This class was my first Honors Experience in the University Honors Program. I was a little anxious about it, since I had heard that Honors English classes can be pretty challenging, but I was still excited for this new experience.
On the first day of class, my instructor, Professor Holley, made it quite clear that this was not going to be a typical English class. She is a very charismatic and energetic woman with a great love for all things creative, not containing herself to writing. This class, as I could tell, was going to involve much more than just writing essays and reviewing syntax.
I think probably the most commonly used word in this class was “beautiful!” This word summed up pretty well what Professor Holley wanted us to make of our work. She wanted it to flow and to be “beautiful” above all else. Throughout the semester, we dabbled in music and art in addition to writing in an effort to broaden our view of what can define someone as a “literate” individual. We were then asked to write an essay about an experience with becoming a “literate” individual. This probably seems like a pretty vague writing prompt, and it was meant to be. I think that was her point. She didn’t want us to confine ourselves to what she wanted us to write (to use her words, simply writing “bullshit”). She wanted us to write from our heart and make something worth sharing. Put poetically, she wanted us to be able to paint a picture with our words just as well as with a paintbrush or to play a masterpiece with a pen just as well as with a piano. It was meant to broaden our idea of what can be seen as beauty and what can be seen as literacy, each of which is unique to a person's viewpoint.
A second prompt of this class was the use of Cincinnati as a studying point for various “discourse communities.” Once again, being a vague topic, this was meant to have us write something that WE wanted to write, and therefore something that was worth something to us and to others—"no one wants to read bullshit!” Put in more translated terms, she wanted us to do a research paper on a community, theme, or event in Cincinnati, and discuss how it made up a distinct “community” in the ways they conveyed ideas. I decided to write a paper on Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and how its history and values helped shape a modern “discourse community". It was a good experience, not only to learn about an interesting topic, but to learn something about Cincinnati history that I didn’t know.
All in all, this experience was a memorable one that I will look back on as a shaper of my “literacy”.
Excerpts From Class Papers (Artifacts)
This first paper was very personal to me. The experience I discussed was of one the hardest points in my life, a failed relationship and how I used writing to cope with and overcome this. In this excerpt I discuss what occurred to me at around 2:30 AM on Saturday, February 25th, 2012 when I was sitting at my computer trying to put my scrambled thoughts on paper. This experience was one of lasting impact on my “literacy”.
“Then it happened, that small crack gave way to a crevice, which led to a large hole, which led to a gash, and then, just as one could imagine in their mind, the [proverbial dam] gave way to the pressure. The water rushed through, unimpeded to the valley below. Finally. I felt free. I began to write with more vigor, more creativity, and more emotion than I ever knew was possible. My thoughts continued to race, but rather than bounce around in my head, they flowed freely to the paper in front of me. My fingers grew tired with the speed that they were forced to move, almost unable to keep up with the ideas careening out of my mind, but I didn’t care; I didn’t want to miss a thing. I wanted all my thoughts on paper where they could be seen, manipulated, prodded, and understood.“
This second paper was less of an emotional reflection, and more of an analysis of what is often wrong with academic writing. In this paper, I discussed a negative experience I had with a history class and how I was expected to write a paper using an incredibly dry book as my all-knowing source. I discuss how the paper and history class did not desire individual thinking, but desired me to maintain the status quo of what had been decided as true. This discussed experience is always one of importance whenever I write historical papers, as I try to NOT do what I was forced to do in this situation.
"The overlying theme of this experience was that its purpose was nothing more than to show the professor that I read the book, sufficiently listened in class, and displayed benchmark understanding of the material. It wasn’t like I was about to have a revelation about the comparison of classical Greek and Roman patriotism and write something that Mumford had overlooked. In fact, how could this have been possible if my only source of knowledge was this bible of historical information written by Mumford?! Rather, I was there just to upkeep the status quo, essentially maintaining the legacy of that groundbreaking book, The City in History, by that superb author, Louis Mumford. Just as Bartholomae alludes to when he says that students “reinvent the university,” I was expected to merely reinvent Mumford’s statements, passing him on to a later generation. Writing for this genre required me to recognize the fact that I wasn’t supposed to make any “risky” moves. I was meant only to conform to academia. Whether in factual information, or the setup of my paper, I needed only to “agree” with what had been predetermined as true."
