I’ve traveled elsewhere but my trips lacked the opportunity to interact with the people of a culture. I looked out the window in Argentina or in Poland and took it in like one would hastily read through an eighteenth century poem. I was thrilled by its solely enigmatic unfamiliarity; this trip taught me to observe, to interpret, and to discuss what I saw out the window.
Going into this exchange, I thought my primary challenge would be maintaining graciousness and a sunny disposition and no doubt there were moments where that I struggled, but I felt the most struggle internally. During those multiple hour traffic jams home, the race against the imminent hartal, or those mornings where I would arrive to a workshop thirty minutes late, I experienced a new personal challenge: the act of letting go in moments that are beyond my control.
As an avid marching band participant, I knew that a group can create a cohesiveness that is fascinating even beautiful to an audience. I’ve been lectured about the immense power of the collective, but this was the first time I could stand back and watch. I could observe the reflective and articulate minds of my fellow cohorts and marvel at the brilliance created when their minds were culminated. I felt the sheer power of the group and the potency it possessed in combating the issues of climate change and beyond.
This exchange illuminated the whole of my imprint, positive and negative, on my immediate and broad environment. I’m much more cognizant of my impact, and that has definitely bitten me in this month of being home, but I’m determined to make use of this jolt of awareness. I learned that my Achilles’ heel in solving a problem is producing the initial idea. My mind seizes the chance to weigh the pros and cons and the logistics of a solution; it struggles to be the visionary. Once I get that thread of an idea however, I make it happen. Discerning this exchange’s impact on me is still a work-in-progress, but this elongated digestion of what I’ve experienced is definitely an indication to me that Bangladesh, the nation irrefutably dear to me, altered my course forward.
This educational adventure has meant a lot to me. This adventure made me aware of the issues going on not only in our neighborhood, but also on the other side of the world. Going on this journey, I was able to learn a few lessons. One of the lessons that I learned was that I don’t have to do something big in order to make a change. Even the smallest changes that you make have a huge impact. Another lesson that I learned was that when traveling, it’s a good idea to have an open mind. Things will be different in another country, and you have to be cautious to make sure what you’re saying isn’t hurting anyone. You also have to remember that things you do might be things that others consider strange.
I think that I have grown a lot because of this trip. I have become a lot more environmentally cautious with things going on that I wouldn’t really notice before. In the beginning of the trip, I did have to challenge myself to be social. I didn’t know anyone that was going on this trip, being that I was the only one from my school chosen. I did have to make myself be more social and open to new people. I feel like my behavior will change quite a bit moving forward. Like I said before, I have become a lot more environmentally cautious, so this will make me a lot more environmentally friendly. Becoming more environmentally friendly will make me want to make others environmentally friendly also. I have also changed because I feel like I’m able to step up a lot more than I did before, because of the opportunities that I decided to step up in during my journey.
When listing the things that this trip meant to me I went down and started listing all the things that I thought were meaningful: the trip itself, studying climate change, etc. There is a much deeper meaning that this trip has had on my life, and at this point in time, a month has passed since I have come to appreciate the trip as a whole so much more rather than when it finished. The time since the trip has been long enough to let me take a step back and become both introspective and retrospective to dig deep into myself and truly understand what this all really means.
Coming onto this trip, I was prepared to be involved in large group activities and have a very interpersonal aura. More opportunities to have one-on-one conversations with people arose that made my trip worthwhile. This ranged from the US and Bangladeshi participants on the trip to the people whom I interviewed in the slums to the security guard I met on the last day. Everyone has a story, and it is these stories that create the world. By engaging with people on a one-on-one basis it has allowed me to see an even larger sliver of the created world around us all. The best way I learned to get to know someone is by listening to their story; you get to know a thing or two.
Being in Bangladesh, I saw a very different environment/culture/aura than the US’s, which alone was a challenge. The change of everything was a complete 180 that pushed me to become more adaptable to situations. It is a life skill in which I am always willing to keep building.
Overall, there is much learned from the trip that has already affected thus far. There has been a lot of patience that built up from those two hour long horn-honking-filled traffic car rides that has taught me great patience in such chaotic-like situations. I came back home with even a bigger drive and passion to put in more effort into hearing people’s story and to have a better sense of solidarity and understanding amongst all.
Julia, Melanie and others blogged for the nonprofit organization Reach the World during and after our adventure to Bangladesh. Check out our blog there. Right now it’s featured on the front page of the Reach the World home page! Nice work ABYLEPers!
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!