Jennie Morris, my youth pastors wife, always told our youth group the same quote before every service project or mission trip that we participated in. She said “A change in place and a change in pace equals a change in perspective”. Now I am not sure if she heard this else where or if this was wisdom that she converted into text over the years, but it has really stuck with me!
Now as I prepare to travel to Riva san Vitale, Switzerland for the spring semester I have been thinking about that quote a lot lately. The program that I am participating in is called “Presidential Global Scholars” and is ran through a special partnership between Virginia Tech University President Steger’s office and University Honors at Virginia Tech as a way to develop well-rounded global citizens. While there we will be studying about leadership in a global world, the scientific and social importance of geography (specifically volcanoes), Greece and global economics, among various other topics. However, one of the most important parts of the experience will of course be the experience itself. Traveling through Europe eating Swiss chocolates, skiing in the Alps, visiting the coliseum in Rome, exploring Prague, developing “street smarts”, or just enjoying life in a different place will also be very important! The only problem with “Study Abroad” trips, according to past participants, is that it is very easy to stick to “American Islands” while abroad. No this does not mean Hawaii, it means that when American students travel together on study abroad programs the vast majority cling together to stay in their comfort zones. While these “bubbles” of friends can make the trip easier, there is no way you can get the same education or experience out of the program. Just as Jennie said, it is much easier to develop a new perspective by not only changing the place, but also changing pace. With this being said, I might add that changing the “people” you are around is also just as powerful.
Now the question is how do I plan on fighting the “American Islands”? Well, although I plan on making new American friends and keeping up-to-date with the newest Ke$ha songs, I also plan on really taking in the experience as a whole. This means I wont let my colleagues distract from the experience, but use them as tools to enrich it through thought provoking discussions and the sharing of resources and ideas. I will make the most of this phenomenal experience, avoid “American Islands”, and develop new perspectives even if this means I have to get out into the world by myself, be uncomfortable, and even get lost. The good news is that hopefully the result of all the awkward moments being lost and expensive lonely train rides will be being able to enjoy a new perspective on life, culture, history, and the classics. I can not wait! 😀