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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Warm & Excited Welcome from Angelica!

Dear intrepid travelers, global learners, and eager adventurers –

I write to you all from my parent’s kitchen in Connecticut; a fire is crackling in the woodstove, and the fridge is full of holiday leftovers. It’s wonderful to be home, but I can already feel myself itching for the next adventure. As I sit here, dreaming of all the places we’ll see and people we’ll meet, I find myself wondering: who are you, fabulous young adventurers who have chosen to travel across the world with us? What has inspired you, motivated you, to join us on the Mekong this spring? Here’s a bit more about what has inspired me.

I first traveled to Southeast Asia as a high school student, and spent just a few short weeks there; however, in those few weeks, my mind was stretched and my heart opened. I’m full of gratitude that I’ve had the opportunity to return to Southeast Asia over the years, and I’m so immensely excited to travel and learn along the Mekong River with all of you. I can’t wait to return to the region, to continue to explore the fascinating history and ecology, the confluence and conflict between traditional culture and rapid development, the bright flavors, sights, and sounds. Perhaps most importantly, I can’t wait to meet all of the wonderful people who will welcome us, teach us, challenge us, inspire us, and become our new friends and families.

I grew up in Connecticut, but my first real adventures were alongside my father and grandfather in Italy, investigating the sea floor and collecting artifacts from abandoned archeological digs. These early explorations of history, nature, and culture inspired a love of discovery, and a ceaseless curiosity about the places and people of the world. I eventually choose to study anthropology, which nourished my curiosity and provided me with an opportunity to challenge what I thought I knew and believed. Through anthropology and accompanying internships, ethnographic research, and travel, I began to understand that there are many different ways of seeing, knowing, and experiencing the world.

This idea is something that I hope that we can explore together in Cambodia, Laos, and China. My most profound learning experiences have often taken place in moments in which I’ve become aware that my particular perspective is just one of many, and that it is impossible to fully understand an issue until we have viewed it from a variety of perspectives vastly different from our own.

Often, these are the moments in which we feel like the earth is quaking beneath our feet and we begin to question everything we once knew and believed. But they are also the moments that lead to the most growth and transformation, as we reassess and reassemble our belief systems, our values, and our understandings of ourselves and of one another. I hope that this spring, as we reach out to listen and learn from those around us, we will each feel the earth quake beneath our feet just a little bit. And I hope that in those moments of uncertainty, we can learn to respond with resilience and flexibility, and with compassion and empathy.

This feeling has kept me on my feet and around the globe since college. While still a junior in college, I became involved in an organization that created opportunities for global travel, language learning, and cultural exchange for West African students; I fell in love with the vibrancy and grit of West Africa, and returned the next year on a post-graduate fellowship to continue developing the program. The experience inspired a passion for international and experiential education, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Since then, I’ve led student programming in Thailand and Cambodia and backpacking trips in Oregon and Patagonia, taught English at a semester school in Idaho, and continued going back to West Africa, where I’ve led three Dragons courses in Senegal.

I am very excited to work with Dragons in a new region of the world; while it won’t be my first time in Southeast Asia, it will be my first time in Southeast Asia as a Dragons instructor. I’m eager to open my heart and my mind, to listen, to understand, and to create something wonderful together. I hope that as we journey along the Mekong, listening, learning, and reflecting, we’ll come to deeper understandings of not only contemporary Cambodia, Laos, and China, but also of the vast world that we live in, our place within it, and ourselves.

I would love to learn more about each of you, and what has inspired you to travel with us along the Mekong this spring. Please post an introduction to the Yak Board and tell us a little more about yourself and what inspires you!

I can’t wait to begin this  journey together.