Maximizing Your Global Learning Experience (a series) Part III: Meaningful Action

This is Part 3 of a blog post series on maximizing your learning during an opportunity to spend time in another country getting to know a community and a culture. Part 2  was all about making the most of your time while there. You will most likely be changed by your experience and want to follow up your trip with meaningful action for change in your everyday life. Today, author Pat Elson provides tips for taking meaningful action when you return home.

Tips for maximizing your global learning experience, Meaningful Action:

  1. Pick a place to start. Don’t be overwhelmed by “how big it is.” Decide on a response that is doable and meaningful for you.
  2. Connect global experience to local action. What did you learn from the experience that helps you understand local issues from a new perspective?
  3. Learn more about the issues you have identified. Are they similar to concerns in your home community? What can you learn from your partner community’s experience and analysis?
  4. Keep journaling! What stuck with you from the experience? What are you noticing more now in your community? What triggers you more now than before?
  5. Be persistent. Your opinions may be dismissed, and you may be told you are “too young,” “too idealistic” or “too something else.” Your experience and learning are yours and important to share with family and community. Don’t get discouraged.
  6. Seek communities of support. It may feel like you are alone, but there will be others who share your commitment and are willing to work with you. Look for events, spaces, and groups where you can experience solidarity.
  7. Look for opportunities to act in your home context. Where are there local opportunities for short- and long-term action for change?
  8. Connect with elected officials before and after trip. Establish a relationship by letting elected officials know where you are travelling and why. It will be easier to meet after the trip to share what you have learned. And, you may get some swag to take with you!
  9. Explore lifestyle changes. There may be joy-filled, spirit-filled and meaningful ways to make changes in your own life as part of an ongoing relationship with the community you visited. Look to be surprised.
  10. Act to protect the things you love. Action is more sustainable when it comes from a place of working for or protecting things you love.
  11. Acknowledge anger and frustration. You may feel anger or frustration about what you saw and experienced, and as well when you return home. Be prepared. Embrace your sacred rage and use it to remain awake and focused. (Terry Tempest Williams) 
  12. Settle in for a long haul! Be visionary in what you want to do, but realistic in how you might live it out.

Which of these tips have you found especially helpful?

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Pat Elson ( is the Team Leader for People in Partnership programs for The United Church of Canada.