Each month, the Student Journeys Series will feature a guest blog post by a former student of Vicki’s. They’ll write about how their lives have been shaped through their global education experiences. This week’s Student Journey post is written by Khatsini Simani. Khatsini enjoys learning for the sake of learning, seeking knowledge about her own ethnic history, and making time for creative expression. She currently supports bike safety education in schools in the greater Seattle area at the Cascade Bicycle Club and is pursuing a degree in construction management. Something that excites her at the moment is the national Youth Bike Summit, an annual event where youth ages 14-24 will gather to explore what bicycling means to us and the future! Join Khatsini and Bike Works in Columbia City Feb 13-15.
My first experience with global learning in the context of formal education was in Senegal, through a Global Service Learning program at Lakeside High School in 2009. This was the first time I had traveled outside of the U.S. with peers and at an age at which I could remember.
Although I wasn’t new to adapting to different environments (bussing from Rainier Valley to Lakeside School daily was itself a game of cultural Double Dutch), the trip to Senegal proved to be a pivotal moment in my life with a lasting impact.
When I think of my time in Senegal, the following memories come to mind: reflecting on the rocky coast of Gorée island; learning Wolof; sitting under a veiny Baobab tree with my host family while discussing the construction of race and our cultural norms; seeing, for the first time in my life, a sea of deep brown faces that looked similar to my own upon stepping off of the plane in Senegal; observing large French men smoking cigars in Thies; volunteering at a hospital’s backyard urban farm; building lasting friendships.
The smallest, most vivid details stay with me just as much as those which brought forth questions about identity, privilege and purpose.
Ten years ago I was a quirky and athletic introvert with a face half-hidden by glasses. Growing up in Rainier Valley, complex feelings of belonging to a community rich in diversity grew alongside a desire for physical and economic agency. Through books and late afternoon bike rides around the city, I’d imagine my way into different worlds.
Today I find my world expanded through travel. The experiences I have, both locally and globally, that place me in unfamiliar spaces challenge me to grow and to interact differently with my environment. The more I experience, the more I find myself yearning for authenticity, seeking perspectives outside of my own or those in my immediate vicinity, and better appreciating the value of diversity.
Flying outside of the country gave me a new perspective of the U.S.—our values, norms, and unique past. Being largely immersed in a new culture caused me to critique the values I carried and to grapple with my perceptions of power, privilege and agency at a much larger magnitude than I had before.
We live in a world that connected in many ways, yet segregated and isolated in others. When I lived in the valley, my community was my block and city. Through travel and new cherished relationships, I began to envision myself as a part of a larger community and my network expanded.
Global education can reshape the idea of community and facilitate all types of learning. For a student to be placed in a situation where they are challenged to be outside of their comfort zone, is great preparation for real life, where syllabi often don’t exist and opportunities for growth are everywhere. Discomfort can cause a person to ask questions like: What values do I hold and why? What can I learn in situations of discomfort or uncertainty? How can service be mutually beneficial, whether it is local or global? With savvy facilitation, I believe education in a global setting can cultivate new ways of engaging, learning and shrinking the spaces between our many worlds.