Saying that the past few days have been a bit rainy is probably as big of an understatement that anyone could make. This sun-spoiled Southern California boy has just about drowned in Puget Sound’s most recent onslaught of blustering downpours. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy the rain, but having to be outside as the heavens open isn’t my favorite.
Bogged down with writing a draft of my thesis, I took a coffee break in Oppenheimer mid-morning on Friday. While I don’t normally do much work in either of our campus cafés, the urgency of my looming Monday due date for the draft necessitated that my coffee break included a bit of work.
Gray Skies in Oppenheimer
With friends coming and going as I tried to get work done, I definitely wasn’t the most productive, but I was certainly reminded of what a beautiful campus we have. Just an hour before, I was fuming with disdain for the stormy weather, but watching the rain from inside of the glass dome gave me an entirely new perspective. There is something so relaxing about watching drops of rain stream down the full glass windows as you sip on a latte, even if it means you won’t get much work done. I think the lesson learned was that when I’m down about the weather, all I really need to do is grab a coffee Opp. Now if only they opened on the weekends….
After spending nine months travelling and studying in Asia during the past academic year on the Pacific Rim / Asia Study-Travel Program (PacRim), I’ve grown accustomed to experiential learning. Courses on PacRim were almost exclusively experiential in nature. In the morning, we would meet for lecture and in the afternoon we were brought to the very sites we had learned about earlier in the day. There is nothing that makes a lecture on the Taj Mahal or Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum more engaging than knowing you will be marveling at it in just a few hours.
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
This summer, as I prepared myself to start my final academic year on campus in Tacoma, I knew that the element of experiential learning was something that I was going to miss. The ability to draw direct connections between my coursework and the observations I was making outside of the classroom proved to be such an intellectually stimulating aspect of PacRim. While I yearned to recreate my experiences from my time in Asia back on campus, I doubted that it would be possible; that is until I took a trip to the Seattle Asian Art Museum this past weekend with Professor Zaixin Hong’s Japanese art students.
Colored Vases, Ai Weiwei (Seattle Asian Art Museum)
Professor Hong welcomed me as an addition on the field trip along with a handful of other students who were also attending despite not being enrolled in the course. As Professor Hong guided his students around the different exhibitions he made comments connecting each piece to some concept or theme he had discussed in lecture. Looking at the group meander through the galleries, I knew that each of the students in Professor Hong’s class were being given the amazing opportunity to immerse themselves in experiential learning the same way that I had while on PacRim.
Professor Hong isn’t the only professor making these connections for students at Puget Sound; in fact, the majority professors are drawing relevant, real-world connections for students on a daily basis. Although I had spent the summer lamenting my loss of experiential learning, it turns out that I had simply forgotten that that’s the norm at Puget Sound. Our excellent faculty and location in the Pacific Northwest allow for students of all disciplines to not only learn material, but engage with it firsthand in meaningful and tangible ways.