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Getting Close to the End

It's Thursday evening with only two more days before returning to Minnesota. Students are in the kitchen playing cards again tonight. It sounds like they are having lots of fun - laughing and yelling a lot.

I thought I might take a few moments to reflect on my experience. I've facilitated learning abroad experiences and taught many courses before, but never have I worked such a cohesive group of kids, well, I should say young adults. The diversity in this group is so great, yet they get along so well. They range from 18 to 30+, from first semester freshmen to last semester senior, they come from Saudi Arabia, Lithuania, New York and all over Minnesota, their major interests range from education, family social science, landscape architect, environmental sciences, engineering, fine arts, pre-med and self designed majors, and their reasons for taking this global seminar are just as varied. How can such a diverse group of people genuinely get along in less than idea situations is amazing – high heat and humidity, long days and occasional visits from all kinds of critters (mostly bugs and lizards) from the nearby jungle? By the end of the day, they seem to still like each other. For example, the other day I was preparing to chastise one of the students who slept in late and missed class. But, before I got two words out of my mouth, the others quickly jumped to his defense. Seriously, you’d think these people have been life-long friends.

I don’t mean to imply there have been no problems, because there have been some. But, they seem to always rise to the occasion and do what is right for the group. For example the other day a few of the students thought it would be funny to engage in an impromptu insensitive “Indian rain dance.? Other students were offended and after learning about it myself, was equally offended, but more so I was disappointed in their behavior - especially since a part of this course was to better understand other people’s cultures and world views. Before we had a chance to address the issue in our talking circle, the offenders realized the inappropriateness of their behavior and came forward on their own accord to make amends and to apologize. It became a learning opportunity for the whole group – we talked for two hours about how we can become more sensitive to those who are different from ourselves.

Well, I guess this is enough reflection for one night! My brain officially checks-out at 11:00pm so I better stop for now.