Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A little background...

As we embark on our UNIV 3954 study abroad course to the Dominican Republic, I believe there are a few things those who are following our journey should know. First and foremost, many key leaders across the landscape of this university have made this course possible. To them we owe a great deal of gratitude. Secondly, Virginia Tech has some amazing students – ten of which are traveling with us and who will write a blog entry each day while abroad. The Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, Deportes Para La Vida and the Peace Corps are doing remarkable work in Punta Cana and the surrounding communities - we hope to come along side them and learn from their efforts. Finally, it is our hope that the university's motto of Ut Prosim will come to life for us during this course as we merge academic theory behind motivation with thoughtful service to others. That being said, please allow me to share some brief thoughts behind the vision of this course: 

Os Guinness, the great-great-grandson of Authur Guiness, once said that "contrast is the mother of clarity." Our travels to the Dominican Republic will no doubt provide a contrast on multiple planes, I believe. We will see a contrast of our past, a contrast of our present experience, which may lead to a contrast of our future plans. 

Our past: We will undoubtedly interact with children of another nation and another language that will at times, seem no different than the American children we know. After all, running, jumping, throwing, and kicking are all actions that bind children together on any playground. However, we will notice that despite some youthful similarities to our past, our childhood experience may have been very different. Our clothing, our nutrition, our education and our family and support structure may offer us sharp contrasts. 

Our present: Again, we will see a community going about their daily lives, which will lead to a contrast of our daily American lives. What will be similar about our days? Eating, sleeping, school, working... Indeed, there will be similarities. But there will be great differences as well. What of their present working conditions and career options?  How does it compare with ours?  Are they equipped with education and opportunity or not? While it is true that iPods and smartphones don't make for a better life, contrasts of present experiences will expose whether or not opportunity has been taken for granted. 

Our future: Here's where Os Guiness' quote comes to life – will this contrast lead to any clarity for our futures? We know that we have been provided opportunity by our university and nation, and our hope is that the contrasts we observe will lead to greater clarity for a future embedded with service to others with an appreciation for their stories. 

I hope you enjoy the blog entries of the students daily experiences. They are smart, talented and caring individuals – I have no doubt you'll agree once you read their thoughts. 

Danny White

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