by Matt Glendinning
I believe in traveling.
When I was in college, I got on a plane for the first time when en route to Greece for a semester of foreign study. Spending four months in another country, being forced to use a different language and to navigate unfamiliar customs was an eye-opening experience. I arrived there an Engineering major but left a devoté of Classical Archaeology, as the trip changed my perception of the world, and of myself. I have been traveling along a path of academia ever since, one that has culminated in my current work at Moses Brown.
How many of us have had similarly transformational travel experiences?
I believe in forms of education that use travel as a learning paradigm. To succeed and thrive in today’s rapidly changing, globally-interconnected world, students need exposure to difference. They need to experience feeling uncertain, even uncomfortable, and they need practice breaking down stereotypes by interacting with people from different backgrounds.
Travel also imparts other key skills, e.g., problem solving, as deciphering a train schedule or a restaurant menu in another language poses challenges far beyond daily experience in one’s native tongue. Being in a different physical setting can also foster creativity by triggering unforeseen connections and associations.
Lastly, travel often helps identify and grow passion. Without passion, there is no purpose, and today’s children – tomorrow’s leaders— need both if they are to become effective stewards of the planet.
The great thing about the benefits of travel is that you don’t need to go to Timbuktu to experience them. Our local communities are full of different seen and unseen boundaries — political, linguistic, ethnic, racial, religious, socio-economic etc. — and deliberately finding ways to cross them can be enriching and rewarding.
I believe that travel is a frontier that schools need to explore.
Matt Glendinning has been Head of School at Moses Brown since 2009. An academic as well as an athlete, in his second year at MB he took a “team” to run in the anniversary of the Marathon in Athens, Greece.