BIG SKY CITY, MISSOULA, SUSI PROGRAM 2015

by Grazzia Maria Mendoza Chirinos

Life would be much easier if as human beings we learned to give ourselves to others instead of expecting to be on the receiving end. As stated by Rob McDonald on our recent visit to Flathead, it is a waste of time to be upset or angry, let’s learn to deal with it… and so SUSI scholars have dealt with it!

Today we close the first chapter of our SUSI program, our stay in Missoula has been rewarding and a journey of learning and re-learning, if there is such a word. We have been presented with a variety of situations which we have been fortunate to learn from and challenges which we have readily overcome. Let me start by sharing about today and about the 24 days which have passed by.

First, this morning as we prepared to present the product of our learning and the proposals of how this learning will change our context we felt the sense of accomplishment of a job well done. Presentations were enriching and showed the groups’ hard work and disposition to bring innovation to education in our countries. It also showed how diverse our way of thinking is as everybody in their own style conveyed the message of the future of our contexts as we positively visualize it. From interdisciplinary thematic syllabi, to setup of libraries, to citizenship projects through drama and collaboration, thru interflex and music as a means to teach history, adding service learning and cinema to enhance teaching and learning of language skills and blogs and sites for teachers’ resources. Our projects showed how much the program has led to reflect and analyze critically how all talks, seminars, workshops, visits and activities will be used to advance education in the world.

Next, the program has triggered important reflections, in depth comparisons of realities of the United States with our contexts, and has brought a feeling of achievement every time we took a step and completed it. It has provided us with self-recognition of strengths, weaknesses and areas of opportunity. We have learned to manage ourselves respectfully in a group as diverse as a set of fingerprints. We have established strong connections that hopefully will last for a lifetime. We have learnt to “deal with it” by providing opinions and support, learning how our actions influence and impact those around us. We have learnt to see through the lens of a country that has worked really hard to promote their values, their culture and their traditions; many of which they feel proud of and others which they are working to modify. We have seen their contradictions and diverse opinions on important topics, their own analysis, their own opposition, we have learned the raw truth and it has helped shape our thinking. Oh, how important it is to see the humbleness of those who work hard to maintain an identity, that work hard to make changes in their own lives, while being of service to the world.

Finally, in 25 days we have understood that the United States is a country where people open up to offer to others and share their learning and beliefs. It is a country where people are interested in giving, more than in receiving. It is a country that truly promotes understanding by providing experiential tools like this program. It is a country where citizens constantly reflect about their successes and failures, without letting the latter stop them but instead using them as a means of learning. It is a country where specifically Missoulians opened their hearts and home to let us learn about their habits, customs and traditions. What did we discover through this understanding? That we are not so different! That just like the United States we also work hard, learn a lot and reflect about our mistakes and take action. We also open our hearts and welcome everybody willing to be part of our lives. We are also in constant analysis of who we are, what we do and how we affect our surroundings.

We are different and yet we are so similar! Our paths follow similar goals, and perhaps if we worked closely together, the world might be a better place. Too idealist? Maybe…but then again, haven’t idealists been the ones who have created change? Then, let’s be idealists in our own contexts and make that change!

Blessings and warm wishes SUSI Scholars 2015!

Thank you Pat, Sydney, Mel, Rob and Deena!

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