Sophomore Symposium 2019: A Time to Pause, Reflect, and Recharge


Lucy Stefani '21, News Editor

On Tuesday February 5, the Class of 2021 headed out to the beautiful Arnold Hall Conference Center for a some well-deserved rest and class bonding time. The two-day trip was packed with enriching speakers, class games, and opportunities to explore the beautiful location. The Class of ‘21 described the trip as “fun,” “different,” “calming,” “beautiful”, and “memorable.”

We arrived at Arnold Hall at 9:30 AM and began by playing a class bonding game outside in the beautiful 60-degree weather, and then heard an inspiring talk from Mrs. Kris about how our minds operate. She talked about how to achieve academic success through a balance of “diffuse mode” and “focus mode” in our brains. Mrs. Kris also suggested using the Pomodoro Method while studying, which means after 25 minutes of focused work, the mind should go into diffuse mode for 5 minutes to keep the brain refreshed. She also emphasized the importance of sleep and exercise for one’s brain. Mrs. Kris talked about how sleep not only makes you happier and healthier, but actually helps you learn, because during sleep, the brain processes information collected during the day. One thing she said that really resonated with us was that anxiety and stress are the result of overestimating the challenge at hand and underestimating your own ability to handle the task. This really empowered students to overcome stress in their own lives. Anna Sheehan ‘21 commented, “I really felt some stress diffuse at the information she gave us. Her tips and insights into the human mind made me feel stronger in my battle against stress.”

After some outdoor free time, meditation and prayer in the chapel, and mass, the Class of ‘21 sat down for their first meal at Arnold Hall. But first, the Arnold Hall administration taught us about proper table etiquette including which utensils to use and how to politely ask for something from across the table. Another interesting thing about meal times during the symposium was that for every meal, chaperones broke us into different groups to sit with. This gave us the opportunity to connect with and get to know members of our class that we didn’t know as well. The girls called the food at Arnold Hall “amazing,” although some girls suggest more vegetarian options for next year.

After lunch, we heard from Dr. Roberto, father of Celia Roberto ‘20. He discussed the concept of design thinking, which is a way to solve a problem through 5 steps: empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing. His talk was certainly the most interactive. It included games and a real world simulation of design thinking. Dr. Roberto broke us into groups and we formulated solutions using design thinking for issues found in regular coffee shops, like packed drive-thrus and mixed up coffee orders. Ideas included temperature-controlled coffee cups and screens to alert customers when your coffee is done. Dr. Roberto taught us to “fail often to succeed sooner.” Overall, students really enjoyed the change of pace his talk provided. When asked who her favorite speaker was, Maevis Fahey ‘21 said “Dr. Roberto, hands down! It was awesome to get up on our feet and start working together, rather than the usual sit-down discussion. As Dr. Roberto explained, solutions are grounded in first-hand experience and trial and error. You can’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book about it, but by practicing on the bike itself. Similarly, Dr. Roberto taught us that the best forms of leadership, innovation, and collaboration stem from getting hands-on and being unafraid to fail and try again.”

After some outdoor free time and class games, we got dressed for a talk with Mrs. Cook about friendship. Mrs. Cook talked about the importance of hard work in cultivating a friendship and that the difference between a friend and an acquaintance is commitment. A friend, as she put it, is someone you would do anything for. She urged us to stop communicating through screens and start having real, face-to-face conversations. Most importantly, she taught us that friendship is about who you are, not what you have. After dinner, we changed into pajamas, chilled out on the couch, ate junk food, and watched 13 Going On 30.  It was a night of giggles and fun.

After a late night, our class rose bright and early in the morning. We had breakfast and then heard from Mrs. Baker about emotional agility. This means the ability to be alone with your emotions and make choices. She explained that emotions are human, meaning they are the price you pay for being alive. Without emotions, especially those we find uncomfortable, we can’t have a meaningful life. We also learned that emotions are neither good nor bad; they just are. Perhaps the most important thing Mrs. Baker mentioned was that emotions are “a lifelong correspondence with your heart.”

Later, students took a trip “behind the scenes” of Arnold Hall and helped the staff with laundry, dishes, and food preparation. It was nice to meet face to face with the people who had been so accommodating during our stay and learn some household tasks.

The second day was much more relaxed, with lots of time for games and outdoor fun. Students played board games, went on nature walks, and played sports outside. After two days of connecting, reflecting, and relaxing, girls said goodbye to the beautiful Arnold Hall Conference Center and headed back to Montrose.

The Sophomore Symposium gave us a break from schoolwork to focus on self reflection and prayer, and also gave us a chance to bond with each other about things other than schoolwork. The relaxed environment helped everyone destress and really connect with each other. On the first day of the trip, the chaperones encouraged us to try spending time with people that we don’t know very well, and by the next day, I felt like we were all a little closer, especially with new students that we didn’t know as well yet. Overall, the symposium was a breath of fresh air because it gave our minds a break from school work and helped us become more united as a class.