Global Journeys empowers Avenues students through innovative, cross-cultural experiences to develop the essential skills and capacities needed to understand and address global challenges.
Global Journeys allows students to experience the world from a new perspective, immerse themselves in another culture, and further their language skills through authentic international community engagement. Programs are designed to be growth experiences, asking students to step outside of their comfort zones. They build understanding, empathy and appreciation for the diversity of human experiences on our planet.
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We started the day at 6:45 am when we got on a bus to Valencia. Some of us played cards or read while some of us slept. At 9:30, we stopped at a road stop called Área 175 to have breakfast. Then we drove on to Valencia. In Valencia, it was overcast and humid. We put our bags into the River Hostel and went to explore Las Fallas.
All around the city, there were some big sculptures and some smaller sculptures made of cardboard and paper. We saw the winning falla that was being burned. It was a giant sculpture of a man giving a woman a flower, surrounded by smaller figures. While were were seeing the fallas, many people were setting off firecrackers, which were either soft or extremely loud. Then we returned to the hostel for some rest after seeing some more interesting fallas.
After about an hour, we had dinner and went to see La Cremà, when the fallas are burned. First we saw a mini-sculpture being burned. The crowd was constantly cheering as floats were being burned. Then we went to get some food and see more floats being burned, hearing loud firecrackers going off every other second. Then we went to see a falla of a lion being burned. Right before, everyone was counting down. When it was time, the lights went out and fireworks shot out from the ground. Then, after an amazing display, they set fire to the lion. It burned slowly, but the large cloud of ash and ember was so spectacular. They played several national anthems and it was disappointing to see it end.
This morning, we woke up and ate breakfast with our host families, then met at the school around 7:30a. We went to have “morning exercises” on the outdoor field with the Yucai high school students… except there were no exercises! Instead, a few students raised the Chinese flag, announcements were made, and certificates were handed out. We then walked back to the International Wing to have Chinese class. For the whole morning, we learned and reviewed lessons on school schedules and daily routines. Of course, we had many breaks to play ping-pong and relax. At 11:30, class was over and we headed to the bus for the trip to the Dandelion School.
The Dandelion School is a non-profit organization (and school, obviously!) for the children of migrant workers. In China, there is a system meant to limit the number of people who move from rural areas to urban areas. When you are born, you get a something similar to a social security card that links you to where you were born. Without a card that links them to Beijing, many migrants and their children lack the social benefits that are granted to native Beijing residents, such as access to Beijing schools. The Dandelion school is meant to address this problem for migrant children. The school was created to provide an opportunity for migrant children to receive a high quality education and provide emotional support to children who are often separated from their hardworking parents.
When we got to the school, we ate lunch in the canteen and took a tour of the school. The walls of the school buildings are tiled or painted with designs originally imagined and created by Dandelion students and then carried out by professional artists. It makes the school, which used to be a light switch factory, look so beautiful and cheery. After the tour, we played pingpong and basketball with some of the students. When class started, we went into an English class and each Avenues students worked with a small group of Dandelion school students. In our groups, the Dandelion students came up with “rules” or expectations for their school, community, and home and then we helped them translate the rules into English. Each group then presented with the Avenues student saying the rule in Chinese and the Dandelion students saying them in English. When class was over, we went back outside to play badminton, pingpong, basketball, and jump rope. After exchanging cards with the Dandelion students, we took a quick trip to the school’s gift store, which included beautiful handmade jewelry, stationary, scarves, and notebooks that were inspired by the artwork of the Dandelion students. We then headed back the Yucai school to go home with our homestay siblings. Many of us agreed that this was one of the most fun days so far!
Rather than having language class in the morning, we took the same speaking assessment that we did prior to the program. I don’t know if I can speak for my classmates, but I noticed that my speaking has improved tremendously. The Chinese classes that we have been taking these past couple of weeks have benefited me a lot, and this I know is something that my classmates could surely agree with.
