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A Warm Welcome from your Instructor Colleen

As one of your three instructors this fall, I am already daydreaming about the many adventures we are soon to share. I write this with much anticipation and excitement for meeting you all!

Before the pandemic, I felt like I had mastered feeling at home on the go. I’d grown very accustomed to airports, coffee shops, night buses, and friends’ and families’ spare couches and guest rooms. I had spent 2 years traveling in Latin America and leading programs for Where There Be Dragons in Peru and Bolivia. These adventures began in 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 for two years in Bucaramanga, a small peaceful city 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 The Great Gatsby. Most meaningfully, however, I’ve been won over by the joys and impacts of learning alongside young people outside the four walls of a physical classroom.

I myself have learned so much  sharing time with people along my travels- from the long histories of resistance, to treks alongside fragile, Listerine glacial lakes, 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.

The welcome and care I’ve received from people in Latin America has also fueled my desire to welcome others in my own country. I’ve been passionate about immigration issues since working at an immigration advocacy center during graduate school, and I’m struck by the inequity of my being able to cross the world’s borders so easily with just my American passport.

My privilege and my own moral dilemmas have been further brought into contrast by the pandemic as I’ve moved back to the United States and begun to re-examine the role I want to occupy back in my home country. For me, learning to live sustainably in a place seems more urgent  than ever. A book that has stuck with me since the 11th grade is Barry Lopez’s The Rediscovery of North  America. Specifically, I remember Lopez’s description of a “sense of place,” “the spiritual and  psychological dimensions of geography.” This idea has tugged at me since— in childhood memories of  playing in the woods behind my house, in traveling to new landscapes while teaching abroad, and in wisdom gleaned from Indigenous communities. Author Naomi Klein argues that it is our lack of a sense of place on a global scale that hinders us from effectively addressing  climate change. Unlike farmers in Nacion Q’eros in the Peruvian Andes, I lack the intimate  knowledge of frost forming in the mountains. A changing river does not speak to me  like it did my host family living in the small community of Asuncion de Quiquibey in the Bolivian Amazon.  I want to delve deeper into this knowledge this semester as we wrestle with our own questions and seek a deeper sense of place in the geography of the North American Southwest.

I know this journey will include much challenge, learning, growth, connection, and laughter for all of us.  I can’t wait to meet you all!

Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns before our trip.  I would love to hear from you!

E-mail: [email protected]