My First Travel Seminar Experience

Exploring new places, spending time with friends, and learning new things are three of my favorite things to do, so when I was invited via email to join the Honors Travel section of Religion 100, I signed up without hesitation.

A week before the spring semester began, I joined my thirteen classmates on a retreat during which we stayed at Luther Glen Farm in Yucaipa, California. The farm alone was a beautiful site with animals of all kinds–pigs, sheep, goats, and even alpacas–and, at 4,800 feet above sea level, it had a view that really took one's breath away. One day during our trip, we helped around the farm and that alone was enjoyable; I helped plant lettuce seeds and feed the animals. Simply disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature gave me a new appreciation for farmworkers/farm owners and the natural world around me. 

It's impossible for me to capture each and every day of our trip in true detail, but I will certainly share the highlights. Not only did we expand our understanding of different religions as we visited religious sites such as a Jewish congregation, a Muslim mosque, and a Christian cooperative ministry, but we expanded our understanding of different ethnicities and cultures as well.

For example, one of my favorite spots that we went to was Chicano Park in San Diego. After 2+ hours of being in a car, it was great to not only be able to stretch but explore a new area. Chicano Park is amazing; it’s decorated with murals that express chicanx values and stories. For example, the picture directly below shows a mural painted with the words “Amor, si se puede,” which in English means “Love can do it.” Also within the picture is a cross held by the Virgin Mary with the words “No Olvidados,” or “Not Forgotten.” The message behind the mural is essentially that love, not hate, will endure and bring about the social change to improve our world. 

Another spot we went to was the Tijuana River. Our original plan was to observe and participate in the Border Church service (which you can read more about here) that occurs at the border between Mexico and the U.S. on Sundays; unfortunately, Friendship Garden was closed due to an unforeseen demolition of the U.S. side of the Binational Friendship Garden (which you can read about here). So, instead, we went to the Tijuana River and learned about the Border Church service through one of the priests, who joined us. It was truly amazing, I must say, to gaze out into the distance and see–realize–that Mexico was within eyesight, as you can see from the picture below. No, I'm not exaggerating; that “mound” of land in the distance really is another country!

The best part of the trip was, of course, was bonding with my classmates. As a commuter, I don't get many opportunities to develop deep relationships with my classmates, especially those who are on-campus residents. So this week-long retreat was the perfect way for me to get to know my new classmates and learn more about those I previously knew. Simply having a roommate was an experience I don’t get to have living at home, since I’m an only child, and it was wonderful to sit down at the dining table and share meals with my peers. Within the first few days, we were putting together 500-piece puzzles, playing an endless game of monopoly, and even binge-watching a Chinese drama together! I must say, I never wanted the trip to end.

Alas, swiftly enough did the time pass and our trip was concluded. Although I was saddened to return to my life as a commuter, I learned so much and had a once-in-a-lifetime experience during the travel seminar. This trip was more than just a fun, unique way to experience college away from home; centered around learning about and better understanding different religions, I felt like I opened up more to the beautiful diversity of the world. At each religious site, we went to, I learned more about religions that I didn't previously know much about along with people who identify with those religions. Everyone was so welcoming to us, regardless of our own, differing backgrounds and religions, and I realized that religion is so often tied to negativity that it's easy to forget that it's a way to unite people of all kinds. For my first (and hopefully not last) travel seminar, it was truly an experience I will remember for a lifetime.

Photos Courtesy of the Author