Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seeing the world in a whole new way

So the flurry of activity that surrounds graduation has come and gone. And as with most highly-anticipated events, it’s over in a blink of an eye then summer officially begins. Students move off campus, e-mail and phones become much quieter (leading to some withdrawal symptoms – “Hello, tap, tap, tap… it this thing working.”)

While offices may be quiet, May can be a very exciting time of self-discovery for Bluffton students. Three-week-long cross-cultural experiences are typically scheduled during May Term.

Guatemala homestay, 2009Way early this morning my husband and I took the group traveling to Guatemala to the airport. The first two weeks in Guatemala they will take Spanish language classes in the mornings and tour culturally-significant locations in the afternoons. The final week of their time there will be spent in home-stays.

It was fun listening to the group in my van chatter about their upcoming adventures, practicing their Spanish, some even trying to sing in Spanish. According to Twitter post by a student’s fiancé, they safely arrived in Guatemala City Wednesday morning.

Israel experience, 2009The group traveling to Israel/Palestine didn’t have as a smooth a ride. We learned via Facebook posts that the group had a longer than expected layover in New York and Madrid thanks to volcanic ash, but they did eventually make it to their destination.

Other groups are scattering to New York City, England/Wales, Chicago, Columbia and Arizona for their cross-cultural experiences. Other short-term experiences in previous years have included New Orleans, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Appalachian Kentucky, Trinidad, Botswana, China and others.

What an amazing opportunity – to be "strongly encouraged" to leave your comfort zone, to see and acknowledge others’ situations and viewpoints. Many students come back with a renewed appreciation for home and a new lens with which to view the world.

Back in the ‘80s Dale Dickey took a group for a quarter touring “Shakespeare’s England,” visiting the Globe Theatre, etc., but I chose not to participate. In my opinion, a cross-cultural requirement which can be fulfilled by either a cross-cultural experience or by taking foreign language classes is a good thing. It removes the decision, should I leave my friends on campus for three weeks or take this journey of a lifetime?

So let me live vicariously through those of you who have taken a cross-cultural experience: what do you remember most? How did it change your view of the world?

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