April 14, 2023 | FEATURES | By Beatrice Roussell
Over spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to New Mexico with the Southwest Studies department to learn about nuclear history. For five days, 10 of us journeyed through the cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos. We explored several museums, met with a professor at the University of New Mexico, and even visited the site where the first atomic bomb was detonated. In tandem with these activities, our leaders framed the experience around conversation and creation.
We brought a variety of supplies with us on the trip, hoping to create artwork that emulated what we were learning. But often when we sat down to discuss, we struggled to articulate what we took away from the day’s events. Despite having felt a great deal in the spaces we inhabited, we could not formulate all those feelings into coherent thoughts, let alone translate them into an art form by the end of our five day excursion. We realized that the creative process is not one that can be rushed, and that we could not make anything meaningful by forcing our ideas into the real world before they were ready.
So, we opted to meet during Block 7 after we had time to let our subconscious brain catch up and reflect on our experiences. Only then, when we let everything inside us stew for a bit, could we start to create.
In the face of this realization, one of my fellow classmates on the trip emphasized the value of slowness. Slowness is often condemned in our society which prioritizes: speed, efficiency, and production. It is especially hard to embrace at CC, a school whose foundation relies on the same ideals that our society praises. The Block Plan catalyzes the learning and creation process with its massive condensation of material, forcing students to comprehend and master concepts in very little time.
Just the other day, as I was sitting in my Organic Chemistry class, three days into the block, my professor asked us who took the Foundations of Organic Chemistry Half Block – created to help students prepare for the notoriously difficult CH250 course. When a couple of students raised their hands, she asked how far into the material they got.
Their answer shocked me: in the last three days we had already covered every concept from their 10-day prep course. We were being taught the material in a condensed form of what had already been condensed. To fit all of O-Chem one into three-and-a-half week: my class attends a lecture for three hours every morning and class/lab for two hours multiple afternoons throughout the week, all in addition to the work assigned outside of the classroom.
I am not writing this to complain – the Block Plan is the reason why I came to this school. I am simply trying to illustrate the rushed atmosphere in which we students are immersed in. We get so accustomed to this lifestyle that we forget it isn’t “normal.” We have adjusted to the choppiness: the frequent beginnings and ends that each block brings, the new schedule, the new professor, the new classmates. And while I find it refreshing, I also find myself longing for some slowness and consistency in an environment that is inherently the opposite.
While I cannot decelerate the pace of the block plan, I yearn for a way to elongate the learning, conversations, and friendships that are formed during each block. I wish for space to slow down and consider what I want to take away from every three-and-a-half week period. And maybe that is why I am writing this: it is a reason to stop doing organic chemistry, to take a step back and reflect on what my trip to New Mexico taught me, and to create a way to share it. I have found one form of slowness that works for me, and I encourage you to find yours.