New Perspectives

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.

Overly excited at the Arthropods exhibit at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
Overly excited at the Arthropods exhibit at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

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.


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