Anyone who has asked me about my interests knows that I am the “sciency” type. I get overly enthusiastic about topics like evolution or pollination mechanisms. A natural history museum is my Chuck E. Cheese. I wasn’t too surprised then when I received some puzzled faces when I said I would be taking a course entitled “Backpack Journalism.” It’s definitely not my usual type of course.
I didn’t even know what backpack journalism was until I happened to go to the Study Abroad Fair last fall. At that time, I was completely set on going on a different trip. It was rigidly scheduled and would give me a way to help people in a tangible way. All of that really appealed to my scientific mind. However, on a whim (and because I knew O’Keefe from class), I stopped at the table for Alaska. After hearing a little bit about it, I was pretty interested, so I put my name down for more information.
Before I knew it, it was time for me to make my choice between Alaska and my original plan. As I was wrestling with the decision, it suddenly occurred to me that I was been thinking about backpack journalism completely wrong. I realized that we won’t be in Bethel just to observe and film what we find, we’ll be learning alongside each other. We’ll be learning a new culture, a new type of theology, and a new way of being. This idea of being immersed in something entirely new and having the opportunity to dig even deeper into my questions through journalism is why I chose this course. It’s funny, now that I think about it, that I didn’t realize what a perfect trip this is for me. Asking new questions and jumping into different situations is what scientists do best.
We talked in class today a little bit about our Western way of thinking and how it can be very narrow at times. I recognize that my own Western and scientific way of thinking constrains me to narrow definitions of things. Through this experience in Alaska, I want to shed a few of those constrains. I want to fully cement in my mind that success doesn’t always mean solving. During our two weeks in Alaska, we won’t be able to solve the problem of poverty, but I hope that we will be able to find the beauty in the people experiencing it. Through the discussions, the interviews, and the filming, we’ll start to form a human connection with the people around us. Hopefully, we’ll take that back with us so we can see the beauty and humanity where we previously thought there was a void. If we can do that, then this course will be a success no matter what else happens.