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Victoria Rielly
Freshman Inquiry
June 11th 2015
Final Reflection

If I'm being totally honest, this school year was nothing but a blur, and I can hardly recall
exactly what was learned besides a few unique experiences. Regardless of what information I
remember absorbing, something was obviously learned, because my perceptions have changed. The
most notable differences are in my view of the world, habits, and productivity, but all of these things
shaped up gradually over the year, without me really noticing, and it's difficult to pinpoint the time and
place where each change or lesson really happened.
As far as the goal of communication, I did learn a lot about interacting with others, working in
group settings, and making compromises in order to get the work done. In fact all the group projects
included in my portfolio should be double-counted as examples of communication skills in action. As
always, in some cases it worked better than others, I'm glad some patches in these group assignments
were a little rough, the bad is as much a part of the learning process as the good. In addition to that,
reading “In the Penal Colony” made me think deeper into cross-cultural communication. The way the
Traveler interacts with the Officer shows that he knows little about their culture, and in finding out
about it with a rather hands-on demonstration, perceives it as a cruel, heartless, and violent society. It
got me thinking that if the Officer had described the process and machine in a different way, perhaps
less crazed, the Traveler may have gotten an entirely different message.
The Urban Transect project also related to communication in that it was a pair project, and we
also had to research demographics and interactions of different communities. The act of compiling all

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our research into graphs relates to communication as well, because visuals are a different way of
presenting information rather than simple text or speech. They tend to be a little more interactive, but
also take effort to make them convey information effectively. I remember having to re-do the graphs
several rimes to make sure all the necessary statistics showed up, and the information was easily
readable and accessible to anyone, regardless of if they knew or didn't know anything about the
communities before reading our paper.
Inquiry and critical thinking is one of those less-obvious goals that's hard to put into words. I
feel like the bulk of my critical thinking came from research. One good example of this is was the
Gaining and Holding power project, where a team of four people chose a dictator to research. We chose
Turkish president Erdogan, and were able to find plenty of insight and information into his political
past, affiliations, scandals, and standpoints on controversial issues. I wrote about media censorship in
Turkey, and because of that very media censorship, had to do a lot of digging to find out how the public
really feels about their President. It helped that one of our team members had a girlfriend living in
Turkey at that point.
Another project that involved plenty of inquiry and critical thinking was the individual MiniResearch, in which we had to develop a concise topic, and find approximately ten sources that could be
used to write an in-depth paper about this topic. I found myself using plenty of critical thinking skills to
evaluate each source and complete the annotated bibliography, it's not all about usefulness of a source,
but also about assessing it's relevance, bias, and credibility. Works cited and annotated bibliographies
are a key part of any assignment, and it was good to get practice with formatting early-on, and because
of this I became comfortable enough with MLA to do many of the works cited pages for multiple team
projects throughout the year.
Ethics and social responsibility was something we covered all year, but it didn't quite sink in
until just after spring break. My research paper on commodity chains was one big part of the

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realization, as were some of the readings we did on Nike, Apple, and other companies who employ
laborers in poor countries and pay them next to nothing. We didn't have a big assignment relating to
those readings, so I'll focus mostly on the vanilla farmers that I researched for the Commodity Chain
essay. They, like factory workers in China, are paid very little for the intensive labor they have to do to
grow vanilla beans. The average daily salary for a vanilla producer is $1.50, where it takes them over
six months to grow a single crop of the product. It was very interesting to research these people, and it
made me consider what kind of unethical and money-driven society exists today, and what might be
done to fix it.
Our community-based group project also related to this. We researched the Make-A-Wish
foundation, which grants wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses, including but not
limited to cancer. Interviewing with them and gathering information was a great experience. From a
first glance, it may seem like what the foundation does isn't that productive to society as a whole, but
they are a nationwide organization which, in addition to helping sick kids, also creates a strong sense of
community and spreads hope and joy wherever it goes. Ever hear of Batkid? That's one example of
how this foundation is taking on the responsibility of making the world a brighter place, the wish may
have been only for one child, but the entire city of San Francisco turned out and came together to make
sure it was an experience he would never forget. They also partner with Disney theme parks, Alaska
Airlines, and plenty of local restaurants and small businesses to make sure every eligible child's wish
can be granted.
The final goal is to learn about the diversity of the human experience, which was probably the
one I felt I advanced in the most from the start of the year. We did plenty of readings that related to it,
and also watched movies like “People Like Us” and “The Edukators” which provided many different
points of view with which to evaluate people's motives and experiences. The discussions on either of
those films would relate well to the topic, but they were posted on D2L and can't be accessed anymore.

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However our two book reading responses also related to this goal quite a bit.
First, “A Mercy” by Toni Morrison had plenty of diverse characters, each coming from their
own background. In this tale, they come together and have to get along, because many of them are
slaves working for Jacob Vaark, through the essay it was interesting to explore the tensions between all
parties involved in the story. The slaves don't necessarily like their masters, but they also don't always
agree with each other, proving that what background they came from influenced how they were treated
and received by their peers.
“The Handmaid's Tale” by Margaret Atwood was the second novel we read and had an
assignment on. These prompts included the option to write fiction, specifically re-write an iconic scene
in the book through the eyes of a different character. The basis of the novel is a male-dominated society
where women have little power and are generally prohibited from speaking, eye contact, or showing
themselves off. I chose to re-write the particicution scene through the eyes of Ofglen, one of the
members of the rebellion in this story.
Offred, the main character, never really gets involved in the organization besides having a few
conversations about sensitive topics. This is either out of fear or resignation, there's a few instances
where she considers rebelling or running away, but she never carries it out. Writing for a stronger
character like Ofglen gave me a second view into the story, and in some ways I would have liked the
novel better if the main character and narrator wasn't quite so wishy-washy, and someone who would
face the current, instead of going with the flow. Comparing both of these characters and their motives
gave me lots of insight into the human experience, and how two very similar people can act differently
in the face of dire circumstances.
Now that it's done and I can look back, this entire year has been full of subtle growth and
learning, even though I almost felt at a standstill while time was passing. But even with all this growth,
it somehow still feels like I haven't moved far from where I was 365 days ago, at high school

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graduation. I'm not magically a better person, haven't improved with keeping deadlines (typing this the
day it's due, of course), and haven't exactly made leaps and bounds towards a career goal. In fact, in
that aspect, I'm even more unsure of myself now than I was at the start of last year. But really, none of
that matters because the one vital thing I learned since last summer is that it's better to focus on what I
am, instead of what I'm not, and even if nothing else sticks around, I hope that lesson does in some
way shape or form.