Wednesday, April 20, 2016

          Experiencing everything life has to offer helps us to grow as people. As students we open our minds to knowledge and experiences in order to help us grow and give us the best possibility at being successful in life. We compound these experiences daily, and everything we know and believe is built off of them. They create thought processes that lead to expectations of what we think should or might happen when we are put in unfamiliar situations. Due to this it is almost impossible to not have expectations of what we believe we’ll experience in new situations. The fun part is finding out whether our expectations have been met or if they were horribly off-base. The Cross-Cultural Experience program at Carroll University is designed to submerse us in different cultures in hopes that it will open our minds to new ways of thinking and broaden our outlook on societies that may hold different values than our own. To be surprised, scared, and to feel just a little alone can enhance our self-awareness and show possible areas of improvement that could be made within ourselves. Collectively we all went to different places, experienced different highs and some lows, but we all emerged feeling that we had been changed for the better. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Urban Milwaukee - By Jordan Reichel

Overall, I thought that my experience in Urban Milwaukee was a positive one. My journey throughout the semester was very inspiring and enlightening. Even though the culture in Milwaukee is not drastically different from my own culture, I was still able to learn a lot from the people I worked with. My experience allowed me to meet and work with many individuals with varying perspectives and attitudes on life, which opened my eyes to the many different ways of life, even just
outside of my community. Working with a group of elementary aged girls called, “Crafting Resilient Girls” was probably one of the most rewarding parts of my cross-cultural experience. It showed me that I could impact the lives of others. Whether it was helping the girls with their homework, doing projects with them, cooking meals together, and even just being there as someone for the girls to talk to, all of these things were able to somehow influence these children. It took a few weeks for the girls, especially the older girls, to warm up to the other students and me, as was to be expected. I, myself, also took a while to warm up to a different community. However, by the end of the experience, it was notably obvious how much of an impact our group had made on these young girls. I would like to think that we represented positive and influential role models for these individuals. Even knowing that the small things I did made a difference was enough to inspire me to want to go out and make a greater impact throughout the world.


I personally feel like the focus of my cross-cultural experience was to increase my cultural awareness and to learn about myself. Throughout my experience, I was able to learn about ways of life that differed from my own. Just from being exposed and being able to physically be a part of a different culture, I feel that this opportunity has increased my cultural awareness and made me much more culturally diverse. I have learned so much about the urban culture in Milwaukee, but I think this 
experience also focused on teaching me about myself. You can learn a lot about yourself just by being in an unfamiliar setting. As I worked in a different setting, I was able to identify certain strengths and weaknesses. I was able to realize these strengths and weaknesses that I had not recognized before because I was more aware of my actions and I was out of my comfort zone. The experience within the Milwaukee culture has greatly impacted my life, and I can only hope that they were able to take something away from me as a person as well as my culture. Furthermore, I think this experience aimed to prepare me for being successful in the real world. I will be working with people from all different backgrounds and it is important to be able to work effectively with people who have different beliefs and who are from all over the world, which this experience gave me the confidence to do.

What I Gained:

            From my experience, I gained cultural appreciation, acceptance, and cultural knowledge. I am now able to better appreciate and accept the differences among cultures. I would have to say I have lived a rather privileged life growing up. This experience showed me a different way of life, which gave me a greater appreciation for the Milwaukee culture and all that the citizens do to make their community thrive. After being immersed in another culture first-hand and being able to take part in their ways of life, I have much greater respect for cultural differences and am more open to learning more about the different cultures. Other cultures have a lot to offer and it will only help me to learn about them. I also obtained greater knowledge of a culture other than my own through this experience. My education of our Urban Milwaukee experience helped me to gain a better understanding of another culture and overall provided me with greater and more diverse cultural knowledge. Because I was being taught about their culture and then able to take part in it at the same time I feel that I was able to grasp the culture better and come out with a greater understanding because it was more of an interactive learning experience for me.

