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Before and After Taking BISC 3 at Penn State

BISC 3 — Environmental Science is a class you would never expect. It is one of those “easy gen eds” that everyone recommends but is something much more special than that. If you allow it, it could change your entire outlook on life. 


I took BISC 3 during the Fall 2020 semester. Unfortunately, it was fully online, and it’s hard to make friends in that situation. Most of the time you turn off your camera, mute yourself, and just listen. Last year, I made most of my freshman year friends in my classes, but this year was a weird one — as we all know.


Before taking BISC 3, I was already into reflecting and being environmentally friendly. I always tried to recycle, turn off lights when I’m not using them, and not waste food or water. This is easy stuff you hear all the time, so I really wasn’t doing anything special – until after taking this class. 


So, I should probably mention that this isn’t the typical environmental science class you would expect. In reality, it is all about your relationship with the Earth, the people on it, and yourself. It forces you out of your comfort zone while reflecting and growing as a person. 


There are two lectures, a lab and a journal to do every week. It doesn’t take up too much time and the journals are something you’ll grow from if you let yourself. The professor, Jen, has so much wisdom to give, and the TA that I had made every single activity fun. 


Labs consist of just the TA and a small group. These labs are how I made the majority of my new friends during the Fall 2020 semester. There was something about our little lab group that opened us up and made us close so fast. We were comfortable together, talkative and open-minded during the activities, which was the best way for us to be. 


It’s incredible how I made such strong connections with people I met over a screen. I got to learn more about each of them in every lab, and they are all such amazing people. 


We all opened up to the group, sharing some heavy, personal things in that lab. I got to see a glimpse into their lives, know what made them get out of bed in the morning and what made them never want to leave it. It showed all of us that everyone has their own baggage they’re dealing with that we can help with– even if they start as strangers. 


Along with making these new connections, I created a deeper connection with myself through class journals. I have kept my own journal for years now where I would reflect on things that happened in my life and let out necessary emotions. This has always been a beneficial outlet to me, but the BISC journals made me dig deeper than recapping my life. 


These journals asked us questions that we had to go out of our comfort zone to answer and physically write down on paper. Questions like, “what does it mean to live in a universe,“ “what does it mean to speak the truth,” “what would it mean for you to “hear, within yourself, the sounds of Earth’s crying,” and “how would you rewrite your life?”


They are questions that force you to dig deep and ask yourself questions about your initial thoughts until you fully exhaust every question. I learned so much about myself this way and especially when we did the 75 questions journal.


The 75 questions activity was something I had never seen before. You sit with your journal and write question after question as they come to you, with no breaks. The questions can be about anything at all, but there’s no avoiding the deep questions that you don’t exactly want to know the answers to. 


It was fascinating to me what questions came out when I did this and it is something I will always remember. Reflecting on the questions afterward changed me in a way I needed. 


Overall, BISC3 brought me closer to myself, the Earth, and the amazing people that started as strangers. I couldn’t be more thankful for what this class opened my eyes to and the changes it forced me to make. I changed some of my environmental habits, the way I think of myself and the way I treat others. 


It is so important to take care of yourself and the relationship you have with the Earth while it is still here. We all have the power to make the planet healthier, safer and happier. 


If we all joined together and understood our individual impacts on the planet that are discussed in this class, the condition of our planet would surely benefit from it. 


I swear this class should be a required one.

Marlena is a fourth-year in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State where she is majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Psychology and Digital Media Trends & Analytics. She is so grateful to be at Penn State and loves learning more about communications, her peers, and herself every day. She hopes to use this knowledge and her own positive outlook to help others in any way she can.
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