26 Jun Traveler and not tourist
Whether canyoneering in UT, backcountry skiing in the Never Summer Range, mountain biking at the base of volcanoes in Ecuador, or navigating the streets of the Night Market in Marrakesh, we expect our students to participate with both confidence and competence. Our Global Immersion Studies trip is unique because we spend four months helping the students build the skill sets necessary for navigating these extraordinary experiences. Outside of booking flights and planning food, we prioritize team building, learning intercultural skills, researching the country’s customs, looking at our own culture, and discussing ambiguity tolerance. All of this builds our students’ competence in unfamiliar situations. Given these tools prior to departure, our students go out into the world not as tourists but as amateur anthropologists, assessing the unfamiliar culture from all aspects and engaging in critical thinking about themselves and the world around them.
It is through homestays, community service, and traveling as the locals do that our students put these skills to the test. Ms. Davis, one of the Morocco/Spain trip faculty, wrote “We beamed with pride as our students put on their game faces and headed off to their homestays in the Medina of Rabat on their first night in Morocco. They were true adventurers and very positive.” Homestays add a true local’s perspective to our students’ experiences. In twos and threes, our students head to the homes of families that open their homes to foreigners. Without having met our students, they agree to share their lives, homes, and food with them – what better example of cross-cultural unity? Whether it is a home-cooked breakfast by your host mom, a game night with your host sister and her cousins, or a bike ride with your host father to meet with the rest of your group for the day, our students create real connections with real people. They are effective in building these unique relationships because of the skills they build during GIS preparation meetings. Locklyn ‘20 wrote in the group journal, “On our last night with our host family, they invited over their sisters and brothers and extended family and friends for a dance party. It felt like they wanted to show us the fun and unique parts of their life that we wouldn’t have known were there. It felt like we ate Moroccan food and danced to Moroccan music all night.” Locklyn was ready not just to be an observer but also to be a participant, wholeheartedly engaging with her local family.
The cover of our 2019 GIS Handbook is a quote by Andrew Zimmern, “Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” Understanding this world and becoming global citizens requires introspection. Students return having a better understanding of their own limitations, respecting and valuing diversity, continuing to learn through interactions. These new practices make them more persistent, more resilient, more patient, and more accepting people – people who will take responsibility for their actions and be stewards of our world.