Our Big Read 2020 program may be over but the ideas and insights presented and discussed in our program are still floating around and shaping the way the readers along the Lakeshore are thinking about the world. We’re starting a series of blog posts written by various community members about some of the things they learned (and are still thinking about) from our recent Big Read events.

In the paragraphs below, Jael Stilwell, Art Education major at Hope College reflects on what she learned from watching the NEA Big Read Lakeshore’sAdventure Stories with Hope Professors.” If you missed this event, it’s not too late! It’s available for viewing on our Big Read YouTube channel – you can access it here.

Jael writes,

I was so excited when I learned this event would give me a chance to hear professors’ stories! I was on my toes for the entire event because the stories were so interesting and exciting to listen to. Some of the stories were rather scary and risky but were definitely very enjoyable to listen to.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about what Dr. Van Duinen said about her experience of biking throughout Southeast Asia. She reflected that often when we’re in the middle of a story, we may not be enjoying it or able to reflect on it. However, when we have time and space away from it, once we’ve lived through a story, we are able to learn and laugh from our experiences.

Dr Forester’s story about biking through Europe was fascinating. He said that he was invited to dinner with a family and was given a cup of coffee, and the only person who drank coffee was him. He ended up finding out that coffee was very expensive at the time and was only bought through the black market. As a coffee lover myself (more of a coffee addict, I have to drink it every day!) I was shocked at how expensive and rare coffee was at the time.

This event has made me think about the importance of listening to people’s stories! As a future teacher, I’m realizing how important it is to listen to what students have to say. I think some amazing conversations with students could stem from asking them about their experiences. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know your students on a more personal level by asking them about some of their greatest life experiences.

I’ve also thought more about the importance of travel. Many of the amazing stories that the professors shared happened somewhere around the world outside of Holland, MI. Often these trips were taken during the earlier years of the professor’s life, and they had great experiences during these trips. One can experience amazing things through discovering and traveling to other places in our world. I think travel opportunities should be taken advantage of because of the experiences and stories that travel brings to one’s life. My mother still talks about her May Term through Hope College that she took in Austria and she still travels around the world for her job and always has amazing stories to tell us when she comes home.

This event has also prompted me to think about having confidence to step outside of our comfort zones. Sometimes we have to do things that are uncomfortable, in order to grow and learn and have stories to tell. I’ve always wanted to travel outside of the United States, and I’ve had the opportunity quite a few times. However, I often experience anxiety when it comes to traveling even only a couple hours away from Holland. I’ve always loved the idea of traveling and have been on many trips as a child, but I often spend more time worrying than exploring and experiencing those stories to share with others.

Although sometimes we have to push ourselves slightly out of our comfort zones to learn and grow. As I think about my chosen major (Art), I realize that many artists in history had to experiment and try new things when it came to their personal artistic practice. Many movements and great works of art came out of these experiments.

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