Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Going Global? Maybe...

Traveling abroad has been on my "bucket list" for years, and while there's been many opportunities presented (especially through school), I've never yet been able to, mainly because of timing and expense. Last week, my mom sent me a link for a "service abroad"-type experience that's really started to appeal to me:

-It's cheaper than college, and has lots of fundraising help
-It's for a full semester (available fall, winter, and summer)
-It's working (more like playing) with children, teaching them English
-The locations are in China, Russia, Ukraine and Mexico

For wanting to travel abroad, it could be a really good experience. There's different travel options from each location for vacations during the semester, and I'd be doing something meaningful while I'm there. I've been really interested in study abroad programs... But I didn't have a major to know which classes to take, and I want to use my semesters efficiently (sort of...).

One of the biggest questions though, is where do I want to go?

-China: I have no hint or shade of experience with the language or culture. It would definitely have the biggest culture shock... But I also wouldn't ever be allowed to say anything about religion, which could be really hard for me (I love helping people, and the best way is through teaching and modeling the principles found in the gospel of Jesus Christ). I'm sure China is interesting, but I don't know if it's a good match for me.

-Russia: Could definitely be interesting. The website says that despite stereotypes about Russian winters, if you can stay warm in the US you'll be fine in Russia. Once again, I'm totally unfamiliar with the language. And still, I just don't know if I'm a good match for Russia (that said, I could perhaps get a little more training or exposure in dance technique if I go there).

-Ukraine: Holds some appeal, but I'm still out of the loop with language and culture. I picture it as being more of the older Eastern Europe culturally, and I would be able to travel to Hungary and Austria! The vacation destinations for this school are really attractive. I think I would prefer it over China and Russia, but it could still be scary without knowing the language.

-Mexico: I feel like I might be the most secure about this one. I've made a lot of friends in college from Mexico, and they love their home country. I've learned salsa dancing from them and other aspects of the culture, so I wouldn't be a total stranger. I've also studied Spanish for years, and while I've basically lost the ability to speak it (I was almost fluent right after high school), this would be a really good opportunity for me to gain it back. I'd be able to have basic communication with the host family and build on that faster than I could in any of the other countries. At the same time, I wonder if that familiarity, weak though it is, would be a weakness itself; would a stronger culture shock be better?

There's an info meeting for the programs tomorrow night, so that should be helpful. I'm not entirely sold on the program, but right now it looks as though it could be the best opportunity for me to make a difference somewhere, and not just be a tourist. It would probably set me back a semester in school (I could go over the summer, but that's when I earn the most money, and I normally take classes then too), but the experience would probably be worth it. There's lots of "I don't know"s right now, but hopefully tomorrow will bring some answers.

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