Tips for Future Students: 

            The Urban Milwaukee experience was one that I will remember forever and one that I am thankful for to say the least. While it went well overall, there are a few words of advice for any newcomers. Most importantly, during this experience, you will get out what you put in. There are a lot of stereotypes that you will hear about the Milwaukee area. It is known to be a high crime area and some may imply that it is an unsafe area. I advise you to take these with a grain of salt as this will likely change as you spend more time there and become more familiar with the area, or at least it did for me. It is true that many parts of the community are underprivileged and disadvantaged, however the people in these communities have a lot to offer and I think it is important to go in with an open mind. The community and community members welcomed us with open arms and they were very appreciative of any help that we brought. By the time you leave, you will have formed meaningful relationships and lasting memories. The end of the experience can be emotional and a bit of a love- hate relationship. I was so thrilled that I had completed my hours, but very sad to see the experience end. I had been working with this community for close to three months and they had almost become another family to me.

Also, know that you will be responsible for finding directions to your placement site and should add a time cushion in anticipation of getting lost. It may even be helpful to take a test drive out to your site to make sure you know where you are going. Also, you will need your own method of transportation and carpooling is advised. It will be beneficial to you to reach out to the site once the teacher gives you the okay and get as many hours done as soon as possible, as it will work to your advantage in the end. However, know that this is very dependent on the site and what the particular site offers. Some groups struggled to get hours done and were not making as much progress as other groups. The professor was very understanding in these instances, as he recognized that it was not necessarily the students’ fault, and he provided additional opportunities for these groups so that they were able to reach their hours.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cultural and Environmental Sustainability of Costa Rica - Emily Richardson

Why I Chose This Cross Cultural Experience
I am an Animal Behavior major here at Carroll University. I have always had an interest in animals and the ecosystems they belong to, so when I saw a CCE that focused on ecological conservation, I knew it was the experience for me. I knew before signing up for a CCE that I needed an experience that I was genuinely interested in, otherwise I would not have been so proactive in my learning experience.
Focus of Cross Cultural Experience
The focus of this particular CCE was to learn about the efforts made by local Costa Ricans to preserve their natural resources. Costa Rica is a beautiful and lush country with wildlife and nature in every corner and crevice; this is why so many tourists from around the globe come to visit. One would think that locals would be worried about the negative effect such a large tourism industry would have on the preservation of the environment; however, after my visit to the country, I learned that this giant tourism industry actually helps preserve the natural world. Costa Rica thrives on the tourism industry both economically and in environmentally.
The locals are very passionate about teaching visitors about their beautiful backyard and how they continue to keep it around for future generations. Almost everyone works in the tourism industry, not only because there are so many tourists that come to the country, but because the Costa Ricans are proud of their wildlife and history. There are turtle watch tour guides, river boat tours, and numerous wildlife volunteering opportunities to participate in because it is an active effort to preserve the environment. Costa Rica is thought to be one of the most eco-friendly counties in the world: tourists are asked to live in eco-friendly lodges or hotels, use less motorized transportation to lower COemissions, install low pressure toilets, compost waste, and so many other actions.
I truly believe that while I was participating in the learning experience, I was specifically focused on how another culture can teach me how to better look at my own. I have always thought of myself as an advocate for wildlife; however, there are little things I overlook daily that impact the world I live in. I could walk or ride a bike to a close location instead of using a vehicle that is harmful to the air quality, I can recycle and compost to reduce the need for landfills, I can install low pressure plumbing in my home so that I utilize less water, and finally, I can educate others about how they can help as well.
            I never knew that I would find myself loving a new culture and community that I would be so anxious to return to. If I am offered the chance to ever return to the communities I visited, I would take it in a heartbeat (well, maybe after learning a little more Spanish first). I love the local’s passion for wildlife, conservation, and education about the natural world. A whole country seems to share a similar passion with me, and it is something I will never forget.

