An inspiring lesson that I took from the ABYLEP trip is that I have allies in Bangladesh who are passionate about improving the world, just like I am. Climate change feels heavy and impossibly immense to try to reduce its impacts. My new relationship with Bangladeshi allies brings to life the quote, “Many hands make light work.” Influencing policy makers, improving efficiency in our lives and communities, rethinking how we do things are dense tasks, but together we can tackle the challenges of climate change from many angles. Some of us will educate; some will influence; some will invent; some will collaborate with new communities; some will get elected and make change. We will make progress one step at a time together. Our potential collective action and accomplishments inspire me to work hard and think creatively.
I didn’t go to Bangladesh thinking that I knew all the solutions. I went to learn, to make friends, and to figure out new ways to connect. The framework of global competency helped me consider how we can work in solidarity with one another. Solidarity influences how I interact with my family, my job as a teacher and my life as an activist. This trip has fostered new energy for my efforts to reduce the creation of pollution in my neighborhood. Also, tomorrow I begin to teach a 20th century history unit on South Asia. I am thrilled to be beginning the unit with videos from my new Bangladeshi friends speaking about the challenges facing Bangladesh and the solutions that give them hope. My students will catch a glimpse of the sense of solidarity I feel with these new friends in Bangladesh, which will inspire our investigation of the history and modern challenges of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Also, I will present about lessons learned in Bangladesh to the Minnesota Association of IB Schools, my school’s faculty, and community groups. Thank you Bangladesh, World Savvy and the State Department!
As of right now, I think this experience has taught me more than even I can fully realize. When you return from a trip like this one, the expectation is that you have learned a lot and grown and changed as a person. I believe that some of this does happen right away, but a lot of the learning from this experience will also come in the time following our return, as we apply what we have learned into our daily lives. The lessons I have learned have been valuable and I could not have learned them in any other way. Some things have to be learned by first-hand experience, and this trip provided the perfect opportunity for that learning and growth.
This trip taught me to let go of expectations and be more open to taking things as they come instead of starting something with a preconceived idea of what it will be like. I have always been a person who likes to know what is going on, and what is coming next. On this trip, that wasn’t always possible, so I gradually learned to ‘go with the flow’ and accept that you can’t always plan everything. I have definitely brought that skill back with me, and I think it will help me as I go through my life. During the trip, it would have been easy to rush through each activity just to get it done, but I felt it was really important to actually think about what we were doing, and why we were doing it. Our group reflections helped make this possible, and I also challenged myself to keep the lessons we learned in mind so I could continue to process the meanings of them. Now that we have completed all of those exercises, games, discussions, and activities, I can continue to keep them in mind to be more aware and thoughtful.
The main lessons that resonated with me were the ones we learned on our service projects on our universes of obligation, the effects of short-term service trips, and how we approach poverty. These lessons were really meaningful because we were able to apply them right away while on our service learning projects, and also because we can use what we learned in service we do in the future. Before, I had never really thought about how short-term service projects can be both good and bad, and it made me consider how I can do something that is more helpful to people. Above all, going on this trip gave me a new experience that I will never forget. The things I saw, the lessons I learned, the people I met, and the memories I made will remain with me for the rest of my life as I continue to grow and change as a person, and as a global citizen.
This educational adventure has meant a great deal to me. It allowed me to get out and see more of the world, not just as a tourist, but in a way where I could experience a culture I’ve never even dreamt of being apart of. I saw the impact that my lifestyle has on the environment and I was extremely affected on a personal level by this experience. Some of the lessons I learned from the trip were that even though we may live on the other side of the world I still have many similarities with the Bangladeshi people. I also learned that you should always try your best to get along with people you have disagreements with. I noticed on the trip that I had several similarities and differences with both American and Bangladeshi students. The similarities were a little surprising since we came from all the way across the world. The differences were something I had to put aside for the sake of working together with everyone. I learned that you have to move past them to move forward.
