Why Travel? Attitudes, motivations, and approaches
The following is adapted from a talk by Michael Cooke, Former Executive Director of Canadian Crossroads International, held at Queen’s University in 1989:
As you think about crossing borders, it is very important to be aware of what you know and don’t know and what biases and cultural baggage you’re carrying. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
When asking yourself these questions, it’s important to answer honestly. If you don’t have any concrete experience to date, then the first step in preparing to cross borders is to get some first hand cross-cultural experience and test yourself through it. One way might be to volunteer with a local international organization.
This list indicates that you have to cope with an enormous amount of change within a very short time frame. So before you do it, you should understand the challenges and the real dangers of crossing borders.
Consider your reasons for travel and the pitfalls of each:
1. To See and Experience Another Culture
Good, but how can you do this in an authentic way? Be ready for the emotional and physical ups and downs of culture shock.
2. To Study in Another Academic Environment
This is an excellent way to gain at both an academic and personal level. However, think carefully. Are you willing to delay your graduation if courses are not available? Will you succeed in adjusting to a new culture and learning environment at the same time? Will you be comfortable with the style of teaching and evaluation at the host institute?
3. To Help People in Need
Take a hard look at what you have to offer. Be realistic about what you might actually accomplish given the obstacles of crossing borders and the time you’ll be in this new place.
4. To Travel
Be careful that you are not looking for a free ride. If you simply want to travel, maybe you should be a tourist, not a student on an academic program.
5. To Learn more about the World and People.
Learning is a mutual exercise that requires listening, observing, practicing, analyzing, and evaluating. Are you ready for these demands?
Approaches - So what does it take to cross borders?
For the Experience of Your Life
Crossing borders is exciting. It is essential that we cross borders in order to meet one another, to understand one another, to build relationships of solidarity and partnerships for the development of our world, but it is also very challenging. It demands the very best of you if you expect the very best from it.
It is O.K. not to go!!!
Remind yourself that it is all right to conclude that this may not be the time for you to sojourn abroad. You may wish to acquire additional skills before leaving for a year abroad. You may need to take care of personal business. You may identify opportunities at home that make more sense at this time in your life. Whatever the reason, it is important that you acknowledge your own needs and desires. You might also want to look at other overseas programs which may be more suited to your needs. Check with your international office to see what other travel opportunities may be available to you. Remember, being at ease with your decision is critical to your success abroad.
You are about to embark on a significant journey both academically and personally. Recording your thoughts in a journal is a great way to keep track of the many emotions, experiences and memories you will have during your travels. Start a journal now, before you leave, and continue to write for several months after your return. Regard your experience as a process of learning that begins well before you get on the plane, and extends beyond your return. Few people regret keeping a journal, and many wish they had.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”Oscar Wilde
Keep a journal to:
Consider the following alternative journal styles:
Your journal will hopefully be with you forever. Chances are you will have more time for journal writing during this experience than at any other time in the near future. Take advantage of it!
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