My name is Francesca van Soest (or Checka for sort), and my Question is all about Olive Oil.
I came to Quest because I couldn’t choose a faculty at any other school. The thought of going into one branch of education right off the bat scared me and I didn’t want to limit myself to other experiences and classes. I was torn; am I a Science student, or am I an Arts student? Grades alone couldn’t help me make the decision, as I excelled equally in both. Enjoyment of the courses wasn’t enough either; I loved them all.
After taking a wide range of foundation classes, as well as a couple of concentration courses, I found myself with the same struggle; how do I incorporate everything into one question? I love literature, art, history, culture, mythology, geology, microbiology, chemistry, marketing, and business. How do you design one question that allows you to explore all these subjects? I started off with some really broad questions, such as: What makes the ideal undergraduate education? But this proved dissatisfying, very broad, and open ended. I went through a bunch of these big ambiguous questions, thinking that it would take something broad to incorporate everything I like. But then one day, my friend asked me why couldn’t I just look at one very specific thing and study it through all the academic lenses that I wanted to, something that I had already studied a bunch and am completely in love with: Olive Oil.
Being the granddaughter of two Italian immigrants has made me extremely familiar with Olive Oil my whole life, and last summer I worked at a specialty Olive Oil store because I wanted to understand more about the business and health side of it. It was an amazing experience, and it left me extremely curious about all things Olive Oil.
And so, the Question that I have developed over the last month is: What is the nature of Olive Oil?
This question has opened so many doors and ideas and passions that I cannot wait to explore. Examining Olive Oil will allow me to study every discipline I love, such as ancient history (how and why Olive Oil was first used), fine art (the Olive branch and its symbolism), geology (the areas where the trees grow best), nutrition (all the health benefits), organic chemistry (its many components), marketing and business (how has it been propagated through the world), and finally the overarching culture behind the Mediterranean diet.
After finishing all my Organic Chemistry courses, I now have an excellent grasp on how Olive Oil interacts in humans, and it has increased my desire to look at the medical and health implications of Olive Oil. I am also fascinated by the cultural and historical journey Olive Oil has undergone and cannot wait to do more exploring on the subject. Some amazing courses that I hope to take to help guide me through these will include Classics of the Aegean, a course where we will spend half our time on campus, and half our time in Athens and various other spots along the Aegean,
and Tectonics of Western North America, which is a course where we will road trip from Denver Colorado up to Quest, looking at the geology of the areas we pass. I have also just been informed that we will (hopefully) be stopping at an Olive Grove in California somewhere to look at the geology of the area, and also do a tasting. I am also hoping to do my language abroad in Florence, Italy, after my course in the Aegean, to not only get closer to my family heritage, but also because Italy is vital in the world of Olive Oil.
Being able to design your own major, and really tailor it to what you want to learn, is one of the best parts of the Quest education, in my humble opinion. It teaches you that as long as you are open to new ideas, are committed to learning, and can justify your reasoning to multiple PhD’s, you can literally explore anything you want!