Adults value worldly experiences


Photo courtesy of: Ana Laura Gonzalez-Coria

In May, Gonzalez-Coria spent a weekend in Tangiers where she rode Sabrina the camel.

Wanderlust, to Pat Ma, is the best word to describe his affinity for travel. During his time at Stagg, he loved meeting people. His personality is still today a driving force when it comes to deciding on what place to visit next. “I want to see new things and meet more people,” Ma said. “It’s just a really interesting world.” Ma is among a few graduates who have taken advantage of every opportunity to travel and these graduates have advice for current students.

When the economy crashed in 2008, Ma was laid off from his job. So instead of searching for another one, he went backpacking throughout Europe. “It would have cost me the same to travel Europe than stay at home,” the Class of 1998 graduate said.

Ma said he wasn’t very interested in staying at home while waiting for jobs to open. He’d rather spend his time travelling. “I did the same things but in Europe,” he said. Ma has had about six different jobs in the last six to seven years, he said. During his free time between jobs, he likes to travel. It helps that he doesn’t have a house or family to worry about. “Maybe one day I’ll have that,” he said. “I don’t really have anything to hold me back.”

What others perceive as a lack of stability is what Ana Laura Gonzalez-Coria defines as her comfort zone. Like Ma, Gonzalez-Coria doesn’t have a family or home she leaves behind when she goes on trips, making it easier to travel as often as she does. “For me, stability is change,” she said. “It’s always been like that.” Since graduating in 2008, Gonzalez-Coria now lives in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain and teaches high school English.

When she went to University of the Pacific, she took advantage of many opportunities to study abroad, taking classes in Central America, South America and Italy during three different school terms.

She uses her fingers to tally the countries she’s visited. Thirteen. “I would like to visit 30 countries by the time I’m 30,” she said. Although she says there’s no special  reason, she later says that travelling allows people to continue learning. “There are people who travel to go on vacation,” she said, “and there are people who travel to learn.” Learning about the country, the people, and the culture is what lives Gonzalez-Coria satisfaction.

The classroom walls decorated with various maps and inspirational quotes are well-known with students of Audrey Weir-Graham. She points to a banner that stretches across one side of her classroom, reading: Let learning take you around the world. “I’ve committed to the idea that we get the most when it’s experiential learning,” she said. Weir-Graham first had the opportunity to travel during her sophomore year in high school. As a member of the Spanish Club, she went on a mission trip to Mexico where she helped build a school. “That was life changing to me,” she said. “I was exposed to poverty.”

Her religion teacher, whom she still keeps in contact with today, was perhaps the biggest influence in “opening the doors to travel” and “opening the doors to teaching,” she said. This is where her philosophy stems from. “When you’re a teacher you’re supposed to be a life-long learner,” she said. “We look at the world today — we have to bring a sense of understanding.”

In her World History class, Weir-Graham shares her travel experiences as part of her lesson plans. She’s famous for straying away from the textbook, which she points out is Eurocentric. When students are learning about the colonization of Africa, Weir-Graham will play parts of the 1977 miniseries “Roots,” she said, “because your
textbook left it out. You have to understand.”

Before Gonzalez-Coria visited Guatemala, one of her first international destinations, she assumed the country would be similar to Mexico. “I was just so calm,” she said. Her family being from Mexico, she was used to visiting the country. “So I go there and bam! Huge culture shock.” She calls herself a “horrible person” and so
“close-minded” to think that the countries would be the same.

The Spanish spoken in Guatemala isn’t even the same as the Spanish she speaks, she said. While at Guatemala, she listened to indigenous women speak of their struggles, which she found inspiring and eye-opening. “I used to think, ‘I’m poor. I’m disadvantaged. I have no privileges,’” she said. “But at the end, I saw all the privileges
I have.”

Ma agrees that experiencing the living conditions of other countries “makes you really humble. It makes you really appreciative.” When he visited Greece, he saw first-hand the refugee crisis in Greece. “It’s one thing to read it in the paper,” he said, “but it’s another thing to be on the island and see them.”

On the other hand, Gonzalez-Coria has battled with American stereotypes, telling her students she does not, in fact, own a gun, and arguing with a friend from Germany over free speech. “It’s very humbling to get out of (American society) and to see how others see you.”