An Excerpt from my Final Reflections on COPLAC
I believe I learned more about immigration in this class than I ever possibly could have in a typical on-campus class. I say this for several reasons. One reason is the way we were allowed to immerse ourselves in a very specific topic for an extended period of time. Another reason was that the subject was local to us, making it more engaging. Next was the method of research that was encouraged. Our research consisted of talking to real people, visiting related locations several times, reaching out to scholars and historians, and gaining access to otherwise inaccessible resources. Moreover, we were able to share the in-depth knowledge we were gaining on a public platform and in a creative way. Lastly, we were able to listen to similar personal stories from our colleagues all around the nation to learn the intimate immigrant histories in various states. This class approached content and pedagogy completely differently than the average college class and I was able to gain so much sophisticated information about local immigration histories from this unorthodox experience.
The immigrant/migrant group Patrick and I focused on was the Finns in Newport, New Hampshire. As I stated before, once we chose to study this group of immigrants, we became completely immersed in the subject. We visited Newport several times to hang out for hours at the library, to visit what was left of the sites we had learned about in our research, and to talk with locals of Newport about what they knew about Finnish history in their area. We took pictures, scanned primary sources, and on top of it all we had a great time. This brought our research to life. We connected with historians that studied similar topics, also invigorating our research. Patrick and I were in contact almost 24/7 sharing our thoughts and discoveries. By the end of the semester I really did feel like an expert in this subject. This is a foreign concept to me as most college classes simply scrape the surface of many subjects and have a focused paper or two, but that’s about the extent of it. In becoming an expert in this subject I felt like I was doing something important.
Studying and sharing information about the Finns of Newport, New Hampshire was important to us because the little bit of information that is out there already is extremely hard to access. By putting this on a digital platform and utilizing the technology of WordPress to make the platform engaging and user-friendly we made an otherwise fading history more visible. I genuinely have hope that this website will make a difference for others beyond just Patrick and I. In the future, I plan to post my lesson plans regarding the topic on the site as well, and I would be so pleased if even one educator used the lesson plans to teach students about niche local histories. Building that sense of community is so very important.
At the end of the day, this COPLAC class had its own unique culture and community that could never be repeated or replaced. I have made valuable connections with people from a diverse array of backgrounds and from many different locations. All of these individuals have proven themselves to be reliable, respectful, and intelligent. I have developed a relationship with someone on my campus whom I probably would never have had a friendship with otherwise, and we have hopes to potentially seek grants to continue our research on the Finns in the future. The nature of the conversations in this class were supportive and robust, and product of the intense research and blogging is an impressive website that I am proud of. I genuinely could not be more pleased with this experience and I will be forever grateful.