Since our last update, our class has revisited our strategies for working with blogs as journalistic pieces. Learning from their experience writing the update for the Santa Cruz Trek, the girls worked together to create a new format for their Machu Picchu blog. Instead of focusing on the experience from a sequential perspective, they instead related the story of the journey via thematic units. They made observations and conducted interviews relating to their topic, and wrote summaries of particular motifs of the trip [check them out on the activities blog!]. In addition, the students have been experimenting with the manipulation of point of view in writing. Recently, TJ students were challenged by working with deadlines set by a fictional editor. In one rush to write, the girls were asked to present their editor with an advice or humor article pertaining to TTS. The following excerpts represent some of the work they produced within a limited timeframe:
“I live out of an enormous blue backpack, I have Spanish class in the streets of Cusco, and I travel with my classmates and teachers. After three months of being a TTS girl, my mind overflows with knowledge that I wish I had from the start. If you have an interest in becoming a future TTS girl, read on for some honest advice.
Live in the moment. Hours, days, and weeks whiz by without a second glace at TTS. When doing your assignment on top of a yacht in the Galapagos Islands becomes your reality, it gets easy to become caught up with little things like homework and arguments. It's important to put down your notebook and look out at the ocean in front of you.
Appreciate the people who make you smile... Be the source of your own happiness. You can never depend on anyone else to make you happy. As a shaman advised me and several of my classmates, its so crucial that you remain positive and happy without a dependency on your teachers, classmates, or friends back home. It is your semester and you make it as you so wish.” [Courtney]
“Although one may think that life at TTS is just moving from place to place with sixteen other girls while taking some classes on the side, there are endless layers to these 3.5 months, it's difficult to even begin expressing what living at TTS is like. It's the highest highs and the lowest lows, flexibility and timeliness, mind scrambles and writer's block, expansion of you world view and consciousness of global issues. TTS is an incredibly dense period of non-stop inspiration, adventure, and excitement. One must be prepared for many moments of “is this real life?!” Life at TTS is an experience fulls of moments and lessons to be remembered forever.” [Feyza]
“After months of packing and repacking, studying, writing, moving, thinking and existing in the slight hubbub and disarray that is South America, TTS girls have left behind the more ignorant and unsuspecting versions of themselves and emerged well acquainted with life on the go... Tasks that at home may be mundane and repetitive should take on a new vitality, as going to the grocery store in Peru might entail bargaining and navigating language barriers...TTS is a whirlwind of every aspect of life, and each day holds something new for you... it is important that you take each experience for what it is and include it into who you are. Only by doing this will the packing and repacking, studying, writing, moving, thinking, and existing truly pay off, and leave you with an experience that has helped to shape who you want to be.” [Scout]
“Here's my one piece of advice: relinquish control and expectation. The experiences we have here defy preparation; they are inadequately depicted on Google Images and ambiguously foreshadowed by our teachers... Whether you expect too little or too much, you will be proven wrong. The most memorable experiences we have here defy the month-by-month delineations of the trip with which we are provided – they root from interactions with the people, language triumphs, class discussions, and moments of group unity. Aside from expectation, it's easy to get sucked up into a cycle of control, only to focus on what choices you're not making. For three-and-a-half months, somebody else will tell you what your day looks like, where and what you're eating, and the exact moment that you're waking up. Accept this, however hard it may be, with the understanding that you will come to appreciate being held to the same standards as those around you, that it unifies the group rather than separates it. To compensate, seize the opportunities you do have to make decisions; decide when you're going to use your Spanish rather than let someone else step in for you, decide when you're going to turn in a piece of work you're proud of, decide what these three-and-a-half months are going to be to you. Finally, as our shaman friend Puma periodically reminds us, “listen to yourself first, and last.” Although it may not feel like it when your roomate's clothes are mixed in with yours and there never seems to be a spot to shower, this is your semester – it will be what you make it.” [Alizah]
“...I have learned more about myself and the rest of the world than I have in my entire life. I learned to take each moment as a precious gift, I learned to be okay with missing home because it will be there for me when I return, I learned that group living is hard, but I have been taught so much by my peers. I learned that when an opportunity presents itself, take it, as there may never be the same chance again. I learned to go into each experience with an open mind in order to take in as much as possible. I learned that the times I was most uncomfortable were the times I grew the most. I learned and learned and learned; as I have thought many times before, “soon, I will be home, back at traditional school, and this will all be a distant memory.” However, the knowledge I have gained will last me a lifetime.” [Allie]
“I have learned to laugh at TTS. Living for twelve consecutive weeks with sixteen other girls as proven comforting, fun, and difficult. Never in my life have I shared such close proximity with so many other girls, nor embarked on any adventures half as memorable. In forced close company, I have developed sixteen of the strongest relationships in my sixteen years, but only through a spectrum of experiences.
As I have much in common with each students at TTS, forging bonds here has been simple and rewarding. I have come to appreciate and understand different perspectives and backgrounds while still having united interests and passions. However, constantly being in each others' presence is a challenge. ..Taking myself or my surroundings too seriously, a habit of mine when my mental well-being is compromised, only agitates my feelings. Although it requires a conscious decision, choosing to make light of any situation brightens my mood and does not allows me to dwell on whatever annoyed me... Spending months with my closest friends can be hard but through experiences in a range of emotions, I am now able to focus on the unforgettable moments and treat the annoying ones as another chance to laugh.” [Charlotte]
“As the hours transitioned into days, the days into weeks, and weeks into months, I gradually became accustomed to TTS. At first...every day, although similar in structure, seemed strange and new. Walking to a rose plantation, sipping on blackberry juice, or interacting with fellow students, I became aware of my surroundings at all times. My heightened level of awareness slowly decreased, in turn, as I became more comfortable with day to day routines. Traveling on a night bus in Peru or spotting llamas walking through cobblestone streets were occurrences in my shifted reality...Although I see a more conscious person emerging within myself throughout the spring season, I urge fellow and future students to not grow complacent. Even though the extraordinary can seem at times ordinary, focus on remaining aware during times of astonishment.” [Rebecca]
As the semester comes to an end, the students are working diligently to prepare drafts of their final article, which they will submit to three newspapers or magazines for publication. Although the idea of sharing their work with such a vast audience is daunting, the girls have embraced the process: they have compiled “idea files” with brainstorms of possible topics, and they have submitted abstracts with preliminary titles. It's exciting as a teacher to see the creativity they are embracing regarding their experiences throughout the semester, as well as the connections they are making between TJ and other classes. Very soon, they will be handing in plans for marketing their work, a draft of their article, and a first try of a query letter which will accompany their article. In the last few weeks, they will work through the drafting process of this article with their peers, as well as prepare mock-ups of their final photography portfolio. I can't wait to read and see the girls' final projects, and to reconnect with them and our memories after the semester is over.