In this final paper, I analyzed the place of discourse communities in the real world, using the history of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital as a case study. I argued the place that discourse had on the formation of the hospital and in this section, alluded to the expanded role of discourse. I enjoyed this prompt, as the use of a real world place (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital) made the idea of discourse more “tangible” for me.
“Despite its, at times, flashy appearance, discourse is truly pragmatic and goal oriented, constantly changing, and everywhere around us. I was once told that writing is the most important part of an education. When projected to a physical representation such as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, this statement becomes all the more true. What other craft holds so much ability, eloquence, power, or freedom? Discourse in writing is involved in nearly every aspect of life and draws its weight from this fact. Whether that goal is as crucial and urgent as ceasing the plight of suffering children or as menial and seemingly nonchalant as holding a conversation with a friend, discourse is a worldwide phenomenon that is always driven with some goal in mind."
UC SCUBA Club Spring Break Trip 2013
Volunteering at a coral nursery.
SCUBA diving has been a favorite pastime in my family for longer than I have been alive. My dad has been diving for about 30 years, and my brothers and I each got certified at age 12. Stemming from my adeptness in water, SCUBA diving is something that I enjoy a lot and I am good at. It is an otherworldly experience that is impossible to comprehend until you are sitting there in 120 feet of water with a 7 foot reef shark swimming past you. For me it is both relaxing and exhilarating. It’s the juxtaposition of a serene underwater reef with the mystery of a deep blue distant that makes it worthwhile. There is so much we don’t know about the ocean, and this is why people fear it. We have only classified about 2/3 of marine life. Over 70% of the earth is covered in ocean, yet we know less about the bottom of the ocean than the surface of the moon. It is the last frontier on earth.
I was turned on to the UC SCUBA Club by a diving friend of mine. He learned that I was a SCUBA diver and invited me to a meeting to plan a trip to the Key Largo over spring break 2013. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made yet in my college career, as I was given an opportunity to travel to the Florida Keys with a great group of people and take part in a week of diving fun and experience.
The trip was very well planned by those students in charge, and we were given opportunities to not only dive, but to volunteer at the Coral Restoration Foundation, an organization dedicated to combatting the decay of two integral species of coral in the Florida Keys reef environment. Coral is more than just beautiful to look at, it is a living animal that provides food, shelter, and structure to millions of other animals in a shallow water environment. Two species, specifically, the staghorn and elkhorn coral are especially important to any thriving Key reef. Since they grow to be solid and tree shaped, they provide a strong base for future generations of coral and other aquatic fauna. Tragically, they have also been some of the most impacted species, being wiped out entirely from several Florida Key reefs, mostly due to human interaction, with disastrous environmental effects. The Coral Restoration Foundation, through education, as well as active reattachment of broken off pieces of coral to their reef environment, aims to reverse this process.
Public Health in South Africa and Botswana -Honors Experience #2
In front of the Three Chiefs Monument in Botswana
I learned about this class through the Honors emails I frequently receive (and all too often don’t read). I happened to be reading it one day, and thankfully I did. I saw this class listed as a potential study tour, and thought “I’ll think about it.” However, I soon realized that the deadline for application was the following day! I quickly got on the phone with my parents and talked to them about it, and they were very supportive and told me to do it. So in this one day, I made a decision to travel halfway around the world, to a continent I had only seen on maps, and to cultures that I had only read about. I am so thankful that I made this decision, since my experience in southern Africa turned into one of the most memorable, informative, eye-opening, and culturally-shocking experiences of my life.
The focus of the class was public health, specifically related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and hepatitis, and how they affect the population of each country. We also devoted substantial time to learning about the culture and history of both African countries. Before departure, we did more of the “bookwork” aspect of the study, learning through readings, presentations, and travel to local clinics. This was meant to create a base knowledge of the subjects at hand, and also was to be a base from which we could compare and contrast southern Africa to the United States. It was also a good experience to get to know my fellow classmates and instructors with whom I would be spending two weeks traveling to this unknown world.
