Study Your Politics Damnit

The gist of a letter that I crafted in 2011 for would-be undergrad devotees of one of the universe’s critical majors.

Politics is a major for the curious and the restless, the wrestling and the questioning. It is for those who build biceps raising their hands over the course of the semester and those with passport pages replete with stamps. It is the one who loves to learn in Boyer Hall and facing the Terra Cotta soldiers in China.  It is for those who examine and inquire, who shout and who march. It is for the activist and the pacifist and more than anything, the life-long inquirer. It is beyond an area of study, a classification and a field. It has been my way of life for the past thirty months.
I left high school weary of the dull stares of the timid, apathetic and sleeping, eager to find myself lost in a classroom of edge-of-the-seat participants and pacing professors. I was hooked on Politics after my first class. Much to my glee, student after student arrived prepared, eager to discuss and critique Plato, Hobbes and Locke, even as the professor interrupted assertions and forced students on the spot to defend their arguments. A perennial participant, for the first time in my life, I felt nervous about lending a voice to the discussion, my head spinning over the speed and level of concepts. At the same time though, I was mesmerized. The entire class was gripped in the content, the ramifications, thoroughly entertained and thoroughly engaged.
The next year and half that I spent at Messiah, I soaked up Politics classes, constructing mnemonics for Supreme Court case titles, discovering the ins and outs of local government from a state representative, and using the SPSS program to crunch numbers analyzing immigration sentiments. Simultaneously, during these preliminary months, I bonded with my classmates and my professors. Encountering likeminded academic peers tremendously enhanced my learning. Nestled in the booths in the student union we discussed the merits of globalization and the complexity of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Sayyid Qtub while constantly drifting to tangents about impassioning the student body about the injustice of blood diamonds. We appreciated our regional diversity –California, Minnesota, Washington, China and Ghana and drove each other to explore familiar concepts in different lights.
The relationships with the professors have perhaps been the most enriching. I am tremendously excited that I feel as though each professor in the department knows more than that I am California, but also has heard me speak passionately about the complexities of Chinese communism, the frustrations with immigration in Europe and my own dreams to work overseas someday. They have also been my strongest advocates by counseling, consoling and encouraging me when I am underwhelmed by my performance and overwhelmed by work.
I left Grantham academia in 2010 for the Orient and the Iberian Peninsula. In my spring semester, I ventured around in China, trekked the Great Wall, wrote for a Chinese-English local newspaper, read firsthand accounts of life under the Mao dictatorship and gnawed on chicken feet in a Hmong village. Just eight weeks ago, I packed my bags in Barcelona after a semester of studying in Spanish, sorting out the power diagrams of the European Union, interrogating locals about the region, Catalonia, desire for statehood, staffing UNICEF fundraisers, and teaching computer classes in a second language to immigrant women.
As I’m just now starting the spring semester, after a year abroad, my absolute favorite reason why I am grateful to be back is because the expected spiritual stimulation. Messiah completely gets Jesus’ core values of peace, compassion, reconciliation, truth and action. Every semester I have been on campus, I have volunteered off-campus in Harrisburg non-profit and just this past summer I worked at our service learning arm, the Agape Center, organizing an orientation service project for all 700 first year students. This semester, as Human Rights Awareness Director, I hope to educate more of my peers about our Christian responsibility to learn about international issues and injustices.



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