Posts tagged HAWAI’I
Fulfilling Cornell’s academic distribution requirements is a little like playing Uno with a poorly-shuffled deck. You have only blues and reds while your friend’s swamped with yellows and greens, and although it would rather defeat the purpose of the game, you can’t help wishing you could just swap that blue 4 for a yellow 6 to cover all your bases.
Considering that I spent a semester studying abroad, I’m doing pretty okay with my distribution requirements. Sure, I do often dream that I could magically transform one of my approximately fifteen million LA-AS (Literature & the Arts) credits for something more related to the social sciences, but at this point, I really only need two more distribution courses. To cut that number in half, I’m currently enrolled in EAS 1540: Introductory Oceanography.
Humanities fan though I am, I have loved oceanography and marine biology since I could barely say “pinniped” or “bioluminescence.” Sylvia Earle was my idol when I was seven, seeing the Outer Bay tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was a transcendental experience for me at thirteen, and I can still sing all of songs from the What’s in the Sea? Songs About Marine Life and Ocean Ecology cassette that my parents used to play for me and my sister.
That said, why didn’t I add this cool-sounding class about one of my favorite casual interests earlier? Well, I’d heard rumours that it was an “easy” class. A “cruise” course, as people might say back at Punahou. And since I prefer academically challenging courses, I rejected EAS 1540 in favor of such thrilling classes as Introduction to Computer Programming Using Python.
As a senior, though, I really needed a PBS or MQR course that wouldn’t take up more time than, you know, the senior-level seminars I need to take for my major. Plus, I still prefer studying corals to coding, so this semester I finally decided to give Oceanography a try.
And, after wiping away a few tears as a Blue Planet clip played on the first day of class, I discovered that I’d made the perfect decision.
You see, I’ve now confirmed that I do, indeed, really care about the ocean. And you know who else really cares about the ocean? Professor Bruce Monger, whose enthusiasm earned his signature class multiple mentions on the College of Arts and Science’s “Most Memorable Classes” list.
I’ve also realized that there’s a huge difference between an “easy” class, and, well, an easy class. If I were to enroll in an English class completely devoted to learning how to write the English alphabet, for example, I would quickly go mad. On the other hand, a class that makes getting an A very easy–but still covers an interesting, stimulating subject–is perhaps the best course imaginable. Sometimes, especially in an academically competitive environment like Cornell’s, trying to get a good grade and learning become two separate goals: and the former often takes precedence. Because I’m less worried about how much I’ll need to study to ace the midterm, I can view this class as a fun opportunity to learn from a very engaging professor.
It’s not just its teacher’s enthusiasm, however, that makes Oceanography a great class. The importance of ocean conservation is the course’s ultimate theme, and I can definitely say that the class has already heightened my pre-existing commitment to sustainability. In the end, after all, it’s more critical for my generation to understand and internalize the importance of conservation than oceanic zones or plate tectonics.
During today’s lecture about the different plates and what their various collisions produced, I suddenly looked up from my notes to see an artist’s rendition of the Hawaiian island chain. As Professor Monger talked about hot spots and the slow growth of our newest island, Lo’ihi, I almost wanted to jump up and say “That’s it! That’s my home! Guys, I’ve been learning about hot spots since first grade!”
And that’s how I hope all those 700+ Oceanography students–myself included–will react to any part of the world featured on a lecture slide by the time this class if over. Because (at the risk of sounding World Wildlife Federation propaganda) all of this planet is our home, even if we are each only connected to a few specific geographic locations. It’s sobering, too, to remember that though I feel like finding a grad school or finishing my thesis or suffering through the weird September heat are massive calamities, I’m just a minuscule part of a huge planet that has some real calamities of its own goin’ on right now.
To conclude: if you think this is the sappiest, most overtly Captain Planet-esque thing I’ve ever had the nerve to post on this blog, you should sign up for Oceanography next year–or maybe just read up on Sylvia Earle, watch a Cousteau documentary, and spend some time at your local aquarium. Then we’ll talk.
I love you, Ithaca–really, I do–but Honolulu beats you out. Every time.
That’s where I could be this Christmas Eve, and…
‘Tis the season when it’s most awesome to live in Hawai’i (though I’m
dreading my inevitable return to the cold).
(Photos from top to bottom:
Kahala Beach, my feet in the Pacific ocean, a dolphin at the Kahala Resort and another view
of the beach.)