Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | May 4, 2021

Travel in Panama

By Emily Blackwelder 

Through travel, I have learned about the power of language, vulnerability, and connection. On my journey in Panama through the Global Glimpse organization, I found the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone and opening up to new, different people. The cultural differences, language gap, and the humid heat of Panama were more than difficult to adjust to, but making these adjustments inspired a newfound confidence within me, which I used to share my vulnerable artwork and learn about my place in the world. I’ve learned that building a connection with someone new can start with something as simple as eye contact, a question about your background, or someone trying to speak your first language even if they don’t pronounce everything perfect. Thinking back to my third day away from home, I’d heard one of my peers from inner-city Springfield say “the real cultural shock is the other people we’re here with” and that sentence really flipped my world around because I’d never expected to feel disconnected from the peers I had travelled with. I was so focused on the differences between the United States and Panama that I never once considered how differently I might have grown up compared to someone in my own hometown. I came to the realization that cultivating empathy, compassion, and sharing experiences with others is equally important in travelling 4,000 miles from home as it is when connecting with someone who lives only ten miles away.

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