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Finding Similarities in Our Differences by Gillian Warner, Community, Environment, and Development Major

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Posted: June 12, 2018

“The ability to connect with people through our similarities instead of dividing us because of our differences will be a lesson I can carry with me wherever I go.”
Exploring Xunantunich helped us understand the history and traditions that helped form societies.

Exploring Xunantunich helped us understand the history and traditions that helped form societies.

It is hard to believe my time in Belize is already over! Back home in Pennsylvania, braving the freezing temperatures, I’m daydreaming of the hot sun, blue skies, and adventures filled with lessons. I know I will always look back fondly on my time in Belize and the connections I made with people who have a very different culture and way of life than I do. However, this trip has taught me that no matter how different we may seem, there are more similarities between people than we may realize.

Spending time in Laguna with Mayan families was one of the best parts of the trip. I’ve learned about ancient Mayan civilizations throughout my schooling, and to connect ancient traditions to modern day practices helped me understand the value of culture, history, and tradition and the role of those core values in shaping a community.

One of my favorite discussions we had on this trip was with the traditional Mayan farmers of where we were staying. In this conversation, we talked about the role of traditional Mayan values such as hard work, community, peace, and protection of natural resources. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my values are similar to those shared within the community! This connection of our similarities made the conversation feel more natural and helped me understand the farmers’ work, even if their agriculture looks much different than ours.

Traditional farming is not without challenges though and it faces many problems that modern-day agriculture faces as well. Due to children of farmers leaving for education or job opportunities, not many young people are coming back to carry on traditions. Traditions have already changed, with the spiritual practices around Mayan farming fading away. This not only challenges their way of life, as we also see with farmers in the United States and around the world, but it also challenges the Mayan culture and the roots of their identity.

The ability to connect with people through our similarities instead of dividing us because of our differences will be a lesson I can carry with me wherever I go in future travel, education, careers, or personal relationships. Learning this life skill through hands-on experience and adventures that pushed me out of my comfort zone strengthened me and helped me grow to become more confident and independent. I am so excited to continue to grow with this lesson and share my experience with others while continuing to step out of my comfort zone and find similarities wherever I go!