Looking Back

The time I spent at UW has been a time of gathering diverse experiences and truly expanding my knowledge past any expectations. Below, you will find a reflection of my academic experiences.

CEP Final Reflection

This assignment has asked us to look back at our academic past and reflect on the changes and growth that we’ve experienced through the years we’ve been in academia. This is a strange concept for me to rationalize because I have been in academia for most of my life. My pursuit of a bachelor’s degree has kept me in the college system for around 8 years since graduating high school, and this begs the first question I have: Where do I begin? At what point can one really say their educational experiences drastically shape them? Through my 8 years, I have taken coursework in fine art, human anatomy and physiology, psychology and sociology, journalism, physics, environmental studies, urban design and planning, landscape architecture, figure drawing… The list goes on. It appears the common thread that ties my coursework together is simply my love for understanding things I find mysterious, especially people, how they work, and why they do the silly things they do. (Like stay in college for 8 years to get a bachelor’s degree.)  

I will say, I do not think I’ve grown. Instead, it’s like my life is a Claritin commercial and someone has peeled the thin film off of my sight. It has taken many failures, trial and errors, and frustrations to understand the newfound balance I have in my sights. I have the same personality that I’ve always had, but these past 5 years, and specifically the last 3 at UW, has finally allowed me to understand why and how I do the things I do. Through my experiences at the University of Washington, I have been able to learn about myself and grow into a person that I am proud to be.

The allergy commercial film that has been peeled off of my eyes has given me the first lesson: I will do what is expected of me. I prefer not to stand out by being the median value of my surroundings. That bolded blanket statement holds true in both directions. When there is no challenge present or those around me do not feel that I will be good enough for a task, I follow suit and decide that they must be right. The opposite is also true. When someone believes in me, I rise to the occasion and do my best not to let people down. If there are people around me doing great things, I do not want to stick out so I too, must do great things. Funny how that works, isn’t it? I have proven this to myself many times, especially through academia, and each time I feel a bit more prepared for any possibilities life may offer. After I realized this about myself, I began to reach for things I didn’t think I could do. This is only the beginning of my explorations in self management and I am glad to say that this realization has helped me take control of my own drive. Now that I know there is a proverbial gas pedal, at least I can be the person to drive.

My need to meet expectations and not disappoint people, along with many relationships I have built through this journey, has also taught me lesson two: I am very empathetic. I am still grappling with this and how it affects my relationships, but I am glad to know it about myself. I plan to hold onto the CEP 461 curriculum and continue my life alongside the Ethics of Care. The concept is not new or innovative, but to know that other people also notice and feel the disconnect between people has really reminded me to refer back to it and keep it in my mind. While on the subject, I am also a fan of Kantian ethics and the idea of living your life to a standard that should become universal. This, combined with the humanity involved in understanding what it means to have someone that you use as “a means rather than an end” often floats into my mind when I have an idle moment. How can I really make sure that when I look at a person in front of me I take the time to understand that they are also looking at a person in front of them. These are simple concepts taken from coursework, however, I really do think these are lessons that I would not have found if I had not taken the same path.

  The path I mentioned above, although all with a common thread and a sparked interest, was never fruitful for me. I had been going through the motions because I was hoping it would somehow become natural. I do also think that I began to study physics coursework to spite those in my life that did not think I was capable. Physics is VERY COOL, but spite is not the right reason to get a physics degree. Maybe spite would be an acceptable reason to become a physicist. There are probably a lot of physicists out there who have been told ‘no’ one too many times, or seen the terrible ways people treat the earth, or are planning on getting a research job to prove some formula that never seemed possible. I, however, would have stopped a step early and gotten a Spite Degree, but would have probably never decided to work in research. This was the latest course for my academic path as of 2018. I’m glad things changed.

Things probably began to change slowly when I decided to take the Planning Practicum offered by David Blum. This was my first active step into any Built Environment curriculum. It was frustrating, rewarding, and confusing, but most importantly of all, it had people who expected quality things from me. Having that first studio opened my eyes to this feeling I’ve grown to enjoy. This is the feeling you get when it’s 4 AM and you’re working on a design, but you don’t feel tired. Maybe it’s adrenaline from the stress, or maybe it’s endorphins that get released as your body says “you probably need these right about now”, or maybe it’s the friends that are sitting right there with you doing their own work. Whatever it is, it has become an interesting point of study for myself; I am still fascinated with the boundaries of what will bring that same rush and satisfaction when a project is over. That is a lesson in progress, I’m sure I’ll have a clearer picture after spending time in the job market. (yikes)

After the proverbial dipping my toe in the pool of design, I decided I liked it and stripped down and ran screaming into a cannonball dive into the Lake of Design.  I’ve plunged in and whirled around and am still trying to figure out which way is up. I did a lot of the screaming and running into actual water at the next step, too. The summer after that fall practicum was the summer where I learned many more lessons as I studied abroad in Sweden. The trip taught me how to appreciate moments. I remembered how to stop and smell the flowers and how to fall in love with something different every day. The love that stuck from this summer of lakeside fun was realizing the satisfaction of working hard on a design project. The coursework had many aspects that required conceptual, graphic, and physical design to implement the projects we were tasked with. I got a little more of that “up-at-4-am-working” feeling and I brought it home with me into my senior year as the ultimate souvenir.

I took the Introduction to  Landscape Architecture Studio, by suggestion of Megan Herzog, and am absolutely glad that I had the opportunity. This was another step in the direction of realizing what brings me joy. The important parts I’ve found is that it seems to be about friends, plants, and how to make things that make your friends and your plants happy. That’s as far as I’ve gotten in the philosophical part, however I’ve been able to take coursework on technical skills that have enhanced my understanding of the subject even further.

In this past year, I’ve finally discovered my appetite for success. This hunger has driven me to immerse myself in the world of Landscape Architecture that exists within Gould Hall. This is where I’ve learned the next few lessons: It’s not what you know, but who you know, Squeaky wheel gets the oil, and Having a hunger for success or opportunity is always best paired with a sure self. By taking opportunities that presented themselves, and by having a new network of friends that have helped support and guide me through, I have been able to part-take in many events and opportunities that are offered through the College of Built Environment. Although I will be graduating with a minor in Urban Ecological Design, I feel that I have had the opportunities and coursework to prepare me for a basic level understanding the process of Landscape Design and Architecture. I hope to spend the summer honing a skill set that may turn me into a viable candidate for an entry level position as an urban designer or landscape designer.

It is because of all of these things that have happened in the past year that I am extremely grateful to have ended up where I am now. Although I have done my best to reach for success and create it where I can, I would not be where I am now without the friends and guidance that has led me here. I think it also has a lot to do with Chris Campbell repeatedly talking about college as a time for “meeting interesting people who are doing interesting things”. I listened to the advice and it really does make a difference. Thank you.  

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