by Austin Prouty
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Thinking back, there’s something really amazing about the distance a person can travel in just a couple days.
One moment, you’re sitting in the Wichita airport while the frigid Kansas winter wind blows outside, and less than 36 hours later, you’re sweating in the jungle as you wait for instructions on how to go zip-lining.
There were a total of 12 of us Bethel College students who, along with trip leader Professor Bobby Lloyd and three other chaperones, went to South America for a cross-cultural learning experience during interterm.
The trip began with us flying to Brazil. Over the next two weeks, we would visit Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and Peru.
During that time, we were able to experience a multitude of things. Perhaps the most recognizable place we went was Easter Island, notable for its famous Moai heads.
We also had the opportunity to see Iguazu Falls from the Argentina side, as well as go zip-lining, wet rappelling, hiking, and shopping in urban cultural areas.
Being from the United States, I believe I sometimes fall into the habit of subconsciously classifying other places as either being developed on a similar level to what I’m used to or as somewhat more similar to a “Third-World” country.
This either-or style of thinking was challenged everywhere we went. We constantly saw the stark contrast of large, developed cities and more primitive rural villages in close proximity to each other.
As a business major, I was originally drawn to this trip by the business aspects it provided. While in Argentina, we toured two wineries as well as an olive oil factory.
Doing this showed us the some very interesting differences and approaches between a large business and a smaller, more specialized one – one winery was a large company while the second was family-owned and -operated. It also allowed us to see the unique approaches and challenges brought by the different business models.
However, I would say that the aspect of the trip I ended up appreciating most was the overall cultural experience in all the places we went. Some of the most rewarding times for me were the nights our group spent walking around cities we were staying in, experiencing how each unique culture worked.
Having the opportunity to go on this trip is one I am extremely grateful for. I was able to spend time with some wonderful people I probably wouldn’t have had much reason to interact with otherwise.
Traveling to the places we went has reinforced my belief that everyone should try to experience another culture at least once, if only for the reason that it may make them more aware when they return home.
Austin Prouty is a sophomore from Newton. Other students in the 2017 Bethel interterm class Cross-Cultural Learning Seminar: South America, led by Bobby Lloyd, assistant professor of business, were Ryan Ford, Canon City, Colorado, Matt Graber, Freeman, South Dakota, Anna Grimsley, Hesston, Reece Hiebert, Walton, Tyler Kaufman, Moundridge, Daniel Ratzlaff, Moundridge, Jaden Schmidt, Moundridge, Kylee Schunn, Whitewater, Drew Trollope, Kingman, and Sarah Turner, North Newton.