Freshman year I thought college was just like any other school experience; all I had to do was take the classes that would get me to the point of applying to dental school. I never anticipated falling in love with a field, which seemed to have nothing to do with dentistry.
It all started with my Honors freshman sequence, Food For Thought. I signed up for the class because it seemed like fun! Who wouldn’t want to talk about food for an entire school year? I quickly found out it was much more than just talking about food. I learned the different ways food is grown and processed and how these details have massive impacts on our planet. Not only did I learn all the ways that we impact our planet, I learned how the planet also impacts us.
I learned the benefits, physically and mentally, of being outdoors, as well as the health benefits of eating certain food groups and avoiding others. We learned all of this through a variety of teaching techniques, ranging from readings to classroom discussions to watching documentaries.
My favorite part was getting to apply our learning out at the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP). At the SAP there is no passive learning. Unlike other classes where you might be able take notes all class without actually knowing what you are taking notes on, at the SAP you learn something and apply it right away. You can develop your interpersonal and problem-solving skills by working with the interns, farm manager Youssef and classmates on projects there.
It is safe to say that after Food For Thought my eyes were opened to an entirely different way of viewing the world, and there was no turning back. I found a passion for the environment and for sustainable food production that drove me to pick up a minor in Environmental Studies and also work towards a Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems.
Now, three years after Food For Thought, I have had countless classes out at the Sustainable Agriculture Project and it has not only helped me grow as a student but has also taught me a few things about myself. Beyond discovering my passion for taking care of our planet and knowing where our food comes from, I also learned the importance of disconnecting.
As a biomedical sciences student, my mind is always on the move and it is easy to get stressed out with to do lists running through my head all day long. However, when I went out to the farm it forced me to set aside my phone, computer and to do lists and just let go. Whether I was digging up the soil to prepare a garden, or out weeding, or harvesting, being out at the farm was meditative to me. It taught me that no matter how busy life may become it’s important to take time for you and connect with nature a little bit.
You may be wondering how this ever connected back to dentistry. Well, it turns out that the food we eat can greatly impact our health, I know, shocking. I hope, as a dentist or orthodontist someday, that I will be able to share my experience with my patients and spread the importance of knowing where our food comes from. So, come graduation I will not only be graduating with a degree in Biomedical Sciences, and a minor in Environmental Studies, but also with a completely different view of the world and I think that is exactly what college is all about.
Alyssa Schutzenhofer is a senior here at Grand Valley. She is a Biomedical Sciences major, Pre-dental student and an Environmental Studies minor. In her free time she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and gardening.