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

Hi everyone!

1.  Hi everyone! My name is Mira and I just graduated from high school in Palo Alto, California (just a little south of San Francisco). This course is part of the gap year I’m taking before attending the University of Michigan next year. I spent most of the summer working at a local nonprofit, and I recently returned from an amazing trip to Spain with my family. In my free time lately I’ve been working out, hiking with my dog (my favorite activity ever), exploring the cities and nature around me, baking, reading, and spending as much time with my family and friends as possible. I chose this program because I think it provides the opportunity to improve a huge range of skills. I love Spanish and am super excited to improve my language skills, and I also love experiencing new cultures and places and expanding my horizons, so this trip pretty much checks all my boxes. I am super excited to be pushed to my limits and to gain immeasurable knowledge and perspective about the world around me.

2. Individualist cultures value independent success and self-reliance above other things. Being able to work and succeed on your own, for your own goals, is considered more important than being able to work in a team toward shared goals. In a more collectivist culture, collaboration and shared success is valued more, as is connection and contribution to one’s community.

3. The main culture with which I identify is definitely my Jewish heritage. I was raised in a really strong Jewish community and it has definitely made me who I am. Jewish culture is really interesting because in a religious sense, there are tons of opportunities for individual connection and improvement. However, there is also always a communal sense which, for me, gives it a very collective feel. For example, in order to say majority of prayer services, there has to be 10 people present, and when someone dies, the traditions ensure that the grieving family has company and support during the hardest times. The communal aspects of Jewish tradition are by far my favorite part and I value the deep connections I’ve made with my community and my family through shared celebrations.

4. In Bolivia, military service for men is compulsory. When a boy turns 18, he is required to enlist in the military, thus sacrificing immediate personal success for the wellbeing of the country. Although this isn’t necessarily a personal decision, the country as a whole has decided that contributing to the country is more important than each person going to seek personal success. This supports the idea that Bolivia is a collectively oriented country.

6. I think ethnocentrism mainly defines the inability to understand another culture without comparing it to one’s own culture, usually in a negative way. It is is the way we tend to see other cultures as lesser than our own, rather than just different. I think this program is really special because we will be so immersed in the cultures we experience that we will lose the desire to compare them to what we are used to, and instead will be able to see their beauty as its own unique entity.