I'm sitting in terminal C at Logan International Airport, waiting to go home, thanks to a timely snowfall in Milwaukee. Everybody here decided [simultaneously] to take advantage of the holiday-time free WiFi, and my poor computer just couldn't take it any longer. Quite contrary to my standard practice, I decided to do something mildly productive (After forty-six minutes, Facebook status-stalking does not qualify as "productive.") while waiting out the snow.
This trip reminded me of my last adventure home, over Thanksgiving break. I was sitting next to a young woman heading to her mother's house for the holiday. The cursory exchanges commenced. I learned that she had recently completed her masters work at MIT and just three days earlier, had returned from a five-month project in the Middle East. Then came the [not entirely, but sort of] dreaded question: So, where do you go to school? Preparing for the typical quizzical look, I responded, "Olin College," and began to explain the small engineering school of which nobody has heard.
Much to my surprise (and relief), she jumped in and told me that her friend was a member of the class of 2009.
I often forget just how small our world is. For the remainder of the flight, we talked about her research project abroad, where she designed energy efficient homes for extreme climates, and education in general. She completed her undergraduate work at what I have dubbed a liberal arts version of Olin. Students were encouraged to pursue their own interests and projects were supported in the hopes that real-world solutions would materialize. We both agreed that these solutions turn up only when people are allowed to independently investigate that which they are most passionate about. The rest of the flight passed in similar conversation, sparked by our experiences in atypical schools.
I was happy to find that it was incredibly easy to talk with this stranger about research opportunities, new and old friends. This woman had a lot to say and was just as eager to listen; it was a rather Olin-esque experience. I left the plane with brilliant advice, new thoughts, and an offer for a ride to Olin from the airport upon my return to Boston. Yet I never learned her name.
Postscript (12.23.09): I made it home later last night to find this glorious (if slightly chilly) sight. Enjoy the wintry goodness!
Really not that bad, but apparently too much for the planes to handle...