Bio: Courtney Smith

"The children of Havana."  Two boys pass the time by breaking glass on the street. © Sean Hughes

“The children of Havana.” Two boys pass the time by breaking glass on the street. © Sean Hughes

Global Studies, to me, is important for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I think it’s just about learning to have the ability to be compassionate toward others and to understand situations from a different perspective. Traveling abroad is a very eye-opening experience that absolutely changes the way that you view the world around you, even here at home. I’m a fan of continuous education and traveling in itself is a way of learning to better understand history, religion, communication, expression, and any other forms of human interaction. Traveling in itself is education. I think that the biggest impact global studies has already had on me and will continue to have on me is in molding my outlook on life. I think the American way of thinking is very narrow and traveling abroad and learning about the lives of others and the general way of life in other areas of the world teaches you to see beyond your peripherals. Traveling and studying abroad teaches you to recognize both the achievements and the struggles of others, regardless of where you are.

My personal hobby-type interests include almost anything artistic. I really like art, fashion, dance, photography, literature, and music especially.  If I had any amount of desire to be a starving artist (which I don’t), I’d forget about my education and paint and sing and dance for the rest of my life. I actually enjoy learning and school, though, so that’s not ever going to happen, I’ll just stick to enjoying those things in my free time. Outside of the arts, I’m really passionate about helping other people. While I want to help everyone and make a change and leave my mark on others’ lives, I do believe that the baseline for doing so lies in learning to truly understand others before you try to change anything. I have a very progressive attitude, but I also understand compassion and realize that you can’t force progress when it’s unwanted. So, while my own personal goal include bettering others’ lives, compassion and understanding will always come first in my mind. Learning to listen to people and find out what they want and making the change and the progress that they want is really what’s most important to me.

I chose the Cuba tour for a variety of reasons. First of all, I love traveling and I haven’t done nearly enough of it. The only trip I’ve ever taken outside of the United States was my Honors trip to Nicaragua and that trip alone was enough to get me hooked. Plus, I was in need of another honors experience anyway so my immediate thought was to find another study tour option. I’ve taken years of Spanish as well so I was hopeful to find a study-abroad course to a Spanish-speaking destination. With that, too, I’m planning on traveling abroad next semester to teach English to Spanish-speaking natives (not quite sure where yet; I’m considering either Costa Rica or Chile) so any chance I get to speak in Spanish with anyone whose native language is Spanish is an opportunity I don’t pass up on. So, all of that in itself was enough to make me want to travel to Cuba. But, I still think that the most appealing part of the trip is still the fact that not just anyone from the United States can travel to Cuba. I’m the type of person that’s always looking for new experiences that set me apart from others, I think that’s the Americanism in me, so opportunities to experience things that others can’t easily replicate themselves are opportunities that I cling to.

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