When given the opportunity to go to Snowdonia, Wales for a week I was a bit apprehensive to apply at first. I knew I would be missing the school trip to Edinburgh and to Paris and was worried I may not get as much value from my time stuck in the mountains with no cellular reception in Wales. I applied at the last minute anyway and I was accepted to go on the “Journey of Understanding” through Encompass Trust. I went to the weekly meetings and I still wasn’t sure if this was a trip that would be worth me missing school and “adventures abroad.” However, I was wrong, very, very wrong and that is perfectly how it should be. I learned more on Encompass about myself, my new friends and the world around me than I could ever learn in a classroom.
The “Journey of Understanding” is a week long trip to Snowdonia for young people from the U.S., the U.K., Palestine, Israel and Indonesia. It was started after the Bali Bombings in 2003 which killed Daniel Braden and his British teammates. As one of the three “American” students, I felt out of place at first because the closest I had come to an act of terror in my lifetime was 9/11 when I was in the first grade and hundreds of miles away from the actual attack. I was in a room full of people who have experienced the cruelties the world can have first-hand by living in war-stricken nations, becoming a refugee and seeing terrorist attacks much closer to home.
Each day, we spent time as a large group doing activities, in small groups enjoying the mountains and what they had to offer and individually getting to know new people. I thought that gorge walking, absailing, walking through mines and jumping off cliffs would be the most challenging parts of the week, but in actuality they were the moments when I could relax the most. The conversations had in our large group forced me to face much larger issues like prejudices, misunderstandings, religious differences and much more.
We went through our week by doing activities to teach others about our culture, to learn about our own identities and to see if we could begin to discuss global issues such as the conflicts in Israel and Palestine. While I do not feel like and expert on other people’s culture or global problems, I do feel like I am more knowledgable about these subjects and I want to learn more. The people I was surrounded by were inspiring from their stories that they told and the challenges they overcame throughout the week whether they were mental or physical.
Through these conversations, I was able to discover why Syracuse students were asked to go on the trip and that was because of the Pan Am 103 bombing. As Syracuse Students, we share a history with terrorism and even more so with the students killed also being students returning from studying abroad in London. While I heard the stories of my peers, I found a sense of hope that if a university struck by tragedy can move forward and inspire their students to do good things, programs like Encompass can do exactly the same thing.
I grew close to every person on the trip because we all had one thing in common and that is that we listened. We live in a world where everyone is constantly talking and tweeting their feelings, but no one takes time to listen to other people. As a pro-chatter, I know I often speak over people, but I learned so much more by actively listening. (Not having cellular service for a week also helped). I encourage people to listen to what people have to say because it could mold you into a better person and inspire you.
On the last day we were asked to write our feelings about the program in an evaluation and I said, “The Encompass Program opened my eyes to the world, my heart to my identity and my mind to change. I learned that just by ignoring the news, the world does not stop hurting. I know more about myself and my own needs than before. I have began thinking about how I can help my community and the world piece by piece. Ironically, by spending time with many international students, I learned pride for being an American and respect for what I am lucky to have. I was hesitant to come to Encompass and miss my school trips, but I would not trade this experience for the world. The values I have gained as well as the friendships I have made fill my heart and will provide wonderful memories.”
Jourdann, USA, JoU February 2016