This was my first big excursion abroad and it was such an enlightening experience for me. I was able to learn not only about another culture but also a lot about myself. The culture in the Bahamas had a very different feel than the United States and it was extremely welcoming to be around. People honk at you to say hello, not out of anger, and hitching is totally normal and safe! They definitely valued people over time and it was very refreshing to be around. On an academic level, it was really interesting to see the challenges that living on a smaller and less developed island can create. By going to both Nassau and Eleuthera, we were able to compare and contrast their health care and find out what challenges are specific to the out islands. As our trip continued I learned that many of the problems were interrelated; such as the food they eat, access to healthcare, and work opportunities.
Teaching the children on Eleuthera about type two diabetes was one of the most rewarding experiences. Many times we would ask the children if they thought that they would get type two diabetes when they were older and several would raise their hands. Educating them that there are preventative things they can do was very meaningful. Seeing the enthusiasm the children had for junkanoo, a good exercise for them, was a lot of fun as well. A little disappointing that we left the Bahamas the day before their big junior junkanoo performance though!
Staying at Island School was also a valuable experience that really enhanced the course. It was good to hear about different environmental problems and what they do to be self sustaining. Hearing that most of the Bahamas is not very far above sea level really put into perspective how big of a problem global warming could be for them. Since coming home this has had an impact on my actions and I’ve began doing a much better job at recycling. The active lifestyle on Island School (and the group of students that I was with) really inspired me to get into better shape. I’ve felt a lot better since starting to run again and am trying to keep it up now that I’m back in Oregon. In fact, I hope to run a half marathon this summer (with Janet!), we’ll see how that goes though. The experience as a whole taught me a lot about myself and things that I want out of life. This trip confirmed my passion for traveling and showed me the value of flexibility and being around another culture.
We met so many wonderful people along the way, from the people at island school to children in the schools and our home stay families. Thank you Janet and Jay so much for making this experience possible for us! And for any students wanting to take this course in the future, my best advice is to just roll with the punches and learn to be flexible. Things might not go as you planned, but you will have an amazing experience regardless and lots of fun along the way! =)