Zachary Biddle ’18 — I come from a small town just East of Indianapolis called New Palestine. Being from there, I was not immersed in anything but white culture. To be honest, I came into this week with much skepticism on what it was I would be experiencing. I was skeptical of things like public transportation, being in a school/neighborhood I had never experienced anything like, and how the students would interact with me. I was nervous that the students would treat me with no respect because of what I had heard and seen about public, urban schools in big cities. If I learned anything over the week, it would be to not judge a book by its cover. This week has been one of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences I have had in my life. The school itself was a great experience. Not only was it n experience for me to learn about these kids’ lives, but also, it was an experience for these big city kids to learn about a kid from rural Indiana. I created a bond with these students over the past four days that I did not expect to happen. Many of these students have no support system at home, so the school is the only support they have. It was great to know that my doubts and skepticism about Chicago Public Schools could be put to rest knowing that there were great students and great teachers apart of it.
We have been immersed in different cultures throughout the week by going to Chinatown, Pilsen, and Little Italy. These places have also led to new experiences in culture in the form of food. The food that we have tried this week has been amazing and I have been able to try new things that I never have in the past. For example, I tried Calamari for the first time and loved it. It was interesting to see how different cultures expressed ideas as well. In Pilsen, which is a Mexican neighborhood, we walked around and saw Mexican murals painted on the side of buildings and all over. This showed us how different cultures interact and express feelings and ideas.
Thursday night, we got to go to a great restaurant in Little Italy called Francesca’s. We met up with Alumni there and talked about our week and what this trip has meant to us so far. It was cool to see how what we were seeing in the neighborhoods and in the classrooms matched up with what the Alumni think about the ideas. Talking with Alumni and fellow Wabash peers and staff allowed us to debrief how our week as been, and do so in a way that allowed us to look at what others have noticed while being on this trip and think about their perspectives and how it can change the way we all think.
All in all this week has been a culture shock for me. It has opened my eyes to new perspectives and allowed me to look at things through a different lens. I am thankful for this trip and am a better person because of it. For future students that go on this trip, go in with an open-mind and be ready to try new things, because at the end of the day, we are all apart of these United States and it is our goal as Americans to be welcoming an accepting to all cultures and walks of life.