A World of A Classroom

Abeer Jafri, Co-Editor

When one hears the word “learning,” they probably think of a classroom filled with yawning students, and a teacher scribbling complex equations on the chalkboard. Many do not realize that learning extends far beyond the classroom, into the rest of the world. Mark Twain once said, “Travel is  fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow- mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” I have encountered the truth of this realization across my many travels, after each of which I came back feeling more enriched than I ever have after taking any class. Aside from being a break on the beach from our normal fast-paced lives, travel awakens us with new eye-opening experiences that can leave us more cultured and with a greater understanding of our world.

The summer before sophomore year, my family and I took a trip to Los Angeles, from which we drove to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The eight-hour drive was tedious, but with several stops along the way, I got to experience the true flavor of the west coast. While LA is beautiful, (and happens to be my favorite city thus far), the amount of commercial stimulation often masks the actual lifestyle of the western desert. Quite close to Arizona, we took a stop at a scenic, but barren, roadside area. As we walked around to stretch, we noticed another car near us. Upon venturing over to it, we discovered a kind looking native man with a table laden with beautiful handmade crafts and trinkets. We studied the colorful dream catchers, dolls, baskets and more that adorned his collection as he talked to us about his background. He happened to be part of the Navajo tribe, a group I recalled learning about in middle school. The man explained that there were not many sources of income where his family lived, and his wife and daughters crafted these knick knacks to sell and help them get by. I had always been under the impression that as the country progressed, groups such as Native Americans were thriving like any other group, but being there in the reality of the situation opened my eyes to what was really happening on the opposite end of my own country. Experiences like this one are extremely humbling; they remind us that the world is an immense expanse, and each of us is relatively insignificant relative to it. Taking knowledge from these experiences and treasuring it is part of what allows us to become better people.

Visiting new places can also cause one to see their home country in a different light. When my family flew to Egypt when I was in 6th grade, we took a camel ride through the silent deserts of Giza. Leading the camels were young boys, probably 10-15 years of age. At the “stable,” the business owners of the camel rides company were extremely aggressive toward the young boys, and I even saw one of them get beaten by the owner. Experiencing things like this makes one form comparisons about the country they’re visiting to their home land. In this particular case, witnessing the heinous acts against the poor young boys made me grateful to live in a country where people are treated for the most part as equals, and in a civil manner. All of this, however, must be done without judgment. Part of the learning experience is the acceptance of other cultures without criticism.

The most obvious benefit of traveling is that you gain immense knowledge in the most enjoyable manner possible. The trips I have been fortunate enough to take in my life have been some of the absolute best times of my life; I am never so happy as I am when I am visiting a new location, whether it be twenty minutes from home, or halfway across the globe. As opposed to our harsh routines and unhealthy habits, travel can allow us to regroup, metaphorically exhale, and heal. Just a few weeks ago, I was in Hawaii for spring break. I came to think, “What is it that makes this place so laid back?”. My question was answered one night when we were at a restaurant in Maui for dinner. As I looked around, I noticed that not a single person was on their phone. Now, it may be normal for Hawaii locals to not have a black void glued to their hand, but I realized how much of an impact it had on me, as well. Instead of checking to see how many likes I had on my Instagram or whether one of my Snapchat streaks was dying, I left my discharged phone in the car for most of the trip. This left more time for me to enjoy the roadside fruit stands, the sporadic hibiscus bushes, and stray chickens that strutted on the sides of the roads. By offering a fun break from our stress-filled work lives, traveling enlightens us.

Especially in a time of much division and turmoil amongst subdivisions of people in America, I feel it is vital for people to get out into the world and use their learning to celebrate diversity. You do not need to book a twenty hour flight to Japan to make this happen; even simply stepping out of your busy life to explore a new cafe or book store can expand your intellectual horizons by making you more aware of the beauty outside of your small, insignificant bubble of a life. I encourage each of you to leave your comfort zone and enter the rest of the world; what you find may surprise you.