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CRC International Adventure Program

A Strategic Impact 2013 - 2014 Expanding Georgia Tech’s Global Footprint and Influence


TABLE OF CONTENTS


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Introduction

Yucatan Caving

Unbeaten Path

10 12 14 ASK Balkans Expedition

Scotland Sea Kayaking

Mont Blanc Expedition


INTRODUCTION Strategic Impact Report | Extending Our Global Connection

“This trip has helped me to realize that I never want to stop being a life-long learner! I love learning about other cultures, their roles and history in the world, and how they view life. Moving forward, I want to always be learning about the world and asking questions!� - Adventure Student

The Georgia Tech Strategic Plan, includes the stated goal to expand our global footprint and influence to ensure that we are graduating good global citizens, Campus Recreation (CRC) enthusiastically embraced the challenge to provide meaningful international experiences to Tech students. In the last four years, the CRC has supported international adventure expeditions to Mexico, China (x4), Canada (x3) Croatia (& Bosnia & Serbia) (x2), Scotland (x3), France (with Italy and Switzerland) and Nepal. In the last 12 months, more than 130 students have participated in international adventure programs. New trips are currently being planned to Argentina and Iceland with the goal of visiting all seven continents before the close of 2017. The face of the global economy is changing. Those who can successfully navigate differences rooted in culture and ethnicity will be far more prepared to succeed. Success requires more than reading about or hearing about differences, it requires experiencing them. The signature element of these international adventures is the idea that to understand a culture, one must get off the beaten path, experience it, and strive to understand more than what is superficial or obvious. Students who travel internationally report that they feel better prepared to manage cultural differences that they encounter in their personal and professional lives. What is the best way to gain a deeper understanding of another culture? It is to become immersed in it, in a spirit that is far different than that of the average tourist. Our adventures include traveling to out of the way places and making intentional efforts to talk to and share ideas with people from another culture.

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Campus Recreation Center | Strategic Impact Report 2014

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SID ARGARWAL Aerospace Engineering, 2015

Yucatan Caving Expedition, 2012 Experienced members of the Outdoor Recreation program are provided the opportunity to request funding from and endowment provided in the name of Miller Templeton. If the expedition is selected from the 6-7 proposals received each year, resources are provided to underwrite the cost of the expedition for a team of 12, then spends up to a year preparing for the trip. Not only does the team consider their itinerary and draft a risk management plan, but they are encouraged to consider how they might “Leave a Trace” of their journey through service and interactions with the locals they meet along their unbeaten international path. Sid Argarwal was a team member on the 2012 Yucatan caving expedition and recently led an expedition to Mount Everest Basecamp in Nepal.

The most significant experience for me was learning about leadership in a foreign environment. It is one thing to be together as a team in the United States and quite another in Mexico. I could see how group dynamics had changed in an unfamiliar foreign environment. Seeing the expedition leaders foster group cohesiveness through cooking, snorkeling, and finding ways through caves together helped me learn about one of the key roles of a leader - guiding teams to excellence through the best and worst of times. It was amazing to see how people can communicate in different cultures despite the language barriers. I do not speak any Spanish, so I didn’t know the Spanish word for ‘juice’. When I asked a lady in the grocery store, she didn’t understand me either. So, I ended up explaining her through a charade of grinding fruits and then drinking it. She immediately guessed - ‘Jugo!’ This experience helped me realize the universality of some communication means such as body language and gestures. In most parts of the world, people appreciate if you smile, if you say please (por favor), and if you say thank you (gracias). At this same time, this experience also made me aware of how sometimes we can be insensitive of other cultures. I just ignorantly assumed, that everyone would know simple English nouns like juice. As a student from India, it was an eye opener for me to see that not all countries place the same kind of value on learning English. In fact several countries like France take great pride in their language and see it as an important part of their cultural identity. One of the caves was located under a farmland. This meant we had to seek the land owner’s permission to gain access to the cave.

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Campus Recreation Center | Strategic Impact Report 2014

Not only was he gracious enough to let us explore the cave, but he also sent one of his workers along to help us navigate. As it turned out, this worker was quite fond of exploring the caves. He kept smiling during the entire trip that day. I think he was glad to see that there are more cave enthusiasts and that caving was a pretty legitimate activity. After all, a group of Americans had come all the way to Mexico just to explore that cave. After the caving trip was over we invited him to lunch with us, which he seemed to really appreciate. We could barely communicate with him as only one person could speak (some) Spanish. Nevertheless, he seemed to enjoy our company. How could I tell - from his several ‘thumbs ups’ and candid smile. Different people have different opinions of USA, but I think that day we helped a person see a very positive side of Americans - their openness, kindness and friendliness. I think, we all realized that day, that people from different countries and cultures are not that different from each other, after all.

