Academiology V: Place

Published on 2024-02-20

I remember the feeling of vertigo when I first landed in my new home, three years ago. It was a strange place in ways that can be hard to explain.

The place I came from was deciduous. The leaves were green from spring to fall. They grew orange and red in autumn, and turned grey in the winter. The trees of my hometown, primarily ash and maple, were what I came to understand as nature in and of itself. A tree looked like a brown trunk, splintering off into many little branches, each dotted with egg-shaped or characteristically Canadian-looking leaves.

When I moved out for university, I found myself in a new place that was different in a lot of subtle ways I didn't expect. The architecture was different, at times. Fire hydrants were a different colour--something that took me a long time to get used to. But perhaps most surprisingly, all the trees looked orange.

My campus sits on the side of a valley, at a high enough elevation to support ponderosa pine--one of the few places in the province where you can find stands full of them. Ponderosa pine is a tall pine tree with a billowing crown and a distinctly orange bark. The forest around my campus is cold and doesn't support that much biodiversity. The understory is relatively bare, and you can walk through the stand with ease.

We often associate biodiversity directly with the health of an ecosystem. That's not always a bad characterization, but in reality, there are as many levels of species richness to be found in nature as there are individual species in the most tropical of rainforests. The quiet balance of a boreal forest can be as beautiful as the explosive biodiversity of equatorial ecosystems in their own way. Both are adapted to the unique demands of their environment.

I've discussed before how the university ecosystem can be all-consuming, and how it's characteristically so.

Academiology III: Investment

As a corollary to that, I think the university has an incredible power to recontextualize your experience. It's familiar enough for you to know what to do, where to go--especially if you attended public school growing up. But it asks a lot more of you. It asks you to engage with the world in a way you often don't need to, and are sometimes even shielded from, as a child.

I think that on its own is incredibly valuable.

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