The May Experience at Furman incorporates a 2-credit domestic or international study away program following the spring semester.
My intentions for study away were quite different than the average student. After spending my past fall semester studying and traveling throughout China, a country rich and full of vast culture and history, I decided that I needed a new experience, particularly one that did not include international travel or a foreign environment. Once I returned to the states in late November, I recognized that I traveled throughout more of China than I had in my own native country. The Indian Country May Experience throughout the Southwest experience within the month of May called to my interests and to my heart. Not only was this based on the fact that it would allow me to visit the west side of the United States (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah), but I knew that I would be introduced to landscapes, history, language, and religion of which I had never been exposed to.
Starting off our three-week journey was a trip to the sixth biggest state, Arizona. We immediately began to learn about the ancestors and the homes of the native peoples in the southwest from the moment we stepped off the plane. Museum after museum, I discovered how the native peoples shaped their own cultures and lives. The Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni peoples stress how important it is for one to know their origin in terms of who you are and where you come from.
The Indian natives such as the Hopi, Navajo and Zuni that had dispersed within the Four Corners have more rich history and culture than any other culture that derived in the states. Throughout the experience and teachings within the homes of the native people in the southwest, I reflected on the means of legacy and preservation through ancestry, religion, the means of a loss in language, and sense of home/landscape, as these serve as the values to those that are descendants of traditional homelands.
The ideals and meanings about culture that I learned about made me think differently, and even more broadly about how I should go about my life.
Exposure to these different value systems gave me new perspectives, especially after examining how the native’s experience and life is different than mine.
One of our tribal tour guides stated: “You don’t own the land, the land owns you.” Native Americans are passionate about places of origin and landscape from where their ancestors once lived. Driving throughout the Four Corners, I got to witness so many places that were home to so many with rich, historical backgrounds.
The native people of the indigenous lands made efforts to preserve and maintain their languages, ceremonies, cultural traditions, and religion. Looking back on my three weeks on this journey, even though it was a short period of time, I can say that I grew mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
The whole trip was a learning experience. Not only was it educational in the Furman aspect, but also I never learned how to read a tangible map or navigate as the passenger without the data of a phone app or Google maps. While it was quite stressful and frustrating at times, I walked away with another life skill that I am sure I can put to use someday in the near future.
From Phoenix to Albuquerque, my beliefs were questioned as I quickly became introduced to new cultures, and grew in knowledge and faith with a group of nine outstanding individuals by my side.
In most Pueblo languages, there is no word for goodbye. Instead of saying “goodbye” to this adventure, I said, “Until we meet again.”
Take advantage of the full Furman experience!
I am sharing my experiences and what I learned from my study away domestic trip to encourage students to not only apply to international programs, but domestic study away trips as well. These three week study away programs are meant to enhance your Furman experience whether that be taking a course outside of your major, traveling to brand-new heights, or experiencing a different culture.
To learn more about Furman May Experiences, be sure to check out the website.
Don’t forget, #imyourPALauren