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Nepal Semester Student's Catherine Von Holt's photograph of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

Hello from New York!

Hello from New York, New York! I am still in disbelief that in just under a week we will meet each other in the foothills of the Himalayas for the trip of a lifetime! I grew up just outside of NYC and after living and teaching in New Hampshire and Maine was excited to return to my stomping grounds (although I truly miss the surplus of outdoor adventure from up North and regularly visit.) I teach World Cultures at a prep school in New Canaan, Connecticut. Within my curriculum we divide the globe into 4 regions: SubSaharan Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia has always been the region I am most fascinated by. One of the main missions of my school is a dedication to service learning in the classroom and its connection to leadership and student empowerment.

My connection to Global Education developed from my love of history and cultural immersion. I have always been enthralled with questions including: what is the role of the individual within a collective culture? How do individuals maintain the essence of their culture when they are forced to flee? What backgrounds and identities do we bring to the classroom? What is the impact of identity on the lens through which we see the world? Tackling these larger questions has not been easy but I have noticed that certain strategies have worked better than others. This past year I had the opportunity to work with CitySeed an organization that utilizes food as a vessel to unite and celebrate cultures. Over a mini-series of speakers and local field trips I experienced the benefits of community outreach and service learning. Additionally, I am in the process of developing a partnership with a school in Hong Kong and will tap into this partnership throughout the span of the 2019-2020 academic year. The goal of this partnership is for students to interact with others their own age across the globe, cultivate greater communication skills, curiosity and discussion of their cultures and current events. Lastly, my school is making greater strides to incorporate project based learning and interdisciplinary work on a deeper level. We currently have a PBL unit in place for our study of Africa which focuses on sustainability. While we discuss sustainability when learning about Southeast Asia, we currently do not have a PBL exercise linked to this and are working to create one for the upcoming academic year. Though these are just a few snapshots of exercises that integrate service learning, PBL and global education, I can see the impact that this has on our students’ curiosity for the world around us, appreciation for other cultures outside their own, empathy and understanding of the role of a global citizen.

One of the passages that really resonated with me was “Thus travel spins us round in two ways at once: It shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore; but it also, and more deeply, shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise grow rusty. For in traveling to a truly foreign place, we inevitably travel to moods and states of mind and hidden inward passages that we’d otherwise seldom have cause to visit.” Since I can first remember, I have had a long standing love affair with travel and the depths that in takes me physically but especially inwardly. The questions this raises and the curiosity that this ignites is what keeps me hooked. I associate the impact of traveling as the fountain of youth for the mind, for it keeps my mind agile and inquisitive. This curiosity, love of learning and journey to self discovery is something I savor the most in myself and my teaching.

Looking forward to meeting everyone in Kathmandu!

All the best,
Samantha