A Long-Awaited Trip

14 Apr 2019 A Long-Awaited Trip

By Charvi Gopal, Mission 2021

I first learned about Terrascope two years ago, when I came to visit MIT during my Campus Preview Weekend (CPW). I vaguely remember a slideshow introducing prospective Terrascopers to the concept of a first-year learning community and to Mission 2021, Preparing the World for Climate Change. Perhaps my most prominent Terrascope memory from CPW is of learning that Terrascopers can embark on a week-long spring break trip with their classmates to a location directly related to their research in the fall Terrascope class. Something about traveling on planes to distant lands with curious classmates was profoundly exciting to me, and the one thing I knew I wanted to do at MIT was going on the Terrascope spring break trip.

I enjoyed taking Solving Complex Problems during my freshman fall and Terrascope Radio during my freshman spring. I returned to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow (UTF) for the Solving Complex Problems class for Mission 2022, Tradition, Technology, and Transition. Although I could not join the Mission 2021 Spring Break Trip to the Netherlands, I finally joined the Mission 2022 spring break trip to the Navajo Nation as a UTF, two years since I began awaiting a Terrascope spring trip.

In our last Intro to Photography class, we practiced preparing a small exhibition of photographs. I enjoyed framing some of my printed images from the spring break trip.

One of my specific responsibilities as a UTF on this year’s spring break trip was co-managing Terrascope’s social media pages — the Mission 2022 blogs, Terrascope’s Facebook page, and Terrascope’s Instagram page. I enjoyed encouraging several Mission 2022 Terrascopers to blog about a variety of striking experiences, from gazing at the Milky Way with classmates to learning the stories of our guides’ ancestors. Some of the most rewarding occasions for me as a UTF occurred when Terrascopers voluntarily approached me, even after long and tiring days of travel, and offered to contribute their thoughtful writing or meticulously captured photos to Terrascope’s social media pages.

As I observed, listened, thought, and wandered during the spring break trip, one object remained tethered to my neck. This object was a film camera that I borrowed from MIT’s Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT) program, where I am taking an analog photography class (Intro to Photography) this semester. As Terrascopers explored unworldly landscapes, I briefly paused at intervals to look through my viewfinder, advance my film, and click images. As soon as I returned to MIT, I visited the darkroom to develop my negatives and later processed and printed some of my images.

Processing images with photographic chemicals in the dark and watching images gradually appear on paper is quite a meditative experience, and I keep reflecting on the spring break trip as I shine light through my Navajo Nation negatives. As I continue to process my images, my mind continues to process the sights and sounds I remember from the spring break trip.