For many people, coming to college is an anxiety-ridden time. Like many freshmen, I had what felt like a million worries about starting college. What would my major be? Would I do well in my classes? How and where would I find friends? After my first week of Watershed, almost all those worries had dissipated. I met ten other students who had similar interests to me, most of whom I am still very close to. I gained valuable knowledge and experience through hands-on learning and research. I also got to know my two advisers, who also turned into some of the most influential professors I have had so far.
One of the most valuable parts of the Day1 program was the research experience. Because the Watershed project has real-world applications and consequences, we took part in real applications of the scientific method. I had a great experience coming up with research questions and hypotheses, as well as sampling in the field, analyzing samples via wet lab techniques, researching previously performed experiments, and learning how to use computer programming to draw conclusions from data. Since I have put those skills on my résumé, they have already helped me earn a summer research job.
The Day1 program has been extremely valuable to me on a social basis as well as professionally. All students in the Watershed group as well as many students in the Phage group live in Lichty Hall, one of the smallest dorms on campus. Almost everyone in Lichty is a science major, which creates a unique atmosphere. On any given night, there are a ton of people in the basement or lounge doing homework, studying, or just goofing off. Although it is probably not the best place to find quiet time, you can always find someone else studying for the same test or doing the same homework if you need help. I am so grateful to have found the unique Lichty community and would recommend it to anyone looking for a tight-knit community and friend group.
When I first enrolled in a Day1 program I was excited about the opportunity to take part in a real-world research project. I had not put much thought into the idea of what it meant to be part of a ‘living-learning community’, however, now that I have completed my freshmen year I have discovered what it really means to be part of the community in Lichty hall.
While it has many similarities to the other living communities on campus, it also possesses several key factors that make it stand out from the rest. Lichty is one of the smallest halls on campus, giving you the unique opportunity to have a real and meaningful relationship with almost everyone in your dorm, but also large enough to offer a great deal of variety in the kinds of people you will meet. The size of the hall encourages residents to build a tight-knit community where everyone has a sense of belonging and purpose. Lichty is also a part of the south-side residential community, which means there are three other halls right next-door if you ever feel that your social circle is too small. The ‘living’ part of the ‘living-learning’ community transitions perfectly into the learning portion.
One of my favorite things about living in Lichty was the fact that there was always someone in the common areas either studying or having fun (often a mixture of the two). Whether cramming for a test or simply trying to complete a last minute homework assignment, there was always someone there who was willing and able to help. This kind of support network helps you to focus yourself and even share your knowledge with others when they are in need. If any part of this community interests you, I wholeheartedly encourage you to sign-up and become part of a Day1 research program.
When asked about my favorite class this year, my answer has been, without fail, the Phage Day 1 Lab. While not everyone shares my enthusiasm for mixing viruses with bacteria and growing them on Petri dishes (it does sound a little odd, if you think about it), I can honestly say that joining the Phage Day 1 program was one of the best decisions I made coming into college. This lab provides a unique opportunity for hands-on, exploratory learning in a schedule otherwise filled with introductory, largely memorization-based classes. Don’t get me wrong – I love learning about biology in any setting, including lecture. However, there is something special about knowing that the work I do in lab is not a mere learning exercise, but directly contributes to a growing body of cutting-edge scientific research. It’s a small contribution, but I take some pride in knowing that the phage I isolated, studied, and yes, came to love over the first semester is stored in a database with my name beside it.
The aspect I enjoy most about Phage lab is the hands-on approach to learning laboratory procedures. We read about techniques, talk them through with our professor, and then do them. It was great to see my classmates’ and my growth over the first semester as we developed from unsure, somewhat clumsy amateurs asking questions every five seconds to confident budding scientists who know how to design our own experiments and think critically about solving potential issues. As a Biology major hoping to enter the field of medical research, this course has given me both practical experience and confidence in carrying out laboratory procedures. It also provides a strong base from which to apply for future research experiences at Hope and beyond.
The final thing that makes me love Phage lab is the fact that it is just so much fun. I have become friends with many of the people in my class, where the small size and common purpose create a sense of unique comradery. This is the class where I can share nerdy jokes and know they will be appreciated, where I can ask a peer a complicated question about biology and know they will understand it, and where I and my friends can sing along to Disney songs while performing an experiment (one of my fondest memories from lab). The Phage Day 1 program allows me to further my knowledge of biology in a unique and sincerely enjoyable way. It has become one of the defining aspects of why I love Hope.
I joined the Day1: Watershed program purely out of curiosity and the “Why not?” spirit. When I saw postings about the program, I said, “Why not?” and promptly requested more information.
From the perspective of a music student, the Day1 program is a fun and challenging program to be a part of. It has given me the opportunity to learn in many disciplines, including microbiology, biology, and chemistry. What I have enjoyed the most about Day1: Watershed is the diversity of the course. One week we may be filtering samples from Lake Macatawa and the next week we could be writing code to create graphs of our data. For any student, especially the non-STEM student, the Day1 course is a refreshing and intellectually thought-provoking opportunity.
So if you are interested in joining Day1 and are not planning on studying a STEM field, I encourage you to embrace the “Why not?” attitude and take advantage of the Day1: Watershed program.