“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
One of the many reasons why I was excited to embark on this journey throughout France even before the trip began was the ability for me to interact with the history and culture of the country. Quite a bit of the information that I have been engaging with during this trip is information that I have either learned and later forgotten or learned and remembered in classes or through reading and researching. However, the experience of being taught a topic on a PowerPoint or in a book pales in comparison to the possibilities that self – learning allows. For example, I was aware of the fact that 50,000,000 million people were casualties of World War II. However, being able to encounter a piece of that history by looking out at the burial sites in Caen made it all the more powerful. The fact that I could walk over to a grave and see the name, hometown, and date of birth and death, gave each of those soldiers a personal story that I’ll always keep in mind when talking about WWII now.
Another example is when we visited the Louvre. I had never seen the Mona Lisa in person though of course I had known about its marvelous prestige. When we reached the Louvre, I made a relative beeline to the Mona Lisa and after taking a few pictures of the famous painting, I just stared at it, attempting to take in each and every detail in my mind’s eye. From that experience, I was able to understand why the Mona Lisa is considered an impressive work of art while the rest of my visit to the Louvre made me ponder what made one work of art so significantly better than another. Questions such as, how do certain pieces of art reach higher levels of prestige than others, when all of the pieces of art are considered to be in the upper echelon and if the current method of viewing art is conducive to truly appreciating these works of art reverberated with me not only when I was in the Louvre, but in my quiet moments afterwards.
The point of this is to say when one is physically, intellectually, and emotionally engaged in learning, the ideas and concepts stick with you more effectively and the best way for one to engage in learning in all of these ways is to actively interact with the topics at hand. I wouldn’t be able to look at World War II from the eyes of a young soldier who is scared and just wants to come home or debate the merits of the current art viewing methods nearly as effectively as I can now because I have these memories to lean on. When you actively engage with what you’re learning, you care about it. Instead of just trying to remember statistics, dates, and details, I now care about what I have been learning on a deeper, more emotional level, which allows me to think about these topics on a deeper, more questioning level. I want to learn and being involved in the learning personally ensures that I will never forget it.