I had my freshman intensive seminar in this classroom. It was one of the most influential classes I’ve ever taken, focused on global culture and cultural differences. We used that whiteboard to map our perceptions of each other, to list the labels we used to describes ourselves, to chart the way we felt when we had a frustrating cultural experience. We spent many hours in that room debating the merits of looking at things from other perspectives and trying to understand the world beyond your own cultural defaults. During every class session we pulled those chairs into a circle to facilitate open dialogue.
I also had my research fellowship seminar in that classroom. My fellowship was a really unique program, an opportunity that I was lucky to have. As a junior, each student in the fellowship picked a research topic and a mentor. We then spent the next 2 years doing independent research, evolving our hypotheses and writing myriad papers on our individual topics. In my cohort of 5, our topics ranged from Kierkegaard to Chinese economics to feminism. My research explored how Mexican journalists shaped their identities while at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. In that classroom we taught each other what we’d learned, shared our papers, learned from our Professor, debated our ideas. We grew as scholars, as writers, and as friends.
Those two classes were almost bookends to my college experience, the very beginning of my academic explorations and the pinnacle of it. And in between those bookends, I had French classes in that room, group meetings, club meetings. I had some of my most fundamental discussions from college in there. I had some of my most challenging moments in there, too.
Sure, at first glance it looks like a boring classroom. But it’s not about what’s in the room. It’s about what came out of it