International Experience: Sri Lanka

A blog post from SOLES MA in Higher Education Leadership Ambassador, Emily Davis:
“You’ll get what you need.”
I have heard this advice countless times during my years at SOLES, often coming from my wonderful advisor, Cheryl Getz. At first I didn’t know how powerful it was, but let me tell you—this mantra has come to sum up my entire SOLES experience.
In particular, I had no idea what I needed when I went to Sri Lanka for two weeks in January of this year. I almost didn’t go on this trip for financial reasons, and was actually not at all excited to go when I got on the plane. And thank God I did, because that trip has changed my life. This trip is certainly not your typical study abroad or educational trip, and for that I am so thankful.
Instead of visiting museums, you’re hiking over 1,000 stairs to an ancient palace and your jaw drops at the sheer beauty of your surroundings. I didn’t know how much I needed to re-center myself in nature.
Instead of staying in a hotel, you’re staying in a peace center, a hostel, and the location of a future higher education institution; all dedicated towards empowering the Sri Lankan people. I didn’t know how much I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone.
Instead of hypothesizing about community development, you’re living it and staying in the homes of the community members. You’re a little nervous because communicating without speaking the same language is so hard, but you’re content and joyful because everyone speaks the language of dancing and laughter. I didn’t know how much I needed to let myself be loved by strangers.
Instead of sitting stagnant in a classroom, you’re learning how to lay brick to form walls and digging dirt out of the side of a cliff to lay the foundation of a community center. I didn’t know how much I needed to work with my hands and remember the importance of simplicity.
Instead of studying with classmates, you’re studying with incredible individuals that have become dear, life-long friends. I didn’t know how much I needed to be vulnerable and let other people walk alongside me in my journey.
If I can give you any advice as you’re beginning your SOLES journey it would be this: embrace the things that feel the most uncomfortable. Sometimes, they stay feeling uncomfortable. But sometimes, your life will be transformed when you get what you never knew you needed.

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