March 19, 2013

Hands-On Classes

Last night, I attended a performance of “PALESTINE,” a one-woman play written and performed by Najla Said. Despite coming down with a stomach bug yesterday, I was excited to see the show as part of one of my History classes, “Middle East in the Mind of America, America in the Mind of the Middle East” with Prof. Goshgarian. It was an interesting show about her experiences coming to terms with her Palestinian identity as a New Yorker and as the daughter of Edward Said, the famous scholar and author of Orientalism.

Najla Said, author and actress of PALESTINE

Najla Said, author and actress of PALESTINE (photo taken from the Communications post here:

One of the great things about coming back as a second semester junior is that I am now done with the majority of my requirements. I have a couple requirements to finish up my majors, History and Religious Studies, but my general education requirements are finished. And while I have actually really enjoyed taking classes that I might not have chosen on my own, my four classes this semester tap into older interests of mine. Additionally, this class has also taken the subject matter out of the classroom, because we have now seen this show and had a Q&A session with the playwright and actress, traveled to New York City to take a tour of the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, talked with a former assistant deputy Secretary of State, and Skyped with an arts blogger and the author of a book we’re reading in class. Not bad, right?

Photo of exhibit space in Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia at Metropolitan Museum of Art

Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia (from

Other classes throughout my three years have also taken these techniques. My first year seminar, “Order and Justice in the World Community: the Resolution of National Disputes” with Prof. Peleg, involved a trip to D.C. to the Holocaust Museum and the Newseum, two overwhelming visits on a single day that brought out visceral, emotional reactions in a way our texts could not quite do.

Exhibit from Holocaust Museum in D.C.

Holocaust Museum in D.C. (from United States Holocaust Museum website, 

The Metropolitan

Both my Geology courses with Prof. Lawrence and Prof. Sunderlin took us on trips to study geological processes in the nature around Lafayette. And with my World Religious Traditions class, I went to a Buddhist temple and a Muslim mosque to talk with leaders of their communities.

After four months of learning by experiencing, I’ve come to really appreciate these extra activities, trips, and conversations as supplements to in-class reading, writing, lectures, and discussion. And truthfully, I do love being in class, but I like taking the learning out of the classroom. It means thinking about the material in new ways, and I think that means thinking about the material more, too, and often for longer. But in particular, after Morocco and then Kenya, I think the hands-on learning has really helped keep me active and involved during some surprising reverse culture shock. In addition to my extra-curriculars and my friends, classes have helped draw me back into life at Lafayette.

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