I am pretty sure I started packing for this travel aspect of this class well over a week in advance and was completely prepared to walk out the door three days before I needed to be (something unheard of for me)—so you could say I was a little excited! The flight was about 18 hours to get to Johannesburg, South Africa, however it felt much quicker due to my excitement. When we finally got to South Africa, I was shocked by both the similarity to the U.S. and the distinct differences it held apart from it. The roads were paved and there weren’t lions roaming freely, contrary to what "Lion King" would lead me to believe! We spent the next week or so touring various clinics, both rural and urban, throughout the Johannesburg/Pretoria metropolitan area, we visited some historic sites, and we attended a rugby game. South Africa is such a dynamic, diverse, and unique place. Within the past 100 years or so, the country has seen the passage of imperialism, two world wars, apartheid, and it now struggles with one of the highest incidents of HIV/AIDS. The country was like none other I had seen before.
After our (seemingly) brief stay in South Africa, we traveled to Gaborone, Botswana where we would spend the remainder of the trip. Botswana, which is, population-wise, only a fraction of South Africa, is located directly north of South Africa. We spent the next week or so doing similar things to what we did in South Africa, only in a Botswana setting. Botswana, similar to South Africa, is plagued by one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS in the world. We visited clinics, met with public health officials in the Ministry of Health, learned about Botswana history and culture, and finished off the trip by spending a few days staying on a game reserve.
Seeing both of these countries side by side dismissed the stereotype of Africa as being one big, uniform place. Even these two countries that we visited, despite being somewhat similar in their location, history, and public health pressures, differ in many aspects such as their language, demographic makeup, and healthcare responses to their combating of HIV/AIDS. This was an important point to be taken away, in my opinion, since it can all to often be an American tendency to group peoples together as identical when they are in reality quite different, specifically African countries.
This experience of seeing the effects of HIV/AIDS firsthand was indispensable to me, being that I want to work in a healthcare setting. Before taking this class, I had never knowingly met someone who suffered from AIDS; to me it was a disease just as distant from me as places such as South Africa or Botswana. After taking this class however, I learned about the global effects that AIDS has, and how it is truly a global disease. I met many people with the disease and heard their stories, struggles, and triumphs. To me, this will be one of the most long-lasting take-aways from this experience and will carry over into my professional life.
One of the most eye-opening and lastingly memorable experiences of this travel was that it forced me to become a minority. Often, in the places I went, specifically in Botswana, I was one of only a few caucasian people (the others being other students in the class), and I was looked at as almost out of place by other people. It wasn’t that they were being rude about anything; there was no negativity stemming from them, it was just that I DID look completely out of place. I was a white, English-speaking American in a predominantly black, Tswana-speaking Botswana supermarket! It didn’t really bother me, since everyone in southern Africa is so amiable, but it was just something I kept noticing as I walked around. I mentioned this to one of the students in our group who is a black, Ghanian-American, and what he said stuck with me. He said “Yes, now imagine that every time you walk into a classroom or lecture hall back at UC!” What he said was profound and all too true. I had no clue what it was like to be seen as different, and even through this small experience still am not exactly a master on the subject. On the contrary, this is something that many people deal with every day of their life. I think this was one of the best experiences of the trip: being in a place where I wasn’t seen as “normal.”
Photos from study tour (artifacts)
At a dance club in downtown Pretoria. This experience was very unique. It gave me an opportunity to see directly into South African culture. I think this experience was one of the most valuable “culturally immersive” parts of the tour. While you can see the superficial parts of a culture through textbooks and tourism, going INTO the culture is by far the most effective. We had many conversations with patrons, got to observe and partake in dancing (much to my chagrin), and listened to their music!
This kid insisted on always being held! We visited a home for mentally and physically handicapped children in rural South Africa. I was inspired not only by the children’s unchangeably smiling faces, but by the women who donated their time to taking care of those who had been forgotten and neglected. I could not even imagine the stress and hardships that these women must face (4 women taking care of 30 some children!) yet they were so open, friendly, and accommodating to us. It was a very inspiring experience!
This is a sunset view over the watering hole at the Botswana game reserve. This experience was kind of off by itself, apart from the other experiences of the tour. To me, this experience was a reminder of the impact unaltered nature can have on someone. I was completely taken back by the beauty and power that this landscape had on me. With the (scarily close) screeches of baboons, I could look up at the stars and sit there for hours. With the nearest metropolis thousands of miles away, I was able to view more stars than I ever had before and ever have since. I wish I had a picture of the sky, but all of my snapshots did it no justice. It was beyond capture.