Category Archives: I’m a Bison

Costa Rica: Crime, Culture & Consequence

On Friday, April 25, at 4:00pm in Daniels Auditorium, a presentation will be given by a group of students who went to Costa Rica over winter break. The maximum capacity for this event is 160 so be sure to get there early. Hors d’oeuvres will be served, specifically coconut balls, a cultural dessert the students learned to prepare while in Costa Rica.

From January 5 – 12, ten students visited Costa Rica as an elective part of the course called Crime, Culture, and Consequence. This trip, led by Professors Kimberly Charbonneau and Boyd Brown, allowed students to explore not just the culture of Costa Rica but the justice system as well. The majority of students attending were juniors and seniors, but a few sophomores were allowed to go in order to have the full ten students required. Each student was a Criminal Justice major or minor.

The day of travel to get to Costa Rica proved frustrating but students managed to keep in perspective that this trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Repeated mechanical issues kept their plane delayed for a five-hour stretch, only to be continued by a two-hour stretch. The decision was made to postpone the welcome dinner planned, and students accepted food vouchers from the airline instead. Not to worry — a welcome lunch was given the following day, and Professor Brown gave a beautiful speech.

Once the group from Nichols College finally arrived, they settled in their rooms and got ready for an adventure. After a quick look around, the students realized they stuck out like sore thumbs — they were the only people in shorts! Apparently, in Costa Rica, shorts are not commonly worn. Other glaring differences between our two cultures were the use of toilet paper — which is thrown away and not flushed — and the use of broken bottles embedded in fences for added home security. Also, children stay in the home until marriage. Of course there are many differences between every culture, but these things were immediately noticed by traveler Skye Oliver, who was good enough to share not just her experience with the Bison Chronicles but her pictures as well.

Even in the middle of a large city, the students were struck by how quiet everything was. There were no blaring sirens and horns. The city was completely calm — how unlike our cities here in America! A peaceful attitude was evident all through Costa Rica. The country men and women were hospitable, laid back, and very open to the tourists. While walking around one day, Skye was given the peace sign by a man riding a motorcycle. Just one human being projecting peace and kindness to another.

Group photo

The food was enjoyed mightily on the trip. Salsa and tomatoes were big in the culture and heavily utilized at a cooking class given by a woman named Carolina, friend of tour guide Ania. This was an event the students enjoyed. The rice was spiced unlike it is commonly done here in America and was enjoyed by all. For breakfast, toast was served with fruits, rice, and beans. The students were there to learn but they also were allowed a trip to the Arenal volcano, a tour of a coffee estate, a zip-lining excursion, and their last day was spent on the beach while Spider monkeys chattered above in the trees. Bonds were formed on this trip, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that these ten students and two professors will now share forever.

Working as a group

A day in the court house provided the students with an inside look at how the justice system in Costa Rica works. Defendants choose which questions they do and do not answer. Yes, you read that right. Defendants are given the right to determine what they will offer for information through questioning. The judge was informal, speaking on her phone and braiding her hair through the start of the trial. A lawyer, German, invited the students back to his office and was very welcoming, preparing for the students and making them feel right at home. One interesting thing they learned is that once, 383 prisoners were released from prison on the same day. One of the prisoners committed a murder that day, and all 383 were hauled right back to the prison. Now that is a difference of culture!

All in all, this was a trip where students learned non-stop. If you are a student here at Nichols, or a student considering Nichols, please be aware that the college offers amazing opportunities for student learning. Trips sponsored by International Studies Abroad are common here at Nichols, so do not be afraid to ask.

To be or not to be…an English major/minor at Nichols College.

The answer is yes. Major in English. Minor in English. Do something that has to do with broadening your horizons in the world of reading, writing, imagination, and contemplation. You can utilize these skills beyond the classroom, despite what you may have been told. Writing and communication skills go a long way in almost every field I can think of, except maybe if you were to be a mime (although the drama classes may come in handy here). The “people skills” you learn with an English degree will take you anywhere. You learn persuasion, negotiation, mentoring, supervising, instruction… these are desirable skills when hiring a new employee.

All too often we English majors hear this question after admitting our degree goal: “Oh, you want to be a teacher?” We answer, and if the answer is no, the next that comes? [Insert odd and uncomfortable look here] “So…what are you going to do, then?” Well, person asking who generally has no idea what an English degree entails, I am going to do lots of things. I can enter the business field if I so desire, the service or hospitality world, or the world of retail. I can go to grad school. I can go to law school. I could even start my own business, or…yes…teach. The answer is that I have foundation skills that far too many others are lacking these days.

The English department at Nichols is unbelievably incredible. The professors generally come from high-ranking universities and colleges, and are genuine human beings who care about their students. The small classroom size and individual attention open opportunities one might not get in a larger pool of candidates.

You don’t have to major in English (although you should). You can minor. You should absolutely and positively make the choice to minor in English. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so, as pointed out in the first paragraph by the list of “people skills” obtained. If you are an International Business major with an English minor, this showcases your ability to communicate, understand, and negotiate with others. That’s impressive. Same for any other major combined with an English minor. Just do it. It’s important stuff.

Besides all of these excellent points, English is fun. How can you not love reading? There are all different things to read, you know! And writing is one of the best releases from a day of frustration. The theater, film, poetry, music — all of these things have to do with the English language. Dive in. See for yourself.

