As I embark (today!) for Rwanda and enter more formally into the field of international education, I am reflecting on my own experience abroad and how it shapes my perspective and approach. I am really excited to see what I learn about international ed and how my framework will shift and be formed in my next two roles.
Here is a snapshot of my journey thus far:
1998-2006: Italy, France, Spain, Canada, China, Mexico, & Costa Rica
- What: My grandparents take my sister and I on a trip every year. This is hugely transformative and a gift that I will never be able to thank them enough for.
- So What: The trip that stands out most is our visit to China: we cruise the Yangtzi and see farming communities whose homes will be submerged once the dam project is finished. This opens my eyes to what is going on in the world, and the complexity of ethics (e.g. is it “okay” to displace thousands who have been living on the land for centuries to provide power to millions crammed in a city?).
- Then What: I have more of a global perspective starting college and am ready for an adventure.
January – June 2008: Tanzania
- What: I study with Houghton in Tanzania. Following the program, I stay with Living Water Children Center and teach English and Art, while also visiting my dear friends at Wild Hope International.
- So What: This trip raises questions for me in terms of how to do development well. It also teaches me a lot about my own culture, and I return feeling pretty disillusioned with American culture.
- Then What: After the questions from Tanzania, I don’t know what to do with my interest in international work and I feel rather paralyzed by my awareness of my neo-colonial framework.
January 2012: El Salvador
- What: I travel with the University of San Diego on their Romero Immersion Program. As an immersion trip, we visit with local people, learn about the history of their war, and the connection of it and current affairs to US Foreign Policy.
- So What: I am inspired by a model that does not posit students as heroes, but as learners. I am re-engaged in international education as a potential career path.
- Then What: This trip brings a more concrete idea of the notion of social justice and informs my research and the rest of the time in my Masters program.
June 2012: Sri Lanka
- What: I go with dear classmates from USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences to study Sarvodaya International’s community development model and the role of spirituality within it.
- So What: I am inspired by an approach to development that looks beyond economics and am energized by a service-learning approach that is driven by local community members and done in partnership with them, as we share in a work party with the local community who planned and funded the project.
- Then What: Both my interest in development and rural living is peaked through this time. I also am able to better integrate my cultural identity, moving away from the purely host-favored mentality of my previous experiences. Both of these pieces awakened in me my desire to focus on this area upon graduation.
June – August 2013: Rwanda (I leave in T-minus 30 minutes!)
September – April 2013: Six TBD Countries
As I maintain this blog throughout both of my trips, I hope to track my understanding of international education. I know that I cannot even fathom what is to come, and how I will learn, grow, and change over the next nine months. I look forward to journeying with students through their development and process, and will be attentive to my own as well, using this blog as a space to do some of that work.