We’ve returned from out retreat, which ends our semester (Ahh!) it feels so weird that the next flight we take will be going back to the States! The retreat was so much fun. We stayed at a sort of camp ground called High Africa in cabins. They offered all kinds of outdoor activities like raft building, kayaking, rock climbing, and there was a big high ropes course that many of us partook in. The retreat was really a time for reflection, relaxation, and a time to enjoy some of the last moments with our classmates, who we all grew so close to. I reflected a lot about our long journey and how it all started back in DC, where we didn’t know each other and were so anxious. Now we all considered each other family and I think genuinely really loved each other deep down (sounds corny, I know). We opened letters to ourselves that we had written while in DC and wrote new letters that were to be opened 4 months post our travels. I was having a conversation with one of good friends about what we were going to tell people we learned when we got back. We were both kind of troubled because it was so hard to explain what we’ve learned. On a program like this, it wasn’t so much as the knowledge we attained from visiting all these places, but more of learning how to think critically, ask deep, meaningful questions, and learn how to examine some of the world’s most deep rooted, complex problems. On this program, I learned how to think globally from multiple levels and perspectives and to challenge and be challenged. I learned that it’s okay to display your emotions, to hug strangers, and take chances. I learned a lot about life, including lives of others and how I should lead mine. I learned that to believe in change, you must believe in people. I learned that sometimes, putting your beliefs aside is the most necessary in order to understand the beliefs of others. I learned that the world is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing place, but also an ugly one. This has always been in of my favorite quotes, but after this trip, it speaks so many more volumes than it did before. It’s by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who was a famous Swiss psychiatrist. She said
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
I think on this trip, I’ve had the privilege to meet so many beautiful people who were willing to share their lives, the experiences, the stories, their houses, their food, their everything with me. Through this, I was able to see their struggles, their losses, their challenges, and I was able to see how they triumph, how they continue to lead their lives “out of the depths,” as Dr. Kubler Ross would say. I’ve met the most beautiful, most amazing people throughout the past 4 months and they’ve given me so much more than I will ever be able to repay or even describe. It’s been such an amazing, incredible experience that I will treasure and apply every day of my life.
Today we said a lot of sad goodbyes. Some of us are staying here in Cape Town, meeting family and friends for the holidays, some of us are parting in London, where the majority of us stop for a connection, and most people will part in New York, returning home to their family and friends. It’s bitter sweet. Bitter because an experience so amazing has to come to an end, and sweet because we’re returning to our families, and starting a new, exciting chapter in many of our lives. There were many tears, prolonged hugs and squeezes, tissues, and red eyes, which, I think illustrates how much of a family we’ve become in the past 4 months! The next time I blog, I will be in the States, how weird! See you soon!