What Did I Gain From My Experience?
            As a person who has never traveled farther than the other side of the United States, I found a new appreciation for world travel and culture after completing this experience. There is a lot of things I did not know before leaving for this trip:
  • I did not know much about Costa Rica or it’s culture
  • I did not know anyone I was traveling with, they were all complete strangers aside from the fact that we saw each other a few times at meetings before our departure
  • I knew nothing about traveling outside the country or traveling on an international plane
  • I had no clue how to say anything in Spanish other than “Hola” and “Gracias”
  • I did not know that I was in for an adventure of a lifetime where I would learn more than I ever could have just sitting in a classroom or reading a textbook.
What I did know, was that I was going to get out what I put into this experience, so I buckled up with my positive attitude and my willingness to try anything (within reason of course…). I knew that I had to immerse myself into the culture in order to fully understand and appreciate all that it had to offer me.
Thoughts on My Experience
            During my time in Costa Rica, I learned more than I could have ever thought of. I was able to learn about another culture while talking with locals, while simultaneously sharing my own. I’ve never had to actually reflect on my own culture before because I am constantly surrounded by people who lead very similar lives as myself. This opportunity offered me the learning experience to reflect about my own life and expose myself to a whole other culture. Without Carroll requiring students to partake on a CCE, I would have never been able to experience all that I had. I definitely would not have had the same experience traveling to Costa Rica on my own without the help of the CCE office or my professor.
Advice for Future CCE Students
            Because I decided to participate in a CCE early on in my time at Carroll, there are several things I wish I would have known before getting on the plane to Costa Rica. Although the meetings with my professor and presentations given by the CCE Office offered many answers to some of my questions, I feel like there are some things one just would not know until participating themselves. Here are a few tips and suggestions I can provide:
  • Bring essentials… but do not over-pack
o   Essential things seemed to be the most forgotten things: sunscreen, personal hygiene products, Band-Aids, extra socks, etc.
o   You really don’t need five pairs of shoes, makeup, seven swimsuits, or the kitchen sink (okay, I kid here a little… but seriously). You will be required to carry everything you bring with you on your trip.
  • If you are going to a different country where English is not the primary language, you should attempt to learn the basics of the country’s language
o   Although many people around the world DO speak English, it is amazing how many people truly appreciate your attempts to talk in their language – even if it broken or not very good
  •  Pick a CCE you are actually interested in doing
o   There are students who do their CCE based on how expensive it is, when it is occurring, or how long the trip is, but in all reality, if the experience is not something you are interested in doing, then you are not talking full advantage of an amazing opportunity that Carroll is providing you with. So, if you do not like critters, hiking, humidity, or any kind of outdoor activity… Costa Rica is just not for you.
  • You get out what you put in
o   Do not just float through your experience; participate in it. Ask question, talk to the locals, get involved in activities, do everything you are comfortable with because then you have created memories and learned all you can from the experience. HAVE FUN WITH IT!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Buenos Aires, Argentina by Ken Diehn

