I have never taken a class quite like this. I remember my first essay I wrote for Changing Our Stories was about how coming to Bryn Mawr was what felt like a tourist experience. I talked about how my school was in the city and that my classes were not very rigorous or engaging. This ESEM was both of those things. I have learned so much in the last few months from so many different people, and I have read so many thought provoking articles that have inspired a level of learning and understanding that has been both enjoyable and tough.
When I first decided I wanted to take this ESEM it was my top choice, because of the identity portion of the course. I am more drawn to the inner workings of people, rather than the inner workings of the environment. All over Creation was supposed to have us focus on the environment more, yet I attached myself to the characters. Their personalities and how they interacted with the world around them was more interesting than what GMOs were being used in the potato crop. It wasn’t until we read Van Jones and Latour, that I realized that the environment was more than just nature and climate change. Van Jones helped me see that there are ways to care about the environment and other things like the poverty rate and people who come from low income households. These two causes are not at all separate, but rather one of the same in that they can work together to improve each other. I struggled with the idea of ecological intelligence until I figured out that ecological intelligence is what you make of it. The definition that I have decided for Ecological Intelligence is about more than just the supporting the environment but supporting the world. This can only happen through fostering relationships between different cultures and environments to help grow and diversify the world.
One of the most engaging and helpful parts of my learning experience in this classroom are my peers, and the discussions that we had together. It was extremely interesting to see why people took the class, you could tell by which readings they were more engaged with. While I was engaged with the identity part, some of my classmates seemed to engage more with the environment part. These people were able to understand identity better through environment, the opposite of my experience. I especially enjoyed hearing from Hannah when we were discussing. Hannah always had some unique perspective and it would come through in our discussions. I remember even at the beginning of the semester when we were talking about contact zones she would question everything that Pratt was saying. She often played a devil advocate role and even when I personally did not agree with her, I could always count on her comments for opening up a different interpretation of the text.
There were times in this class where I wasn’t sure how everything came together. I often left the class frustrated that we couldn’t spend more time on a topic. However, when everyone presented their projects I felt like things were finally coming together, and that I could really see the interconnectivity of things. For example in Isabelle and Jackie’s project they discussed how zoos, circuses and other places that keep animals in captivity are used for entertainment purposes and not for educational purposes. I thought that it was wonderful how they tied both the environment and identity together, as they discussed contact zones in these places. I would have never thought that there were contact zones that existed between zoos and the everyday common person. I had a similar experience with Beatrice’s project. I am extremely passionate about class issues and I had never thought about how class could be tied into clothing other than with name brands or the likes. I wish that we had more time for these projects, six weeks all boiled down into ten minutes almost felt too small to learn about everyone’s project. However, the projects that I did see made me question how I interact with the world, and how I can grow and question it more.
I came into this class with one expectation, which was to become a better writer. I feel like I have achieved that goal and that I have come out with useful information that will ultimately make me more cognizant of the world around me. I have never had a class that looks at issues in such an interdisciplinary way, and I believe this is the true liberal art’s experience. It’s not often that people think about how things came to be, this class has really helped me see the multi dimensions of everything. This class has taught me how to see things as more than their face value, and to question what I see and do every single day. Though I am sad that this class is ending I am confident that I will be able to take what I have learned and use it, which is not something I can say for every class I have taken.