Over the semester, I have grown in knowledge and as a person because of Appalachian Studies. As a freshman, I wasn’t allowed to create my schedule, so my advisor did it. Appalachian Studies fills a CLE 2, so that is why she placed me in it. Even though this was just put in my schedule to fill a certain CLE, it benefited me in many more ways than just allowing me to stay on track for my degree. Through this class I learned skills such as: analyzing readings, public speaking, research, properly questioning, and finding truth without judgement. The flexibility and casual feeling of this class allowed for me to feel comfortable reaching out and expanding my learning. My learning was constricted to how I could perform on tests and quizzes, but it was measured by how I could participate and bring about new knowledge through projects and blog posts. This class is like no other I have ever taken before, and I am so glad that I was placed into it.
One of my favorite parts about this class was how much in class discussion there was. Rather than having the professor give a lecture the entire class, it was more of a discussion from the students. The readings outside of class were challenging, but after having many, I mastered the skill of analyzing them and finding important information. It was extremely helpful to then go to class and talk about what I read with my peers. I can honestly say that at the beginning of the class I was shy in the way that I really did not want to speak up and participate. After a while I soon realized that it was much more beneficial for me to throw in a comment or two because it kept me engaged with the discussion occurring. My intellectual journey wasn’t necessarily a drastic one, but it changed with this class. I now want to question things, do more research, find the truth in stereotypes, and engage myself in the stories of others.
An interesting thing that I can take away from this class is the change in relationship with place. Visiting Smith Mountain Lake since this class just hasn’t been the same because now I pay attention to small details and I observe things. I witness the actions of people and traditions and I fully think about them and relate them back to the things I have learned. I also think I could go as far to say that I am less judgmental. I have learned that there can be many stereotypes, but only a grain of truth could be within them. It is better for me to be more considerate of what others are facing or what situation they could be living in.
I remember at the beginning of this semester I had to write down some goals for myself to try and meet by the end of this semester. I recall one of them being “I would like to be able to hold a conversation with someone relating to something I have learned in Appalachian studies”. I am happy to say that I have achieved that goal in the way that I feel confident and informed enough to be able to do that. Also, over Thanksgiving Break my aunt was asking me about some of the classes I was taking, and I was able to fluently speak about the many things I have learned from this class, and she seemed impressed. Overall I grew greatly as a thinker in this class, and I hope that many people in the future will continue to take it and have just as influential of an experience as I had.
Anna Fowler, Freshman, Environmental Science major, Green Engineering minor, Fall 2016, Richmond, Virginia, APS 1704