The Cross Cultural Experience
The Cross Cultural Experience requirement for graduation is intended to open our minds to new and different ways of thinking and living even when they are in complete contrast to ways in which we live or learned growing up in our homeland. It is intended to prepare us for life in the “real” world, where we may not always be surrounded by people who hold the same ideals as the rest of our society. To be honest in the beginning I resented having to do this requirement and felt it was a waste of time and money as I have already been in the “real” world for over half of my life. I already accept people for who they are and the ways they think, mostly because I went through a lot of tough issues when I was a teenager and in doing so look at the world a little differently than most. While I may not have attained the knowledge the CCE administrators were hoping I would, I did have many self-realizations over the course of my trip that changed me in a positive manner.  
Why Argentina?
Being a transfer biology major when I came to Carroll most of the classes I had left to
By Marie Orensanz,
                Located in Parque de la Memoria
complete consisted of core classes. My focus was to complete my core classes and any general education classes that I may have had to wrap up. I put off my cross cultural education courses because I did not fully understand with how the process worked, and I felt I should focus on  aspects of my education that were more prevalent to my major first. So when it came time to finish the CCE requirements I was left with few options due to time constraints and my approaching graduation date. I decided that if I was being forced to take part in this educational experiment that I would choose a place to go that I probably wouldn’t go to if the decision were left to me on where to have an adventure. I chose the NCE317 Travel Journals course that would consist of a semester of lessons on art, journaling, and the land of Argentina, followed by a 10-day trip to Buenos Aires and a 3-day trip to Iguazu Falls in Argentina.  I was never really sure of what to expect, so I was definitely on a path to a true adventuresome experience. During classes we were taught about Argentina’s past and the constant turmoil that seemed to pop up every decade or two, be it a revolution to overthrow the government, a military coup, or an organized governmental genocide of people that spoke against the government and their actions. We were taught about their love of dance, how it began, and how dances like the tango were used as not just romantic gestures but also as political statements. And we learned how resilient the people were, seeming to always move forward in spite of the torrid past they have endured.
The images of beauty found on the internet made me want to believe that there was more love than hate in this land, so I definitely went into this trip with an open mind. Unfortunately an open mind isn’t all that was needed. I went to a strange land with no friends, knowing very little of the language, and no real idea of where I was. There was about to be some lessons, just not the kind I was expecting.
Time to Learn Some Lessons…
There was 9 of us in the class including our professor. We boarded a plane at O’Hare knowing very little about one another, something that made me a little nervous. I had no clue of what my new travel partners were into, the experiences they brought with them, or how they would react to adversity. People build walls around themselves in order to feel safe when they are uncomfortable and unsure of how things will go, and our walls seemed to reach the clouds. That would change rather quickly as we were forced to lean on each other fairly early on in the trip for moral support, which opened the door to let bonding work its magic.
The hotel was not what we had expected, but after 24 hours of traveling nobody was really in the mood to worry about it. After a decent night’s sleep, plans had been made to exchange our money with a local due to Argentina’s ever changing inflation rate. She did not have enough Argentinian currency to exchange all of ours so we were directed to go to the lottery office to exchange the balance. The exchange rate at the lottery store was actually better than our new “friend’s” exchange rate, giving us the first lesson learned on our trip…research to find out where to exchange money and their rates BEFORE handing over your money. Granted we only lost 500 pesos but that money would have been better served in our own pockets.
We then headed out for a salsa lesson and safety awareness session. We were instructed to try our hardest to not look like tourists, do not use our phones in public, and always be aware of pickpockets. In other words, theft was our main concern. Unfortunately, since no one in our group knew the city or had any sense of direction, it was rather impossible to not look like tourists. Someone always had their nose in a map and we had to double back quite a few times, adding to stress levels and creating short fuses with people’s tempers. Many in the group expressed that this wasn’t the trip they were expecting, and I agreed. We huddled up at a corner to relax for a bit and after a short venting session we all came to the conclusion that these kind of things unfortunately happen when jumping feet first into the unknown. We were only there for a short time, and we needed to make the most of it. Everyone started to relax and we realized that we could count on one another for support. All we needed was some explosive fun and laughter to bring those walls down completely.
Just our luck we were in Argentina for the New Year’s celebrations! Dressed in our best and ready for a little fun we headed to the most amazing fireworks show I had ever seen. The ignited fuses burned 20 feet away as explosions of color lit the sky all around us. We celebrated the occasion with a group hug while wearing the biggest smiles imaginable. When we got back to the hotel most of us hung out, played cards, listened to music, and traded stories like we had known each other forever. We were now friends sharing an experience of a lifetime with one another.
Nuestra Senora del Pilar
            Buenos Aires, Argentina
The bus afforded me the next lesson. A gentleman who seemed to lead a troubled life (very unkempt) attempted to talk with me about why we were in Argentina, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying, and neither could anyone else in our group. His appearance and the inflection in his voice made me prematurely judge his intentions and I jumped to the conclusion that he was trying to cause problems. Luckily a little old lady translated for us, and it turned out all he wanted to do was boast about how beautiful his city was and that we were going to have a great time. And that’s exactly what we did. The next weeks were spent bouncing around to different tourist attractions like the Recoleta Cemetery, Catedral Metropolitana, a couple art museums, Tigre, a day trip to experience the life of the gouchos, and trips to places that brought out the biggest emotional response from me, which had to do with the “Dirty War”. We went to EMSA, Argentina's Human Rights Museum and Parque de la Memoria,
both meant to honor those that had been killed during the government’s dirty war. Much of the touristy sites that we went to painted a picture of a prospering land, but there was another side to this society, a darker side that was never really spoken of in the time we were there.
There were many heartbreaking stories in the making. We saw children no older than 8 walking through cars at an intersection at 1am trying to sell flowers and knickknacks to the occupants of vehicles waiting for the light to turn green, people sleeping on the street and parks, and buildings in desperate need of repair. The tram to Tigre was the setting for the most depressing experience of the trip. As we went down the tracks I noticed what seemed to be bombed out buildings off in the distance. With all the fighting that has occurred over the last 30+ years in Argentina I thought I was just seeing relics of the aftermath. But then I saw people walking about these structures, some sitting at tables, clothes hanging on clotheslines exposed by giant holes in the ceiling of the structure. There was some 35,000 people that lived in the “slums”, most of them being recent immigrants. The area actually looked too small to contain that many people.  
 Everywhere we went we were surrounded by masses of architectural and artistic amazement. Beautiful buildings, young and old, next to each other adorned by colorful paintings and tagging that made me stop and stare.  Numerous monuments and magnificent churches filled with bright and shiny objects seemed to be at a stones throw away from wherever you stood. So how could they
afford these extravagances and yet many of their people live in poverty? As I sat there dumbfounded at the callousness of the situation, where part of the population lived an upper-class lifestyle but the silent majority lived in squalor, I realized that I was being a fool. This was no different than the United States. We had the same issues and social problems as the Argentinians, but for some reason I looked down on these people for allowing this social injustice to happen. It opened my eyes to the problems in my homeland and made me want to take action when I got home to make a difference in my community by helping the less fortunate in some way.
Conversing with locals that could speak English gave me a more accurate picture of the way things were and how the people lived. I learned about current political turmoil, job prospects, and the way the majority of the natives lived, particularly at night. There was a new president and people were holding onto hope that he could turn things around, but they have gone through this before, so there is always going to be doubt that things will change for the better. The younger generation goes to three story game mansions to eat, drink, and have fun, while the older generations head to clubs to dance the night and early morning away. Argentinians are fun, loud, proud, and very patriotic. Through everything they’ve experienced they still love their land and one another. They are resilient, thoughtful, and seemingly determined to make a better life for themselves. Remind you of any other countries you know of? I went to Argentina figuring I would never go there if the choice were mine, yet I constantly find myself longing to go back.

