Opinions, Column

Exploring My Love for Maps

I’m a little obsessed with maps.

It started when I was little. Whenever a country came on the news when I was with my parents, I would ask them where it was. They were then put in kind of a tough spot, trying to explain global geography to a five-year-old with little knowledge on the matter. So they’d pull out a map and let me see where things were.

In middle school, very few websites were available to us students to use on the school computers. One that we could use was a map quiz website. So, during periods where we’d be in the computer lab, my friends and I got in the habit of doing these quizzes. Naturally, we’d race.

Maybe I’m also a little more competitive than I care to admit.

Competitively learning geography may have been our way of staving-off boredom when we finished our work early, but it is also information that has stuck with me. As I learned exactly what countries were located where, I’d sometimes do some research on why certain borders are as they are, or refer back to something I learned in history to explain it.

One of my majors is International Studies and my interest in the field stems from this childhood fixation on geography.

Knowing about geography is a pretty handy thing when participating in discourse about economics and politics, as I so often do in my International Studies classes. Location is a major strategic concern and comes into play in these topics at virtually every consideration in some respect or another, whether it be a company seeking transportation routes or a nation concerned about its access globally. My high school and college careers have been permeated with the idea of globalization and its implications for our careers and lives going forward.

That is why I see value in learning about geography. But I understand if other people think it’s boring or unnecessary. It’s like anything else: if someone is not interested on their own, or forced to be interested, they just most likely aren’t going to take the time to try to understand things. I do not think this is an inherently bad trait—the interests that people have do not always have to be productive.

Little things growing up can have a seemingly disproportionate impact on one’s academic career later in life. Having friends in your high school English class can make you interested in the subject for the long term because all of a sudden it’s fun. As it was in my small public high school, a culture of veneration for Latin and Classics can contribute to your perception and mode of understanding during your freshman year Perspectives class.

My high school made the decision to give the seniors in certain classes laptops to use during the school day, a pilot program that started with my class. My school typically had a no laptops policy, so this was a major treat, and as you can only imagine, the seniors, basically done with their high school careers, had little motivation to use them for their intended purpose.

Again, all the websites were blocked, so my friends and I found our way back to our middle school games. This time, we got really good at the geography games, and finally had real global knowledge with which to frame our newfound pastime.

I happened to have found my fascination by playing a game that was not intentioned for that purpose. Time with technology was always intended to be a way for teachers to get the class moving more quickly, and often it had the opposite result. I, however, benefitted from it in a way that my school’s administration could not have anticipated and am wholly grateful.

Once we get to Boston College, many of us want to hone in on those past experiences that feel significant and use those to shape our choices going forward. I have found that focusing on nuance has helped me to understand myself and has provided a more holistic perspective on why my interests fall how they do.  

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor

October 29, 2017

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