“The experience helped me realize the universality of some communication means such as body language and gestures. In most parts of the world, people appreciate if you smile, if you say please, and if you say thank you.” - Sid Argarwal 7


KEELY DITTO Nuclear Engineering, 2016 The Unbeaten Path, May 2014 “The Unbeaten Path” program involves trekking along non-restored sections of China’s Great Wall. As the groups traverse steep sections of the Great Wall, they eat in small villages and camp in out-of-the-way orchards and farm fields. Chinese interpreters and a few students from Tianjin University travel with the group and participate in activities like rappelling down the side of a 160-foot tall dam and exploring a several hundred year old community garden. The opportunities to mix with Chinese villagers and conversations with guides and Tianjin Univeristy students are often identified as stand-out parts of the trip.

“As a student leader in an organization that caters to a diverse body of students, it is my responsibility to break through cultural barriers and instill a sense of unity within ORGT and with our interactions with the rest of the student body through our Instructional Programs and Expeditions.” - Keely Ditto

As a leader on the Unbeaten Path expedition along the Great Wall in China this summer and a participant in the 2014 China Summer Program, I was totally and suddenly immersed in a culture completely alien to my own. Adrift in a country where I couldn’t speak the language or understand the customs, I initially felt isolated and cut off from the humanity surrounding me. My experience on the Great Wall hike completely reversed this impression, and left me with a feeling of solidarity toward the people of this country. Participating on this hike gave me insight into the daily lives of the locals. Despite encountering lifestyles drastically different than my own - for instance, our group was fed by an innkeeper who caters to tourists hiking the Great Wall in a small mountain village outside of Beijing - I adhered to the familiar attitudes and daily tasks I found present in my own culture. We both laughed. We both felt hunger. The innkeeper wore a black armband to mourn the death of his father, acknowledging a sadness universal to those who lose a loved one. Chinese tourists took pictures of and with us, finding amusement and wonder in something new and foreign. Though I am unaccustomed to being the object of others’ fascination, I was able to appreciate the sentiment and recalled times when I ogled exotic ethnicities in my own country. I will never forget the second night on the hike when the guides provided a bonfire, speakers, and a microphone. That night our group danced and sang to American songs as we danced with wild abandonment around a fire at the foot of the Great Wall. Our frivolity attracted the attention of a group of locals who were camped nearby, and soon a few of them joined us in our revelries. Picture a large group of college students dancing with small Chinese children to hip hop, or lines of Chinese and Americans alike learning how to do a line dance. Despite only an hour of limited interaction, the two cultures mixed seamlessly, united by mutual appreciation and respect. Hugs and high fives were exchanged at parting, and both parties separated with a feeling of warmth toward the other. When I picture a utopian society, where the peoples of the world live in harmony in spite of, or maybe because of, cultural and social differences, I recall that scene that night by the fire, and the strong sense of community I felt that night. Going forward, I hope to recapture that feeling of solidarity I found that night. As a student leader in an organization that caters to a diverse body of students, it is my responsibility to break through cultural barriers and instill a sense of unity within ORGT and with our interactions with the rest of the student body through our Instructional Programs and Expeditions. A love of the outdoors brought both parties to the campsite that night, and a love of community brought them together by the bonfire. At ORGT, a leadership community built on that appreciation for the outdoors, we are extremely well equipped to unify a widely diverse groups of students. I hope to use my new appreciation for cultural differences to recreate the spirit of that night by the bonfire on future trips and expeditions by finding common ground and mutual interests. If the people of two countries separated by a vast ocean can come together in a weekend, ORGT can unite students at the same school separated only by a few blocks, and I intend on being a part of that process.

