Hillsdale College Arboretum

What the Hillsdale Arboretum Taught Me

Written by Giannina Imperial

As I go along through my Hillsdale studies, I find myself running out of ideas for a good study break.  After already trying to reading a book, practicing my music, getting ice cream with my friends, sometimes I just want to try something new.  Luckily for me, one of the neat things about Hillsdale is its gorgeous arboretum, so lately I have been taking trips down there when my study schedule allows me.

I had begun my excursions to Hillsdale’s little nature reserve as a way to temporarily escape my academics – a way to clear my mind and soul of everything I’ve learned that day, for a while, in order to resent my mental facilities and prepare myself for the next round of brutally challenging academic rigor.

But I was met with surprise.  Coming to the Arb had became the opposite of what I had intended – it plunged me deeper into my work.

Wandering through the Arb and gazing at all it showed me had reminded me of things I had encountered in my classes: the large dark pond that greets you when you first walk through the gate resembles the water of the expansive seas that Odysseus must have sailed on his journey home to Ithaca.  The towering hill right next to it, decorated with a stone gazebo at the top, the lofty mountain of Purgatory that Dante and Virgil ascended in Dante’s Purgatorio.

Seeing the trees and flowers caused me to list the major biochemical processes I learned in my biology classes that sustain plant and animal life, and the swampy marshes dense with tall cattails allowed me to review the notable species of microflora that allow these small ecosystems to survive.  Even the stone staircases that run against the Arb’s rocky waterfall signify Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which culminate in self-actualization and the individuation of the self, concepts that I’ve grown familiar with throughout my Psychology studies. And, of course, the beauty of the entire area alluded to the beauties of the earth that have enchanted poets and artists throughout time, and have been the subjects of some of the greatest works of art and literature in existence.

Thus, I found out another neat thing about Hillsdale: even a simple nature stroll through the Arb isn’t simply an escape from learning, but an immersion into it.  By walking along the trails and seeing the dazzling sights that they offer reminded me of something that Hillsdale constantly reminds its students: learning never stops.  All that we encounter in the Great Books, in art, music, biology, and even psychology means little if not applied to the real world we encounter. And those eureka moments that we experience in the classroom are essentially the same as those cathartic moments we experience in nature when we see something beautiful: awe, wonder, and a deeper love and appreciation for life.

So the next time you step foot outside, just remember to take a good look around you.  See what you can learn.

Giannina ImperialGiannina Imperial, ’18, is a psychology major and biology minor from Jackson, MI. If she isn’t in the Psychology Suite running research participants or in AJ’s immersed in her biology textbooks, you’ll find her in the music hall for one of the dozen rehearsals she’ll have that day.  She loves God, neuroscience, dancing like no one’s watching, getting ice cream with friends, and trying out every Filipino recipe in her mother’s arsenal of cookbooks.

Published in November 2018