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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Faculty Introduction – Jochen Gahrau

Dearest Dragons,

 

I am very excited to introduce myself to you today as the faculty for your Intercultural Development and Global Citizenship class. I will be traveling with you during weeks eight, nine, and ten of your program. Through activities, readings, lectures, discussions, and student-led presentations, we will together develop a deeper understanding of what it means to live in this increasingly interconnected world. We will look at various concepts of culture, learning, and leadership and practice our own abilities regarding intercultural and intragroup communication. You will be in Bolivia for this part of your program. As you may know already, Bolivia is a very diverse country (culturally, linguistically, and geographically), so we will have plenty of opportunity to observe a host of different cultures and approaches to leadership as well as adaptations to diverse environments.

 

As for my own intercultural development, let me give you a brief overview of what I did over the last decade or so: In 2014, I graduated from the University of Cologne, Germany (where I’m from), with a master’s degree in history, German literature, and Middle Eastern studies. For the latter, I spend a couple of months in both Beirut, Lebanon, and Cairo, Egypt. In 2013 and 2014, I lived in Vancouver, BC, for a year and then permanently moved to Guatemala. Living in a small Mayan town in the highlands of this beautiful country, I was exposed to a whole variety of very old ways of life and had the privilege of teaching social sciences at a small international high school. For the last year, I have been working as an instructor with Where There Be Dragons and lived in Guatemala City and Germany during my time off.

 

More than anything, I consider myself an observer and a learner, and I would like to encourage you to do the same. When you arrive in South America, be ready to see, hear, smell, and taste new things, and be open to them, but also try to see things that are similar – after all, we are all human beings. Spending time in different places, it is always striking to see the many similarities – (almost) everyone loves football (you might call it soccer), food, music, art, people laugh and cry, they face challenges and they thrive, they love and they go to war. It might be obvious, but I truly believe we must understand each other, our backgrounds, cultures, struggles, and preferences if we want to achieve things and maybe change the world just a little bit for the better. During our class, we will learn about identities and cultures and explore tools and techniques that help us orient ourselves in this world and that allow us to have a positive impact in our communities.

 

As I prepare for our class, I get more and more excited every day! While I will officially be your teacher, I will also be your student. I can’t wait to explore Bolivia together with you and hear your perspective on all the things we will encounter.

 

Watch out for the syllabus and course reader, which should be ready for you in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions about me or the class. You can post them here on the Yak board or email me directly.

 

Un abrazo fuerte desde Guatemala,

 

Jochen

 

[email protected]

 

PS: The pictures show me in a cafe, in a remote area in eastern Germany, and on my roof terrace in Guatemala City