learning Archives - St. Stephen's University

As I Am

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

Before I even left for this wondrous and harrowing adventure, I was struggling with the idea that my spirituality wasn’t up to snuff. The struggle became more prominent after a mere two weeks. My devout classmates made me question my interactions with God. Was I only paying the bare minimum dues or was I not even close?

Through prayer, I ask for strength, then I try to remember to show gratitude. That’s the extent of our relationship. Sharing my spirituality is hard, so anything besides silent prayer makes me feel more awkward than usual. This will be the first time I publicly talk about my faith and quite possibly the last (depending on the response I get).

In Florence, I came face to face with Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene. She was wretched – nothing but skin, bones, and scraggly hair. She was pleading through her brokenness, pleading for someone to give her a chance. She was beautiful.

Penitent Magdalene


She helped me realize that I should not be ashamed to approach God as I am. My spirituality doesn’t look like my peers’, but why should that mean it isn’t valid? Mary Magdalene was readily accepted by God despite her sinful past. I had spent so much time worried that I would be barred from heaven for a whole lot less.

My spirituality is not less because it is private. I can praise God behind closed doors and not feel guilty because others sing for the world to hear. I’m not a bad Christian because I don’t have the Bible memorized. These are things I’m trying to believe. If Mary Magdalene found her own way to live faithfully, then I can too.

System Overload

By | 2014, Europe | No Comments

The Europe trip is constant stimulation. Your brain feels like it is working on overload for two months trying to take in all the information, beauty, and experiences that are occurring daily. At the end of it all, you’re not sure what just happened to you. Being slightly introverted, I feel as if I need a good solid month of silence in order to process everything. Yet, this isn’t the case; life goes on. New responsibilities emerge, assignments need to get done, and life plans have to get figured out.

Yet these memories will remain in the back of my mind for years to come. And they will rear their heads from time to time, I expect. The adventure of living in tents and the daily grind of appreciating art, peering inside churches, and walking unknown streets will soon appreciate with time. Like a good wine, I believe these memories will produce the best results once they have sat in the back my mind for a while. Our experiences shape who we will become, the information that all of us on the trip just gulped up in the short amount of time will therefore form more well-rounded individuals.

Europe has been for generations, a place travelled by many as a rite of passage. I think the same is true of us. We’ve seen and experienced some incredible things, and began to attempt to see the world through a variety of different lenses. Though the journey has had many challenges, I am thankful for the trek, and I know the full results have not yet even come to fruition!

Cultural Empathy as a Passive Learning Experience

By | 2012, Asia | No Comments

Something that has concerned me since the beginning of the semester until now is the difference between active and passive learning. When we identify those things that we have learned we often think of the actively sought out ones, such as learning a language or mathematics. I think it is hard to identify those things that we learn passively ourselves, but these are just the things that others are keen to notice. These would be comments like ‘you have gotten so much better at speaking’ or ‘your powers of leadership have grown immensely.’ The reason for this is that these attributes are borne out of experience and not actively attained.

In the spirit of our travel experience I think I may have found a flaw in the program. Before and during this trip, as well as others, we have prided ourselves at SSU in being intentionally observant travelers. This is to say that we try to seek out the value in all experience and to broaden our worldview. However, there is a point at which I think this hyper-intentionality is counter-productive. We have spent so much time talking about the values and perspectives of Eastern cultures that I think many of us came ‘knowing what to expect.’ Although this is a false expectation, we have nonetheless given ourselves into it with the best intentions.

I have had an interesting opportunity to spend time with two other travel-study groups from American universities. What I have noticed is that their programs do not rely heavily on any sort of cultural empathy or enlightenment in this regard. That is not their main goal. At any rate, as this has not been their main goal their passive learning in this field has been tremendous. The amount of cultural sensitivity and the capacity to try new things in my new friend Jeff (from St Olaf’s University in Minnesota) has far exceeded my own. I have been so hard-pressed to seek this out that it has made me lose the energy for it.

I think that if we value empathy all we need to do is put ourselves in environments that we wish to understand, and we can trust that just by being there our values will rise to the surface. If we concern ourselves constantly with understanding the world around us we may just be losing what we might have gained passively.


It’s simply…unbelievable

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Tomorrow afternoon I am leaving for Europe. Tomorrow afternoon one of my dreams is coming true. That is simply…unbelievable. Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve been fascinated with Europe. I have always understood that my ethnic roots are planted in European soil. As I scramble to tie up loose ends before I leave, I am incredibly excited for the trip.

On an academic trip, there are many extra tasks that do belong in typical European vacations. I must read books, write papers, keep an academic journal, give presentations and hear lectures from staff and faculty. It would be easy to despise all of the hard work that I have already done and the hard work that I am about to do, but I do not despise either of those things. Traveling SSU-style demands something unusual of a traveler. In an academic community like this one, that is trying to expand its worldview in a such a way as to be true world citizens, is a unique experience and it asks of its travelers—its pilgrims—to be more than tourists.

As I prepare to leave, I am challenging myself to remember the things that I have learned through the pre-travel study period. I hope to approach this trip with an open heart and mind, without conclusions drawn about the European people or historical events. Rather, I hope that my classroom education can be enhanced and nuanced by my experience abroad. I must be open to letting my travel experiences change me, and change I must.