First Place, Intercultural Experience: Jessica Brown, Karatu, Tanzania. "Learning the ways of the Masaii: I had the opportunity to learn about the traditional Masaii people. They're the largest tribal group throughout Tanzania, where over 145 tribes are present. Each has its only language and characteristics that make it stand out. The Masaii people are traditionally known for being herders and having a diet that consisted of only of what they could get from a cow: blood, milk and meat. Nowadays not all Masaii still practice these customs."

Photo by Jessica Brown ’16 : “Learning the ways of the Masaii” Program: SFS: Wildlife Studies Tanzania, Karatu (spring 2015)

It’s a time of year when we wish each other good tidings, Merry Christmas, joy to the world and peace on earth. It’s also during this time that St. Thomas will welcome home 137 fall semester study abroad students and will soon be sending off 133 spring semester students, 62 VISION participants and a record-breaking 630 J-Term students. That’s a dizzying number of Tommies crisscrossing the globe.

During their time off campus, students will take courses, do field research, participate in service projects in over 40 countries, and engage with people and cultures who may be quite different from them.

As Frank Bruni, in The New York Times said this weekend, these programs are meant to “unveil the complexity and splendor of the world, and prepare students to be thoughtful citizens.”

Travel provides a natural disruption to the day-to-day routine, and we challenge our outbound students to take advantage of this and push themselves out of their comfort zones. Engage with the local community and make meaningful connections. Bringing those experiences and diverse viewpoints back home and to St. Thomas helps enrich our community.

Nine hundred and sixty-two students results in an infinite number of interactions. When we focus on the positive influence each of those interactions can make on the common good and our community, we can see the magnitude of our collective power.

Peace on earth? Perhaps we’re one step closer.

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