Archives for June 2020

Kevin Knox: Life Discovery and Adventure Guiding in Colorado

Experiential Learning from an Alpine Summer

My summer spent in Colorado has been more educational, nourishing, and vision casting than I ever anticipated. I began this journey shortly after completing one of the toughest seasons of my life. Approaching the tail end of my Spring 2019 semester, I found myself over-extended, anxious, and completely burnt out on both school and life in general. Before things got out of hand later in the semester, I made the decision to set aside this summer to chase my childhood dream of adventure guiding in the mid-western United States. This decision was tough because it required me to sacrifice potential career building opportunities, time with family/friends, financial stability, and comfort. I put all of this on the altar in exchange for an opportunity to grow and center myself. Part of this procedure was dedicated to finding out whether or not I would pursue a postgraduate degree in law. Over the prior 6 months to my arrival in Colorado, much of my time was honed in on studying for the LSAT and navigating the impending application/admissions process. Afraid of living a vain life-chasing a dream that wasn’t my own, I took this soul searching opportunity seriously. I am grateful that I did.
Looking back on my proposal, I can say with confidence that I have completed each and every goal I sought to complete. This summer allowed me to step outside of my life in Central Arkansas and explore who I am, what I want to do, and where I want to be.  I found out that I do not want to continue a pursuit in law school. Having this realization has lifted a large burden from me and has given me hope again. In addition, I have made connections in life and business that may prove to be very beneficial in my next season of life. This journey as a whole, combined with the structure of an experiential course, has allowed me to process these thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned through daily journaling and a final project tailor made to achieve my individual goals. As detailed through my final project, this summer I have learned the invaluable lessons of
1. Chasing the dream, not the dollar.
2. The importance of deep relationships.
3. The value of shaking hands and creating a business network.
4. Addressing my weakness whilst striving for personal growth.
5. Building friendships through hardship.
6. Prioritization.
7. The nature of humanity- Adults are simply grown kids.
8. Etc.
Through evaluation, I honestly don’t think that I would attempt to change anything regarding my goals, project, or pursuit of this experience. I believe that I needed the space and time to center myself this summer. I needed to experience something new and pursue my own dream and desires. By carving out this space and time I believe I was able to authentically learn real life lessons that I only could have by living my own adventure. I am very grateful for the opportunity to utilize this summer to grow while also fulfilling the requirements for an Honors course. The structure of the course forced me to process my daily experiences and display the lessons that I have gleaned. Though tough to stick to at times, this structure was helpful in facilitating growth. Many of these lessons are now in a written form that are easy to share with others in my life. There is no doubt that this season has been one for the books and one that I will cherish the rest of my life. Thanks again for this opportunity Schedler Honors College!

Rachel Bearden: UCA in Austria

No Kangaroos In Austria

UCA in Austria is an impactful opportunity wrapped in a faculty-led study abroad experience during the summer. Students from the Health Science majors tend to participate; however, as an explorative psychology major, I decided that getting involved in the physical health field and hearing about addiction studies from Dr. Lisa Ray would be a worthy addition to my summer. Rather than formal classes held daily in the Austro-American Institute for Education (a haven for free internet, tap water, and travel information for students), we held informal, on-the-go classes in a variety of settings around the city. One of these classes was a guided, historical tour led by an old friend of our faculty leader, Dr. Demers. However, there were also impromptu classes developed from unintentional situations in which we get lost in the city at night and tried to communicate with mainly German speakers to locate our house frau. Out of the five students who embarked on this Austrian journey, none of us spoke enough German to effectively communicate.

Five students for a faculty-led program doesn’t sound like enough to keep the trip going, and it wasn’t enough if the program had been inflexible. But we learned to adapt by eliminating the larger, more expensive trips and seeing the world through a local’s eyes rather than a tourist’s. And this was the best way to learn. Despite language barriers, I made several kids smile, whether through throwing them in the backyard pool, handing them a piece of paper and pen to overcome boredom on public transportation, or pretending to douse myself in perfume as they watched their Mutter shop. In Vienna (Austria), Zagreb (Croatia), and Ostrava (Czech), I experienced the endorphin boost of helping struggling elders on and off public transportation. I received a personal tour of the city of Ostrava by Matthew, a student who will be attending UCA in the Spring of 2020. Two young men from Michigan recognized me from my ROTC bag on different days. This serendipitous meeting resulted in several days in which Dr. Demers and I excitedly showed off favorite spots around Vienna to the two Michiganians.

