Saturday, July 1, 2017

Exploring Oneself Through the Lens of Academia

            Food, work, gym, sleep, repeat. Unless it’s basketball season, in which case watching as many games as possible is thrown into the mix. I’d give reading its own spot if it weren’t for the fact that 99% of it ends up being related to one of the aforementioned facets of my life.  It’s a simple life and I thoroughly enjoy keeping it that way, mainly because it makes for optimal efficacy in each component. Every part receives my complete effort, especially food, and that in itself enables me to maintain a laser focus on any and every task (or meal) that I take on.

Let's Explore Some Stuff!

Some of my favorite things to do involve doing something new in a new place. Exploring a new park, a new restaurant, or even a new hobby. Yearning for the new became a struggle when I had to decide what was my absolute favorite thing to do, aka picking a major I would want for the rest of my life, that involved having to always learn new things in different places. This led to taking various kinds of classes from all different aspects when I was in community college. Taking these classes, I definitely found what wasn’t my favorite thing, but finding my favorite, not so easy. While there’s a lot to learn and keep learning from whatever major it is that you chose, I wanted a combination of the environment, new places, new things to explore, and being outside. I found a combination of all of that in geography.

Small talk to big questions

Windows condense with water that slowly forms frosty, crystalline patterns across the panes of glass. Steam swirls up in lazy spirals from a mug held by hands barely emerging from a warm blanket as the smell of wood smoke and the crackling sounds of a fire fill the room. Winter’s chill is held at bay.
The scent of freshly turned dirt is in the air as a shovel rips through the earth. Dandelions and nettles lay limp in a wheelbarrow as herbs and vegetables find new homes in the black dirt. The sound of a hose hisses through the air as sweat drips from tired brows. The seeds have been sown and soon summer will bring ripened fruit.

Into the Wild

My entire life I have questioned everything, always that annoying kid who wouldn't accept a simple "because" for an answer. I have always wondered why we do the things we do. Whether it's why people stuff their animals from hunting and hang them on their walls, to why we have to dress nice for church if God loves us for who we are. Whenever I've asked these questions, I have always received stern looks from my elders that were intended to discourage me from being skeptical about the way things are. This constant skepticism and desire to understand how the world works has caused me to love reading books. Being inside someone's head, seeing how they see the world, and feeling/understanding things from their perspective/situation has always been my passion. My favorite book I've read, I read in high school. It was "Into the Wild," by Jon Krakauer.

Let's Get Physical: A Handbook for Tactile Learners

            For as long as I can remember, all things I have ever truly loved doing have always involved some measure of getting dirty and sweaty.  From playing in (and eating) the dirt in my mother’s garden as a chubby 2-year-old to hot days of breathing in the scent of horses and saddle soap as a young equestrian and finally to my love of running and hiking today, I have always been most happy when I am completely immersed in the physical environment around me.

A sociologist, an anthropologist, and an economist walk into a bar.

I love garage sales.  I love the feeling of unearthing a treasure, and not just a bargain, but something with its own stories.  An inscription on the front cover of a book, the idea of wearing a shirt that someone else wore while hugging their best friend goodbye, or a trinket that was picked up on a special vacation- I love the physicality of those things.  I think it’s sweet that humans collect stuff… what funny soft animals we are to accumulate these bits and pieces that appeal to our senses and surround ourselves with them.

Bringing Together (Seemingly) Disparate Interests

Before I came to economics, I started out studying physics. When I was in high school, it was around the time that the Large Hadron Collider was running in Geneva and the discovery there of the Higgs Boson particle—which gives other particles their mass.  Those developments, plus a good physics teacher in high school, motivated me to start there in university. But after doing some freelance journalism that year (which I had continued from high school), I decided studying social problems was ultimately more interesting, so I switched to the social science that looked most like physics: economics.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Different walks of life

There are a lot of things that I enjoy doing, but some of my favorites include learning about new cultures as well as languages. Growing up I was introduced to several individuals, who are now my friends, that had different cultural backgrounds than I and came from different places around the globe. It was through them that I became fascinated with learning more about cultures and people in general. While being here in Wisconsin I’ve had the opportunity to chat with several different kinds of individuals from different trades and have come to know a bit about the lifestyles here. From policymakers to farmers to regular citizens everyone has something to say.

