By Sylvia Shipp, ELP Lecturer
I was hoping to hear, as in years past, reflective stories delivered by our Chatham domestic and foreign students. In previous International Educational Symposiums, students would relay their various challenges they’d had to overcome in their chosen country to study, as well as highlights of their stay. Highlights usually included the lifelong friends they’d established, teachers and classes that had helped to improve their skills and broaden their horizons, and places they’d had the chance to visit.
This year, although some reflections presented resembled those in the past, many highlights had a very different color and energy compared to previous ones. On a similar note, the mountains that needed to be summited were steeper and more dimly lit. Yes, perhaps fewer friendships were forged, but the strength and supportiveness of those friendships seemed to surpass those from previous years. Yes, many of the classes were hybrid or fully virtual, and yet students seemed to invest more time honing academic skills, independent learning, reading, in addition to perfecting creative talents and athletic skills.
All of this and more, despite the uncertainty that this year has wrought on all of us, our families, and friends. I was deeply touched by the talks our students gave, moved by their ability to see the beauty in a time where others might not, moved by their level of reflection and stamina to move forward when others might feel a malaise or paralysis. Actually I assume the students who gave their talk during IEW feel many of the same fears and hesitation the rest of us feel, but they’ve managed to rein in the negativity to keep moving forward. That’s why the IEW talks this past week seemed especially precious and why I’ll always treasure their inspiring messages.
I’d like to give a heartfelt thanks to all of you awesome students, including Hiroki, Miku, Hanna, Walker, and Lerlina, who openly shared your hearts and minds with us.