Travel teaches lifelong lessons in empathy, altruism

While some students view education as books, classrooms, and technology, junior Global Academy members Amelia Reed and Lexi O’Laire looked outside the border for a broader learning environment during the summer months.

While Reed traveled to Ghana, West Africa and O’Laire to Guanajuato, Mexico, both were exposed to many life-changing opportunities such as helping locals, making new friends, and understanding and being immersed in a different culture.

“There are so many reasons to study abroad,” Reed said. “You learn to respect cultures that are vastly different from your own, and you also learn to recognize that your culture is not always the best. Not to mention the amazing people who you get to meet.”

    O’Laire sees the benefits of first-hand learning.

“You learn so much, but not like at school. This is actually fun,” she said. “The program keeps you doing things, and there is never a dull moment.”

A majority of students wouldn’t peg the traditional learning environment as “fun,” but when a program focuses on one’s passions, valuable lessons begin to surface.                                                                                                                                                            

“There are lessons impossible to learn in any other way than by traveling,” O’Laire said.

Despite the time apart from family and friends, both would go back in a heartbeat if they could, and relive some of their favorite adventures.

“One of my favorite things about this trip was the people that I met. I met so many incredible people-- students from all over the United States that went to the same program location as me, leaders from the United States and Ghana,” Reed said.  “My second favorite thing about the trip was that I got to be a teacher. I taught at Christah’s School of Excellence in Madina, Ghana for three hours each day.”

Reed and O’Laire were privileged to know the cities and locals as the month passed. They were reluctant to leave because of the love they developed for the cities and their cultures.

“I had no trouble being away from home. In fact, my stay in Ghana felt way too short and I was extremely sad to go home because I loved the country so much,” Reed said.

Academic preparations minimalized international adjustments and discomfort.

“I am in the Academy for Global studies, so I already had some knowledge that helped me to avoid culture shock in most situations, but I still experienced some,” said Reed.

O’Laire is also in the Academy, so she also felt well prepared. One struggle came in the sense of time as in Latin countries, dinner is usually served anytime between nine o’clock and eleven o’clock in the evening.

“The only thing that was a constant decision was whether or not I should go to sleep at 10:30 for my classes in the morning, or sit down to have dinner with my family,” she said.

Despite the challenges and inconveniences of global travel, both look forward to their next opportunity.

“I’m hoping to go back this summer if I can,” Reed said. “I loved everything about it. The people there, the people who were also on the trip, I loved teaching there, and I really hope that I was able to make a positive impact on the students as well. I really would just love to go back.”

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