You would think from hearing all of this that my current major anthropology was my first choice when I decided what I wanted to study, but in fact it was my second. When I started studying at my university I started out learning how to code and doing other work more in the computer science field. To tell the truth I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study and chose it out of a slight interest. However, as more time progressed I found myself being more interested in anthropology (Thanks to one of my professors) and decided to make the switch. I found myself more content with the research I was doing and have more ambition towards the work I do.

Being a part of the LAKES program has allowed me to become better at interacting with other people, understanding their wants, needs, and interests. I spend my days interviewing people the community, hanging out with them, taking photos, and being involved in the kinds of things they do. In all I think It’s also helped me become a better communicator and listener. By making an honest attempt at awareness of the issues that others face, I also think you become better equipped to help resolve them and mitigate tensions. I’m constantly learning new things, experiencing new challenges, meeting interesting individuals, getting to try out new techniques out in the field, and most importantly being able to follow my passion. I’m looking forward to expanding my network and reaching out to more people and talking to them about their own experiences and challenges.

Water is Life

As geeky as it may sound, my first love was education. From the aroma of old books in a library to the rhythmic patter of a busy mind on a keyboard, I indulged in it all. As I grew older I realized that education held the key to solve some of the world's most critical problems. Upon graduating high school I fell in love for the second time with culture. In 4 years I walked in the shoes of people groups from 6 separate countries. Each time I entered into a new land I payed attention to the difficulties and hardships which inflicted the least represented. I strayed as far away from the beaten path and meandered along the road less traveled by tourists in order to gain the most authenticity. Language learning and culture adapting where imperative. Every voyage would end in deep reflection and a feeling of responsibility-- which is where I fell in love for the third time with social action.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Chit Chattin' in Chetek

One of my favorite things in life is adventure that takes me out of my comfort zone, and every single day that I've been here in Wisconsin has been that. I've plunged into the freezing cold Lake Menomin after a long, rainy day, I've traveled around the entire perimeter of the Chetek Chain of Lakes to chat with strangers all in one afternoon, and I've tried the squeakiest food on the planet: cheese curds. And it's not just these adventures that I enjoy doing, it's the people that I am honored to enjoy them with. I get to work with the most fun, adventurous people; they make me laugh too much to be worried about stepping out of my comfort zone.

These are a few of my favorite things...

I find it fascinating how difficult it can be to choose a path when pursuing higher education, and yet when you settle on the right subject, it seems so obvious. For me, that subject is sustainable agriculture, however it took me quite a bit of personal exploration to reach this conclusion. My original plan was to attend Bridgewater University straight out of high school for psychology because I had taken AP Psychology and was fascinated by how people think. Then, in a whirlwind of spontaneity, my best friend and I decided to take a gap year and backpack through Europe for a few months. This bit of travel was my first introduction to anywhere outside the United States and made me realize how much I had left to see, leading to my ever fervent interest in traveling. Thus, I applied to a program called Global College, a program that allows one to travel while studying for a bachelor’s degree, through Long Island University and was accepted. However, a few weeks before I was about to move to Costa Rica, my loans were not approved and I couldn’t make this program financially feasible. After a second gap year of working full time and saving money, I moved to Western Massachusetts and began to attend community college for women’s studies. Not finding the drive I was looking for,  I FINALLY decided to dig deep down for what truly inspires me, what hobbies I already have that could create a livelihood, where I could see myself in the future…and duh! Agriculture!

Monday, June 26, 2017

50 Shades of Chetek

Anthropology is not black and white.  It’s more shades of grey than would fit between the pages of an airport paperback.  And the next day, it might be pink or blue or plaid.  Dealing with humans and the way they understand this complicated world is a hard thing to measure, but it is vitally important to this picture that we are assembling of water quality.

A City Girl’s Day On The Farm

I learned so much just by visiting the Red Cedar Demonstration Farm last week. One thing is learning about conservation agriculture through a textbook and another is seeing it right before your eyes. I thought I knew what no-till farming was until I saw what no-till farming really is. I was in awe. I never thought about how even if a field had been converted into no-till for a couple of years’ the soil still showed signs of compaction. It was still so compacted that even after 10 minutes of water sitting on top of it, it would not percolate down.  John Sippl, the district conversationalist, shoveled out 7-inches of soil and we all were able to see the layers of compaction. I was under the impression that no-till would have fixed this but John explained how no-till is used to mitigate erosion. No till serves as a method to grow crops without disturbing the soil thus decreasing erosion but in order to decrease this compaction, John explained how cover crops roots adds complexity to the soil structure which leads water to percolate into the soil easily as well as lessen erosion too.