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RUNNING HEAD: Narrative Essay

ND 223 Narrative Essay

Emily Hulse
Marywood University
Dr. DellaValle
April 17, 2017

Theres no doubt in my mind that Social and Cultural Aspects of Food has been the single

most eye-opening course during my academic career at Marywood University. While I have
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completed all general elective required courses regarding world affairs and global learning, I

believe that this course challenged me and taught me most about day to day aspects of culture

and life. While I easily admit that at times I was frustrated with this courses timeline or

requirements (as a typical college student would be), I am still appreciative it is part of my

majors curriculum. I truly believe that it inspired me, challenged my world view, and

complimented my prior nutrition and dietetics knowledge.

Coming from a small town with roughly 5,000 residents over the span of about 50 square

miles, I was sheltered. Growing up, my entire grade school class (90 students) were all

Caucasian, and there were only two possible religions represented: Roman Catholic and

Presbyterian. I did not, truthfully, meet or become friends with anyone of another race, religion,

or sexual orientation until my freshman year of college. For the first 18 years of my life, I stayed

in the same home, the same school district, and the same county. All these factors influenced my

daily life, as well as more serious issues such as my morals and ethical beliefs. While Im not

saying my upbringing made me severely homophobic or racist, I will admit to its conservatives

actions and beliefs as a whole. Many factors influenced my life, and most of them were

unconscious. The fact that I had never met a Jew, seen a hijab, or went to a church outside my

own all influenced my life both personally and professionally.

When I decided on attending college, I knew I had to experience the world. Its what

brought me to my first university in Nashville, Tennessee. I wanted to experience new people,

see new places, and learn. Unfortunately, my experience in Nashville paralleled the experience I

had for all my life. Attending a strict, conservative, wealthy Baptist school does not exactly

attract people of all kinds, and I quickly picked up on its student selection. When I decided to
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attend Marywood University as a transfer student, I expected something similar due to its

religious affiliation. Instead, I was severely mistaken.

Marywood is a school of diversity. Between professors stories and experiences, students

from all over the world, a myriad of majors, and more, I have seen everything new. This course,

Social and Cultural Aspects of Food, provided a platform for me to learn in an academic setting

about these new things I was seeing and experiencing. Before this course, I would tense up and

get nervous when talking to a Muslim classmate, because I was unsure of what their restrictions

were, their beliefs were, and how they lived their lives. I wasnt sure what my place was in the

midst of it all, either. These actions or thoughts were not because I was discriminatory or

prejudiced, they were the result of never experiencing anyone unlike myself before. These

actions were the result of being incredibly nervous about messing things up. During this course

of this semester, I learned about new cultures, not only from the standpoint of food or a meal, but

through aspects like religion and everyday life. This was a safe space to ask questions about

things without offense or blame, and it shed light on a lot of issues that I was confused by

growing up. The fact that many students had questions I would be thinking in my head comforted

me further as well. Cultural competency cannot even begin to explain the leap that I have taken

in terms of my respect and empathy toward other human beings.

Because of this course, I feel confident in my ability to communicate with people unlike

myself. Before this semester, I wasnt sure of how to respectfully approach someone, how to

politely ask questions about someones life, or what types of things to assume or not assume.

Because I had not interacted with many different people before coming to Marywood University,

I did not have practice in these necessary skills. This course, paired with this surprisingly diverse
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university, have shown me the methods and ways to respectfully learn and communicate with


Ironically, I looked forward to learning about Europe all semester in Social and Cultural

Aspects of Food. I had wished that our Europe lab and materials were presented earlier in the

semester, and I was eager to indulge in my favorite recipes. I believe that this is because Im of

European descent, and it seems safe and normal. And truthfully, it didnt require the use of

chopsticks, which Im not exactly the best at working with. Now that the semester is coming to

an end, Im thankful for learning the hard, inquisitive, and new information about different

regions and parts of the world first. It makes me more appreciative for my own version of normal

or safe, and it makes me respect others who feel safe or normal in a different way. While I have

learned so much about different cultures because of this course, specifically about Asian

countries and regions (which I had very little knowledge of before this semester), I know there is

more work to do. I used to think that learning about other cultures meant traveling the world, but

Ive come to realize that I can learn by staying right here in Scranton, too.

This semester was hard on me, for a multitude of personal and family reasons. However,

it challenged me academically in a way that I am forever thankful for. I truly believe that this

course helped me get out of my own head for a few hours each week, and to remind myself of

the billions of people out there. It helped me realize the importance of putting others first in

order to be a good dietitian, and a good person. It emphasized the necessity of empathy and

cultural competence. While I can never understand someone elses story or why they are the way

they are, I can serve them and their needs anyway. Now that I have the knowledge of different

cultures and religions I am better suited to provide authentic and genuine care for an individual

in need. While Im not sure if I will become a registered dietitian nutritionist in an area like my
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hometown or an area like Nashville or an area like Scranton, I am certain these skills can travel

with me.

Maybe my experience in the Social and Cultural Aspects of Food course sounds cheesy

or glorified, but I truly do believe it altered me; this course moved me. It confronted and tested

me in numerous ways, including learning how to cook foods I had never even seen before in the

grocery store. I learned the names of more spices than I probably ever saw in my kitchen pantry

for the past 20 years of my life. It made me calmer and less nervous around other people, and it

made me more trustworthy of meeting different types of people. In my personal life, it made me

a million and a half times more excited to visit Europe this upcoming summer and to meet all

different kinds of people. This course has translated to aspects of my personal life, my academic

career, and my future profession in nutrition and dietetics.