Using Travel and Cultural Experiences as Your Education
Dr. Marvee Marr is the program chair for the BA in International Business in the Forbes School of Business & Technology™, with years of international business experience and education. Teaching and consulting abroad (“some of the best memories of my life”) have contributed to her love of learning, and she continues to travel for work whenever possible. In the third installment of her blog series, Dr. Marr shares how you can use travel to open up new ways of understanding and learning.
I am a life-long learner. I have learned from formal education, colleagues, job trainings, books, research, and even TV. But the knowledge I hold sacred and believe is irreplaceable is the knowledge I have learned from traveling the world. As I like to say, travel is knowledge with a view.
Pursuing Educational Travel Opportunities
I write the last entry of this blog series from Memphis, TN. I don’t live in Memphis and have never been here until this trip. While Memphis is not an international destination, I have learned a great deal in my four days here. If you don’t know, Memphis is the home and origin of much popular music: blues, soul, rock, etc. In addition, it is the home of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, and the National Civil Rights Museum. I’ve learned more about the history of African American people in the last four days than I have in a lifetime. (Or perhaps re-learned items I have forgotten.) And while some of this information may be in a book somewhere, much of it is not. Thus, the trip to Memphis has been one of pleasure and learning.
Learning Through Cultural Immersion
Travel is knowledge with a view.
When I began my adult international travels (childhood travels had been dictated by my father’s military assignments), I just wanted to see the world. I knew that interacting with various cultures would lead to creating an “improved” me, but I did not know the depth of knowledge I would acquire. For example, while living in Mexico, I not only learned and grew to better understand the people and culture, but I also learned about Mexican human resources laws, and ways to survive with minimal income and how to travel cross-country by bus and how to obtain a visa to work abroad and… The list could go on and on, as the experience was a mountain of knowledge. When I worked in Europe for five years, I learned EU laws and the history of the region and how to adjust to a currency change (when I lived in Slovakia, the country transitioned from the Kurona to the Euro) and how to travel Europe by train and how to maneuver the Post-Communist health system. The latter was a five-year process, but in the end, a lesson learned. And of course, in each of my stops along my travel path, I learned about the people, the culture, and that diversity is grand.
Preparing to Learn & Live Abroad
I would be lying if I left you with the impression that my travel experiences have all been positive. Adjusting to new cultures and countries has its pros and cons. There were times I was confused, angry, and even afraid. I got on wrong buses and trains, walked in circles trying to find a place, ran in fear from people yelling at me in a foreign tongue, and even cried out of pure frustration. I can’t count the times that I bought an item at the grocery store based on the label and got home to find it was a completely different product. One Thanksgiving in Prague, I bought a goose instead of a turkey since the label was in Polish, but cooked it up anyway for my delighted guest. While in Brazil, I experienced a few frightening experiences with criminal elements while traveling by bus or walking home at night. In Mexico, I was once awoken on a train by federal police pointing a gun in my face. He simply wanted my papers, but the method of “interrogation” was unsettling. Yet from each of these experiences, I also learned.
My international travels have led to my ability to be flexible, adaptable, culturally sensitive, and patient. I remember fondly that the Director of International Affairs in Ecuador would introduce me to people as the “fastest adapter to culture” he had ever met. The skills that I have learned and earned as I have traveled the world are valuable and transferable and help me daily in my professional career. There may be other ways to obtain these skills, but traveling is by far the most pleasurable method.