I also challenged myself by trying new foods. I don’t try many new foods and this trip gave me a chance to step out of my comfort zone in that way. I think my behavior moving forward will change in several ways. I now know more about how my actions affect the world, and this will change my ways. I will work harder to help protect the environment, even if it means changing my lifestyle. In the past I’ve recycled and done things in my personal life to help the environment and now this inspires me to go out and do more for my community as a whole. I will try and go and do the extra mile for my community and the environment.
I must admit that the aspect of the AYLP in Bangladesh that originally piqued my interest was the lens of climate change that it employed. Being an environmental science teacher, I am very interested in climate change and enthusiastic about teaching others how to explore this topic in greater depth and connect it to their own lives. I was prepared to bring my own knowledge about the environment to share with participants and to learn from the case studies of climate changes in Bangladesh. However, I hadn’t realized how much I would take away about how to infuse global cultural competency into my curriculum. Using the exploration of culture to form questions about what influence people’s environmental values and decisions has implications that touch many corners of my high school AP Environmental Science course. I have already asked my students to examine our own “universe of obligation”, which shapes who we decide to support (monetarily, temporally, morally, etc.), and I have plans to incorporate more cultural examinations into our units on population growth and climate change in the future.
I’ve also come away with more personal learnings about how to become a more authentic traveler who embraces another culture more completely, what it means to move towards solidarity when engaging in service projects, and what aspects of US culture I am proud of and want to embrace and share. None of these learnings happen passively, and instead involve conscious decisions and efforts to step outside of one’s comfort zone. Moving forward, I also hope to bring these new learnings to the Global Service Learning programs at Kent Place School, and help our scholar leaders uncover more about culture, service, and the environment as they travel, learn, and interact with people from different backgrounds. The relevance of these understandings is universal, so I hope to carry them with me for the rest of my life, sharing them with others all along the way.
What does this educational experience mean to me? Where do I even begin? As cheesey as it sounds, this experience changed my life. Before Bangladesh I didn’t pay much attention to what was happening around me or even how wastefull I was being. Now all I think about is the world and how my next move will impact it. I’ve always been a little shy and going on this trip with complete strangers pushed me to speak up and communicate when it wasn’t always the easiest. This whole experience means so much to me. Its even opened my mind to a new career interest. While in Bangladesh I learned that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and if you do you will be very embarrassed when you’re wrong. I learned that it’s okay to feel unsure and nervous, but you have to have the confidence and faith to take chances. I’ve never challenged myself as much as I did during those 3 1/2 weeks. 5 months ago, if someone asked me if I wanted to live on a boat for 5 days with no hot water, I would have said HECK NO! But I did it in Bangladesh. Being away from my family and friends was my biggest challenge. Having to rely on complete strangers and learning how to not only believe in them but to believe in myself is a big accomplishment for me. Overall, the whole trip was a challenge- and I did it! And I would do it again in a heart beat. Moving foward I plan on surrounding myself with different people more often. I already started this but I’m also trying to get my family to go ‘full time green’. For example, instead of driving everywhere, I want us to walk more in the summer. Also to recycle more and to quit being so wasteful. I feel like a new person. I value new things, I feel different towards the world and I feel more fortunate. I want to thank World Savvy for giving me the opportunity of a life time, I’m forever grateful!
The AYLP Bangladesh experience was more than just an educational one; it allowed me to branch out from some of my norms and experience something that I had never encountered before. Not only did Bangladesh impact my academics, it gave me a fresher outlook on life. Being thousands of miles away from home with people who we had known for hours was a little hard, a little emotional, and socially challenging. Yet, it was paired with so many new and amazing opportunities to view the world in a different way. Bangladesh means so much to me and holds such a unique place in my heart.
