On Tuesday, November 2, 2016, a group of people gathered around a kitchen table on Kenton St. in Bowling Green, KY. This does not seem too odd, but half the guests were college students that were used to meals in dining halls and food courts.
There was Tyler and Kaylin, both freshman in the honors college. There was also Alison, a professor for the TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) who hosted the event. Another professor, Leila, also joined us. She teaches for the honors college and also teaches Citizen and Self.
I was walking towards Kenton St. when I ran into Tyler and Kaylin on my way. We listened as google maps told us where to make turns, and eventually ended up at our address. The house had two different doors, and after a bit of debate we walked to the side of the house and knew we had found our place once we saw Alison and Leila through the window.
After brief introductions from both professors and Alison’s dog Hazel, we were put to work to prepare for dinner. Kaylin chopped cabbage, and Tyler and myself set the four-person table for five. Light conversation was made as the meal was finished up.
Finally, the tacos were served. As a college student where most meals consist of some sort of fried food with no vegetables, seeing a table with cabbage and avocados had me already happy to be there. We served ourselves and sat down to enjoy the meal.
Conversation continued to be very light, and I discovered that Alison actually was one of my sorority big’s professor. Alison had actually taught that class before our meal, but I later learned my big had actually skipped that night.
We talked about how Alison actually found her passion as a teacher on a whim. She had an opportunity to go to Japan, and instead of following her traditional plan, she chose to take the opportunity and go. She found a love for Asian cultures, but more importantly a love for wanting to teach English as a second language.
We continued having conversation, and then Kaylin remembered we had to at least ask one specific question. “Beyond voting, what does citizenship mean to you?” Leila, who actually taught the class made the comment that she should actually have a good answer for this question. Alison talked about empathy. She said that being a good citizen means recognizing that everyone is going through something. You need to take a step back and ask yourself why is this person acting the way they are. Are they having a bad day? It is about recognizing we are all people and we are all going through different things.
I cannot tell you exactly how we got on the topic of dress code, but we did. In my high school, it was announced over the intercom to check for any dress code violations, and as you walked down the halls teachers stared at you looking for something wrong. Tyler had a very similar experience. Teachers at her high school would sit at the doors and check outfits as they walked in. Alison and Leila were shocked by our experiences, and recognized how uncomfortable these situations made us. Leila also brought up how it must have been harder during a time where we are learning to accept our bodies and our personalities.
We talked a little more going through a slew of topics before having desserts. We had these crunchy waffles with Nutella and this caramel made with goat milk. I love goat cheese, so the caramel was very good. Alison offered to make some tea, and we started talking about traveling. Alison told me about all these places I should go see when I study abroad next semester. We also discussed places we need to visit in Bowling Green. It was interesting how many areas of Bowling Green I still haven’t explored.
When I looked at my phone, I realized it was 7:45 and we had been there for almost two hours. Originally, I had scheduled a committee meeting for 8:00, because I had assumed the meal would only last for about an hour. Alison had just finished steeping some green and brown rice tea, so I texted my committee that I would be running a few minutes behind. I was not ready to leave. I was really enjoying myself and the real conversation. I stayed long enough to finish my tea before I rushed to DSU, where I turned a 15-minute walk into 8 minutes.
As I was practically jogging back going through backyards trying to make it to my meeting, I realized how nice it is sometimes to just sit down and talk about real things. By real things, I don’t mean talking about base things about how class is stressful or which professor handed out another assignment. We got to share our experiences. I think part of human nature is wanting to share experiences and connecting on those levels.
It kind of reminded of the shipyard project: a mix of types of people coming together and sharing their experiences. This is one of those things that may not create the biggest change in the world, but allows people to connect on a level that is much more internal. It allows us to make connections with people that we may not think we have a lot in common with. Sharing your experience is both therapeutic and important to being a human.
In the class we ask ourselves how do we live better together. I think it starts with understanding the human experience. To understand that, you have to share and listen to the experiences of others. It is from there we can draw our conclusions on what we change and make better in our lives and the lives of others. If you don’t understand it, there is no way you can fix it.
I personally loved this assignment. It was nice to step outside of my normal routine and eat at a kitchen table.