At Studio Kate, we constantly seek to tell inspiring, impactful stories that answer two big questions: What changes the way we think? What changes the way we live? A recent journey to Vietnam with a client gave us an answer.
A few months ago, I shouldered my camera and followed a group of college students from the University of Texas as they studied, worked, and traveled through Vietnam. A wise college administrator organized the trip. She understood the power of travel, especially for students. For on-the-ground expertise, she partnered with Global Engagement Institute (GEI), an international company that coordinates short-term study-abroad programs. GEI hired me to follow along.
On one of the last nights of the trip, we went out to eat in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. After leaving our shoes at the bottom of the stairs, we climbed up to the second floor and sat on cushions scattered around a long low table. Christine, a college sophomore, sat down next to me. I was happy to finally be able to talk to her. She seemed shy, and had kept to herself most of the trip, ducking away from me and my camera. But she had gotten a beautiful tattoo of a sparrow on her left shoulder a few weeks into the trip. This didn't fit the assumptions I had made about her, so I wanted to hear more. We ordered our food, then started to talk. I assumed she would tell me about how homesick she was, and how excited she was to get back to Texas. How wrong I was.
“How has the trip been for you?” I asked.
“Amazing,” she said.
“Really?" Oh! Time to rewrite my line of questioning. "In what way, exactly?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I’ve decided I’m going home and then I’m going to return in a few months to finish college here.” She said this bluntly, matter-of-fact.
“So you’ve traveled a lot?”
“No. This is the first time I’ve ever been out of Texas. I thought I would hate it, but I love it here. I was so scared, but now I feel so comfortable.”
There it was. Travel did it again. Christine’s worldview had changed, in just a few weeks.
Why does this matter? Because Christine is now curious, not scared; she’s now confident, open to new people and new places. Because of travel, Christine will exist differently in this world.
I write this from my desk at home, in Portland, Oregon. Everything is so familiar, even the rain outside. But thinking about Christine -- and the other students -- inspires me, again and again.
Take a minute to listen to Texas college students Elizabeth and Aaron, and Vietnamese college students My and Duc. They say it better than I ever could, which is why Studio Kate makes films the way we do.
In 2018, let’s go to places we’ve never been. Let’s meet people different from everybody else we've ever known. Here’s to change — changing fear into love. Travel is just one of the ways. How does your organization inspire change? What creates change in you?