I have learned so much from the trip to Bangladesh. My increase in knowledge was not just based upon climate change, it was centered upon a culture. I learned so much about the language that over three hundred million people speak. I learned about different clothing items (some of which I probably would have never known about). I learned about the kindness that came from people who live in such a small country by the Indian Ocean. I also learned about how to effectively sustain energy and promote effective use of our climate and ecological systems.
It is always hard for an individual to step into someone’s home who they have only met by email and sleep in their home without knowledge of what is happening around them. Yet, my host family was such an amazing one. They made me feel so welcome. It was definitely a challenge for me to leave my family in NY, especially during such a time in the year. It was challenging to leave my school for a month and miss several weeks of classes. It was also very hard not knowing what to expect regarding college applications and wifi Internet access in Bangladesh. It was definitely a little stressful to go and have so much going on back at home, but I would not have given up this experience for anything. No matter how many times I look back at it, I would never have opted to change my decision.
All my actions have already changed in the weeks that I have been home. I keep talking about my experiences in Bangladesh, especially with my Bangladeshi friends. I always practice my Bangla. I always think about the ecological consequences of my actions. I also think about the people of Bangladesh. With every action that I take, I think about the people of the chars and those living in Dhaka and in the Sundurbans. I think how my actions will affect those people. I also think about the opportunities that those people have and how I can branch out in order to give those people the opportunities that they deserve. My experience was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I wouldn’t give it up for anything!
Navigating Our Way Through the Traffic of Life: A Closing Ceremony Speech by Jacob Shawback
Good evening, my name is Jacob Shawback and I am a twelfth grade student from the state of Minnesota. Before I begin I would just like to give a few thanks. First and foremost I would like to thank the entire team at World Savvy, especially Laura and Daniel, for organizing such an amazing and life changing trip. I will truly cherish this experience for the rest of my life. I would also like to thank the educators James, Jay, Kate, Melanie, and Rose, for creating truly amazing learning adventures. Your support has helped make this opportunity truly amazing. Also I would like to thank the staff at SPEED, Justin, Samia, and Mehruba, for playing an instrumental role in organizing 60 students. I am sure that wasn’t stress free. Of course I would like to thank the Staff at Scholastic for opening up their facilities to us and making us feel welcome. Last but certainly not least I would like to thank Fahmeed Kahn Sheehan and his entire family for opening up your home and your hearts. Your generosity and kindness has truly made this experience one of the best of my life, and I am happy to call you family.
It is crazy to think that the exchange part of the program is coming to a close. In just three and a half I have seen and done things I will never forget. All the while with some pretty cool and amazing young leaders. Much of what I have learned here in Bangladesh I could have never learned in a classroom, or through the pages of a book. This is because much of the things I have learned are intangible, and could only be learned through experience. I have broadened my understanding of culture, grown as a leader, and possibly most profoundly I have witnessed and learned new perspectives on issues that we all share. Sometimes these new perspectives were eye-opening, sometimes they were challenging, and sometimes they were just humorous. For instance, the Bangladeshi perception of cold is very different that of a hearty Minnesotan such as myself. In fact I am pretty sure my host family thinks I am insane when I go out in a t-shirt, instead of bundling up in a jacket. Also I can remember many meals watching the U.S. students on my left practically melting, while the Bangladeshi’s on my right struggled to taste their food. One thing that definitely blew my mind however, was traffic in Dhaka.
Traffic in Bangladesh, although chaotic and intimidating, is a lot like life. The people battling the traffic daily here are going to the same destinations we go to in the United States: work, school, and home. Although the ways we get to our destinations and the obstacles we face along the way may be different. In the end we are all going to the same places. And sometimes taking a different road- or flying halfway across the world and then taking different roads as we did- can be an eye opening and enlightening experience.
