"If you're willing to listen, you can learn a lot from anyone"

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

An interview with student activist Olivia Woollam

by Adam Janofsky

It's hard not to be restless as a college student, but 3rd year Olivia Woollam has a permanent wanderlust.  Having traveled the world before even arriving in Hyde Park, this history major has spent much of her time at the University of Chicago exploring life outside the ivory tower.  We sat down with Olivia to hear about her favorite areas in the world and in Chicago, and how she stays active in civic life.

Adam Janofksy (AJ):  Do you live in a dorm or off campus?

Olivia Woollam (OW):  I moved off after my first year.  It's a very different experience living off campus.  I think it forces you to be more critical about where you want to be spending your time.  And I'm not saying that Housing's not a great experience.  It's also an amazing support system and forces you to meet people unlike you, which is not to be underestimated.  But I think living off campus definitely gives you a perspective of the fact that the University is not a universe.  It forces you to evaluate a lot of things about the city that you could ignore if you lived on campus.

AJ:  What's your favorite place in the neighborhood?  Why?

OW:  One of my favorite spaces would actually be my roof.  I work with an organization in Woodlawn called FLY (Fearless Leading by the Youth) and over the summer we had an open mic night.  When we went to the roof, it wasn't my apartment, it wasn't in the middle of a church in Woodlawn, it wasn't this space that would be charged with previous usage, everyone was able to come together and be very equal.  I really liked that.

AJ:  What's one trait about Chicago that you love?

OW:  Chicago is an incredibly insular place.  I did this community exploration day over the summer when I did the Summer Links Internship Program.  I was in Bridgeport, and explored.  I spent the whole day going door to door and being like, "Hey! Tell me about the place you live in."  People will open up and people have so much love for their area and neighborhood.  That's incredible to me, to see this level of understanding and loyalty to a place that they've spent their life.

AJ:  You took a gap year between high school and college. What did you do during that time?

OW:  I worked the summer after graduation at the Make It Right project in New Orleans -  the Brad Pitt nonprofit.  And then I traveled in Europe, backpacked by myself.  And then I worked at a winery for three months for the harvest in New Zealand. I was working like 12-hour days of physical labor, it was eye opening.  People work 16-hour days in Chicago as housekeepers and whatever else.  It gave me a small window - and I know I can get out of this kind of window - into the labor world.  And then I traveled for four months in Southeast Asia.

AJ:  What's your favorite book?

OW:  It can't possibly be my favorite book because I haven't even finished it yet, but I'm reading Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner for class and literally every day I tell my roommates how much I love this book.  On every page it has a novel's worth of insight about the way I think about the past and how the past informs the present and the way our experiences inform our decisions and they ways that we interact with other people both for our benefit and at our expense.

AJ:  What's your ideal weekend?

OW:  I had a great weekend over the summer when I went to an open air concert at Millennium Park.  We brought a picnic, then we biked back and went swimming in the lake, and then we went and listened to music and I read a lot.

AJ:  What's one lesson that has stuck with you over the years?

OW:  I think it's really true that everyone has a story, and if you're willing to listen you can learn a lot from anyone.  Literally, anyone.

Adam Janofsky is a 4th year in the College and the Editor-in-Chief of The Chicago Maroon.


0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: "If you're willing to listen, you can learn a lot from anyone".

TrackBack URL for this entry: https://blogs.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/677

Leave a comment

Recent Comments