Ten Questions For Reflection


The time spent between freshman and senior year is a period of great growth. You enter college as one person, and leave as another entirely. Your thoughts change and different paths evolve. College years are among the best years in our lives. In honor of these thoughts, a freshman and a senior have been interviewed and asked the same questions. Some are serious, some are fun. Read on to see how they compare!

The questions answered below are from Chelsea Rafferty, class of 2014. Chelsea is a double major in English and Secondary Education and currently student teaching. Chelsea is an asset to Nichols College and inspires many with her hard work, determination, sense of humor, and friendship.

1. Describe yourself in 5 words: Outgoing, Loud, Clumsy, Nerdy, Basketball junkie.

2. What was your final decision in choosing Nichols for your college career?

I decided to come to Nichols for quite a few reasons. The first, and most important on my list, is the distance from home. I am only an hour drive away so I can travel back there when need be. Second, I was recruited to play on the Women’s Basketball team. I was excited for an opportunity to play at the collegiate level. The third reason was the size of the school and the student-teacher ratio. I attended a very small Catholic high school and loved a small classroom setting with close interactions with my teachers. I was very successful in that environment and knew I wanted that at the college I would attend.

3. What do you hope to get from a Nichols education?

I hope to have an advantage over other graduates in my field in terms of experience in the classroom and networking.

4.  Tell me the funniest thing that has happened to you so far on campus:

During my sophomore year while I was on duty on the senior One Night Social, a female senior and a close friend flashed me as she was approaching her residence hall. She had absolutely no idea anyone was around and was so embarrassed. It was one of the funnier things I have seen while on duty.

5. Who is your favorite professor and why?

There are so many amazing professors here but I would have to say that Professor Michael Lajoie is by far my favorite. This is my first semester not taking one of his classes since my first semester freshmen year and this deeply saddens me. He is a mentor to all students, whether they are an English major or not, and he genuinely cares about each student’s educational, emotional, physical, and mental well being. He challenges each students thinking and prompts them to truly relate classroom material to the real world. He focuses on the important aspects of education rather than the nit picky, unimportant parts such as the number of paragraphs in one’s paper. He focuses on quality and substance rather than quantity. He is the epitome of an amazing teacher and I hope I am half the teacher he is someday. He has helped me and my peers overcome our personal struggles and he is the most compassionate individual I have ever met in my life. I can never thank him enough for what he has done to help me grow as an English major, future educator, and as a well-rounded individual.

6. What advice would you give your former freshman self?

Don’t go home so often. It may be tempting to go home every weekend because this change is very overwhelming, but the weekends of your freshmen year are the most important when it comes to meeting fellow classmates. Try to be strong and stay a few weekends in a row. Go out with your roommates, teammates, and neighbors. Get to know everyone.

7. Finish this sentence. When I grow up, I am going to be…

A college English Professor.

8. Favorite book, favorite food, favorite song, and favorite type of writing utensil:

To Kill A Mockingbird; Jimmy’s Buffalo Chicken Calzone; Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men; BIC Black Ballpoint Pen.

9. If I could change one thing about Lombard Dining Hall, it would be…

A larger gluten free section. It certainly has expanded significantly since I was a freshman but being a person with Celiac disease, it certainly can improve even more.

10. Favorite quote:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” –To Kill a Mockingbird


The next set of questions have been answered by Jessica Frank, a new student to Nichols College. Jessica has entered Nichols College this fall. Her inquisitive and friendly disposition is sure to lead her down a path to success. She is an International Business major, class of 2017.

1. Describe yourself in 5 words: Happy, friendly, outgoing, loud, and smiley.

2. What was your final decision in choosing Nichols for your college career?

The cost of tuition over other equally competitive schools of the same caliber with the same success rates.

3. What do you hope to get from a Nichols education?

Hopefully a job in the field of my major, international business, and a clearer path to a happy and successful life.

4. Tell me the funniest thing that has happened to you so far on campus.

I wore flip flops on a rainy day because my sister told me it was supposed to be 80 degrees and sunny. I ended up walking up the hill from the Athletic Center all the way to Fels barefoot with my shoes in my hand.

5. Who is your favorite professor and why?

My favorite professor would be a tossup between Dr. Halprin and Dr. J. Deys. They are both English teachers and I love English but they teach different subjects for my class so I’m not sure. Halprin is kooky and funny and spacey while Deys is more cool and down to earth. They’re both awesome.

6. What advice would you give your future senior self?

I would tell my senior self that I should be proud to be graduating from college and that just because school is over doesn’t mean the hard stuff has past. I’d definitely tell myself not to sell out on my goals no matter how farfetched and outlandish they may be.

7. Finish this sentence. When I grow up, I am going to be…

When I grow up I am going to be an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in South Korea.

8. Favorite book, favorite food, favorite song, and favorite type of writing utensil:

[sic] The Princess Bride; Thai spicy stir fry; Letters from the Sky by Civil Twilight (at the moment anyways); Fine tipped colorful pens.

9. If I could change one thing about Lombard Dining Hall, it would be…

I would love to see more culture in the dining hall. Indian food, Chinese food, Thai food, Korean food, and others would be a welcomed mix up. Sushi would make my day.

10. Favorite quote:

“There are three kinds of people in life; The kind that make things happen, the kind that watch things happen, and the kind who ask what happened.” — Mary Kay Ash