All these connections I formed, whether permanently or just for that one, delicate moment, matter. Each city contained unique moments. A tour through the salt mine in Hallstatt was the coolest tour I’ve been on in my life, for reasons which I shan’t spoil in a blogpost. Riding a bike around Salzburg’s city and greenery refreshed my soul. In the city of Dorfgastein, a ride up a ski lift into the tip of earth’s atmosphere was not as cold to my bare and unprepared legs I had imagined; though sledding down a short incline on my cheap raincoat was a chilly decision. Ordering an abundance of meals from my favorite restaurant in Ostrava was likely not a wise choice; however, the justification was that it was from a healthy superfood joint. I’ll never forget getting a basket full of Croatian peaches for what equals 1 U.S. dollar and distributing more than half to those who were homeless and begging.

The program itself consisted of a diverse curriculum throughout three weeks. This included learning how to navigate Vienna’s transportation, tours of the city and museums, performing community service, and admiring castles. Touring the United Nations headquarters in Vienna was informative and inspirational. A lady named Nina, who was homeless, directed us around the city and shared the hope of the eradication of homelessness in Austria. Touring Auschwitz and Birkenau extermination/concentration camps and taking day trips to nearby cities were also vastly educational. Each of these places and events came with a unique story I will forever love to share with those wide-eyed in the wonder of the traveling life.

The trip itself inspired me to travel even more. It gave me the confidence to explore countries where English is not so prevalent, the strength to work out issues with plans (#faultytransportation) or people, and the hope in the humanity around us. Seeing hope in humanity would seem rather implausible considering I witnessed an abundance of Holocaust history, but the past doesn’t define us; it is how we react to it that shapes our future. Living in Vienna has taught me that a future abroad through a career or personal connections is one where I need to be.

Tiffany Aguilar: Semester Abroad in Yokohama, Japan

To say that I am satisfied after my study abroad experience is an understatement―I am renewed, refreshed, and revitalized. I did not realize how successful I could feel after studying abroad. This entire journey has taught me so much more than I could have asked for. I learned from a multitude of groups―American college students, Japanese college students, the Japanese elderly, retail workers, and Japanese parents. And not only did I find myself feeling connected to Japan, but I found a beautiful sense of a community. It’s almost unbelievable that I have only spent three months here. The connections I’ve made feel so much more real than that.

Ultimately, I feel that I met the expectations I set for myself on this trip. I was determined to establish a stable sense of community. Because I was going to be living in a dorm, I envisioned a group of us to form a support system as we lived abroad. That happened almost instantaneously, which resulted in a group of American college students opening and sharing their hearts with one another more than ever before. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, knowing that there was so much to learn from each other. Although it was a bit difficult for us to truly understand where each of our perspectives were coming from, it was a huge learning moment for all of us.

What ended up being slightly unrealistic was the idea that Japanese people could be invited into this community. It was almost a two-sided world here; I was either surrounded by Americans or Japanese people. It was more difficult than I expected to merge the two worlds, as Japanese people can be incredibly shy to speak English. In general, Japanese people can be quite passive and would much prefer to blend in with the crowd. It was rare to meet a Japanese person who was willing to be “loud with Americans” or go out at night with us. There were a few Japanese people who didn’t care about what others thought of them, so they were happy to join us. But for the most part, the two were quite divided.

As a result, I remained intentional with my Japanese friends and made sure to tell them that they were welcome at any outing we went on. I assured them that they had much more than they realized to offer. Had I known about their timidity and fear,  I would have been more focused on making a Japanese community before an American one. Throughout the semester, it almost felt like the international students were in their own bubble. This bubble only strengthened as we spent more time with each other. On the other hand, my connection with Japanese people was more during school settings.

Because I was determined to establish a growing sense of community, the biggest obstacle was reassuring outsiders that they are welcome into the group. I did not want this to just be a social club―this was going to be a family. Some people were a bit intimidated by the commitment, even some American students. And to Japanese people, it was unheard of. It was strange to think that a growing group of friends that just met could go on trips, eat meals, and spend their days together. What I was willing to change about my project is being a lot bolder than I thought I would be. I was bold about my eagerness to see a family form among strangers. I spoke passionately about the importance of being in community.

Looking back, I don’t think my September-self would believe my December-self. This is my first time ever being so committed to see a group of strangers get so close. My heart expanded for the concept of human kindness and empathy. Throughout this semester, I found myself in a group of people I would have never thought I could be in. I was exposed to so many new perspectives, stories, and mindsets. I feel as though I’ve experienced an entirely new world with a Japanese flair. And to think I had the chance to do this all in the country I’ve always dreamed of living in―I can’t wait to see what other goals I’m able to achieve in the future.