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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Travel, Global Education - Up With People

Living in a Buddhist temple in the hills of Murou one week and then in a super Westernized house with 3 flat screen TVs in Tokyo the week after. Meeting mayors and organizing events as part of your internship. Visiting a concentration camp in Erfurt and then having a discussion with people all over the world about ethical leadership – and having a German girl share the story of her grandparents during the Nazi times. Visiting the World Expo in Aichi and having roundtable talks with the top people of Hollywood. Sharing a house with a Mexican, a Punjabi Brit and a Nepali, and regularly hanging out with the Brazilian, Taiwanese, and American across the street. Reading a news article about Kenya and thinking of your friend who lives there. Getting hand massages from a friend from Bermuda while flying over Siberia. Singing and doing sign language on stage – and having the whole audience follow. Sharing your story of Hari Raya in Utrecht, inspiring the Dutch audience to come to you after the show and chat about it.

These, and much much more, are the various experiences I had for five months in 2005 thanks to Up With People’s Global Education Program.

What’s Up With People?
Up With People is a US-based organization founded in 1965 as a counter to the “down with people” sentiment going on in that era. J. Blanton Belk, the founder of Up With People, wanted to provide an avenue for youths to be positive and share the message of togetherness and world unity. For about 35 years Up With People produced musicals performed by youths from all over the world, travelling yearly to many places to spread messages of peace, love, and understanding. Besides performing, the youths also do various community service work and interact with various cultures. Amongst the most notable achievements of Up With People include performing at the Superbowl and the Munich Olympics.

In 2004, after a brief shutdown due to financial reasons, Up With People launched the WorldSmart Leadership Program (the program I was on), a semester-long program whereby young adults from all over the world travel to 18 cities in 3 continents (North America, Asia, Europe), do community service, perform, have classes and discussions on world issues and communication, work on internships or projects, live with host families, and do so much more. Three semesters of the WorldSmart Leadership Program have travelled, and in July 2006, it will relaunch itself as the Up With People Global Education Program – returning to its roots while still maintaining its new focus.

What happens in the program?
The Up With People Global Educational Program consists of these elements:

• Travel – the crew travels for 22 weeks across the US, Japan, and Europe (The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy), spending a week in a different city after a month-long orientation in Denver, Colorado. About 10 weeks (including orientation) are spent in US, 6 in Japan, and 6 across Europe. Sometimes, in between travel to different cities, the crew will be able to visit other noteworthy places in the country (for instance, while travelling from Bern, Switzerland, to Modena, Italy, we got to stop over in Lugano, Switzerland and have a guided tour.)

• Intercultural Exchange – the crew consists of young adults aged 18-29 from all over the world, including 10 to 15 staff members with various experience in intercultural communications, leadership, and education. Crew members are encouraged to share their culture with the others, through presentations, performance, and events.

• Performance – to reflect Up With People’s history as a travelling performance group, every week there will be a Celebration, whereby crew members put on an hour-long performance to bring the community together. The Celebration combines many elements – music, dance, singing, multimedia, acting, speech, sign language, as well as cultural elements from the countries represented by the crew. The Celebration is wholly produced by the crew, with some members contributing various elements – in our semester, we had Korean drums and a fashion show organized by a crew member from China.

• Community Service – crew members work on all sorts of community service projects, from visiting schools to deweeding gardens, from working at an old-folks home to producing a radio show. Often these projects involve interaction with other people in the community, and the crew gets to learn about regional issues while helping their host city.

• Regional Learning – the crew learns about their host city through various ways; tours, lectures, company visits, service projects, and even creative methods such as scavenger hunts.

• Host Family Living – the crew members live with host families in their host city and get an in-depth look into the culture of the city. Host families come in all sorts of forms (typical family, gay couple, single parent, college youth in dorms, all sorts!) and live in all sorts of houses (Catholic monastery, high-rise apartment, trailer home) with all sorts of interests (I’ve lived with humanitarians active in disaster relief in Phoenix, Arizona, and a family in Belgium whose brother is a famous writer).

• Internships – the crew gets to work with the staff on various internships in various fields – External Relations, Creative Productions, Operations, Applied Education, Community Impact, and others. They get direct training and experience in their field and learn valuable skills in leadership, ingenuity, and teamwork. I was an External Relations intern for half the semester and among my various tasks included making presentations to university students, collating the online newsletter, and meeting the mayor of Maruko, Japan.

