So, the students have arrived and are here, safely... for the most part. We've had a few hiccups, a couple getting lost (but found). But most importantly, they are a terrific group. A wonderful lot. I think highly of each of them as individuals, and what they've done to come together as a group. This is not easy, but they have come together fast in surprising ways. As if the sheer foreignness that surrounds them is an adhesive – they are sticking together in these early days.
They've only been here a few days, but I am sure it feels longer to them. They have already done and seen so much! First dinner together as a group, and then their first full day was a day long Orientation session, a boat ride, and second night dining together. A long guided walking tour consumed their second full day on the ground, and the list goes on. I have occasionally offered to show them something, but also want to let them have experiences on their own. However, when I ask, "Do you want to see ______?" There is a resounding Yes!
This leads me to what I love about watching them. I'm most impressed by these young people and their sheer desire to open their eyes. In our worlds back home, open eyes (and minds) are rare. We are consumed by personal drama, rarely look up from our electronic devices, rarely engage with our surroundings, others, the variety of cultures that exists everywhere, even in the seemingly sterile suburbs or small towns of America.
Yet, here...there is a real hunger in them to not only see, but experience their surroundings in a way they just can't back home. This is a Study Abroad, and already, without a class, the learning curve is steep. It's not something that can be tested though, or measured... unless you placed a ruler next to their eyes as they walked down one of many lanes in Old or New Town. You can literally see it. Eyes open wider. It's visible. It's noticeable. It's wonderful.
One student said, "I can't stop smiling!" as she was walking down the street, hours after getting off the plane. I told her not to worry about. Smile. It is good. Smile as often as you want, as it allows the rest of your mind and body to fully take in the experience. Smile. All of them. At times, I've seen their smiles as big and wide as their eyes... they're soaking it in. I hope they keep smiling.