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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Puerto Rico

I taught a course this fall where we used the history and culture of Puerto Rico as a lens to examine our own cultural identity - it combined an orientation course for freshman with a travel study open to upperclassmen. The day after final exams were done, we headed off to the island to experience firsthand the culture we'd been studying for the past few months.
The great thing about Puerto Rico in terms of people who've never been abroad before is, since it's a U.S. territory, you don't need a passport to go there, so it was accessible to those students who had never left the mid-west before. It was also a good introduction to being in another culture with enough American elements for them to not have complete culture shock. My intention of the course was threefold: for them start thinking about their own cultural identity (people always think about culture as "exotic" and "the other," but really culture is what "makes sense" to us. When you are exposed to and/or confronted with another culture, you realize that what you considered "common sense" or "normal" are rarely universal); for them to learn more about Puerto Rico and its people; and to whet their appetite for travel further afield- hopefully to live and study a semester abroad.
The plaza below our hostel's balcony.

I organized the 10-day trip for my 19 students, and knew that I wouldn't be able to leave my kids behind. I'm not ready to be without them even one day. So, I mentioned to my mom that I would have to find a babysitter to come with us, and she said, "what about their grandmother?" So, that's how my parents also joined the group. They stayed back at the hostel with the kids when it got too late or if the activities weren't appropriate for little ones, like kayaking or a night tour of the city.
The plaza at night decorated for Christmas
I'll show you some highlights in the coming days. We had a wonderful group and I think it's safe to say that everyone had a great time. Many students said it far exceeded their expectations. They learned a few things and had fun doing it ;) And, sure enough, I overheard a few conversations about how they definitely had to study abroad before they graduated. Mission accomplished!


  1. Well done and what a great job that you get to take your kids along!!!!

  2. Puerto Rico looks beautiful!! I definitely need to go there since my mother is from here! She tells me I should go all the time! I still have lots of family there! xoxo

    1. Oh my gosh! Yes! You definitely need to go! Your family would be soooo happy to have you visit. My students were amazed with everything about Puerto Rico- the beauty of the island, how friendly and welcoming the people were, the amazing food and music. And it's just a hop, skip and jump for you- there's no reason not to go!