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CHANDLER BARRE Public Policy and Business Administration, 2017

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“A global perspective is not just knowing about other cultures but instead it is understanding and embracing them.� - Chandler Barre


Campus Recreation Center | Strategic Impact Report 2014

ASK Balkan Expedition, May 2014 The ASK Balkans Expedition, a partnership between Campus Recreation and The President’s Scholarship Program, included 7 days of wilderness travel and 6 days of exploring urban areas in Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. As engaging as hiking the rugged mountains and paddling among islands in the Adriatic was, urban explorations in cities like Split, Sarajevo, and Belgrade defined the experience. First-hand accounts of war and ethnic violence that ripped apart the former Yugoslavia in the middle 1990s as Croatia fought for independence were lifechanging and re-defined perspectives on the world.

I believe the hardest three words in the English language are “I don’t know.” There were a lot of moments of personal growth for me. Being able to admit that “I don’t know” separates the smart from the wise. It is easy to follow formulas and assume answers but it takes maturity and acceptance to admit that sometimes you just don’t know. Even further, once you admit that you don’t know you open your mind to learn from your surroundings. This allows you to not only observe but to understand what is happening and why. One example of this was in the grocery store. We did not know the protocol for produce and Hugh (a faculty guide) suggested we watch the locals to learn what to do. We were in a rush and just assumed that it would be the same as America since it looked the same and we have a preset framework for that instead of admitting that we did not know how we were supposed to go about this purchase. We finished shopping and went to check out and realized that we had done it completely wrong. Instead of admitting I do not know in the first place we seemed more ignorant and insensitive. That was a moment of growth for me to realize that it is more admirable to admit that you don’t know and learn from your surroundings versus being ignorant and assuming answers. I used to think that admitting a lack of knowledge was a confession of ignorance (or weakness) but from this trip, I have learned that I was very wrong. A global perspective is not just knowing about other cultures but instead it is understanding and embracing them. There are many cultures that have histories dating back far beyond our’s in the United States. These cultures have evolved with the land and the people and it is important to take into account all of these factors in order to understand and relate to others. Many a time we leave a country with a camera full of pictures in which the people become a part of the background - a feature of this part of the world. When instead the people should be seen as individuals, with families, lives, and stories from which we can learn. Just taking a moment and speaking with an individual to learn not only about your differences but your similarities as well proves how we may be from different cultures but are humans all the same. Through this practice we can bring back more than just pictures but instead we can bring back insight and stories that add a depth to the pictures. This trip gave me a new perspective. The experiences captured my mind and filled in blanks that I did not know existed before. Each experience we have, no matter how small, changes the way we see the world. If we then take that new perspective and take the time to understand the changes then we can gain a tool that shows us how to see the world in a new light. It makes me look at the world differently which allows me to see new things in my everyday life I had not noticed nor appreciated before. We can use these experiences as motivation for the future using what we have learned as a tool of understanding. Understanding is a two way street. When we speak with other individuals in other countries and take the time to understand their culture, they then take an interest in your own affairs as well. No longer are you a tourist to them but instead you become a person as well and the people you encounter will reciprocate your eagerness to learn. I believe on our trip we were able to make an impact in the lives of many. I personally was able to connect with one of our kayaking instructors and we learned from each other. We treated each other as individuals - not an American and a Croat but as humans.

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MORRIS SATIN Materials Science and Engineering, 2014 Scotland Sea Kayaking Expedition, 2013 Thanks to a Georgia Tech alum who credits at least some of his career success to lessons learned as an ORGT trip leader, an endowment is available to subsidize the cost of “big “ expeditions which are conceived, proposed, planned and managed by Georgia Tech students. A trip leader who is granted resources for an expedition is required to recruit a team of 12 students at least 6 months to 12 months in advance and work with them on a weekly basis to train and prepare. The trip to Scotland involved paddling in the North Sea, hiking on the Isle of Sky, paddling on Loch Ness, and exploring the history and culture of Edinburgh.

“While I don’t think Atlanta is in [my guide’s] travel plans for the near future, I know that I put Georgia Tech on the map for him as a place where outdoor recreation is valued and where he will always have friends.” - Morris Satin

