Everyone asks: How was Jamaica?! And I haven’t known how to respond. Why? Because I really couldn’t find a way to process what I had experienced. I could think about it in terms of the academics, what I learned about the culture, overcoming challenges, and so on and so on. But still, I felt like I haven’t fully processed it all. Finally, after reviewing the goals I had set for myself prior to the trip, I am able to feel a sense of connectedness with the trip. Here is what I learned:
Outcome on Goal 1: Coming back to America, I feel like I did not experience a foreign culture while in Jamaica. After really thinking about it though, I realize that I did experience a foreign culture in regards to the work I want to do in the future, which I could argue is equally as important as my personal experience with the culture. I learned about hardships and injustices facing Montego Bay, Jamaica, such as violence and economic downturn. In order to understand global non-profit work, I definitely need to live with more cultures. I was able to learn about these issues through my time in the schools- through listening to the children stories and hearing the teacher’s lessons. Upon leaving, I gave my contact information to all of the grade 6A boys I was teaching. Since them, I have learned even more about their lives, culture, and struggles. I have talked to parents on the phone and had them thank me for my wonderful work with the boys. I realized that although my work was a limited amount of hours, I left a huge impact on the students. I motivated them, encouraged them, and challenged them to succeed. That, I came to find, is exactly what I want as my mission in non-profit work- I want to utilize my skills and talents to motivate others. I was having a hard time thinking about a topic/area of non-profit work I would like to get into. Now I see, however, that no matter what field I choose to work in, I will always be fulfilling my calling with sharing what I do best, what I showed to my students.
Outcome of Goal 2: I also learning upon coming back to America, that we really are in a rush all of the time. People don’t make time for people, usually just more activities and work. Although I did not learn, or more specifically see examples of, many big specifics of the Jamaican culture, I did learn a few interesting things about America. Here is one interesting finding: All of the meat I ate in Jamaica had bones in it. Wow. It made me realize 1) how privileged I am to be able to purchase boneless meats at an inexpensive cost; and 2) the food we have in America is so processed and far from natural. I have been learning a lot about the origins and impact of food recently through my research, and this opened my eyes to a whole new frontier. Another note about this goal, I was so surprised at myself that I did not experience any culture shock or anxiety about entering a new culture. I actually felt so comfortable with the culture and immensely happy. Even though there were clear cultural differences, I found so many ways I could connect with the culture. I thought about why that might be, and I realized it is because the people I interacted with in Jamaica are so “real.” They are not superficial, they do not hide how they truly feel, they are respectful, and they are friendly- all things I value. I’m surprised at the fact that I always feel like it is a miracle when I can find someone like that in America- someone that I can truly connect with and be happy with. I don’t like thinking that that is some rare occurrence. Being in a culture where I am surrounded by that dynamic was rejuvenating.