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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Pre-Course Activities! (AKA Fun Assignments!)

“You cannot teach a human anything; you can only help them find it within themselves.” – Galileo Galilee

On course (and in life), your experience will be greatly deepened if YOU intentionally squeeze the natural joy out of your curiosities, explorations, and learning opportunities. To get us geared up in experiential and reflective ways, and for lack of a better word, we present some pre-course “assignments”. We will be coming back to these during Orientation in Cambodia, so please put some thought into them!

Assignment #1: Post an Introduction Yak ASAP!

We want to know who you are – not so much where you went to school, your travel experience, and your life achievements, but who you really are! What are you most eager about to experience or learn? Please post a short introduction Yak of yourself and make sure to include a picture of yourself (bravo Izzy and Josie!!!).

Assignment #2: Speak with your Instructors!

If you have not received a call from one of your instructors yet, check your email! We may have tried reaching out to you already this way to schedule a call. We’d like to hear your voices and give you a chance to ask any lingering questions.

Assignment #3: Watch these Ted Talks!

Take a quick minute to reflect in your journal – there are no right or wrong answers! We just want you to start thinking about these concepts, and we will discuss them in more detail on course.

  • The Mekong River Basin is second only to the Amazon River Basin in terms of freshwater biological diversity of living organisms. Cultural practices often depend on specific elements of biodiversity for their existence and expression so that units of biodiversity are often developed, maintained, and managed by cultural groups (think traditional Cambodian forest communities, fishermen, and rice farmers). Thus, these two are intimately linked: What do you think would happen if we didn’t have biodiversity at all? In other words, why is it important?
  • What does “global development” mean to you and how do you think it should be measured? Do you think globalization (the international integration and flow of money, goods, ideas, and culture; think everything from yoga and martial arts spreading from East to West and McDonald’s in Southeast Asia) is a good thing or a bad thing?

Assignment #4: Do not forget to pack laughter!

Having fun on this program is serious business. Before course start, come up with a game that you can introduce to the group. Be creative and pull ideas from anywhere, classic or original – maybe you’ve played this game at school, camp, or with family and friends. It could last for 5 minutes or 20, or span out over the course of days. Your game could be an icebreaker, used to get to know each other better; or an energizer, to wake us up after a big meal or a long travel day. It could be a card game you can teach your peers and they can then share in their homestays, or a word game we can play while we hike. Games can be active and moving, or stationary and contemplative. They can be educational or just plain silly. Your game should be inclusive of our entire group and perhaps local guides or hosts, so applicable to a group of 14-18 people or smaller groups from that. Please keep games appropriate – if we are grouped up and acting silly we will likely draw an audience, which is totally fine, but let’s be cognizant and respectful to anyone watching while still having fun. Use your game as a way to empower comfort and sharing while still respecting each other’s differences and boundaries.

Assignment #5: Get in the habit of reflecting!

“Like an ability or a muscle, hearing your inner wisdom is strengthened by doing it.” – Robert Gass

Particularly during this journey prep time when emotions and thoughts are scattered and floating, “preflection” can help you place them via writing. One ritual includes The Morning Pages – simply journal for 3 full pages every morning, no matter what, whatever comes to mind, even if you think you don’t have anything to say. Your mood doesn’t matter. Try not to criticize what you write and instead just let it flow, like the river, and don’t bother reading it after you’re done. There is NO wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not meant to be art or writing. It may feel pointless at first or on some days. (“I need to do my laundry. Is it supposed to rain all week?”) Nothing is too petty, too silly, or too weird to be included. If we don’t get it on paper, it may settle in our subconscious and muddy our days. We write Morning Pages to get to the other side – the other side of our fear, negativity, and moods to get to our quiet center. They allow us to see what we are carrying with us every day and in turn help us let it go. Put anything on the page. Make them mandatory; for the pages to serve their purpose, they must be done consistently. We will come back to your experience with these at Orientation and perhaps share what was on your mind during this time.

Our course is fast-moving, so often the best way to preserve your thoughts and observations will be in your journal. While we will provide many writing prompts and activities throughout the course, cultivating your own writing rituals and style will make you both more self-aware and self-reliant.

Thank you in advance for putting your creative energy into our collective experience! We invite you to engage in the themes and stories of the Mekong Program in any way you can before embarking on our journey. Activate those neural pathways!

– Your I-Team