How cool would it be if one day you got to go on a trip with students not only from all over the United States, but also from all over the world? The trip might allow you to ask questions of people that live in places you have only seen on TV, read about or imagined visiting one day. Places like Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Columbia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Alaska, and Iowa just to name a few. Imagine the possibilities, the conversations you might have or the ones you might simply listen to. Imagine the perspectives you could learn from and stories that might be uncovered.
Well this past September, this is exactly the opportunity that I had. You see, I have the amazing pleasure to advise and mentor a group of students here at the University of Rochester called the Renaissance and Global Scholars. I must confess however more often than not I am learning more from them, than they are from me. The Scholars are made up of 86 students from all over the United States and around the world; and to kick off the new school year we took a trip together to Niagara Falls.
Some of the new members of the group had only been living in the US for a few weeks. And for some of them coming to the University of Rochester only a few weeks prior, was the first time they had been to the United States. Further, most of the students had never been to Niagara Falls, so there was much excitement about the trip. Our trip began with lunch and an hour long bus ride to the falls. I saw many students looking out the windows in much that same way a child looks at the world for the first time. Many of these students had never seen this part of the world before and they reveled to take in every moment.
When we arrived at Niagara Falls we toured the park next to the falls and got our first glimpse at it. After our tour of the park we took an elevator down about 200 feet the base of the falls, where we boarded the maid of the mist (the tour boat the takes you up the Niagara River and gets you a very close view of the falls) Everyone took this experience in with amazement. As we got closer our rain slickers were soaked with the mist from the falls. We all stared on with amazement – the magnificence and power is enchanting. One student later wrote to me after the trip that “I thought god had put all the beautiful places on the earth in Africa. That was until I saw Niagara Falls!” After the boat tour we were all able to hike up stairs on the side of the falls to gain more amazing views. As we made our way out of the park we toured a local food and music festival that was going on. We got to sample some of the local food and listen to music. The day concluded at the Hard Rock Café where we all shared a meal together and stories of our day. The bus ride home was filled with students sharing their life experience and many new friendships were formed.
The trip to the falls on that beautiful summer day was one that many of the students and I will never forget. The trip marked the beginning of many new friendships that may last long after the student’s college days are over. For them it was an opportunity to share and learn from one another. For me it was an experienced that reminded me of the great potential the students have at the UorR and the unique, wonderful people I work with every day.