Not Your Typical Residence Hall

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Moving away from home for the first time can be pretty rough, especially when you don’t know anyone. This is where the Day1 programs have the upper hand. Everyone in the Day1: Watershed and Day1: Great Lakes programs are housed in Lichty Hall, and the other Day1 programs have the option of living there, as well. I was unsure about this. The college was creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) community, I understood that, but I didn’t really want to live in what I saw as the “Nerd Dorm”. However, I decided to do it anyway, and my idea of the “Nerd Dorm” was not what I encountered on move-in day. What I found instead were people that shared the same interests as me and had similar hobbies as me, like video games or playing basketball and being active.

The nice thing about living in the STEM residence hall was that everyone else was either taking the same classes as I was, or they had already tested out of them. So it was extraordinarily easy to find someone who could help me understand equilibrium and electrochemistry, or memorize the nitrogen cycle. Living in Lichty may have been a little atypical of the normal “college experience,” but it was awesome regardless.

Exploring the Local Watershed

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During the summer before freshman year at Hope College a student must register for all of their first semester classes. One of those classes must be a first year seminar (FYS). An FYS is basically an introductory course to college life, they focus on a variety of topics ranging from trains, or bees, to different types of research. Along with the course material one of the objectives of an FYS is to prepare a student to transition into their college life.

When I looked over the list of FYS’s while registering, my eye was caught by a certain program. Day1: Watershed was listed as an opportunity to get firsthand, real-life research experience as a freshman. After reading the description I was even more excited; I knew that I wanted to study biology, so this class was going to be perfect. This brand-new program’s focus was on assessing the overall health of the Lake Macatawa watershed to determine if the restoration project known as Project Clarity was actually restoring it. In order to do this, several different aspects of the water would be tested by gathering water samples from several sites throughout the watershed and analyzing them. Students in the Watershed class would also be moving in earlier than the rest of the freshmen to start researching right away.

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The reason the Day1 programs move in early is to get a head start on research, and that’s exactly what we did. One of the first activities was to kayak down the river to see where we would be sampling, and then we drove the vans out to the different sites and took the water samples, stopping for a picnic in between. After collecting all of the samples we started the wet lab work, which was challenging but definitely worth it. During that week we also read a lot for our FYS portion of the class and got to explore Hope’s campus. Despite the busy agenda of the first week, things mellowed out enough to allow me adjust to the rest of my classes when they started.

Through my work with the watershed program I was able to gain firsthand research experience and knowledge, and from that I was able to get a paid research position over the summer. The opportunities that presented themselves through the Day1 program have been incredible, and I am extremely glad that I was able to take this course.