Human biodiversity was one of the best classes I have taken at Alma College. It was a class about looking at the variety of human life in different areas. This experience allowed me to reflect on myself and how I view the world.
Before we went to Washington D.C., our professor, Dr. Eric Calhoun, challenged the entire class to dig deep and really think about how they view people and their actions. When we were in DC, everyone had a different topic they had to research, such as diets of slaves in America compared to people of African countries, to create a final project.
My final project was titled “How the Perspective of Human Biodiversity led to Rape being used as a Tool in War.” I looked at how rape has been a tool of power and war and presented my findings. Everyone had a different topic with varying cultures and ethnic groups.
There were some hard days with heavy topics. The National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum contained exhibits that were so powerful and heartbreaking. I think everyone should go to both museums at some time in their lives. It made me think and reflect about how awful decisions and actions of the past can still be seen within society today. We learned things about American history that we were never taught in high school. That much was disheartening to think about, but Dr. Calhoun and my classmates created an environment that made it feel safe to share our thoughts and feelings about hard topics without fear of being judged.
The hard days were always followed up by uplifting experiences. The class went on a night tour of all of the major sites in Washington — Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument — where we learned about their history and the ideas of how they were designed. We were able to go to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and had fun watching all of the animals. We spent hours at the botanical garden and the art gallery and tried food from too many food trucks to count. Every night we would go out to dinner, where we laughed about the day’s events and had a good time.
When we came back to Alma, the discussion didn’t stop. We all had projects to put together from information we gathered from the museums. It was interesting to hear everyone talk about their subjects, because they tended to utilize information someone else had missed — there was just so much to take in! All of the projects added to our collective well of knowledge and information.
We had the chance to revisit the subjects we talked about before our trip to Washington, now with the added insight we gained from the visits to the museums. I found myself realizing that my entire thinking process had changed. I’m putting myself in different situations more than I was before, which has led to me changing my views on certain topics.
I think I’m a more understanding person as a result of this class. I’m also getting better at working with others and talking about difficult subjects in a productive way. I know I’m not a finished product and my views will continue to evolve — and this class helped me see that that is OK.