I plan to travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, in order to engage with the people, and increase my own knowledge of their cultures. I would also like to observe the system of education and am interested in how education and literacy is effected by regional conflict. I hope that this experience will assist in my own long term goals of increasing international education, in conjunction with cultural tolerance and understanding. Upon my return, I will use the knowledge gained to establish and expand study abroad programs in community colleges that address immigrant and refugee communities.
My Application Essay:
Margaret Lee, President of Oakton Community College in Chicago, Illinois made the following statement while calling for an increase in international education, "You can’t live in the world today…unless you are a global citizen,” Lee said, adding that while community colleges are meant to serve the community "we do live in a world that is so small now that the 'community' is the people on the planet." Lee made this statement while calling for an increase in international education. I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, and came to such a conclusion through my own experience in a study abroad program.
Before July 25th, 2009, I had been out of the country on one occasion: I was in the fifth grade, I was a Girl Scout and we went to Canada. The experience, though thrilling, did not appease my desire to see the world; if anything, it made it more intense. As an English major (and Virginia Woolf enthusiast), London seemed like an ideal study abroad destination. Therefore, through the University of Washington English Department, I embarked on month-long study abroad in London. My studies in London were enriching, but my desire for further travel was only fueled by the experiences of my trip. My time in London inspired me to think beyond the study of literature and illuminated the path towards a career as an educator.
As I was conversing with my professors about the history of the London program, we began discussing the students that are generally able to participate in study abroad programs. The first point that disturbed me was that a very limited demographic of American students are able to participate in study abroad programs. Of the university population that chooses to take part in these programs, many of them are capable of affording not only the program fees but the living expenses as well. Study abroad programs most commonly cater to third and fourth year university students who are already interested in, or at least exposed to, current global issues. The problem I saw in this was the blatant and unfortunate fact that the majority of the international population is only exposed to that small demographic. It is only those individuals able to afford travel that have contact with diverse cultures and are able to observe global issues firsthand.
My main concern was accentuated by the fact that the world’s image of America is based on the interactions they have with a very limited population of people (in addition to the exposure through the media). My first conclusion was that it is impossible to have a thorough understanding of any culture or group of people if exposure is limited to a select number of sources and experiences. My desire to become involved with Study Abroad in community colleges was spurred on by the uneven demographic of people that experience international travel as well as my belief that international education should be a part of the first two years of higher education. My experience as an international student encouraged a personal growth through the discovery of different cultures. By instigating these programs at community colleges, students will be more conscious of the global atmosphere as they pursue their education. Because of my privilege as a university student, I was able to take part in this incredible experience. My goal in life, rather, my self-appointed duty, is to ensure that more people have access to international education. However, before I am able to educate others, I must have access to a more broad and thorough understanding of the culture and people. Thus, being able to travel to multiple countries, all expenses paid, is an aspiration.
The countries I have chosen to travel are by no means random. When I first returned from London this summer, I began looking into the ethnicities of our community colleges here in Seattle. I recalled my time at Ballard High School with a group of female Somali immigrants who were looking to pursue higher education at Seattle Central Community College. My experience with those women has fueled my desire to travel to the countries in East Africa. Much of the work I did during my time as an after school tutor was to assist with community college applications and scholarship applications, specifically their essays. The essays of personal reflection I had the opportunity to read were intensely moving and left a lasting impression. Most of what they had to write about was their experience as immigrants in America and, in some cases, their writing focused on the reasons why they left their home and the difficult journey from Somalia. Recently, I became involved on the University of Washington campus with a Higher Education mentoring program through the Pipeline project. I was introduced to a twenty-two year old transfer student from Seattle Central Community College and Thai immigrant. He introduced me to his understandings of and being raised in Mien culture and as I read through his identity essay assignment, I knew that it was exactly this sharing of cultures that I wanted so desperately to foster in community colleges. As an educator, I want to empower others to take the initiative and make a step towards cultural tolerance and multiplicity. With this fellowship I have the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of these cultures.
My choice of Eastern Europe is different than my desire to visit the other regions. I have little to no knowledge of this area but have recently come into contact with people from this region and also a number of people who have studied this region for different reasons. Traveling to Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania is spurred by my own lack of knowledge and desire to learn more about the region. I also am very interested in learning more about their own system of education and am intersted in how education and literacy is effected by conflict. Thus the areas of eastern Europe as well as Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia are places of interest.
Realistically, I know that there will be challenges during my journey. My knowledge of the regional languages will be the most pronounced challenge, especially considering the rural areas I have an interest in visiting in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand potentially lacking English resources. To address this issue, I will be studying basic means of communication (greetings and travel necessities) as well as equipping myself with a journal and/or notebook with necessary vocabulary. An additional challenge I will face is regional, violent conflict. I will research where there has been a great deal of violence and work to avoid those areas if possible. I also do not want to completely limit my travels so I will communicate with United States Embassies about which areas I should avoid and where I should be able to travel freely and safely.
I realize that I lack the experience and comprehensive knowledge of the places I want to visit and at this point I do not have a concrete idea of what I will encounter or what will inspire me. However, I am certain of the difference I want to make abroad and with local education. Franklin Roosevelt said in his Inaugural Address of 1941, "A nation, like a person, has a mind - a mind that must be kept informed and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and needs of its neighbors - all the other nations that live within the narrowing circle of the world." I want so badly to teach international education, encourage cultural tolerance and understanding that (if I can be completely honest) if I don’t receive this fellowship, although it may be a long, difficult road of financial burdens and personal tribulations, I know, someday, I will succeed. I will travel, maybe not as extensively as I would like, but I believe that with my determination to expand study abroad programs at community colleges, to reach out and educate those people often passed over for opportunities in international education, I will overcome any difficulties.
ITINERARY: (Super Rough Draft, WILL change)
Thailand -August 25th-September 18th,
Vietnam September 19th-October 12th,
Laos October 13th - November 5th,
Cambodia November 6th - November 30th;
Bosnia-Herzovagina December 1st- December 25th ,
Croatia December 26th- January 19th,
Serbia and Montenegro January 20th - February 14th,
Albania February 15th-March 11th;
Ethiopia March 12th-April 6th,
Eritrea April 7th-May1st,
Somalia May 1st -May 26th
Flight: Seattle-Bankok $900
Thailand-Laos-Cambodia-VietNamby bus $50
Hostel per night = $15 x 92 nights = $1380
Flight: Hanoi-Sarajevo $2,200
Bus/Train in Bosnia-Serbia-Albania-$600
Hostel Albania = $20/night x 25 nights=$500
Hostel Serbia = $15/night x 24 nights= $360
Hostel Bosnia-Herzovagina= $17/night x 24 nights= $408
Hostel Croatia= $20/night x 24 = $480
Flight: Tirana, Albania to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia $1,300
Hostel Ethiopia =$25/night x 25 = $625
Hotel Eritrea (no hostel available?)= $40/night x 20= $800
Hotel Somalia= ? $800
Bus= detour through Djibouti + travel to Eritrea= $400
Flight Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Seattle, WA= $1,600Total=$14,600