I’m graduating college in 3 months, which means the most frequent question I hear is, “so whatcha gonna do?” Fortunately, I DO have a plan: I’m going to spend at least five years in cold and rural Indiana studying a subject I didn’t even know existed four years ago. I know, it sounds amazing. But in reality, I kind of think it is — I’m pursuing a doctorate in Folklore, which is the traditional art, literature, and knowledge that individuals create and share within their communities. Oddly enough, I was kind of into the artistic output of a certain community back when I was in high school. For me, PFO cultivated a space for creative development and collaboration that laid a foundation for what very well may become my profession: a folklorist. You don’t see that every day.

But my development through PFO hasn’t just impacted my own journey. This affinity for storytelling has helped me better understand the lived experiences of other communities. In anthropology, we differentiate between the etic and the emic perspective. The etic is all about objective, external viewpoints applied to understand group norms, behaviors and values. Emic, on the other hand, is all about meeting groups where they are and attempting to understand their experiences from an internal lens. Working with diverse communities through PFO, and later through my college years, I’ve been able to apply that mic perspective to improve my understanding of how people perceive the world around them and communicate those experiences via stories.

From PFO, I’ve learned the value of art, storytelling, and the intersection of the two. And thanks to PFO, I’m ready to continue exploring those ideas for many years to come. Even if it means five years in cold and rural Indiana.

-Ben Bridges