The Sound of Music is my favorite movie, ask my kids they will tell you that when I had them as a captive audience I would make them sit and watch the movie with me every year, every time it came on. The song “Climb Every Mountain” from that movie is what comes to mind when I think about this trip to Salvador. The chorus is:
Climb every mountain
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.
I know that the 15 Georgia State University students that have accompanied us on this trip to Salvador, Brazil have climbed a mountain, forded a stream and seen rainbows, but I wonder how it will all affect their dreams. I know that my first study abroad program helped to create new dreams for my life. 10 years ago I did a study abroad trip to Rio De Janiero, Brazil with Dr. Cassandra White and Dr. Colin Crawford. The trip changed my life and my aspirations, because it opened my mind, empowered my courage and fueled a desire to ensure that other people, especially students of color, had the opportunity to travel and study outside of the United States. Colin and Cassie, were amazing directors, they each challenged me to let down my guard, trouble my personal convictions, learn a new language, and examine life and the world through a multi-centric lens. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” and I have tried my best to honor Cassie and Colin by being a study abroad director as transforming to my students as they were to me.
There is a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with leading a study abroad program. Logistics must be managed, safety must be ensured and learning must occur, they all are high priorities. Of the 10 study abroad trips I have planned and co-directed they have all been terrifying, those three competing elements of logistics, safety and learning never get any easier, but seeing students grow academically, intellectually and personally through the experiences they participate in is worth every minute spent planning a program. This trip to Salvador has not been an exception to the rule. I love being a professor and having the opportunity to create experiences that challenge students to stretch their intellect and discover the depths of their untapped potential. This trip has opened many new doors for students, in that they have examined the tenets of population based health through the lens of collective health; they have learned “survival Portuguese” which is no small feat given that they are all staying in homes with native Portuguese speakers; and they tested their physical limitations by climbing Morro Pai Ignacio, and crossing streams to get to a natural waterfall. These students have seen poverty and wealth co-exist side by side and learned about religions and customs that they never heard of before. They have made new friends, both with the people in Salvador and with each other. Their reflection papers and daily journal entries let me know that dreams are being dreamed, new possibilities are being considered and growth is occurring.
I am so very fortunate to be a part of this experience with my students and would not have been able to make this trip happen without my incredible colleague Dr. Christine Stauber. I am learning and I am changing and I am dreaming new dreams because of them.
P.S. I cannot end this post without thanking my family who supports me unconditionally, they all encourage me to dream and to go after those dreams, the past few months have been especially trying for all of us, yet my family members have sacrificed their time to ensure that I could fulfill my responsibilities on this trip. I am coming home soon family. “Brooklyn’s in the HOUSE”