Why we go abroad

Imagine this scenario. A student posts a picture of themself wearing “disheveled” clothing, with an ear to ear smile, holding an adorable African or South Asian child as a prop. It’s not a hard thing to picture is it? That’s probably because the average person at ASL saw these photos popping up across social media this summer.

It begs the question, why do we serve? What is the real significance of going where we go and trying to help? Are the trips we take over the summer really helping anyone, or are their main function social networking attention and resumé building?

My cynicism doesn’t extend far enough to say that any form of service over the summer went to waste. There are plenty of opportunities to provide genuine service and I praise anyone who went out of their way to help people this summer, without the involvement of an incentive. My cynicism extends more to organized trips that send upper class teenagers to third world countries across the world to do “service”.

My first issue with this is the idea that privelaged 16-year-olds have a better idea than locals of these respective places on how to improve the community. One could say they’re lending their labor but they’re not experts on how to build or farm, and certainly are more useless than people that do that for a living. You could also say that they are lending their funds to the project by paying for the trip, but that’s not their money, they didn’t do anything to earn it.

The fact that we think we can go to these countries and immediately be of service and know better than the people that live there what is best for them is downright degrading. Equally degrading is posing for pictures with little kids, as if they’re objects, and hoping it gets us a good amount of likes on our next Instagram post.

There is nothing wrong with going on these types of trips for the experience. I personally love travelling and believe going to a different country is a great way to learn. I went on a summer program to a different country and had a great time. This trip wasnt meant to be for service though, I went for my own personal reasons.

Unfortunately, not everyone goes on these trips for personal gain. On my trip I heard on countless occasions, “this is going to look so good for colleges” and “which one should I upload to Facebook?”. I even witnessed tourists paying young children they found cute to take pictures with them.

It’s a dangerous and degrading mindset that we often find ourselves falling into. It is importang to be conscious of how we act  and portray ourselves when we travel abroad. Stereotypes in our society often paint pictures of inferiority in respect to the people in the countries which so many of us visit. When we bring these stereotypes into the way we carry ourselves abroad it can be detrimental to our opportunity to learn from others abroad, our ability to gain proper experience from the new places we are visiting and our endeavors to show proper respect to the people who are  kind enough to have us in their country.

[email protected]

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All The Standard Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *