Final Reflection

Global Gateway DC, August 31

Lily Chavez

As the program comes to an end, I truly cannot believe how much new information I’ve been exposed to in only twenty days. The set up of this program allows for classroom education that is supported through informal learning environments, such as attending museums, tours, and listening to speakers. This is a less explored form of learning since most often our learning environments are confined to formal spaces; however, I thoroughly enjoyed this way of introducing information. I think that the focus on museums and other forms of learning really increased the amount of material I was able to absorb, and also made the learning itself much more interesting. All of the museums and tours we went on were very beneficial and the connection between the excursions and our classroom learning was very clear. I think that this program as a whole taught me more than I would have learned had I just simply taken a standard semester long course on this. The ability to go to a museum or listen to a speaker and learn on my own terms made this experience much more personal, and gave me more control over my education.

The most challenging and eye-opening moment on this program was truly seeing how much I didn’t know. I’ve taken the basic history class in my K-12 education that every student takes. However, I never realized how much the “history” I was taught differs from what really happened in some instances. For example, visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture showed me how little I’ve learned about slavery and African American history as a whole. Much of my education very much belittled major aspects of our history, such as slavery. We had been taught slavery as a straight line. It happened and it was awful, but then President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the slaves, the end. But this discounts that the process of abolishing slavery was indeed not a straight line. We never talk about how many of our Presidents owned slaves, or that the Emancipation Proclamation did not really free all slaves. The National Holocaust Memorial Museum was another instance where I found myself similarly questioning what I had been taught. Throughout my educational journey, we spoke very little about the United States involvement in the Holocaust, and most often about the fact that there was not much that we could do. However, this museum showed that we did not allow refuge for many Jews and that we had the opportunity to bomb a concentration camp to destroy it yet we did not. Much of our lack of involvement was due to a lack of caring, which is something that our public education system often fails to acknowledge. I overcame this challenge by not allowing myself to get discouraged but rather keeping an open mind to all the information I was being exposed to. I took every opportunity to educate myself, in order to come out of this trip feeling overall more knowledgeable.