Oberlin Blogs

International Travel - Latin America Day 1

September 2, 2009

Charles Grim

Cleveland Airport
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 5:55am

The travels start anew! Had to get up this morning at 4:30. Dressed and out the door at 5:00, at the airport at 5:33, checked in, through security, and at my gate about 5 minutes ago. I got a new, scannable passport over the summer (mine was expiring). My old one was issued at the US consulate in Sofia, Bulgaria, while I lived there and wasn't scannable. As a result I always had to check in at the counter for international flights and couldn't take advantage of all the new technology. So I was quite excited this morning when I got to use the scanner for the first time. But, alas, it didn't work anyway, because my flight number had changed since I booked my ticket, so I had to check in at the counter anyway. And then my bag was 5 pounds overweight so I had to rearrange things. And in the shuffling, I managed to leave some papers in my checked bag that I was meaning to read on the plane. Oh well, now I have an excuse to sleep!

I'm meeting up with two of my travel buddies at the Atlanta airport. According to the movie "The Accidental Tourist," in the South even when you go to heaven you have to change planes in Atlanta. Great movie, by the way; see it if you haven't already. Johanna Fishbein from Barnard and Drew Crawford from Hamilton will be joining me for the flight to San Jose Costa Rica where we are doing a major liberal arts and general college admission workshop at the United World College. We will be hooking up with Jeff Wong from Brandeis and Peaches Valdes from Bryn Mawr who arrived in Costa Rica last night.

Those of you who have been following my blogs for awhile know that I have previously traveled with Hamilton and Barnard. I've also traveled with Bryn Mawr and Brandeis before I started blogging. Despite my previous adventures with these schools, this will be the first time that I've ever met any of these people. While there are many folks who have been doing the international travel routine for years and years, with my four years of international travel experience, I'd guess I have about average seniority, but I will be the old man on this trip both in age and experience. Guess that means it will be my fault when we encounter any difficulties.

Well, since I haven't written a single thing that might be useful in helping you apply to Oberlin or even learn about Oberlin, I guess I've rambled long enough. Stay tuned for
more updates as the adventure continues.

12:30 in the air between Atlanta and San Jose. Met up with Drew and Johanna in Atlanta. Had a very early lunch as I suspect that we won't have any time for lunch between when we land and when we are due for our school visit. There are a lot of signs for community service organizations in the Atlanta airport - giving me at least a little something Oberlinian to mention in today's blog. While pretty much all colleges value community service, at Oberlin it really is something special - it even appears on the official college seal "Oberlin College - Learning and Labor." Since the day the college opened in 1833, we have felt that a college education was about more than just getting a degree stamped on your forehead and hopefully making a few extra dollars. We believe that it should also be about helping young people find ways that they can contribute to making the world a better place.

Oberlin was named after John Fredrick Oberlin, who served as a minister in the Alsace region of Europe in the late 18th century. He spent the first part of his ministry promoting universal elementary education and his later years promoting enough basic health care that poor children could live long enough to learn to read and write. The people who founded the college felt that this was the kind of role model that they wanted to put in front of the students at Oberlin. And service to the broadly defined community has remained a tradition ever since.

Last year Oberlin students did more than 60,000 hours of community service - that we know of. None of it was required. You may have seen some of the recent blogs about the annual day of service. If you haven't, I recommend that you do. The Bonner Center for Service and Learning helps provide students with avenues for their efforts, but students also manage to find plenty on their own as the myriad of service clubs and organizations attests.

A lot of times high school students seem to do community service because it looks good on their college applications. And I suspect there are even a few college students that do it 'cause it will look good on their medical school apps. But at Oberlin, we know it is more than that because we know that our students continue to find ways to serve after they graduate. More than most, if not all, of our peers, Oberlin alumni go on to work in the not-for-profit sector. They become doctors, they become college professors, they work for NGOs, they become elected officials or work in government. So if you are the kind of person who thinks that the world could be a little better than it is and you're interested in surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, Oberlin might be just the place for you.

Ok, enough Oberlin-inspired stuff. Time for three more random thoughts: 1. You know that the seats of an airplane are too close together when you have a REALLY small laptop and it is still too big to open on the tray table and you have to type with one hand because otherwise you will impale the passenger seated beside you. 2. Why is Costa Rica two hours behind Cleveland when they are almost on the same line of longitude? 3. What time is it when one is on an airplane traveling between two time zones?

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