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Some Final Thoughts on "Food for Thought"- What I learned in this Course.

rmilitello's picture



Although I did not realize it at the time, my seminar began the moment I checked “Food for Thought: The Omnivore’s Dilemma” as one of my top three choices for my freshman seminar at Bryn Mawr.  I could not tell you why I made the choice I did, though perhaps my motivation for checking the box was the unread The Omnivore’s Dilemma that had been sitting on my shelf since my eighteenth birthday. I made a momentous choice, one that would determine the friends I made, and what experience I would have. Yet, at the time I could not begin to fathom how such a small and ostensibly insignificant choice would greatly impact my first semester at college.

            During our first seminar class I was somewhat curious, but extremely anxious at the same time. My classes in high school had been small, around fourteen people each, and yet the thought of being in such an intimate classroom setting still made me uneasy. My entire academic career, up until the moment I walked onto a college campus had always consisted of worrying over simple aspects of school life, such as being called on and not knowing what to say. Yet, when I came to college I realized that no one was probing me for an answer, and for once it my responsibility to make the choice to decide when I wanted to speak. What I found most surprising was that I was eager to contribute to discussion, and when I did, I was never hesitant about doing so. There were many times where I may have seemed quiet, perhaps even pensive, but mostly because I never felt the need to say something simply for the sake of contributing. In this class I learned to truly listen to others, and although I did not always succeed, I tried to elaborate, explaining how I felt about certain issues, without repeating things others had already said.

            I found that there were many stressful aspects of my first semester of college, and although initially I was concerned about the class, I realized that “Food for Thought” was not one of my sources of concern. I was never overwhelmed by the fact that we had many writing assignments in this course because I never felt burdened to do them. The first paper we were assigned to write was about a typical family meal in our homes. I was excited about writing the essay, but then after you discussed how it should be written I felt like my creativity had been somewhat stifled. I knew I was not in a creative writing class, but I still wanted to be creative. Though after struggling through writing my first paper, I realized I made writing it a lot more difficult then it should have been. Through writing a number of papers for your class I have learned how to be much more concise in my papers while still maintaining my own sense of style.

            Our homework assignments were never tedious. Posting responses in an online forum was one of our daily homework assignments. The benefit of web posting was that I had a chance to really think about what I wanted to say. I also had a chance to thoroughly read others’ postings. Although I did not always get the chance to read the entirety of everyone’s post, I did get a chance to get a sense of whom everyone really was. I could see that more often than not, everyone was very thoughtful in their responses, and did not only answer the question posed, but also shared a part of their own life that was relevant to the topic we were discussing. Initially, I would post my responses ahead of time; however, although unintentionally, as the semester progressed I started submitting things a bit closer to when they were due. Yet, I realized that there was an upside to doing that. The reason being, I got the chance to come up with more thorough and thoughtful responses of my own after I had thought about what everyone else had said.

            After having completed this course I feel much better about the student and the writer that I have become. I think that this course allowed me to become more thoughtful, and caused me to realize that not every statement I make has to be profound in order to be a significant contribution to class discussion. I do not think that it was simply our first in class debate that caused me to speak up, or even our presentations on our graphs. I think that I became a more outgoing and outspoken student because of the atmosphere in our classroom. Everyone was always enthusiastic about what others had to say, and no one ever disagreed with anyone else in a way that was anything more than a simple difference of opinion. Our class was always very tactful, and there was not a single student that I felt I could not approach. At first, the idea of working in groups made me nervous, and although group work is not always a positive experience, under these particular circumstances it was. So maybe the positive outcome of taking this course is a sign of good things to come. I know that college is not simply about tests and letter grades that that somehow become representations of a person’s intelligence level, but I also know that sometimes it seems like it is. I think that “Food for Thought” was a course that allowed me to express myself, and allowed other students to do the same. Although learning about yourself and others may not seem as important as a math exam, I think it is. Mostly because this type of learning seems to be the kind most of us forget to do.