Around the World in 120 Days
I am writing this final posting in Pittsburgh. It is hard to accept that the semester has come to a close. We had a great adventure and an unforgettable semester--amazing! (I’m still buzzing with all that we learned, all that we saw, and all that we did.) And I’m grateful to everyone who helped to make this trip such a success—our 14 remarkable students (brave, patient, funny, smart, eloquent, resourceful); my colleagues, Michael Goodhart, Clara Heck, and Joyce Bartholomae, who helped to define the trip’s ambition and character; and the faculty and staff at Pitt who created and who manage this remarkable program (with a special nod to Vanessa Sterling and Nancy Condee).
The PittMAP concept is brilliant. Provide a focused curriculum to insure that the trip is truly a study trip. In our case, we were studying the politics (and not just the economics) of poverty, looking at efforts by governmental and non-governmental agencies to address the needs of the poor in these three major, emerging economies: Brazil, India, China. Provide a focused curriculum, and put the group on a university campus long enough that they can become more than tourists. With four or five weeks in each city, we got to know people and neighborhoods. The students could follow their interests in politics, sports, culture, and the arts; they found soccer games, favorite beaches, running trails, museums, clubs, and concert venues. They created side trips and had private adventures. They made friends, some of the them lasting friends, and partied with students from every corner of the globe. Over the course of our 120 days, we were offered a rare and precious opportunity to enter into the life and rhythm of three great cities: Florianopolis, Hyderabad, and Beijing.
The long line of blog posts preceding this one has told the story of our travels. As you have seen, much of what we learned, we learned off campus--in the cities and through the excursions (or field work) enabled by our local support groups. We visited clinics, schools, villages, government offices and NGOs. We met with writers, social service providers, activists, and corporate executives. And we found our way to the prime tourist sites: out of the way beaches on the island of Florianopolis, the Taj Mahal in India, and China’s Great Wall.
The highlights for me include our visit to a Guaraní village on the mainland of Santa Catarina, our meeting with the journalist and Dalit activist, Mallepalli Laxmaiah, the trip to Burgula, a rural village outside Hyderabad, an evening with Evan Osnos, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and our visit to the Longhai School, a school for children of migrant workers in Daxing District, Beijing.
I’ve been working with undergraduates since 1973. And I’ve worked with study abroad programs in Spain and England. PittMap has provided the most memorable and important and productive semesters of my teaching career. I’ve very grateful to have had the opportunity of spending this semester with this program, these colleagues, and these fine students. To our readers: please help spread the word. There will be new PittMAP groups forming every spring semester—each with a different faculty, a different focus, and a different itinerary. The program provides a once in a lifetime opportunity and you can find it through the Study Abroad Office at Pitt.