Keep It Real, It's a Vacation
On the SFSU Class of 2018 group page, AKA a marketing gold mine for seedy companies, posts were made about an opportunity for a 10 day community development trip to Nicaragua.
At first glance, of course I thought this was an awesome opportunity. You get to travel to a new country, learn about it and help improve people's lives.
But in 10 days? That's barely enough time to get used to your mom's new boyfriend, let alone a third world peripheral country.
The problem with that short time frame for a global student program is that it doesn't give enough time for us students to get accustomed to the local culture and be part of the community.
Without that deep sense of belonging and community, it's just a vacation.
You might've helped build a school, or taught someone a couple phrases in English. But you also get to use this trip for your resume, your dinner party stories and your new Facebook profile picture.
At the end of the day, you get to go home to the cushy first world problems of low batteries in iPhones and not getting texted back soon enough. The people there don't get that luxury.
I went to Nicaragua for 3 weeks.
It was 100% without a doubt, the greatest experience you can give to someone at a time where they're still growing and still finding out about themselves.
It's a reality check, a check that comes in a form of hyper realistic visuals of poverty, globalization and privilege. But after that reality check, after those 3 weeks... You just go back home.
I didn't experience that culture shock of coming home. It was more like,
"Sweet, I get to flush my toilet paper down the toilet now."
You definitely don't forget about that experience. But once you come back home, the awareness of deep poverty was less jagged in your memories.
So if you're going to spend money going to a third world country, commit or be genuine about it. I didn't get to choose how long the Nicaragua trip would be, but as college students, we do.
Going to a "humanitarian" trip to a third world country for less than 3 weeks, heck, less than 2 months is nothing more than a vacation.
You shouldn't pretend like it is. It's 100% fine if you want a vacation, but if you REALLY want to help the communities and lives of those living in Nicaragua or the place you're going to, commit to the cause. Don't pretend like it's anything else.
Liping is the founder and editor-in-chief of lipinghuang.com. He is currently a sophomore at SFSU studying Business Marketing.