“Read a few books, chop a little wood.”
I spent my fall semester at the Oregon Extension, a program based in the Cascade mountains of Southern Oregon. Rural and serene, the place was beautiful. Seventeen other students and I lived in wood-heated cabins, roamed forest trails, star gazed, and made all the recipes in the Simply in Season cookbook.
We met in our professors’ homes, sipping coffee and discussing the 100 or so pages we read from the night before, taking turns listening and speaking. The subject of my studies were wide; the social construction of wilderness, the history of infinity, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Early Church Councils. I had a truly liberal arts education.
Yet, the OE is an academic program that does not overly focus on academics. Chopping wood is of equal importance to reading books. Chopping wood, restful weekends, backpacking trips, and many other program components foster relationship building and opportunities to ask questions that really matter. The OE’s small, close-knit feel creates an environment where students feel safe enough to be honest and authentic with one another.
Through my experiences at the Oregon Extension, I have begun to realize that the academic life is not the end all be all. As one who invests much energy into school work, I have had difficulty accepting that anything else should be given priority. However, living intimately with fellow students and professors allowed me to see that caring for oneself or someone else is sometimes more necessary than finishing an assignment. When home and school lives so closely blend, one cannot help but recognize what truly matters.
Erika is a senior who loves trying to shape her educational experience. She is slowly learning that the best way to start is by lowering stress.