Surprisingly, some of the most valuable lessons I have learned while on this trip have been while traveling through traffic. When I first arrived in Dhaka I was at a loss for words when it came to the traffic. The combination of driving on the left, constant merging, no pedestrian right of way, and the language barrier, resulted in a very eventful first car ride. In fact for the first few days I would just put my head into my bag and pray that we get to our destination safely. After a while however I forced my self to keep calm, by putting faith in the driver and believing that we would get to our destination safely. By forcing myself to keep calm I was able to see what was going on around me; I was able to look out the window and see sights I will never forget. Keeping calm was the first lesson I learned in traffic.
The second lesson I learned I traffic was patience, which is always a good skill to have and was definitely tested in two-hour long traffic jams. During traffic jams I knew I couldn’t do anything about the situation, so I had to come up with a way to pass the time and make it passed the obstacle. I used the traffic jams as a time to step back and reflect. I not only reflected upon what I had done, but I was I was going to do, and what I wanted to do. This reflection time not only passed the time quickly, but it allowed me to clear my head and focus my thoughts. Patience was the second lesson I learned in traffic.
The final major lesson I learned in traffic, and possibly the most important lesson, was understanding. For the first few days I was amazed at how traffic just seemed to work out, and how we were able to make it to our destinations. I was stunned at how rickshaws, CNGs, cars, and buses weaved through traffic in an effort to reach their destinations. I later learned in Bangladesh drivers of all sorts of vehicles understand that in order for themselves to go anywhere, they have to make sure others can move too. In fact it is this general understanding that allows all sorts of people who are going in different directions the ability to reach their destinations.
All of these skills and maybe even mindsets are hard to develop. But once you have them, your eyes are more open to the things going on around you, and the destinations are easier to get to. As youth leaders we are all navigating through the traffic of life, trying to reach our various interesting and amazing destinations. Even though transit may be difficult at times if we use the skills learned in traffic, the destinations may be easier to get to. First, keeping calm will help us along our paths. At first we are going to see and face a lot of challenges along our journeys, but by keeping calm we can better explore the world around us. Second, patience will ease the struggles we face along the way. The fact is making change is hard, but by being patient we can reflect upon how far we’ve come and how far we can go. Finally, understanding will bring us, and our fellow citizens, to our destinations. As youth leaders we have seen that people from all walks of life share the same essential problems, and through understanding and even solidarity we can all make it to our destination.
Although the roads we travel and the obstacles we have on these roads may be different, in the end we are all going to the same places. Sometimes taking different roads or exploring new perspectives can not only guide along on our journey, but also teach us a thing or two about ourselves.
HAPPY NEW YEARS! We all screamed at 00:00 BDT in the second floor conference room of the BRAC learning center. 2012 by Jay Sean (www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uFalk1y38I) had faded into the background as 60 youth, 5 educators, 2 World Savvy Staff, and others all went around hugging and granting each other a “Happy New Years!”. It has been one heck of a year that we have had the opportunity to end with one another on this wonderful trip here in Bangladesh.
The last day of the year we were able to spend with much leisure and enjoyment. We met up at the Uttura campus of Scholastica and headed off to the BRAC Learning Center. Some were not feeling all to well, considering the change of scene for us Americans, but as the day continued, we were all able to support one another and end the night with a bang.
We arrived at the BRAC learning center, had lunch, learned about BRAC (BRAC is a development organisation dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor to bring about change in their own lives.) and engaged in some fun relay races that included things like “saying alphabet backwards”, “climate change quiz”, and “perfect cartwheel”. It was exciting to be in a different setting and have some fun running around in an open, grassy field.
The final outdoor activity we ended with was an activity called “Step Forward, Step Back”. It visually showed how our group has grown and
They were so reluctant to take this, and each tried to hide behind the other. But they did, because they liked the thought of an instantaneous photo, something they didn’t have to wait or hope for. it just arrived. and they were so happy. I will never take for granted the joy I had as a child, being able to live and speak and engage in mischief, as a child. To have my rights as a child protected, and my innocence safeguarded by the law and loving adults. Oh what a privilege, I have found, childhood truly is.
photo: Bianca Brooks