In life and education, just as it is with our lamp, toaster or vacuum, no light will be shed, no bread will turn to toast, no crumbs lifted from the floor and no real learning will occur if you're not plugged in to some energy source. You can go through the motions but if you're not plugged in, you're not going to see results. As a young student I excelled in school, despite the fact that I sat, bored and agitated in class every day. (Okay, not the days I skipped, which I’ll admit were pretty frequent.) By excelled I mean I effortlessly passed the tests. That's it. If you asked me today what bedmas is, as someone did the other day, I would not be able to give you an accurate explanation and that's pretty basic stuff. I was in a program for gifted children which is rather funny because looking back it seems my "gift" was retaining information just long enough to pass tests. I don't think I truly learned much during those years. Nothing meaningful enough for me to recall anyway. It wasn't until I escaped the prison like walls of those institutions that I truly began learning. In adulthood I haven't been able to satisfy my thirst for learning new things and gaining new experience because now I'm plugged in to my passion and I'm inspired rather than motivated. Two different words with entirely opposite meanings. One is a pull so strong you can't ignore it, it's an excitement, a fire that burns inside of you, waking you up with an eagerness to pursue that which you are passionate and curious about. The other is an often unwelcome push by some outside influence like well-meaning parents or the fear of lack and failure that often keeps you awake at night with the stress and worry of meeting expectations. In other words, it's the difference between being pulled rather than pushed toward your goals.
In travel programs like ours, students are plugged in before the ship even leaves shore. The first thing they do is choose their own experience based on their interests. Then they have several months for that excitement to grow as they chat with friends and family about the big event. There isn't a student travel program alumni member alive who didn’t independently research their host country out of sheer passion driven excitement. I can't speak for other programs but with GWS, that excitement and passion are nurtured throughout the adventure. We try to stick to high energy activities and fun, fascinating facts and discussions. Even our service doesn’t feel like service, it’s often the highlight of their trip. I mean who wouldn’t find tagging crocs or bathing elephants fun? If we notice a student feeling anything less that passionate and excited, we modify as necessary to maintain that connection and keep them tapped in. It helps that nothing is mandatory on our trips, there are always alternative activities planned for those who may have a paralyzing fear of sharks (like me) and would rather sit out during snorkel tours.
Our best advice for students and adults in any life situation whether it’s education, career or relationships there is no point being there if you’re not tapped in, tuned in and turned on.