June 29th, 2010
By Julien C. Mirivel, PhD
Group picture: Nyvelyn Shaw, Katy Rowden,
Amanda Wells, Julien Mirivel, Alex Long, Tracy Guilbeau,
Ashley Byrd, Andrew Pyle, Jill Gray, and Nathan Jeffers.
The Indian thinker Jiddu Krishanmurti once wrote: “Our thinking is the outcome of our own very limited experience.” One way to strengthen a person’s thinking, and to cultivate in them a new lens through which to appreciate their world, is to create new experiences for them. In May, with the support of the Office of International Services, I did just that for 10 UALR students by bringing them into my home culture; we spent a full week in
Most of my teaching has taken place in the classroom; with a marker, a chalkboard, and a smile. Even though I interact frequently with students, I still have very limited contact with them on a daily basis. I assume this is true of most faculty members on this campus. On Friday May 14th, I found myself at the
During the trip, we dived into the city. Upon arrival, we immediately discovered the Latin Quarter, where the historic
I was surprised that they could not understand the view: people were relaxing, spending time with family members, reading the newspaper, and living in the moment. Yes, very French indeed! We sat down together, looking a little awkward, eager to move on to our next view. This moment thus captures the important pedagogical difference between understanding and realizing. As Millman (2000) put it, “Understanding is the one-dimensional comprehension of the intellect […] Realization is three-dimensional — a simultaneous comprehension of head, heart, and instinct. It comes only from direct experience” (p. 15).
In a week, we experienced Notre Dame, La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, le Chateaux de Versailles, Le Louvre, as well as the
During the week, students learned more about how deeply culture influences our ways of thinking, talking, and behaving. They also discovered much about themselves. Some experienced homesickness, others viewed their own culture in a new lens. As one student put it at one breakfast meeting: “I’m not shocked about French culture; it’s my culture that shocks me.” They also built memorable friendships, created memories for a lifetime, and often laughed together late into the night. In short, when learning builds on living real experiences, students can simply grow as persons.
Graduate Student, M.A. Applied Communication Studies
The opportunity to spend a week in
The most memorable moments of the experience occurred during our meals together. We took time to talk with one another, to enjoy delicious food that was often new and unusual, and to appreciate the value of sitting, listening, and understanding. The city of
Undergraduate Student, Department of Speech Communication
“Learning to live is learning to let go.” - Sogyal Rinpoche
When you travel abroad, you pack along with a toothbrush, many assumptions and expectations about the places that you will visit and the people you will meet. I learned on my trip to
I was walking down the dusty street, my feet tired and ankles swollen, from the recent long plane ride, when I first smelled the sweetness of the baskets of strawberries. They were all lined up in a tidy display outside a small grocery. I chose my basket and went into the tiny store with its narrow aisles and looked for somewhere to pay for my delectable discovery. I spotted only one man crouched down, organizing shelves, wearing an apron. He saw me and smiled. I returned the smile and said “bonjour” and he said, “No-No”. I was confused. He then took the time to tell me, with his very broken English, why “bonjour” was wrong and how “bonsoir” was the right greeting. We went back and forth, trying to communicate and laughing as he made me repeat “bonsoir” until I had it right. As I left the store with my juicy, sweet strawberries, I realized I had made a friend. A friend for that moment only, and I learned to let go of the assumptions I had arrived with.