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A Class I Unexpectedly Loved

“Make sure to take fun classes outside of your major” was a very common advice I received coming into college. I didn’t quite see the point in that because at that time I associated fun classes with easy classes where I didn’t do much work or learn anything valuable. But this idea changed when I took HIST 300W: History of Nature.

HIST 300W was my first humanities class so I had little to no idea what to expect. My first impression of the class was that it was very small and intimate. As we all sat around the big table facing each other I realized this would be very different than all my other big lecture classes. Part of me was very excited because it was about time I got to know my professors and talk to them. On the first day of class, we all went around and introduced ourselves and why we were taking this class. As we went around, Professor Stewart Weaver paid attention to our specific interests and offered insights on how we would explore these ideas in this class. This made me feel very connected to the class and I was very excited for what was to come.

The topics discussed in this class varied from the Industrial Revolution and its impact on nature to learning about natural disasters. Every day was so exciting because even though we had assigned readings, I was never sure about the type of discussion we would have in class. I remember being so confident in my understanding of the readings then getting to class and completely changing it based on the discussion. I was able to see how different people approach and understand literature based on their experiences and unique perspectives.

Aside from discussions we also explored these topics through field trips, debates, presentations, and documentary screenings. One of my favorite memories from the class was when we went to Highland Park to visit one of the Omstand parks. After weeks of learning about his work, we were finally able to see it for ourselves. Walking with my classmates and exploring the park was so fun because we were able to make connections to our discussion in class and see how the park evolved over the years. It was also such a fun activity to connect with my classmates outside of the classroom.

Another part of the class that I really enjoyed was our final presentation on disasters. We all got to pick a topic of our choice and I ended up picking the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. At first, I didn’t think much of it. But as I kept researching I realized how close to home the tragedy was and the effect it had on people. Although the research process was very emotional, I learned so much about how a lack of regulations often puts marginalized communities’ safety at risk. This inspired me to take another class called Environmental Apocalypse and the Anthropocene and clustering in Environmental Humanities. So far I am loving the way my brain tickles during class discussions. Reading literature and making connections to recent world events has been so eye-opening. 

History of Nature was my entrance door to the world of Environmental Humanities and learning about how literature is the voice of many people. The stories told through literature can make people feel and experience events that they never came across. It is a beautiful way to learn about the world and different life experiences. I recommend taking a class that looks interesting and fun, I can confidently say you will learn something of value!

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