All the wild dreams students have—they really can come true, says Kyle Schiller ’17.
Schiller, for example, dreamed of going to Japan to work on an organic farm. It was one of those crazy things he and his friends talked about late at nights, laughingly pondering what life would be like in a place completely different from Carleton.
A fellowship made that crazy dream come true.
Through the Yueh-Townsend Fellowship Fund, Schiller financed his World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms trip—an experience often called WWOOFing. For two weeks on a rural farm outside of Hokkaido, Japan, Schiller dug potatoes, hauled logs, washed vegetables, and devoted himself to manual labor.
“It was carefree,” he says. “It’s hard to think of farming that way because you wake up early and work hard for hours, then eat and go to bed exhausted.” Still farming offered stress relief in that Schiller wasn’t in charge of the farm’s success. “But even for the host farmer, he had partnerships with other farms,” Schiller says, “so there’s this real community that holds them together.”
That carefree break from studies, Schiller says, is almost necessary for his educational life. It’s not that he dreads academic life, but learning in a classroom can be very abstract and sometimes removed from the real world. Farming offered a connectedness to the world, and immediacy of results (pick, wash, eat) that aren’t always apparent in academia.
“I’m much more focused now on the meaning and outcome of my learning in class rather than just doing it because I should,” Schiller says. “After my fellowship, I try to find classes that are more about hands-on work. And I see class time not as a debate but as a discussion—it’s not about being ‘right’ but trying to genuinely understand the other person’s viewpoint.”