Thursday, June 17, 2010

Things to think about

At the beginning of a great adventure, it is important to ask yourself a few questions. Why am I doing this? What are my expectations? What do I hope to get from this experience? You may not know the answers to these questions, but thinking about them can help prepare you for what lies ahead. The important thing is to be alert to the new things you are about to discover, many of which will be entirely unanticipated.

Over the years I have been amazed by the many students who have told me that the Bolivian program was a life-changing experience. They describe discovering aspects of themselves that they had not previously imagined, dimensions of who they are that somehow being far from home, in a strange and different place, brought into consciousness. It's like walking into your house, a place you think you know perfectly well, and finding that there are whole new rooms there that you didn't even know existed, and are there for you to explore. Others describe the thrill of meeting new challenges, and how this led them to discover previous unknown capacities in themselves. These experiences range from the dramatic to the mundane - from hiking up incredibly steep hills and squeezing through tiny spaces in underground caverns, to simply speaking a foreign language in daily encounters.

The point is that there are so many things we don't know about ourselves, which we can discover when we put ourselves in new and challenging situations. It is easier to stay at home, in comfort and safety, where our assumptions will go unquestioned and our worldviews will remain unchanged. This is a comfortable way to live, and it is not surprising that most people choose to live this way. But for those of you willing to put yourselves out there and challenge yourselves, the potential for growth and discovery is limitless.

It is sometimes said that, "wherever you go, there you are." And indeed, we can't escape ourselves by traveling to faraway places, for we inevitably take our baggage, emotional and otherwise, with us wherever we go. But there is also the possibility that the "you" you find in that other place may be different from the one you thought you knew. And that can make all the difference.

1 comment:

locojhon said...

IMNSHO, the words you have written above should be required reading for any other similar educational experiences.
I have no doubt the experiences you offer can be life-altering to many. Going to Bolivia even without tackling the problems you and your students are solving is life changing enough by itself. You offer another dimension--the opportunity to affect positive change for people the students have never met before and are unlikely to meet again.
The lessons in life you allow the students to experience, and from that experience to understand, might well prove to be the most impactful experiences of their lives.
Your students have no idea how lucky they are, because the lessons being learned with your help are not to be found in books, and can prove to be the most valuable experiences of all.
Kudos to you, Dan. And congrats to the Rutgers students already wise enough to sign up for your course. I only wish I could join you there to learn and help, too.
Best journeys to all,,,