Experiencing the World, Designing my own Learning Plan

My family and I are currently traveling for six months. Over this time we are visiting Ethiopia, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe. Being away from school for six months means I must find alternative ways to learn on the road.

While overseas I’ve had to design my own learning plan by using a number of different approaches.

To improve my writing skills I am creating posts for our family’s travel blog, Stories of Our Travels. Writing for our blog is a way for me to describe what I am experiencing and it forces me to learn and research a bit more about what I am seeing. Publishing for an audience, even a small one, has helped me get better at revising my work.

I have also been learning by experiencing the world. Through interacting with people from many different places I am beginning to understand about cultures different than mine as well as how they see themselves and me in their worldview.

I have seen and learned about major religions as well as a number of political systems and issues. For example, I observed first hand a lot of development in Ethiopia including roads, buildings, and even a light rail. But, while they are doing all of this building, many people are concerned that the quality is not good enough. I also learned that much of this development is done by Chinese contractors who seem to be profiting from lower quality work. While this is happening China is also being accused of importing very poor quality everyday products.

Through my travels I have found some interests that I never knew I had. The first one that really surprised me was learning languages. When I was back in Seattle I studied Chinese in a classroom, which was much different from learning Turkish in Turkey. I prefer to learn a language in the country because it is a much more hands-on and interactive experience.  In Ethiopia I tried to learn as much Amharic as I could; in Israel I picked up a few words Hebrew; and now in Spain I am doing my best to communicate in Spanish. When I try to learn a language it’s not only for the words and the knowledge, I also like to experience the culture. I have noticed that people are usually very delighted that I am attempting to learn their language.

Another passion that I have discovered is that I like to volunteer. When I was in Ethiopia I volunteered at a high school. While I was there I sat in on classes, related what they were learning to America, and helped students use new software. For example, in their civics class they were learning about self-reliance. My role was to discuss the role of self-reliance in American history and culture. In their I.T. class I gave presentations and helped students learn programs such as PowerPoint and Excel. When I was “volunteering” I felt more like the students were teaching me. That is why I loved that experience. I got out so much more out of it than I put into it. This is also why I want to keep volunteering from this point forward.

When I get back to Seattle I know I will not be able to fully pursue these passions in the classroom, so I have created my own plan. Of all the places we have visited I am most excited to return to Ethiopia. This fall I plan to learn Amharic at the Ethiopian Community Center near our house in Southeast Seattle and find a tutor to help me improve. To continue volunteering I plan to help newly arrived families in the Ethiopian community practice their English and in turn they can help me with my Amharic. The third part of my plan is to return to the high school I volunteered at in Ethiopia for their summer program. There I can volunteer more and practice my Amharic skills. As a result of traveling and having to learn on my own, I am now confident to pursue my passions with a learning plan that I design myself.


This blog is part of our GenDIY project. To contribute a blog, ask a question, or for more information, email [email protected] with the subject “GenDIY.” For more information about the project see Tell Your Story: Do-It-Yourself Pathways From School to Career as well as other blogs:

Caleb Silverman lives in Seattle, WA and is in the 7th grade at Asa Mercer Middle School. Learn more about his travels on silverwilkes.com.

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Robert Schuetz

Congratulations Caleb - for you are demonstrating in fine fashion the empowerment that all learners should experience and share. Why is self-determined learning so powerful - how does it make you feel to be in charge of your own learning plan? What advice do you have for learners (instructors and students) who want more from their educational experiences? Thank you for sharing your insight. I am looking forward to following your learning adventure. Safe travels.

Mike Leitner

Great job. Excellent witing and living in the knowledge. Inspiring really...

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