Student Profiles


Nathan Thanki '14

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Nathan Thanki - Student Profile from College of the Atlantic on Vimeo.

Nathan Thanki wasn’t sure about going to college at first. He took a gap year and was drawn to College of the Atlantic because he felt he could come on his own terms.

Other schools tried to entice me, but it was on their terms. When I got to COA, I knew I wanted to stay more because of the classes than the community. I took the Core Course, the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, and Climate Justice my first term.

The Unexpected
While Nathan says it takes a lot to surprise him, he didn’t anticipate the balance of seclusion and community at COA.

I thought it would be more remote than it is. One reason I was worried about coming to COA was that it is not in a city, but it is between the two extreme realities because of the community.

Significance of Self-Direction
Nathan describes how self-direction is at its best when you take the initiative to let teachers know what you want to work on, and where you want to improve.

Self-direction is the practice of independent inquiry. At COA, there is self-direction with prods along the way. Professors are most helpful when you tell them what you want out of something—maybe an element of writing or voicing opinions. It’s up to the student.

Nathan feels that his senior project, Nature of Narrative with Professor Karen Waldron, and Cultural Fluidity and Mobility with Professor Heath Cabot have offered him the most opportunity for self-directed work. He describes how a clear line of inquiry ran through these courses and it continues today.

It has taken on a life of its own and has evolved to how I want it to look. For my senior project, I am using family histories—stories I collected over the years and more intently over the past few months—to get at questions about belonging and home, identity politics, and how people define themselves. It is at the nexus of narrative and anthropology.

Things Gained
Two graphic design classes really stretched and warped my mind. Rhetoric that wasn't verbal was different for me.

Nathan has committed a lot of time and energy to Earth in Brackets [Earth] since first year.

I have spent more time on that than anything. It takes a lot of human hours in terms of planning for the future, creating a structure, learning policy, how to write, how to convince people about anything, how to get them behind a project or idea, even in high stress environments.

Nathan has felt his writing skills improve through working in the Writing Center, taking writing classes, and doing writing assignments, and also feels he has become more open-minded and self-reflective at COA.

People will challenge you and force you to reflect on your position, pieces of your language, and your intolerances. It has made me realize some intolerances where I come from. Nature of Narrative has made me more compassionate and more considerate, and Heath Cabot’s classes have broken down lots of assumptions about the world—assumptions that I couldn’t break down myself.

The Role of Human Ecology
Nathan believes Human Ecology will help him when he enters the job market.

Human Ecology teaches lateral thinking, and how to problematize (that’s a COA buzzword) things. This will help me get a job, or justify getting a job.