Bright Sides of Boston

Everybody’s been saying that this is a mild winter, and maybe they’re right.  But it still seems freezing and grey to me, and I’ve definitely had the January Blues.  Last week, I woke up early and looked outside my window, only to see a completely frozen world – there was white ice on the ground, an opaque grey sky, and leafless trees dotting the street.  Everything looked the exact same color, and I felt a sinking sadness in my heart at the bleak sight of winter.  So I did what any normal 21-year-old would do – I called my parents on the phone and cried.

But this story has a happy ending.  After my phone call, my parents were so worried about my wellbeing (SAD is a true phenomenon!) that they sent me a sun lamp, and it came in the mail only two days later.   Now I use it in the mornings when I’m checking email: a simulated sun on the desk beside me.  And it has actually helped!   My roommate and I also decorated the living room with a tropical/Bohemian flavor, so we can pretend it’s summer all year round:

Well, everyone on this blog has been raving about their courses for the spring, and since I’m also thrilled about mine, I’ll mention them briefly.  First, some backstory: My roommate and I are both in the humanities (she’s into photography and I do English), so a lot of our classes have been theory-based over the years.  But that’s not just characteristic of the humanities – my friends who are government or economics majors encounter an almost equal number of classes full of theorizin’ and philosophizin’.  The idea is that when we get into the real world, we’ll be able to practically apply these complex frameworks of meta-knowledge.  While that might be true, I’ve been increasingly attracted to classes whose content is facts-based and has a more direct, unambiguous application – classes that are oriented toward a practicum of some kind.

The first exciting one I’m taking is called The African City.  Contrary to many opinions, Africa is full of more than savannah, grasslands, deserts and jungles.  This class focuses on the urban centers of my most beloved continent.  We’re learning how to use Geographic Information Systems, which is a kind of data mapping system that employs Google Earth & other topographical maps.  Using GIS technology, you can get an immediate, visual representation of data spreads like population density across Africa, or sites of armed conflict. For this class, we each pick one city that we really care about, and we research that city for the entire semester.  Each week, we’ll be focusing on maps of different kinds – transport routes, cultural flows, ethnic & linguistic groupings, and lots more.  I’m so thrilled about this class because my city of focus is Dar es Salaam – a city that I hope to live and work in someday.

Another great class I’m taking is called Africa & Africans.  When I first came to college, I definitely didn’t expect to be studying Africa in school.  Africa was just my home, and I wasn’t even sure it should be a school subject!  But that was totally naïve, and I’m realizing how unfamiliar I am with a part of the world that I love dearly.  This semester, I’m taking a class on the history of sub-Saharan Africa over the last century.  It’s taught by Caroline Elkins who just happens to be an expert on post-colonial Kenya, so I’m in good hands.

The final class I’m super excited for is called Creative Nonfiction – it’s a writing workshop where we get to improve our journalistic writing.  I’ve already taken one writing workshop at Harvard, which was probably my favorite class of all time, so I’m looking forward to the follow-up.  And as I mentioned above, I love that the skills from the class are immediately applicable in a straightforward way.

One more little story before I sign off — last night, I went to see a band called Augustana play in the city, and they were wonderful.  I adore loud shows because the music shakes everyone in the audience in the exact same tempo; I always imagine that our hearts have been transplanted by the bassline, so we all have the same heartbeat for the length of the song. Anyway, the band has a song called Boston, which made everyone happy, and it portrayed this city in a pretty light.  And then on the T ride home, the subway was crammed with exhilarated Bruins fans, who had just won the game 4-3.  I was the only one on the subway not wearing a Bruins jersey, but in that moment, I think I felt just as happy and proud of Boston as everyone else.

 

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2 comments

  1. Jenny’s avatar

    Shannon,

    You and your roomate have decorated your room so nicely. It looks really spacious for a dorm room. You guys did a great job with the tropical/Bohemian decorating. Being in college during the Winter can be challenging sometimes but Spring will be here soon. I have a daughter in college at Marquette University in Wisconsin and she too believes there is truth to the SAD phenomenon.

    Yes, Africa is a very interesting continent to study. Most people have no idea what Africa is really like because they have a picture in their minds of what they expect it to be.

    The best of luck to you in your studies at Harvard. You are an excellent blogger, I look forward to reading more of your blogs in the future!!

    Take care and Think Spring!
    Jenny

    1. shannon’s avatar

      Jenny, thanks for your kind words! Yes, the room is pretty spacious — the rooms usually get bigger every year, and since we’re seniors, this one is pretty nice. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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