• Special Projects – the crew are also able to work on their own projects, either for the group or for their own personal growth. They are able to obtain guidance and assistance from the staff, but they are also expected to be independent and resourceful. Amongst the various projects initiated and organized by our crew included various Appreciation Nights, a newsletter for host families, a Language Exchange, and many more.

• Discussions and Classes – the crew come together to discuss topics related to leadership and world issues – from the power of money and materialism, to world conflict, to ethical leadership. Often, the students will do their own presentations on issues that they feel passionate in – our crew had presentations on the favelas (squatter houses) of Brazil and the portrayal of women in media.

• Random Fun – sometimes all we want to do is relax and have fun! And there’s plenty of it around. From glittery vans to surprise movie nights; from raclette dinners to A Night At The Proms. You never know what’s going to happen!

There is so much more to Up With People than just this though – it’s an international multicultural sensory adventure that will open your mind and truly broaden your horizons.

How do I apply?
Easy! Just go to http://worldsmart.protulae.com/applynow and fill in the form (it’s free!). Up With People works on rolling admissions, so theoretically there isn't a deadline. It's recommended that you apply between 6 - 12 months before the semester you want to travel (January and July), though we've had people who applied seriously weeks before. Once you’ve submitted it, you’ll be contacted by a member of the Admissions team, who’ll conduct an interview (mine was by phone) and help you with any queries you have. If you’re accepted, you will receive various materials and enrollment forms by post, some of which you’ll need to fill up and return. You’ll also get some letters that will help you get your visas (usually a tourism visa works fine).

You can also request more information at http://worldsmart.protulae.com/inquiry - the people at the office are generally very friendly and are willing to help.

Who are they looking for?
Up With People is looking for the following sorts of people:

• Young adults 18-29
• Completed high/secondary school
• Excellent stamina and good health (it’s quite taxing but if you take care of yourself you should be fine)
• Proficient in English (the whole program is conducted in English, though they don’t ask for English test results – they judge your ability through the interview and application. We did have quite a number of people in our crew for whom English was a second – third sometimes – language, and they picked it up fine.)
• Self-motivated, eager, and passionate
• Good communications and leadership skills
• Interested in travel and sharing cultures
• Flexibility (trust me, you need this trait!)
• Willing to learn and try new things

Though part of the program is based on performing, you don’t actually have to be very good at a performance art – there is no audition process. As long as you’re willing to learn and adapt, you’ll be ok. And hey, there’s plenty of opportunities for tech and backstage work if you’re that stage-shy...

Fees & Scholarships
The Up With People Global Educational Program costs US$11800 for a semester and US$19500 for a whole year (two semesters). This covers tuition, travel beyond Denver, housing, meals, and the services of a full-time travelling staff. Expenses such as visas, tickets to Denver, health insurances, and personal expenses are your own.

Up With People offers scholarships for those that are in need and have shown effort in raising funds. They also have plenty of scholarship opportunities listed on their website http://upwithpeople.org/scholarships.htm as well as a document on interesting and creative fundraising ideas http://upwithpeople.org/PDF/FundraisingIdeas.pdf.

I paid full fee for the program (OK, my parents did) though I did get RM300 from a Hitz.FM contest because of my involvement in the program. The US Embassy gave good ideas too. Plenty of people in my crew – Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan, USA, etc – got scholarships and managed to find funding elsewhere, while others took out loans and some worked other jobs. It really depends on how resourceful and persistent you are! (Personally, I wished I had known of the Fundraising Ideas document when I was applying. Some of the ideas are pure genius and would have helped me a lot!)

Check It Out!
If you have any more questions, feel free to visit the Up With People website at http://upwithpeople.org or even email me at divabat@gmail.com . I’ll help you out the best that I can, or refer you to those that know better.

Good luck!

by Tiara Shafiq

Tiara Shafiq is currently in transition, her life path having been significantly altered after her Up With People experience. She was a Mass Communications student in Limkokwing University College but now is looking for more opportunities in experiential learning (and is hoping for a job with Up With People!). She is also a freelance webmistress & writer, with her portfolio at http://blessedbeproductions.com . She is highly interested in alternative learning and has set up a blog at http://educatedeviate.wordpress.com to share her thoughts on alternative forms of education. She can be reached at divabat@gmail.com – please do!


Blogger joyce said...

Hi Tiara. Did you work in YouthQuake for a while? I remember reading about you in the NST once..

1:49 AM

Blogger Tiara said...

I did participate in some NST stuff but I'm one of The Star's BRATs. :)

1:23 PM


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