Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in the May 2011 Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) Update. It is personal account written by Calynn Zeitz ’11 on Arcadia University’s innovative Global Learning Curriculum, the result of the Shared Futures Project.
By Calynn Zeitz ’11
What I do not feel that I have been at Arcadia University for a very long time, I feel that the time I have spent here has greatly influenced and impacted the way I view many aspects of the world. I have had the opportunity, in my three semesters at the university, to study away in three different locations: Dominical, Sicily, and Tanzania. As a result of experience I had in each setting, these trips have changes the way I look at different issues.
I traveled to Dominica, a small island in the Caribbean, in January of 2010 as part of an interdisciplinary course co-taught by an economist and a faculty member interested in environmental studies. We studied many different aspects of the culture of the island—how cruise ships affect their economy as well as the natural life and environment, and how eco-tourism helps boost the economy of the island. I was highly interested in all the information provided in the classroom, but during my trip in January I was overcome with a love and true passion for the way the people of Dominica live their everyday lives. The way they appreciate nature changed the way I view environmental issues here in the United States and made me reconsider and re-evaluate what I am doing on a daily basis to affect the environment I inhabit. My views on environmentalism have completely changed; I came home with a new found respect for the world around me as well as an urgency to continue traveling.
As a transfer student to Arcadia, I had the opportunity to participate in the Spring Preview Program. I signed up for the class that would eventually lead to travel in Sicily as well as a related online class to blog about my experience in the States and abroad. This class would focus on immigration experience. Over the span of several weeks prior to traveling abroad I worked with a group of Southeast Asian immigrants living in Philadelphia. In Sicily, we met and interacted with immigrants from Sri Lanka. I was absolutely amazed at the stories I heard. Before taking this class, I was rather close-minded about immigration, not in a way that I did not like or approve of immigrants, but rather that I did no know their stories and had no business knowing or listening to their stories. In Italy I spent a lot of my time re-assessing my thinking and came to realize just how prevalent immigration is in the United States and all throughout other countries. This wasn’t a topic that could, or should ever be, ignored. Yet again, I had traveled to abroad and came home with a new appreciate for an entire group and culture of people who I hadn’t previously taken the time to understand. Since that trip, I have become much more involved in actively learning about topics involving immigration as well as making myself more knowledge about other topics in the news.
The most recent study abroad experience I had was traveling to Tanzania through a Global Literacy class. This was technically another interdisciplinary course but had information much more center on my major, Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Through this course, we learned about the culture and education system in and around Arusha, Tanzania. We learned the basics of Swahili and practiced writing lesson plans for students at the elementary level. By the end of the semester, every student in the class has prepared two lesson plans, created a puppet to use as a visual aid that would be donated to the school and practiced a song with hand gestures to teach the children. We had the opportunity to teach in a local community center for five days during our trip. This time abroad had a very strong emotional impact on me. This was the first time I was truly exposed to horrible living conditions and small children wandering the streets without supervision. I saw so many different aspects of life that I never would have thought possible during my ten days. Something about the way these children had to live every day changed the way I looked at my life. It really brought a lot of things into perspective and made me appreciate every single tiny thing I take for granted.
Through Arcadia University I have had he opportunity to see worlds I never would have seen. I never anticipated the changes that I have made within myself and in the way I live my everyday life, and I certainly never planned for them. Each and every time I have left the United States, I left with a different mindset that the one I had when I returned. I believe I returned a better, more well-rounded person every time.
My travels through this university have provided me with a new knowledge and a drive for a deeper understanding of the world around me, outside the confines of the United States. After having lived through each of these experiences, I plan on continuing my travels for the rest of my life, continually learning about new people and places every time. My understanding of people, places, and cultures has stretched far beyond the boundaries of a typical classroom setting and I have my professors and Arcadia University to thank for that.