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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Hey and Pre-course

Hello everyone,

My name is Rory, I’m 18, from Bedford, New York, and taking a gap year before heading off to Yale University in New Haven next year. I applied to this program principally because of its focus on hiking and getting in touch with the natural environment while unplugging from the busy lives we all lead back home. The more I read about Andes & Amazon, however, the more I was drawn into a traditional Latin American Spanish education and an emphasis on connecting with people whose culture is so different from my own. On the topic of my own culture, my first thoughts are of music, which I listen to, on average, around 16 hours a day. As I write this, I’m listening to a song called Isabella by Isaac Delusion. I love new music, so a big bonus of getting to know all of you will be 14 new music tastes to indulge in. These days I spend my time reading, hiking, camping, preparing for this trip, and enjoying downtime with my four dogs and my parents.

My understanding of a collectivist society is one where the individual places higher importance on the well-being of the group, whether that be a family or in a working environment. An individualist society emphasizes personal achievement and encourages independence. My own culture is so dynamic it is tough to say whether it fits the bill of either collectivist or individualist. Nationalism, an idea deeply rooted in American society, is a collectivist thought. This nationalism is intertwined heavily in the sociopolitical environment of 2018, which encourages Americans to have their own voice (which is an individualist thought), but also allows for the ruthless ostracizing of whomever’s opinion doesn’t align with that of the majority at hand. With this in mind it is difficult to say if one label, both, or neither belongs on my culture.

From what I have gathered, Bolivian culture emphasizes the importance of all family, not just immediate family, and often multiple generations will live under the same roof. I would consider this to be a very collectivist practice.

I think the natural environment is just as critical to the success of the collective as the community of people is. We often underestimate the value that the natural environment offers to us because it is value that we have never lived without. It is easy to take air for granted until you are being suffocated. The author notes that the nature needs to be afforded what it needs in order to maintain balance just us the community members must lend support to each other.

All of us will carry our cultures with us to Bolivia and Peru, but it is our responsibility to make a conscious effort not to subtly pass judgement upon those whose culture differs from ours simply because we do not understand. We must make every effort to delve into the intricacies of where we travel to and try to see the country from the perspective of a native, not a tourist.

P.S. I’m on the right