The Immersion Experience or Thrown in at the Deep End
Over the holiday period St Mary’s students were involved in a number of immersion experiences. We had girls travel to Santa Teresa, an Arrente indigenous community in the Northern Territory, Bacolod in the Philippine’s and Gualdo Tadino in Umbria. Each of these experiences were different, yet they exposed girls to different cultures, challenges and environments. I have met with girls who have participated in the various immersion programs and have been fascinated by their experiences and what they have taken from these experiences.
An obvious question might be “why do we take girls out of their comfort zones to participate in immersion programs?” The answer is that we believe there is great benefit in undertaking such trips and that the learning that takes place as a result of these experiences can be life changing. Immersion programs can show us that our own values and attitudes are just a tiny glimpse of the huge diversity that exist and the different ways that people live across the globe. These experiences also help to put our own lives into perspective and help to create more compassionate individuals, something that is essential in the world we live in today.
Travelling to new places and immersing ourselves in other cultures helps shape a more rounded understanding of humanity as well as breaking down stereotypes. As we break down preconceived barriers about other cultures we suddenly become global citizens. We see the importance of world peace and a more equitable sharing of resources. There will be a recognition that there are both happy and unhappy people in societies no matter what their living conditions and social class, and that happiness is completely unrelated to wealth. Culture and a sense of community are often more vital ingredients for our well-being and, by immersing ourselves in these things, a little is bound to rub off on each of us.
So what did our girls learn from their experiences? Exactly what has been stated. Money or possessions are not necessarily requirements for happiness. The girls who visited the Philippines spoke of meeting the Good Sam Sisters and children and families who were desperately poor and yet they had such a love of life and joy at the simplest of things. This left the girls feeling both humbled and privileged to have been part of their community.
The girls who visited the Santa Teresa community were left in awe by the work of the Good Samaritan Sisters and learned a few life lessons around acceptance, the dangers of stereotyping and the great richness of Aboriginal culture. Finally our girls who spent time in Italy learned that beauty comes in many forms, in relationships, in the work of the great masters, in architecture and in food.Each student realized that we are part of a world that is far bigger than St Mary’s, the Illawarra or Australia. We are part of a wonderfully exciting, diverse and compassionate world community.
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