Hardly two months has past and SSU is back on the road. This time, to South East Asia. On Thanksgiving Monday the staff, faculty, and half the student body said goodbye to our second and third-year classes. As part of their BA program they spend 8 weeks abroad in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand–with a brief pit stop in Hong Kong.
The weeks leading up to the trip are possibly the most energy-filled times at Park Hall. Students spend four weeks on campus before they leave taking intensive classes in World Religions, Cultural Anthropology, and the history of South East Asia, all the while scrambling to get their assignments, readings, and socializing in before they leave. Those who are staying behind and participating in the rigors of traditional university life share in the energy of their friends’ upcoming experience. The fourth-year class, having “been-there-done-that,” recalls their adventures with home-stay families, lectures in North Western or Chaing Mai University, their favorite foods, and their most memorable cultural encounters. They all wish they were going again. Meanwhile the first-year class waits in anticipation for their turn with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. They observe the stress of late-night paper writing, last minute packing and intense emotions that accompany the pre-trip intensives like a curious visitor at the city zoo.
As a staff member it is rewarding to watch this cycle. Students prepare, leave and then return a more confident version of themselves. They are compassionate towards one another; they are passionate about social justice; they are informed and engaged on a global scale; and most of all they are intelligent, thoughtful, active citizens of our school, our town and our country. Come graduation we (the staff & faculty) will all say at one point or another, “this is why we do it.”
So this past Monday we all bid our dear friends goodbye as they boarded an SMT bus outside of Park Hall. Some shed tears while saying goodbye to good friends, boyfriends or parents, but those of us who have experienced The Cycle before waived with great excitement at the uneasy faces peering out the bus windows. We know how it all turns out. Shelley Kadatz, our travel coordinator, looked around at the bus and all the people who had come to see them off, and hi-fived me. She, and all the staff, have been working tirelessly over the past few weeks to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch. A huge cheer left her mouth as the bus pulled out of the parking lot, down Main Street and on to the Saint John airport. With a huge smile, she looked at me and said, “this is why we do it.”
Stay tuned for more updates from our South East Asia travelers…