You know all those facebook posts, buzzfeed articles, and tweets about traveling that you can’t really tell if you love or hate? The “take me here *insert heart eyes emoji*” or the “23 reasons why traveling is so important for 20 somethings” that pop up thanks to your aunt twice removed or that girl you barely remember from middle school. Well, I’m here to tell you it can happen. College can make it happen. This institution and the people associated with it want you to travel. They want you to work for scholarships that can actually make it happen, no matter your background. Thanks to CGIS, I was able to spend 3 weeks in Europe this summer. I traveled with the Global Course Connections program out of the school of Social Work and got to spend a part of my summer in Amsterdam and Berlin meeting the most incredible people and seeing the most incredible things.
Our journey started in Ann Arbor where we took a class together during the winter, preparing to study abroad and studying the differences in systems of juvenile justice, sex work and human trafficking, and just social work in general. Although the class was very open with discussion and format, I have to admit I didn’t really get to know the people I was going to be with constantly for the month of May. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: the best way to get to know someone is to travel to a foreign place with them. It’s hard not to get to know the people you went on a canal ride through Amsterdam or explored the remnants of the Berlin wall with. And that was one of the most incredible parts, I got to know the stories of social workers and social justice advocated in these European countries alongside the stories of other University of Michigan students that also had a hunger for social justice and a soft spot in their hearts for kids funneled into flawed criminal justice systems or women trafficked into sex slavery.
So this is my reflective post. This is the post where I tell you how important it really is to travel, even if you’ve never done it before. My parents have both barely left the state of Michigan in their lives, but I knew that I had to go. And thanks to CGIS and other opportunities this school has to offer, I was able to tour cathedrals that existed before Michigan was even discovered and see the Anne Frank house that I thought I would only read about in books and visit a concentration camp that I thought would only be a pieced together fragmented idea in my mind. People asked me why I went to Europe and the short answer was always “for a class” but what about opening my mind and realizing where I want to go or not go with my life or see things from a new perspective. (But you don’t drop that bomb on your coworker at 9am when they ask)