What Can You Expect?
Everyone's experience will be different. Our trip to Argentina did not go as smoothly as we all hoped it would, but from what I have heard that is not the norm. That being said, I can offer a few tips that will help to make your experience much more enjoyable:

1. If the trip is faculty led
      a.   Ask how many times they have been to the trip's destination.
      b.   Ask past students about their experiences.

1                               2. Know the language.
a.      Good communication with the locals will make every aspect of your trip more enjoyable.
b.     Make it a point to not just learn the language, actively use it for your classes or in preparation for the trip so you can comprehend other accents or inflections.

                   3.  Get to know the people you are going with prior to leaving for your destination.
a.      You’re going to need to rely on one another and get along.
b.     It’s more fun to take a trip with friends than with strangers.

                                      4. Know the area and bus routes.
a.      Try and study the area so you can get around easier.
b.     It makes it easier to fit in to your surroundings and it makes you less of a target to be a victim in a crime.

4                 5.  Know exchange rates and where to exchange currency where you are going.
a.      Get the most bang for your buck.

                    6. Problems will happen and things won’t go as planned.
a.      Let issues be known, don't hold it in. Nothing good comes from pent-up frustration.
b.     There is no point in letting something that cannot be taken back or changed ruin the rest of what could be an amazing experience.

  7. Complete this requirement as early as possible in your college experience
       a. Options change every year, and you'll miss out on a lot of awesome opportunities if                              you wait till you're a junior to get started.
       b. It's a great way to make friends that will be around for the majority of your college                              education.

     All in all the trip was an amazing experience. I made new friends that I probably would have never met, I touched land that I probably never would have stepped foot on, and I gained confidence in experiencing world travel. I now have a good baseline for what to expect and how to prepare for trips like these in the future. These lessons will be greatly beneficial for my personal life since I have already planned to experience more of the world, and it may help my professional life if I get a job that requires international travel. I cannot wait to put these lessons to good use.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Overall, we all had positive takeaways from our cross-cultural experience. Each experience was unique in it’s own way, yet there were clear similarities between our three trips. The cultures that we explored were all very passionate about teaching us their ways of life and showing us around their community. Furthermore, the majority of the community members we worked with were warm and welcoming to us when we came. While we were primarily learning about a culture other than our own, our experiences also taught us more about our own culture and ourselves by becoming more aware of little details that we never paid much attention to prior to our trips. We all agreed that no matter where we went, we got out of it what we put into the experience. Going into the trip with an open mind and willingness to learn will give you a better chance of having a more positive experience and you will probably learn a lot more than if you went on the trip just to fulfill the requirement. These experiences also helped us all to gain a greater appreciation for culture and the differences that exist throughout the world.