Repurposing: This essay is like the Christmas of essay assignments (how long can titles be, anyway? can I make my title a whole sentence long? how about four sentences long?)


I’m not going to waste time with false modesty — I have a really good idea for my repurposing essay.  It comes from the privilege of being able to spend last winter semester studying in Costa Rica, when I had the opportunity of planning and executing my own research project, as well as writing a long fifteen-page followup paper.

I went to Yorkin, an indigenous Bribri community on the border of Costa Rica and Panama.  Previously, it had been accessible only by river, but just a month before I got there the municipality built a road; I spent my time in the community talking to people who supported the road and people who opposed it, trying to figure out why it was built, why some people were opposing it, and how people expected it might affect Yorkin.

During this time, I was living with a huge extended family in a stilted thatch-roof house, stumbling over Spanish and going to three-hour Adventist church services and beginning to understand the family and community dynamics.  So much happened behind-the-scenes of that research paper, and ever since I got back I’ve wanted to write about the actual experience, rather than just the road.  This repurposing essay is just the excuse I need!

My research paper is full of information about community dynamics, because it was almost entirely based off of interviews with community members, as well as statistics and outside information from other indigenous groups.  I kept a journal every day (although much of it was lists of not-white-rice foods I would eat once I got back), and I plan on looking back at those journals and re-framing my experience with a more narrative, rather than research-based, lens.  It will be nice to be able to discuss my experience as a subjective formative experience, rather than as a project.

My repurposed essay is most likely going to come out in a memoir/creative non-fiction style, unless I suddenly feel compelled to write a longform poem or a five-page song.  I took a class over the summer that focused on the personal essay, and I really enjoyed that format.  I don’t think I’ve been this excited about an essay in a long, long time — it’s such a good opportunity to reexamine my time abroad and think about that place in a different way.


Mary Gallagher

I'd like to be good at poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction, but really I'm here to develop the skills to write about politics and world issues

4 thoughts to “Repurposing: This essay is like the Christmas of essay assignments (how long can titles be, anyway? can I make my title a whole sentence long? how about four sentences long?)”

  1. This sounds awesome!! I really like the idea of the creative non-fiction piece. I think it can be alot more personal than the research paper that you had originally written and one can connect with the amazing people that you met on your trip. I’m really excited to read it.

    I think you should also really focus on their culture and how it has compelled you (or changed you) or just anything that allows the audience to connect with you, but more importantly those people.

  2. We already talked about this a bit last class, but I think this is such an interesting topic for your essay! I like that you’re totally straightforward about how awesome your paper topic is even from the beginning of the blog post.
    Now that we’re talking about specific questions and research though, I’m wondering what question you’re thinking about focusing on. Do you think this piece will mainly address the question of what it’s like to visit Costa Rica as an outsider? Or will it be something more specific? Are you going to talk about the road building research at all? I don’t know if anyone else from the university (or anywhere) has visited the village before, but if so it might be cool to hear their thoughts as well.
    Either way, I’m excited to read about your experience!

  3. Ugh, just write a five page poem. Too much to ask? You are right, you do have an incredible idea for this assignment, and there isn’t much for me to suggest or say because you seem to have this all ready to go. I am looking forward to reading your recounts of this experience. I would include images if you can. Not just imagery in your writing, but actual footage from your trip. The addition of photos would make this something of a journal, a really personal look back at the trip you were able to take. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a story very few will be able to relate to, but I think all will be fascinated by the story you tell and the way in which you tell it. Go Mary Go

Leave a Reply