Leo Gadicke '21
This Summer, Haverford sponsored me to travel on a cultural exchange program in Central Asia! In a nutshell, the days consisted of working, co-teaching three or four English classes at various levels. My co-teacher was a local young man named Damir. It was important to him that all the classes be exciting and engaging for the students, so we constantly brainstormed new games and activities for practicing vocabulary and different types of discussion. Seeing the students so interested in class motivated me to keep working hard. In free time, I would hang out with the students or local teachers, going swimming or on long walks around the city and talking about anything.
The most important part of the experience was getting to know my host family. There are many things about a culture—how people think and plan, how to make friendships, what causes honor vs. shame—that are best taught through relationships rather than learnt in any book. I'm grateful that they showed me patience as they taught me a little bit of what if means to live there. Likewise, one of the hardest parts of re-entry back to the States is that some of the most precious parts of the local culture—collectivism within the family and friendships, Russian language, the respect for elders regardless of achievement—my friends and family back here at home find less pertinent.
As a person of faith, specifically a Christian, I believe God used the trip to teach me about what it means to have sincere community. Sometimes, because of the USA's highly individualistic culture, we forget the importance being together and serving one another. My host family in Central Asia goes to sleep and wakes up at the same time, shares their possessions more collectively than in the States, and share work together. This is something I want to work to establish in our fellowship at Haverford, albeit to a lesser extent. One more aspect of the trip I am thankful for, is that I had many opportunities to share about my faith in Jesus, when it came up in discussion because my local friends were curious. The month was a special journey where I could learn about life and as well give to others.
Thank you very much to Haverford, specifically the Office of Religious Life for helping me to go on this adventure!