“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.”
These words of young adult author Sir Terry Pratchett seem to go well with the impact that SST experiences have on this issue of the paper, as well as on all students on campus. Although Pratchett writes about talking faeries, young witches and magical worlds, he offers his readers glimpses of the reality they face when they leave the world they know in order to explore someplace new.
Many of the SST stories we hear from returning students remind us of just how peculiar the world can be. We hear stories of miscommunication, confusion, hardship and of unconditional support. We listen to faith stories of various degrees. On SST, students encounter God after reaching the top of Machu Picchu or upon receiving a cool glass of lemonade after eating a spicy hot pot meal with a host family. These stories alter the way we look at the world and not only provide a different perspective, but they also brighten our lives with colors we haven’t seen before.
SST as a program has grown in its own way as well. Locations have come and gone like the students that had travelled to them. Goshen College has provided students with the opportunities to explore ancient landmarks from the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza (When an Egypt SST location was offered), and even the more recent Tiananmen Square.
Not everyone has the ability to experience SST for themselves, myself included. Whether you are a transfer student beginning your junior year at Goshen or you fall under other specific circumstances, taking a semester to participate in SST isn’t always a feasible option. However, I still believe that students participating in SST alternative courses and facing differing transfer requirements still have the opportunity to experience SST through the stories students share with one another when they return.
The SST convocations have provided opportunities for students to share their stories for others to experience for the first time while also giving these students a chance to relive their own experiences in their retelling. As someone who doesn’t have the chance to experience SST for myself, I cherish the moments where I can listen to others share their own stories or read their experiences in the Record. Although it is a secondhand experience, I am moved by what others have encountered on their adventures abroad.
I agree with Sir Terry Pratchett when he says that returning home from your journey is not the same as never venturing away from home, but I’d also say that there is a difference between returning home and sharing your stories and returning home and sharing nothing. So, tell your stories. Share your experiences. It will not only bring extra color to the lives of others who are unable to experience that SST location, or SST altogether, but it will also make those memories from your trip all the more vibrant and present in your own life.