As we all know, this past year was quite strange. Johnnies were asked to acclimate to a new virtual learning environment, process and understand a world pandemic, and much more this past year. An experience that has been particularly unique, is that of our current 2021 senior class. One student who has shown extreme resiliency, strength, and a love for St. John’s is Ms. Susmi Sharma. An Admissions staff member interviewed Ms. Sharma about her experience at St. John’s and about her life this past year and it is our honor to share this interview with a SJC, 2021 Senior.
AN INTERVIEW WITH A SJC 2021 SENIOR
- Question: How would you describe this past year?
Last year was definitely strange. When I think about the challenges due to COVID, I think of how my world turned upside down. We got an email from the President on the 10th of March, 2020. The email said that SJC would suspend at least the first two weeks of in-person classes after spring break. Unbelievable!! Harvard and other schools closed their schools too? Are we close to a war? What is this COVID-19? Is it really bad? Will Johnnies also do online classes? Where am I going to go? Is it only in America? Oh no, Nepal is close to China! I had a thousand questions and concerns—it was terrible.
Are we close to a war? What is this COVID-19? Is it really bad? Will Johnnies also do online classes?
- Question: What surprised you about this time you spent at home learning virtually and being away from your friends on campus?
It would have been better to see people in-person, to eat with them in the dining hall, to work in the lab until late at night and the like. However, I do not think that this was the biggest struggle for me. I talked to my family and friends frequently, danced for hours, worked out, wrote some, watched movies and even started singing. And I knew it was important that we maintain social distancing. I can always talk to, hug, and hangout with people later when the world is healthy, but until then I will befriend Nietzsche, Hegel, and Simone de Beauvoire. Plus, I said to myself and others that everyone should learn to spend time with themselves! This is perhaps a long way of saying that my virtual classes have been fine—absolutely fine.
- Question: How has the pandemic affected you personally?
Seeing the number of cases go high in many countries especially the situation in my home country, Nepal, has been extremely difficult. Sometimes I am scared to receive phone calls from my family and relatives. I cannot fathom that people are losing their lives every day and I can do very little about it.
- Question: Why are the Great books important? What skills have you gained from being at SJC?
I guess I have two kinds of answers on why the great books are important. I will start by saying that they are challenging on an intellectual level. These are raw texts which are not filtered by anyone other than the authors themselves. I had to read them at least twice to feel comfortable and to participate in class the way I wanted. I am still working on it, but my reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills have definitely made gains.
The “skills” that I mentioned above are undoubtedly vital, and trust me, great books do wonders in polishing them! But I think the most important aspect of the great books and discussion is that when we study the great books and the circumstances presented in them, we read them not as a task that has to be completed, but as an event in our life that has to be analyzed, examined, and explored. This questioning and exploration of the books allows us to simultaneously think about our emotional and psychological beliefs and judgments. I believe this is a fascinating way to learn to think on our own and become our own unique being.
I believe this is a fascinating way to learn to think on our own and become our own unique being.
- How valuable is the St. John’s education?
A St. John’s education integrates the great books in such a manner that they become close to us. In SJC’s small-based classes, we all read the great books, discuss them with our classmates and tutors, and write convincing papers on them. Instead of listening to long lectures, we actively take part in class discussion, proposition presentational work, and lab experiments. We can have numerous conversations about books with the professors who are our tutors—in and out of class. As mentioned, this inquiry-based learning is the best way to learn, whether the objects of inquiry are things or others or oneself.
For me, especially, I think the best things that a college can do for its students, or anyone can do for anybody else, is to allow them to grow and construct themselves—help them find their own path, encourage them to be themselves, and make them independent, at the same time allowing them to be cooperative and collaborative. I find this “constructing oneself” task to be the most fundamental and most arduous one, and I don’t think I can find a college better than St. John’s in striving towards it.
Congratulations to Susmi for all her accomplishments!
From the entire St. John’s Admissions department in Santa Fe, we wish you all the best!