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Student Perspectives on Study Away Experiences

We were asked to write about limits, and I know I hit several of mine. There were a few times when we were hiking where I really had no desire to keep moving, but that is the type of limit I have hit before, having been active in sports off and on throughout my life.

I mentioned to my room mate that I had read a quote that suggested doing one thing each day that scared you, but this was back at Anadesa.

Every time I hit my "limit" or started thinking that I really didn’t know if I was willing to make things work, I would remember the generocity of my hosts, and things didn’t seem so bad. Having them trying their best to make us at home while we cringed at the living conditions didn’t seem just.

It is easy for me to quit at home, which is why I like having deadlines or a training buddy, I need someone holding me responsible. Here I was constantly pushed beyond where I was comfortable, and even to the point of wanting to quit several times. Yet being able to say I walked down a mountain, or I understood one phrase in Ixil was oddly rewarding. There was no bandstand moment where I received a praise, but it is one more way I can say "well I did _______, so this new obstacle can’t be that bad."

Ultimately noting I did this last week compares to what many of these families have endured, and I would not claim I can relate to their suffering. Yet this trip was designed to not just learn about those people who live in Latin America and survived a civil war. It was to meet people and get a little taste of who they are as people, not just as survivors.

I think witnessing how they live day to day has made it more potent to then hear their stories. I feel like I can understand better what it means to be a leader and an activist having met the people I have on this trip.

Sara Barlett, Guatemala 2012

Yesterday we visited the fishing community. We were immediately welcomed when we stepped foot off of the bus. Children were grabbing our hands shaking them and asking our names...it was beautiful! The entire experience was definitely an eye opening one not in a bad way but something you would never see in the United States. Here life is different it is simplistic, family oriented, and some would say slightly appalling. The people of this community were so welcoming and friendly. Which is quite different then some areas in the U.S. where people push away outsiders. We learned that the people here suffer from inequality issues that most of us could never imagine because of our privilege. Such as, women don't really have a lot of choices or rights here where as in the states we feel its our privilege, our right, and our freedoms which should automatically be given to us. The group that out reaches to this community informs, educates, and empowers the community especially women to want more. When asked to speak each woman had a different story but all had one commonality and that was empowerment. Empowerment to overcome many things and obstacles.

While walking through the streets and seeing these people's livelihood I am humbled by what I have and I am taken aback by not acknowledging the simple things in life. Even though there is a lack in cleanliness throughout there is a sense of pride for upkeep for their own space. They took us into their homes (which ranged from cubicles and huts to apartment buildings) and showed us how they lived their daily lives. The smell of animal feces, dead fish, sea, and rot is their lively hood. Like one woman said without this smell, without the fish we have nothing we are nothing! If you would visit here many people would describe the animals, smells, trash, and filth that surround them as disgusting. Others would say it was beautiful. I would fall on the side of beautiful. Out of all of the places we have been I have enjoyed this experience the most. The sight of women, children, and men covered in filth and human feces leaves me with the impression that we should be thankful for clean water, running water, a place to live, and many other things. To not take family for granted or our friends because without them where is our identity? In money or selfishness? We as a community need to take care of others and not push them away...show love and compassion to all human kind! We all need to be the change we want to see and not be bystanders when we see injustices. This community has left me with an experience that I will never forget and I can't thank the people of the fishing village enough for their hospitality and warm welcomes. My heart is alive for the people of India and I don't want to go home.

Bri Tarr, India 2013