This week we welcomed our 2014/2015 Alumni Ambassadors for a few days of training and study abroad talk. Our President and CEO Bill Gertz spoke to them about his first time out of the country and the impact it had on him, both personally and career-wise. And to underscore some of the differences between now and 40 years ago, he passed around his student ID to show the kids what was hip back in the day (hint: really long hair).
In an article for WYSE Travel Confederation, Bill talked about the impact of his first trip abroad:
“I learned so much more during this trip than I did in my four years of college. But more importantly, I found myself. I grew up that summer. I decided I wanted to make travel a career (although I never called it that). I also learned to be alone, to be independent, to be away from creature comforts, family, TV and familiar foods and locations.
Flash forward almost 40 years. Life is different now and we all embrace new technology. The internet is great for bringing the world together; we see videos on YouTube, make international friends on Facebook, and speak to our friends around the world on Skype. But are we missing something? What have we given up in the name of instant communication and gratification? Is the sense of adventure gone? […]
We need to temporarily cut ourselves off from our “regular life” and open our minds to the world of opportunity- disconnecting from family and friends for a brief period. The idea of travel is to meet new people with varying viewpoints rather than keeping in constant contact with those we know well.”
We discussed some of the downsides of technology, but we also discussed some of the benefits: learning about an amazing place to travel for spring break on Pinterest, connecting with AIFS students on other campuses, and staying in touch with friends and host families via social media.
Perhaps it’s not quite as adventurous as 1973, but the sense of adventure is still there for each new group of students we send abroad every year. And that’s why we do what we do!