It’s here. The end of spring semester is upon us and somehow (likely due to the fact that I stretched myself a bit too thin this term), I’ve gone three months without blogging. To make up for my unfortunate hiatus, I’ve decided to write about the things that have kept me oh-so-busy this semester.
While my spring has certainly been packed full of extracurricular commitments (after my semester abroad, I rejoined the ranks of my two favorite student organizations, the Campus Times and Students Helping Honduras), the major focal point of this term was definitely my four incredible courses. This semester’s course lineup was truly the best I’ve had yet—not only did I find each of my classes deeply interesting and engaging, but they all taught me things that I’m positive I’ll carry with me far beyond the classroom.
So here’s a breakdown of why I consider this semester’s classes to be some of the best Rochester has to offer:
Growing up, taking art classes was always one of my favorite parts of school. So after two-and-a-half years without an art class, I thought it was time to add one to my schedule. I signed up for Introductory Photography with the studio arts department. This course was absolutely delightful. Not only did it allow me to hone my film and digital photography skills, but it also gave me a chance to use a different part of my brain, spend time outside, and make something that won’t just end up in a recycling bin at the end of the semester. Rarely have I had the chance to learn purely though creative engagement, so taking a class that was all about artistic exploration was highly refreshing and a great way to balance out my more reading- and writing-heavy courses. This course armed me with new skills and a deeper appreciation for the art of photography. As I reflect on it now, I’m reminded once again of just how lucky I am to go to a school with an open curriculum that allows me to take classes like this “just for fun.”
Documentary Film and Media:
In a lot of ways, this course was also new territory for me. After taking Intro to Media Studies last year, I had become more interested in studying film, and this course seemed like the perfect way to do so. Documentary often delves into the kinds of social issues I love to learn about in my anthropology classes and this class also happened to count toward my English major. So I had the pleasure of spending my semester watching and contemplating a number of truly captivating films, learning how to use Final Cut Pro, and generally broadening my cinematic horizons. With a phenomenal professor at the helm, our class confronted issues of representation, trauma, memory, and individual expression in documentaries whose release dates ranged from the 1920s to present day.
Cultures of Domesticity:
This anthropology seminar class allowed me and my classmates to spend the semester researching any topic of our choosing, as long as it related to domesticity/cultures of the home in some way. After some significant brainstorming and soul searing, I decided to study American trailer parks and the stigma that exists against them. In addition to this extremely rewarding independent work, I got to read a number of super interesting articles/books/papers each week and learn about everything from the political and social significance of Swedish domestic design to the origins of “charisma housewives” and their popularity in Japan. We visited the rare books department to learn about the history of Rochester’s campus housing, we analyzed magazines, websites, and TV shows, and we even took a field trip to an intentional living community (Little Flower Community) in downtown Rochester. I learned an incredible amount from this course, and having the chance to do some independent research is an opportunity I’m glad I took advantage of.
Food, Media, and Literature:
While all my classes this semester were pretty unique and impactful, this course takes the cake on both accounts. Our class of eleven spent the semester investigating, analyzing, and discussing food from pretty much every angle imaginable. We read novels, nonfiction books, and academic papers; watched documentaries, music videos, and celebrity chef commercials; went on a tour of University Dining Services; visited the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen; grew sprouts in a mason jar; participated in a fermentation workshop; and even headed into the local community to compare the many ways people obtain and engage with their food in Rochester. After my time studying agriculture in Thailand, this class was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. It completely changed the way I think about what I eat and gave me an even deeper appreciation for experiential learning.
In addition to these incredible classes, I also spent my semester readjusting to life at Rochester. As I expected, returning from abroad was rough and this semester ended up being emotionally intense. Thankfully though, I had a support group of friends who were also returning from their international studies to lean on and a bunch of awesome Rochester things to keep me grounded.
Aside from taking on the respective positions of Presentation Editor and Community Service Chair for the Campus Times and Students Helping Honduras, I also accepted a position with the Rochester Center for Community Leadership as the 2016 Urban Fellows Program Leader and Wilson Day Coordinator. I’ve spent the past few months preparing for these programs and will spend the summer making sure they run smoothly and are as enjoyable as possible for the participating students. And when I wasn’t studying, laying out the newspaper, planning events, or reading applications, I tried to squeeze in at least a few fun, stress-reducing activities. These included enjoying both community and student art events and performances, cooking and/or eating with my friends on a regular basis, attending a concert at Eastman, volunteering as part of MLK Day of Service, and getting to see BJ Novak and Matt & Kim when they came to campus.
It’s been one crazy semester to say the least and while I’m looking forward to a slightly less hectic fall, I’m so grateful for all the extraordinary experiences I had this term and can’t wait to see what’s in store for my senior year.