Learning to Be a Pilgrim, Learning from the Stranger
Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges – something lost…and waiting for you. These words written by Rudyard Kipling describe nicely the wonder of travel. The excitement that exists leading up to a new adventure, to an unknown place, the sense of adventure that invites exploration and the seeking out of new experiences. Yet Kipling’s quote should also lead you to ask the question, what is waiting for you as you pack your bags and leave for an interim or semester? What does God want you to seek in your time off-campus?
Some may see a semester abroad or interim as the opportunity to be tourists, seeing the wonders of the world, but this leads to a number of self-critical questions about the purpose of our travel:
- Do you see other cultures as commodities to be purchased and consumed?
- By participating in this program, are you just buying an item for your resume?
- Are you willing to leave your safe "bubble" of American friends and genuinely encounter another culture on its terms? Are you willing to experience the joy and challenges of another life?
- To what extent, do you want a program where everything is planned, structured, and predictable, or are you open to what is unknown and not foreseen?
- Do you want simply to gaze at exotic people from a safe balcony or bus, or do you want an engagement with another culture that teaches you how others perceive you?
These questions push you beyond the boundaries of an ordinary tourist and reveal something significant about Calvin’s hopes for your travel. The Off-Campus Programs Office hopes that you learn and grow through your experience. Much like the pilgrim on a quest, we wish for you to be transformed through your journey. We want you to come back a different person. We want your travel to influence the rest of your life.
Many of you have thought deeply about your motivations for studying off-campus. You have a hunger for more meaning than can be provided by the tourist industry. Tourists often ask only ―am I getting my money’s worth? Is it worth it? Whereas the pilgrim asks: Am I worthy of this encounter? How can I be a blessing to others I meet and let others be a blessing to me?
Many tourists judge the worth of the culture they visit and never examine what their travel reveals about their own culture’s values. The pilgrim, in contrast, should judge him or herself. The pilgrim also asks not what he or she wants but what God wants to teach us through our travel. So as you prepare for your off-campus experience and as you experience the joys and challenges of studying off-campus, continue to challenge yourself with the question, what is God trying to teach me through these experiences and my interactions with others along the way?