Around The Yard: Olivia Giaquinto and Nicole Nishizawa

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Olivia Giaquinto and Nicole Nishizawa

November 21, 2018

Something truly special about Harvard is the availability to broaden your educational experiences. Not only does Harvard offer almost 3,900 courses and over 450 student organizations, students are also given opportunities to travel.

To round out the summer, Harvard’s Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) Department offered undergraduates a chance to explore the geology of the Canadian Rockies. Traditionally, this free trip is offered only to EPS concentrators, but the offer was also extended to Environmental Engineering and Astrophysics concentrators. My teammate Olivia Giaquinto (‘20) and I jumped at the chance to go on Rockies adventure.

Over the course of the six day trip, we went on numerous excursions--witnessing fabulous rock outcroppings, taking a boat ride in Lake Minnewanka, and examining a glacier receding at 5,000 feet of elevation. Some days we enjoyed the full wilderness. On others, we explored the town of Banff, rode a gondola up Sulphur Mountain, and privately dined at a fine Moroccan restaurant. Most days, our professor took the party to a site and spoke at length about the geological features present. Though Olivia and I are not budding geologists, we soon became comfortable enough to recognize basic geological features, such as the area’s three prominent formation patterns: Palliser, Banff, and Rundle. By examining the stratigraphy and layering, we could have an idea about how these ancient formations had moved and transformed over the past millions of years.

The trip was also valuable in making and strengthening friendships with the other students. Additionally, the remoteness of the Kananaskis region, where we lodged, cultivated a summer camp nostalgia; we played elaborate card games during free time, explored the surrounding wilderness (which included a beaver pond!), and stargazed at night. Long car rides enabled open conversations, one where one student shared his incredible ice hiking adventures in a handful of remote locations.

To avoid international cellular charges, most of the group shut off their cell phones for the trip, which, in this day and age, is somewhat unheard of. Personally, I found this extremely refreshing. We weren’t sucked away answering texts, scrolling on social media, or keeping up with emails. Silence had to be filled with conversation, and boredom was satiated with games or exploring. I think of a phrase we use in softball, to remind us to focus when we’re practicing or playing: “Be where your feet are.” For the week, we merely set out to enjoy the opportunity we were given. Though I’m sure Harvard’s purpose for funding the trip was to educate, for me, it served as an experience in valuing simplicity. As the semester begins to pick up, it’s important to remind ourselves to take a step back every once in a while. Finding moments to disconnect allows ourselves the opportunity to reconnect, in more full and meaningful ways than before.