Today marks the first week since I arrived in Europe for the first time. I can’t believe how fast time flew by. It seems only yesterday I was typing my application to GPP, and here we are about to wrap this amazing experience up.
I can say that I have learned a lot in the past few days, but that will not quite capture the entire GPP experience. There were facts and figures and statistics; nuances about how higher education is structured and delivered in the Universities that we visited; histories, traditions and practices that both surprised, amazed, and challenged what we considered as acceptable. It was certainly an eye-opener.
All that knowledge-building usually happened in the confines of a board room or conference room. Beyond that, however, there was a lot to take in… new sights, new tastes, new ways of doing things. It was all grandiose and powerful beyond belief. I have gone on educational tours (the term usually used in the Philippines) before, both as a student and as faculty chaperone. None of them involved leaving the country. Back then, I defined an “educational tour” to mean that we will only visit entities related to our course, which meant power plants and manufacturing plants and power distribution companies, among other places. I never included cultural destinations – maybe even frowned upon them when students suggest that they be included – because, I thought, what will that teach my students in the context of engineering? I love visiting cultural and historical places, don’t get me wrong – I just didn’t feel that they are an appropriate part of a travel-and-study program.
My views, needless to say, have changed drastically – and not only because it’s Europe. I have come to realize that art, culture, history and literature are an important part of a holistic education, especially if one’s life purpose is to make a difference in young people’s lives and preparing them to be a productive member of the society of tomorrow. There is much to be learned by being inspired to reflect by beautiful scenery, or having to run because the train is about to leave in three minutes.
There are a lot of things that are now forever part of my picture book of memories because of GPP that seem to have nothing to do with engineering or engineering education. These experiences, however, have opened my eyes and broadened my perspective; I feel that I am a richer version of who I was a week ago in terms of life experience. I have been challenged to be more open and understanding of ways different from mine, and consider the world at large through others’ eyes. It is an interesting combination of still being me, and yet at the same time, I will never be the same. And this person I will become post-GPP will accompany me to my classroom, where I will be able to share my experiences with my students. I can only hope that more aspiring educators get to share in this experience.