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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Beginning anew

Hello again, this is Itzá.

Now I write to you from Potosí, Bolivia.

After an incredible week in El Alto, were the students lived with homestay families very close to Trono Theater, we arrived to the beautiful city of Potosí. Between Potosi and El Alto, we needed to have a space for our students to be able to reconnect as a group after a week of being separated in their homestays. Although they were seeing each other every day for activities organized by the Compa Collective and by us, it was a pretty big change from the group setting that we had during the first week of orientation and the second week of trekking, where we were together the whole time.

We as instructors began to brainstorm  ideas on how to reunite the group at the end of the homestay. We came up with the idea of creating a Gallery, and called it:

“Exhibit of the Historical timeline of – Cooperation & Conflict: Self, Community and Space- of the Andes and Amazon Group C Dragons Fall 2017 Semester”

We took over the rooftop of Trono, and displayed all over the place the different activities we had done as a group during orientation, and the commitments the students created together. There they found their Care Tags,  Pet Peeves, Yellow and Green rules, Magic Statements,  expectations (for themselves, their peers, the instructors and our hosts), and maps of the places we were going to visit during this adventure. All of the things that I’ve mentioned are the result of activities that were focused on getting to know each other as a group, how to care for each other as a community, and what each of us wanted to gain from the experience.

The activity was meant to be fun, but more importantly to offer a space for reflection on our group culture.  After the gallery, we gave the students space to talk as a group for much of the day. They talked about the group dynamic, things that they regret or that were hurtful, and things they appreciate about one another. I felt glad as an instructor to see this process, and hear the students speak about their experience in the group.  Now that we are all together in Potosi, we can feel how much the group has progressed in getting to know each other, and growing as a community of travelers. I am at a loss for words to express how beautiful it is to see the students becoming a united group of people with different opinions but with respect and care between them.

As promised, I did tried to have pictures for this one!

Till next time,

Itzá.