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Student Comments

Observations and Responses from a Few of Our Students

“I hold onto the railing and watch the blue-gray water move underneath me. The wind is harsh and biting, but of no concern to me since I am wearing about five layers of clothing. People climb aboard the skinny bowsprit, giggling and holding on tight while others lean against the same railing as myself, content in their own space and looking out into the water. In this moment I feel free and at peace.

“We are on a skipjack [a one-hundred-year-old wooden sail boat designed and built to catch oysters in the Chesapeake Bay].”
— Kelly Barley

“Even with just one paddle down the river, it became obvious what a complex, interesting, and lively resource the Susquehanna is, and I wonder again how could I have lived so close to it all those years, and not seen that? I suppose I could blame it on ignorance, provincialism, or an anti-urban bias. But at least now I know what I’ve been missing, and can begin to fill in the gaps.”
— Valerie Sebestyen

“I will never forget Alan Bramble standing next to the looming boat. He was short and solid, his light hair, wild hair held captive under a well-worn ball cap. We were standing in the smaller room of the boathouse. Mr. Bramble was telling us about his last day out working on the water, the day he decided to retire. He got a faraway look in his eyes, like he was out on that boat again. He was telling us the story, about the boom coming around and almost taking off his head, when he realized ‘what a fool thing he was doing,’ what a fool he was for being out on the water. I can’t quite remember the story, but I remember his expression.”
— Amanda Wise

“I think many people have the opinion that the university is the greatest source of learning and that knowledge comes from books. While classroom atmosphere can certainly teach us many things about the river, I believe that getting outside and actually seeing it and being on the river can have just as much, or even more, potential to enhance our understanding of it. While neither myself nor . . . [the poet Billy] Collins have ever fished the Susquehanna in July, I have had the opportunity to canoe the Susquehanna in September. By the end of the day, I was tired, sore and sunburned, but I had a great time and left the Susquehanna’s banks with a greater appreciation of this mighty river.”
— Frank Singley

“Next I see the old waterman: one leg crossed over the other, hands neatly folded in his lap as he leans back into the chair — like he’s got all the time in the world — and he tells us about goin’ fishin.’ I am mesmerized by this man. He’s a real, live waterman. He’s exactly the way the authors we read described them, only I had thought the authors had taken a creative license. But they didn’t; he is real. And he knows the names of the other watermen in the area, and probably everyone else living in the small town in which we’re sitting, and I am almost struck by envy because it’s a kind of character-laden, tight-knit community — likely one of the remaining few — of which I have never been a part.”
— Laura Newcomer

“This trip will be impossible to do justice to. It has created for me the kind of memories one retains far after college, and [it is] one which shapes and carves our approach to the world.”
—Ed Wilson

“While we were there [on the Brennemans’ dairy farm in Lancaster Country] we also checked out the quality of the stream, as we did on every other field trip. This brought me back to the fact that we were doing what we could to give back to the environment. I have come to realize that every little bit helps when it comes to the bay’s preservation. It astounds me to think of how even that tiny, insignificant stream in the middle of Lancaster has something to do with the bigger picture that resembles the Chesapeake Bay as a whole. In a wider perspective, I see how that little farm and thousands of others just like it are impacting the bay. If more farmers like the Brennemans would just take notice of the effects they have on their surroundings and take action, (even if it’s just planting a few more trees), I believe the changes would have a tremendous impact. Even just a few trees at every farm eventually will add up.”
— Mindy Yingling

“Planting the [stream] buffers made the stream healthier, which in turn makes the watershed healthier and in effect, the Chesapeake Bay. We learned that everything we do pretty much affects our local environment and the local environment affects the global environment. It was uplifting to know that. I felt for the first time in a long time that my individual efforts make a difference. Choosing to recycle, to turn the lights off when I leave a room, or to pick up a wrapper off the ground may not seem like a big deal at the time, but every little thing helps. I am very glad that I was given the opportunity to help the bay our class has come to love so much.”
— Aubrey Van Wyck

“Reflecting on my years of higher education, I noticed a lack of personalized interactions and experiences. . . . I felt the knowledge that we learned in this class allowed us to better connect to and appreciate the lives of the people of the Bay.”
— Chen Zhou