Meet Amanda Hermans:
Amanda Hermans is entering her fourth year at the University of Guelph, working towards a B.Sc. Agriculture, with a major in Crop Science. She recently participated in HIST*3240, an Experiential Learning course offered in which students researched cook books and the importance of food throughout history, resulting in an exhibition curated by the class. Amanda was able to talk to the people involved in making the cookbook to learn their family history and how it is embedded into the story of the cookbook. She discusses the course, her favourite parts and the things that surprised her the most about the experiential learning opportunity, her experience curating, and shares a little about other experiential learning she has participated in.
For those who don't know, what is HIST*3240? What did you do as a student in this class?
“HIST*3240 is a class that dives into the importance of food throughout history. There’s so much more meaning behind the foods we consume than you’d think! As a student in this class, we got to talk about different eras and how food and dining habits were altered by the history happening at those times. We also got to pick a historical Canadian cookbook to research and create an exhibit on based on the history of its contents and the author(s).”
What was your favourite part about curating the works in the exhibition?
“My favourite part of curating this exhibit was getting to talk to the actual people who were involved in making my cookbook! Hearing the emotion and family stories behind the recipes in it were just so moving and really put into perspective just how big a role food plays in our lives.”
What was the most surprising or interesting thing you learned throughout your research for this course?
“I think the thing I found most interesting throughout this course was how ethnic foods were introduced to Canada. As someone who is passionate about food I’ve been to little Italy, Chinatown, Koreatown, and other smaller ethnic enclaves around Ontario. These ethnic enclaves however weren’t originally made to share the culture with the rest of Canada. They were designed as a safe place for people from similar backgrounds to gather and share a piece of their heritage together, in hopes to feel more at home in the new land. I think it’s beautiful to think food can provide such safety and security, and that eventually it served as a bridge between different cultures in Canada.”
Tell us about your experience curating the works. What was that like for you?
“I think my experience curating this exhibit was unlike any other because my author was still around to talk about the recipes in the book! I was able to get in contact with the author’s daughter who helped get some information from her mom about the book and where the recipes came from. It was so amazing to hear how these recipes have been passed down through so many generations and were such a big part of certain family traditions! I also was able to contact the compiler’s husband and chat with him about his wife and their connection to the book as well. This made my exhibit feel all the more personal and made me really put my heart into it.”
Would you recommend this course to others?
“I would definitely recommend this class to anyone! The lessons really made a lasting impact on how I view food in my daily life and familial history. It also helped me gain a better understanding of history in general too which I think is always important.”
Have you done other Experiential Learning Courses? If so, what were they and what did you do for them?
“I am currently enrolled in IAEF*3500 (formerly AGR*3500), which is an experiential learning class for students in the OAC. It allows us to learn about setting goals and working on specific employment skills in a summer job, and then reflect on these come the fall. It’s really helped me push myself to treat my summer work experience as more than just a 4-month job, which is what I think a lot of people view it as.”
What was the most rewarding part Experiential Learning, in your opinion?
“I’m not someone who has ever enjoyed exams (as most people don’t), so for me the best part about the experiential learning is that it allows you to truly connect the lessons to real life. Whether that be interviewing people outside the classroom or learning new workplace skills in real time rather than from a textbook, the experience pushes you to grow as an individual.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“I’d just like to say a huge thank you for the professors and Guelph staff that help make these types of learning experiences possible! These kinds of opportunities at Guelph have really made my experience here a million times better!"