One of my favorite things about our trip was the way the group came together and worked as a team and cared for each other. I have never been with a group of people forced to come together for so long without any kind of conflict or argument. I loved our meals in the evenings that we would make at the youth hostels we stayed in. Every night the group would get together and pool the things that we bought from the grocery store to make something great! There would always be a couple groups of people, but there was always enough of everything to share. Great food and great conversation made the trip that much better. I learned how friendly, helpful, and fun people can be when brought together and given a task.   I certainly learned a lot about Scottish history and culture in preparation for the trip as well as during the trip. Now when I hear about the vote for Scottish independence coming up in the news I think of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met as well as the history of that part of the world. I was very impressed by how friendly and helpful everyone I met in Scotland was, and especially their love of the outdoors. The open policy in that country to backpackers and hikers is one that encourages exploration and making a connection with the land instead of sectioning it off as private ownership and excluding the public from its natural beauty. The trip itself improved my kayaking skills immensely. Our guide Kenny, was extremely friendly and helpful and I learned a few techniques from him that I still use today. I also learned from our trip leaders how much work goes into planning a trip like that and how rewarding it can be to see it become a reality. I will try to keep the same open and cooperative attitude that my trip leaders had and apply it to my own participants on trips I lead in the future. The Scottish person that I had the most contact with over the trip was Kenny, our sea kayaking guide. At the end of the trip, I extended an invitation to him to visit Atlanta to do as much sea kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, or caving as he wanted. While I don’t think Atlanta is in his travel plans for the near future, I know that I put Georgia Tech on the map for him as a place where outdoor recreation is valued and where he will always have friends.

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AHSAN KHAN Aerospace Engineering, 2014

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Campus Recreation Center | Strategic Impact Report 2014

Mont Blanc Expedition, May 2012 The longest international adventure is a 110 mile “Tour de Mont Blanc.” This twelve day hiking and mountaineering adventure through France, Italy, and Switzerland provides Georgia Tech students with not only the thrilling experience of exploring one of the most popular long distance hikes in Europe, but also taught them about other cultures and how to live without technology dependence. The trip was about experiencing nature while challenging oneself mentally and physically.

“We went in with expectations that we would be among people who spoke English, valued the same things we did, and lived similarly to how we live. That was completely untrue. It opened our eyes...” - Ahsan Khan

For most of us, this was the first time organizing an expedition. It was infinitely more complex organizing an international one. Only one of our group members spoke French. Dealing with the language barrier and being new to expedition planning were huge barriers we had to overcome. All of us had different skill sets ranging from those with very solid outdoor skills to those who had better people skills. We were thrown into the situation and by the time we completed the several month planning process and training trips, we thought of ourselves as a team. We coordinated effort in such a way that everyone contributed something to the overall readiness of the trip. The most fascinating thing was that we spent time in small French and Italian villages along the way. We interacted with people who lived off the land and who didn’t speak English. In the mountain region, many of them had supplies helicoptered in every few months. They were very isolated and lived simply. The whole experience opened my eyes to the range of different lifestyles around the world. Who could have imagined that we’d encounter such different lifestyles – even families that shared their living space (quite happily) with goats? We saw how different lifestyles can be. We went in with expectations that we would be among people who spoke English, valued the same things we did, and lived similarly to how we live. That was completely untrue. It opened our eyes to the fact that significant differences can be found even in places where you’d expect not to find them. There were definitely clashing personalities on the trip. Working closely together throughout the planning process and the actual travel part of the expedition was a big challenge. I think each of us developed skills and understanding that allowed us to more easily come to consensus and solve problems effectively. Dealing with personality differences is such an important part of teamwork. For me personally, I am more aware of different lifestyles. I keep a more-opened mind about different cultures and dealing with different people. For most of the people we encountered in the remote mountain areas, we were the only Americans they had encountered. We had a great time communicating with people – mostly of similar age to us -- through language barriers. All of us learned accurately about each other’s countries. As a result many of the people we met expressed interest in traveling to America to see our country themselves. Some have even kept contact with our team members since the expedition. They opened our eyes, but at the same time, we also opened their eyes. On the trip, one of our members sustained a minor injury that did require stitches and did not keep her from participating in the rest of the trip. This provided an opportunity for some of us to experience France’s healthcare system. It was inexpensive, fast, but did have clearly different standards of care than we were accustomed to in the U.S. Getting to the doctor was a significant adventure. It was a French woman who stopped to assist us and wound up driving two of us to the doctor some 40 miles away. She, waited outside the doctor’s office until treatment was complete, then drove us back to the hostel where we were staying. The doctor was impressed with how we treated the injury in the field. She made the comment that our knowledge tended to be more complete than she was accustomed to seeing from her patients. The woman who drove us to the hospital was very gracious and refused any payment for gas money.

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crc.gatech.edu

Strategic Impact Report: 2013 - 2014  

An overview of the department of Campus Recreation's impact on the Georgia Tech community during the 2013 - 2014 fiscal year.

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