Going the Distance
Have you ever walked through the halls of the College of Professional Studies, or any other building on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus, and seen all the posters for travel and study abroad opportunities? I mean, WOW, the opportunities are endless; London, New Zealand, Africa, Mexico and the list goes on! But how many times have you walked past these posters thinking, “Yeah right, I could never afford a trip like that.” or even, “My parents would freak if I told them I wanted to live that far away from them for a semester!”
I think for most students these are natural thoughts to have, but for those of us big dreamers out there, sometimes it is worth making an experience happen and overcoming the fears that keep us grounded to what we know. I recently stumbled across a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Since reading this quote I have realized that the only way to truly understand the world is to experience it. How can one change or impact something that they know so little about? The reality is, you can come up with a million reasons why not to travel internationally, but why try so hard to focus on the negative when the positives bring forth a life changing experience that you won’t get every day.
I am non-traditional student with children, responsibilities and a passion to become the best teacher I can be. I have so many reasons to stay home but for me the importance of understanding the world has become empowering. I need to see the world and experience the unknown so that I can bring back experience to my children and the students I will someday teach. I want to be a role model to all those students afraid to make that leap into existence outside of UWSP, Stevens Point and even Wisconsin in general.
On June 8, 2013, I will be boarding a plane with 14 others and heading to Namibia, Africa, to teach at the National Institute for Special Education. With support from my family, friends and community members I have made appropriate alterations to my life in order to make this trip happen. What I thought was a dream is now coming true and I owe a big part of that to Miss Lela Jahn who awarded me with the Discover the World scholarship that is helping me pay for this experience. I am excited at the opportunities this trip has opened for me, like student blogging, real life experience, and access to the mentorship program at UWSP – Reaching Across Generations (RXG). I look forward to the opportunities I may encounter in the future as well, and sharing my trip experience with anyone and everyone who will listen.
Upon landing in Africa I am not quite sure what to expect but I am certain that all experiences gained will be life changing and eye opening. I’ve never had the opportunity to work with students that have vision impairments but I know I have a lot to offer along with the others traveling with me. Together we will be able to learn curriculum techniques and acquire skills that we don’t realize we have. We will experience a culture that is very different than our own and foods that will be brand new to us. Did you know they deep fry caterpillars and eat them? Believe me, you will know if I get up the courage to try one! Along with experience to gain as a teacher in the school our group will be visiting other schools in the area, going on a safari, and visiting the coast where exhilarating activities will keep us busy.
Patty Caro, head of the UWSP School of Education, is the professor that is taking myself and 13 others on this adventure. Patty has done a great job of getting us information so that we can be prepared for what we may encounter. I don’t think anyone traveling to a different country can fully prepare themselves for what will be seen but it’s nice to know that she on our side and always looking out for our best interests. I am looking forward to this life changing experience and cannot wait to share the details once we arrive!
Rebecca Wagner, a junior majoring in early childhood education at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.