“Sitting in a classroom never truly prepares you for the real world.” I cannot count the number of times I have heard that from older coworkers. And I would always roll my eyes and say, “No, but it gives you the tools you need to prepare yourself. That’s why you have internships during college, to gain real world experience while implementing the knowledge you have gained.” I will always stand by the assertion that you can learn a lot in a classroom that will be beneficial to you later in your career. (There is obviously a reason we all chose the college route.) However, they are right about one thing; learning about something is not the same as experiencing it in person, and I had the unique opportunity to do both when I took Dr. Jim Taylor’s Southwest Ecology course last spring.
Southwest Ecology offers students the chance to go on a week-long road/camping trip to New Mexico the week following graduation. Six students (including myself) took this opportunity, despite some hesitation – especially from those of us who were not too keen on feeling “gritty for a week,” as Dr. Taylor put it. So, we spent an entire semester learning about the flora and fauna, weather patterns and history we would encounter on our trip. By the time the final exam came around, some of us were regretting our decision to go on this trip. We were all weary of the subject and wanted to go home with everybody else after finals week. What more could we possibly gain from seeing what we already knew everything about?
Apparently you can gain a lot, as we soon found out.
The deserts of New Mexico created an experience I will not soon forget. The trip was not all sand, cacti and snakes, but awe-inspiring beauty that unlike what you see in Arkansas. We went to museums dedicated to science, art, Native peoples and history. We visited the birthplace of the atomic bomb. We witnessed the enduring strength of a people who were persecuted for years by European invaders. We drove through snow in the summer. We camped on the sides of mountains. We got to see a piece of God’s creation that all of the books in the world could never prepare you for, because God’s handiwork was meant to be experienced, not read and forgotten, used only in a classroom to pass a test.
The memories and friends made on this trip are some I will cherish forever. If you are presented the opportunity to explore the world God has made with a class or group in your years at Ouachita, I sincerely hope you take it. Our Earth is a wondrous thing meant to be experienced, not just studied, so go out there and do it. You never know what you might find.
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