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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Create your own road map

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In high school I was known as the girl who could turn any assignment into something about food: a history paper on the Irish potato famine, a current events report on agrochemical use in the banana industry, a French project that I decided should involve cooking an incredible amount of cassoulet. I am happy to say that things have not changed much since coming to Carleton. In fact, I initially chose the ENTS major solely because it offered a track in “Food and Agriculture” — there was no other major that included food anywhere in the title. An incredible part of being at Carleton has been the opportunity to turn this educational experience into what I really wanted and needed. I hope writing this reflection pushes remaining classes of Carls to examine their passions and to use the time left to pursue those passions both inside and outside the classroom. Here, I have expressed and learned more about my love of food through taking courses about food systems, creating or joining independent study courses on food writing, and teaching food science, and teaching cooking classes to middle schoolers with other food-minded Carls. The best lesson I have learned here is that my education is my own and no one else’s. This meant I could make it fit my own personal mold, not just some pre-determined track. The liberal arts model is about more than just a broad and sometimes irrelevant interdisciplinary survey. This is a chance to own your education and truly make it your unique experience.

However much time you have left to call yourself a college student, the good news is that the work of exploring your passions never ends. But for those of you with time left in these crazy 10 week terms, the academic part of that exploration is begging to be realized. So examine your hobbies, the real reasons you chose your major, the kind of job you would consider even if it paid nothing at all. Those passions and drives need to be a part of your education, or in the end it might not really be your education after all. Coming to college is about more than continuing the one-size-fits-all model that describes too many high schools. Here, you need to create the kind of path you want to travel.

For me, owning my Carleton experience meant trying out new disciplines and staying tuned to what other similarly-interested students were up to. Creativity is the key here. Maybe you know your passion lies in fixing up old cars, dead languages, fashion, or practicing your religion. But what new areas do you have to explore within that topic? That is the fun part. This past year I have become fascinated with the concept of gardening, an old hobby but a totally new academic arena. And so I spent winter term writing a group comps on Hmong gardens while studying the history of school gardens for another course.

If that is not enough of a road map, here’s the short version: Find your passion. Really, really find it. You do not have to be passionate about something that sounds academic. Carleton is here to help prepare you for a rich and well lived life, and you need to live that life on your own terms. So explore what is truly meaningful for you, and I guarantee that you, and those around you, will be the richer for it. With your own interests in mind, create an independent study course. Find (or create) a volunteer program in a Northfield school. Sign up for classes that include term papers or projects, and use that as a chance to research what really matters to you. Go to lots of talks to see what new ideas spark your imagination. Talk to alums in cool fields. Remember that this time is about you, this time is for you, this time is up to you.

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