By Sibani Ram, EARTH intern in 2019
Sunlight seeped into EARTH’s library as Marcela and I intently watched a video of an Indian fusion choreography dance. Our eyes shared the screen for thirty seconds as a momentum erupted. But this momentum was no mere response to the video. It was a precious magnetic moment where two souls – an Indian-American and a Chilean-Costa Rican – sought solace in the power of art.
It’s often believed that our senses are tunnels to our soul, but my time with Marcela (and my time at EARTH) taught me something different. Senses are the power to resonating with another soul. In my internship experience at EARTH, my heart-on commitment to senses manifested full-force when I connected with incredible souls – students whose stories have hope and give it. Striding past an infinite array of cultural adaptations, these students molded the beloved memories of my time at EARTH. They helped me grow through what I go through, to soulfully imbibe the infinite energy of diversity.
So here goes my endless notes of gratitude and admiration.
Marcela and I may’ve met for half an hour. We may’ve cherished a dance clip for half a minute. But my interaction with her bestowed me a beautiful lesson to internalize for the next half of my scholastic life: to let my mind feast upon art amid any pursuit in sciences.
Descended from a family of artists, Marcela Muñoz is a dancer turned plant scientist. For her, coming to EARTH was a big step, but for her family, it was a giant leap. As a scientist studying food processing, she feels responsible uplifting her family by defying distance through academic devotion to support them. Marcela is the younger sister of two older brothers, a philosophy-oriented writer and a digital photographer. “They tell me it’s my job to study a real career and support them”, she said playfully. As much as her brothers revere Marcella’s novel path, she’s forever connected to the art that shaped her soul and makes it whole. Her dream is to work at the cutting edge of food processing and sociology to fight hunger, while dancing her way through it. Marcela’s artist background still lingers in her work as a scientist – and it breathes back to her.
The “life in movement” nature of EARTH’s practical fieldwork learning system brings back memories of the spiritual and emotional spirit of being a dancer. Marcella’s story molded my mindset. As someone whose core interests lie at the confluence of life sciences and literature, I learned from Marcella that I should never completely give up one for the other. Like Marcela’s kinesthetic knack developed from dancing, my emotional expression would never be complete if I left writing. I learned that the structure of college life should not erase at any cost, but rather embolden, one’s cultural canvas of artsy identity. Only then will one’s soul speak – only then will your sense of purpose dance vividly for the world to witness.
Just as I inhaled the artist’s gift from Marcela, I imbibed from Kawayne Bryan the athlete’s spirit. In an interview that morphed into an insightful life story, I learned from him the persistence of remaining prideful in restarting.
A trained track and field athlete born and raised in Jamaica, Kawayne’s journey to EARTH was far from predictable. When a shocking illness compelled him to seek a new career – to give up an Olympic dream – agriculture was what spoke to him. Trading in the cross-country training for chemistry, he’s moved by the impact of soil science in its application to alleviating food insecurity. But Kawayne’s new goal is to glorify agriculture, to shine a light on the leverage of fieldwork in helping humanity. “I think of farmers as doctors”, he said. “Just as a doctor evaluates blood samples, we are evaluating the plants – finding cures for diseases that will solve humanity’s greatest crisis: hunger”. Moved by EARTH’s mission and drawn into its multicultural haven, Kawayne decided to make the university his home. As far as the runner’s dream, he had to leave it, but the enlivening energy of exercise never left him. He still runs his heart out in EARTH’s annual race, training consistently to keep his first pulse of inspiration alive.
As a human being, it can be tough to see others live your dream, but it will be tougher if you don’t set your heart on a new dream. In a conversation that immediately strode past cultural barriers to explore this idea, Kawayne’s story reminded me that restarting can be ultimately refreshing. You may be forced to leave the full pursuit of your passion, but your passion doesn’t have to leave you.
Marcela and Kawayne, among countless others at EARTH, showed me that culture is not as much a barrier as it is a bridge. Even short conversations elucidate that it doesn’t take long to seek common ground – to find simple, sophisticated stories, ones that stimulate heart-on learning. Coming from a small public high school in the United States, the beauty of a campus like EARTH’s extended far beyond the picturesque scenery of palm trees. It vibrated far beyond the morning bird calls – the early morning starts and naturalistic haven. Unsurprisingly enough, Marcela and Kawayne both mentioned that the friends they made and the bonds they formed, was what they’d miss most about EARTH. Approximately two weeks since my departure, I agree. The true magic of the university lies in its multiracial student body – a magic that pulls souls across the world into a common space of innovation. EARTH is a shining example of how diversity is strong, beautiful, unique and powerful – and truly the substance of life that awakens senses and storytelling like no other.