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.

Focus:

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.

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