TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands

TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands
From left to right: Scout, Lindsey, Sophie, Feyza, Erin, Caroline, Lena, Susannah, Charlotte, Rebecca, Allie, Hannah, Alizah, Maisie, Anne, Kate, Courtney

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Last Days in La Paz and Beyond

The final week of the semester was spent preparing students for what is often the most challenging aspect of TTS: returning home into an experience of reverse culture shock. Each student discussed her hopes and fears of returning to friends, family, and a way of life that may be seen with new eyes. Would they be interested in the same things as their old friends? Would they be able to relate? Would they be seen as more independent by their parents? Would they be able to have conversations with their parents on the issues they explored? Would they be shocked by the excess of the U.S? Would they be grateful for things previously unappreciated? The many questions were addressed in smaller mentor groups as well as during whole group discussions. Students also brainstormed possible responses to the question "So how was the trip?" Girls considered how to sum up their experience for others in a satisfactory but brief statement, and considered how to engage others in more detailed discussions without falling into the trap of preaching about what they have learned during the semester. They acknowledged that their learning this semester has not made them experts on South American history and culture, but has planted seeds of awareness and curiosity that will motivate them to continue exploring their worlds. Alizah  mentioned how she plans to keep learning about the history and politics of South America through conversations with the many well-traveled customers of the cafe where she works. Courtney has already started conversations with her dad to make connections between his experience in buisiness and her research in Math Concepts. In addition to informal conversations upon retuning home, each girl will give a 30-minute talk to her home high school or other organization about an aspect of her trip. After creating rough outlines, girls met in mentor groups to brainstorm the content and flow of their presentations.

As we finish the semester, several girls are transitioning to college, and many others are beginning to consider potential  post-secondary studies as they look forward to their final years of high school. We conducted a passion workshop consisting of several quick and fun surveys designed to help students to discover what interests them and, equally as important, what motivates them.

Our second-to-last dinner in La Paz was spent laughing to the point of tears recalling memories of fun times throughout the semester, including the awkward and homesick first few days of the trip. Just as TTS22 did for them, the girls of TTS23 wrote letters to the members of TTS24,  intended for the newest TTSers to read within the first few days overseas. The letters provide practical advice as well as general reassurance and encouragement to the next group of Traveling School sisters.

On our final evening in the highest capital city in the world, we began our graduation ceremony with a visioning exercise, where all closed their eyes as teachers led students back through the entire semester, their ups and downs, to appreciate how far each had come. A speech by Paul Hawken was read, calling out to this generation to wake up to the world, to see the earth with a different perspective. Then each student presented a peer with a hand-made envelope, a poem, and words about them. Each girl received a small gift from the teachers, an amulet of the condor, meaning 'bien viaje', or good journey. As the sun set behind the snow-peaked mountains of Bolivia, students stuffed each envelope with their 'warm and fuzzies', final personal notes to each person in the group, which could only be opened and read once alone in the U.S. We walked together to an upscale hotel for an unusually fancy final graduation dinner, tiramisu and chocolate mousse included. Most of the girls stayed up laughing and hanging out until our bus came to whisk us off to the airport at 3 in the morning!

Once at the airport, the teachers handed out their 'letters to self', a letter students wrote to themselves during orientation, bringing the experience full-circle.

We cannot believe how much your daughters have packed into 3 1/2 months in South America. They have honed their traveling and group living skills and learned to go with the flow and seek out learning opportunities that exist all around them. Your daughters are ready to be home to share their experiences with you. We have enjoyed witnessing each student's growth and increased openness to the world around them. We look forward to hearing about their next adventures.

Bien viaje,
Sarah, Heather, Beth, Kate 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this final update and your incredible devotion to our girls over the last 3.5 months!! What an amazing finish to the semester! So happy to have Courtney back home and a let the stories start to flow.