As one of your three instructors this fall, I am already dreaming about the many adventures we are soon to share. I write this with much anticipation and excitement for meeting you all!
This year I’ve mastered feeling at home on the go. While I’m currently writing to you all from a Seattle coffee shop, I’ve grown very accustomed to airports, night buses, and friends’ and families’ spare couches and guest rooms. I’ve most recently finished up leading a 1-month Where There Be Dragons course in Peru (which was super impactful!) but have also recently spent time in Ohio, California, Alaska, Panama, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador. My year of travel began this past June of 2018 when I left the formal classroom after 7 years of teaching high school- first amidst small-town Arkansas’s sweltering cotton fields, then in the bustling high-tech city of Seoul, South Korea, and finally in Bucaramanga, the peaceful city of parks and adrenaline filled outdoor sports in northeast central Colombia.
My favorite part of teaching has always been building relationships with my students and carving out learning opportunities relevant to our everyday lives. I am passionate about social justice. Together my students and I have examined gender roles in memoirs like the House on Mango Street, and racism and classism in classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby.
More recently, I’ve been won over by the joys of traveling with and learning alongside young people outside the four walls of a physical classroom. I myself have learned so much traveling and sharing time with people in South America this year. Bolivia and Peru have fueled my desires for exploration and connection even more- from the long histories of resistance, to treks that wind through farmland, alongside nearly Listerine blue lakes, and beneath crackling glaciers, to seemingly more simple moments- cooking with a newfound group of friends and trading words for ingredients in Spanish and English. Everyday I’m reminded of how much there is to learn. I try to appreciate the kindness of strangers, to see less people as strangers and more as friends. I want to continue a practice of being in the present moment and of being aware of how my identity shapes all of my interactions and experiences while I travel.
I can’t wait to continue this growth with you all. We will be awed by diverse landscapes, humbled by history, and inspired by the new friendships we will undoubtedly forge along the way. Even the difficult moments – the homesickness, the language barriers, the sore feet – will shape us into stronger, more patient people.
Hasta pronto y con mucha anticipación, Colleen
PS. Of course, please reach out to me with any questions or concerns before our trip. I would love to hear from you!