After completing our tests, we headed to the Avenues Beijing office. There, we made the final touches of our Independent Study Projects with the amazing view of the Olympic Forest Park as our backdrop. At 2pm, we did our highly anticipated presentations. It was amazing to see all of the great work that my classmates produced, as well as our teachers and homestay family’s reactions. I was truly astounded by some of the work that was done, and it was great to hear about the research as well as the final product of each classmate’s work.
After taking a much needed break in our hotel rooms, we all had to say goodbye for our homestay families. Living with a Chinese family for even this short period of time has made me much more aware of the cultural differences between America and China. Despite the differences that could sometimes cause misunderstandings, both my homestay family and I learned many things from one another. For example, I was able to expand my palette a bit and try some new foods— leaving, I now know that roasted duck is one of my favorite meats. With experiences such as these, I know that I will become much more of a global citizen— one who is able to be empathetic and understanding with those of another culture.
As our trip comes to a slow close, I just want to acknowledge that my language skills and cultural awareness has grown. I have been told that immersion is the best way to learn about others, and after having this experience, I can vouch for that statement’s accuracy.
Today was magical in not just one, but two ways. After the last breakfast in our quaint hotel, we brought our extremely heavy bags into the bus that would bring us to Mindo, the small town that we would be staying for our home-stays. Firstly, though, we had a small pit stop at the equator. This exceeded all of our expectations. Most of us thought that the equator was simply a line that divided the northern hemisphere with the southern hemisphere, but that couldn’t be more wrong. Our guía brought us to the equator, and poured a bucket of water into a small bin that held a few leaves. When she unplugged the bottom of the bin, which allowed the water to flow out, the water did the strangest thing! Because the bin was on the equator, the water did not spin in any way; it simply dumped out. The leaves moved back and forth; without spiraling downwards. The little tornado that you usually see when emptying something like that was missing, also! She then plugged up the bin, filled it with water and leaves, and brought it away from the equator. When she unplugged the bin this time, everything worked perfectly: the water spiraled downwards with the leaves following suit, and the small tornado was also present.
However, this wasn’t the only magic show she showed us. She got an egg, and brought us to a pedestal with a small nail buried into it. She then showed us how she could, because she was on the equator, balance an egg on the small nail! We all tried to do this, but only Kavin and Molly were successful on balancing the egg. Lastly, she brought me off of the equator, and told me to raise my arms and clasp them together. Once I had done that, she pushed down on my hands, which, while eventually going downward, still provided some resistance. When she brought me to the equator, however, my arms became 100% putty! She could push down on them very easily, and they provided no resistance whatsoever. We were all baffled about how standing on the equator lead to so many changes; so much so that not even the blistering hot sun could stop our enormous curiosity!
After eating lunch near the equator, we got back into the bus, and started to go down to Mindo. As we got closer to our home-stays, we descended into a huge cloud that surrounded our entire bus. You could only see for about 50 feet until everything was white! However, once we emerged from the clouds we saw Mindo surrounding us; a small, cute town made of mostly wood. Once we had a small tour of the town, we all went to a small gathering place where all of our families were situated. It was amazing how everyone knew each other. Of course, if you live in a town of around 2000 people you’re bound to know mostly everyone after a while, but it was still hard to believe! For example, Kavin’s family is directly related to my family, and so on. Everyone’s families were open about talking, and everyone seemed not only happy to talk with you, but understanding that we may not speak the best spanish, and that they are here to help.
Cuando yo estaba en la casa de mi familia, en el principio yo tenía mucho miedo. Había muchas personas que hablan un otro idioma de mío, yo no puedo hacer eso, yo pensaba. Pero, cuando yo empecé a hablar con mi familia, yo fui a entender que ellos son muy amables! Todos entienden que yo no hablo español perfecto, y me ayudan con todo. Yo simplemente pregunto a unos de mi familia, y yo obtengo una respuesta que yo puedo entender. ¿Puedo ducharme en la mañana? Por supuesto! Eso es unos de las conversaciones que yo tuve con me familia, y, también, que yo voy a tener en el futuro. Yo tenía un poco de miedo en el principio, pero dos horas después yo sé que ellos son aquí para mi. Y eso es mágico.