The concept that “Travel Broadens the Mind” was brought vividly to life at a recent MKA Alumni Roundtable on Global Perspectives, where four young alumni – three in person and one via the magic of Skype – addressed a fascinated audience of current MKA Upper School students. As part of MKA’s Global Programs initiative that aims to provide global experiences both in the classroom and in the real world, the roundtable was testament to the life-changing opportunities that international travel can provide.
Panelists Miranda Saylor ’09, Elana Stern ’10, Jake Perl ’10 (via Skype from Moscow) and Claudia Pepe ’11 shared their first-hand experiences of life in Honduras, Israel, Nicaragua and Rwanda, Russia and Paraguay. Common themes that emerged were the extraordinary friendships that result from exposing oneself to new cultures, the complex re-evaluation of one’s American heritage – both in an appreciation for its freedoms and comforts, and the recognition that a happy and fulfilled life is not dependent upon those comforts - and the transformative personal experience of true immersion in a different culture.
The hardships and possible dangers of such travel were not ignored. Perl spoke of the inspirational yet frightening effects of witnessing first-hand demonstrations for democracy in the face of organized police opposition; Saylor discussed her frustration at the gender dynamics she experienced in some Latin American countries; and Pepe recalled some of her moments of culture shock, (Oh! There’s a pig in my room!) Yet all four, including Stern, who experienced bomb raids in Israel and civil unrest in Rwanda, felt as safe if not safer aboard than in some of their home and college neighborhoods. And it was Stern who perhaps summed up the mission of MKA’s Global Programs the most succinctly: “When people ask me about my experiences in the third world,” said Stern, “I say, there’s not a third world, there’s only one world – there are just different parts to it!”