing that makes Hendricks my favorite spot on campus is its steps. On a sunny day, sitting on the steps of Hendricks Chapel, you can see clear across the quad. The people-watching is excellent. If you’re really lucky, you can climb to the top, then sit out on one of the pillars that jut out on either side of the stairs. Pull out your laptop, throw in some headphones, or just enjoy the view all on its own.

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The Noble Room

Alright Meg, you’re saying as you read this, but what if it’s not a nice day? Fear not! Hendricks Chapel can still provide. The ground-level doors to Hendricks Chapel, on all four sides of the building, take you down to the basement, where my real favorite place on campus is: People’s Place. It’s a student-run shop that sells coffee, bagels, and is an oasis of Coca-Cola on our Pepsi campus. Naturally, the first step on any journey down to the Hendricks basement is to stop off for an Austin Powers (chocolate milk, hot chocolate, and coffee) or a snickerdoodle-flavored coffee. Then take a right, and find yourself in the cozy, comfortable Noble Room. It’s a quiet study space with armchairs, tables, and some very nappable couches, and it’s small and out of the way enough that there’s always a seat. I’ve probably watched an entire collective season of Parks and Recreation at those tables, and I’ve definitely done a few letter grades worth of studying there.

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Bird Library

Hendricks is my primary time-killing spot on campus because it’s central to the quad, but if your next class is in the Hall of Languages or Newhouse, you’ll probably want to camp out somewhere like Bird. The lower two floors of Bird are chock full of spaces to sit, spread out your things, and gab with your friends. If you’re looking to meet up with someone but don’t want to spend money on food while you’re doing it, the basement floor of Bird Library is 100% the move to make. The whole place is set up with collaboration and comfort in mind – circles of chairs, four-seater tables. Personally, I like the long, white table with the high top chairs. If you need a quiet study space, the second and third floors both have sitting areas with some comfy armchairs and, again, very nappable couches.

Syracuse University’s beautiful campus is constantly surprising me. Every semester I find a new crevice or corner to hang out that I’ve never really noticed before. These are just a few of my favorites, but our big beautiful campus is full of spots like these where you can carve out your own little space for a while. I invite you to come here and scope some more out for yourself!

 

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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