Scholar Megan on Cultural Outreach

McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael

McLean County Diversity Project   c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz   PO Box 58   Downs, IL  61736

All content is © Copyright 2012 McLean County Diversity Project

I have never been out of the country. Growing up in the middle of Illinois, I am pretty sure I could count the number of states I’ve visited on my fingers. So when Jeff began asking, "Would anyone be interested in going to Costa Rica?" I was ecstatic. Now, in January, after hearing more and finalizing plans, I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to travel to another country with three other Diversity Project Scholars.

A significant part of this experience includes completing a required project related to global travels and diversity. This has proven to be challenging. Essentially, we are trying to express the reasoning behind our trip; the "why?" We are traveling to learn.

Costa Rica is a Spanish-speaking country, and although we've been learning Spanish in school for a number of years, none of us are exactly what you would call "fluent". For two weeks, we will be totally immersed in a different culture, learning new customs, meeting new people, and experiencing life 'their way' - all the while battling a language barrier.

Jeff likes to talk about putting each scholar outside of his or her comfort zone. Well, this is definitely going to put us outside of our comfort zones; 3,344 miles to be exact.

I think it’s safe to say none of us knows quite what to expect. What are the similarities and differences between our two cultures? What do we, here in the United States, take for granted? What aspects of our lives are universal? I look forward to finding the answers to these questions, and more. Hopefully, this trip will broaden our world view.

The ability to experience another’s perspective and understand their point of view is a key aspect of diversity, and this trip is going to give us the chance to understand how people’s perceptions vary in other countries. We are going to learn something from every person we encounter. We will grow more in these two weeks than any amount of schooling could prepare us for and more than I can anticipate.

Because we will be learning and experiencing so much, we want to do something for the people we meet in Costa Rica. We want to be able to give them something in return. This is what led to our group project idea. We are going to share some of the great experiences we have had through the Diversity Project, and explain what we have learned to others who might benefit from the knowledge. We are planning a presentation to explain what the Diversity Project is, what we do, and what we have learned. We hope this will give the students and families insight into why we are there, and help to spread the Project’s mission of fostering acceptance of one another’s differences.

The presentation will be in Spanish, giving us a chance to practice our translation skills before we go.

An additional aspect of this trip will include providing Costa Rican students with their own learning experience. We are traveling to Costa Rica through a symbiotic exchange program. So when January rolls around; the same students we stay with and learn from in Costa Rica will be coming here, to learn from us.

We will welcome them, knowing exactly how it feels to experience a new culture.

- Megan,
Veteran Scholar

McLean County Diversity Project   c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz   16043 Dorado Road Bloomington, IL 61705