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Group Travel: Reflection - Away She Goes

Now that I’ve accepted a job leading a group of brave young travelers, I’ve been thinking back on my many, fabulous travel groups and what made them so great.

Reflection is one of my favorite things, clearly.  I love writing, reading, thinking (blogging!) and discussing ad nauseum.  When I was in Egypt, the hours of conversation I shared with J9, Sheff, Iskandriyya, Goldilocks and others helped me grow exponentially.  It deepened my comprehension of Middle East and Egyptian culture, helped me work through my conflicted feelings of our daily experiences, and brought me to a better understanding of our own country.  Sharing my experiences out loud in a safe forum, while hearing from phenomenal, brilliant women whom I hope to emulate really made me get the most out of Egypt.  I honestly don’t think I would have learned as much or been as happy if it weren’t for those ladies and those conversations.

It is conversations like those that are the basis for this blog.  Every time someone compliments the ideas here, I feel like that praise belongs equally to those aforementioned ladies, as well as to Marisa, Jordyn, Kate and Leif, to my roommates in Cuba, to the ballers that made up the DR Dialogue and to my capstone class, all of whom sparked great discussions and debates that I later share with all of you.

I’m sure reflection is already a significant part of the N.U.in curriculum, especially considering there is a 1-credit course devoted to service-learning, introspection and their “Global Experience” as a whole.  However, I plan to make sure some of the best practices that have been shown to me are introduced into their discussions as well.

  • From Amnesty/Benin: Step Up/Step Back.
    On stepup/stepback days, everyone self selects and does the opposite of what they normally do.  Those who are shy are heavily encouraged to participate more strongly, and those who usually contribute greatly (or, like me, dominate the conversation) are asked to hang back.  While I personally have huge difficulty observing the rules of step up/step back, I think it’s incredibly valuable.  I can see that even more clearly after the spring break capstone trip, in which I was uncharacteristically quiet. [note of awesome: Chris, the Site Director for Greece AKA my boss mentioned both this and One Mic during our very first pre-departure orientation!  Woohoo!]
  • From Amnesty (mostly Thenjiwe): One Mic.
    The one mic policy is very simple: there is only one mic, and if you don’t have it you can’t speak.  Let me clarify: I prefer to never have a physical object like a talk stick or whatever, if it is at all possible.  But it’s nice to be able to just say hey, can I get one mic up here? If people start speaking over you when you have the floor.  Much less disruptive than me banging the gavel and saying “decorum delegates!” in the iciest voice I can muster.
  • From SEI: Base your comments on facts and observations. 
    This is actually the rule that pissed me off the most, if only because so many of our discussions were asking for our opinions, and people gave me shit every time I said the word “think” even if it was couched in the statement, “based on those observations, I think…”  But nonetheless, I think it’s good to get students in the mindset of only making statements they can back up, and I have changed its wording to reflect that.  Much like Oberheim’s exericse (read: torture) of not letting us write with the verb ‘to be’, it is not so much meant to be held to with fascist fervor, but is rather a good tool for getting you to leave behind bad habits, like saying a stereotype without realizing you’ve based it on nothing.

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