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September 13, 2006 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-13

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world could fully prepare him for
some of the barer and more sav-
age realities of poverty he would
encounter.
Near the beginning, several stu-
dents witnessed a shooting - osten-
sibly over a stolen cellphone. "That
scared the hell out of everyone,"
Bean says, "(it) really drove home
the reality of the situation." Rather
than panic, he explains, the group
was able to accept the experience.
"We were shaken up," he says,
"but everyone sort of understood
that things like that happen, even
where we come from. We're just
fortunate enough not to witness it."
The program altered his percep-
tion of domestic politics, he says,
particularly those of campus activ-
ists. Part of their program involved
visiting a sweatshop. Because of its
stability, Bean says, "it was a high-
ly sought-after job."
"You see that things are more
complicated than they seem. It just
made me less willing to make gen-
eralizations and grab on to hot topic
issues without critically thinking."
This development of openness
is one of the reasons why employ-
ers prefer candidates with interna-
tional experience. "We're giving
students skills that are very much
in demands," says Miller. "The
employer knows that [the student]
is a person who can adapt to dif-
ferent environments quickly and

learn to work with other people
quickly."
The real (students of the)
world
"The Peace Corps of the coming
generation. That's what we hope to
become,' says Courtney Spence,
founder of Students of the World
(SoW). The group - only seven
years old - has a long way to go,
but it is well on its way.
Spence started the group as an
undergraduate at Duke University.
She was disappointed with the cur-
rent state of study abroad. "The
next generation of leaders need to
know a lot more about the world,"
she says. In the summer of 2000,
she and several classmates raised
the money to travel to Russia, doc-
umenting alternative methods of
orphanage care.
SoW places a special emphasis
on the use of documentary tech-
niques - film, writing, and photog-
raphy - as tools of social change.
Returning students produce a large
body of work, which is then used
for fundraising and public aware-
ness campaigns. This year, the
films will be shown at the Clinton
Global Initiative's annual confer-
ence.
Now based in Austin, Spence
runs the program full time. SoW
has grown; it is now represented at

Pyrotechnics and pseudo-homelessness

classroom with other Americans
when what we really want is to get
away."
After coming to the Univer-
sity to teach Spanish and pursue
her Ph.D., Hest was introduced to
GIEU. With some initiative, she
secured two years' funding for
her program idea. A few months
later, armed with basic amenities
and, in keeping with Spanish tradi-
tion, seashells to mark them as pil-
grims, she and her students began
to walk.
The itinerary is a notable depar-
ture from orthodox Spanish study
abroad fare - Madrid, Barcelona,
Seville.
"It's a fantastic way to see the
Spain that students really want to
see, but that study abroad has a
hard time providing." Hesp says,
"It's like walking through the
Middle Ages ... the cheapest and
most mind-altering way to spend a
month in another country that I can
think of"
The locals lack the tourist-
fatigue of customary destinations.

"They're all interested;' Hesp said.
"There's a sense of generosity that
you can't find as a tourist or even
a study abroad student pretty much
anywhere else."
Even the blisters from four to
eight hours of walking did not sup-
press most students' excitement. "A
lot of them would probably tell you
it was one of the most memorable
experiences of their life," Hesp
says.
GIEU participants and LSA
seniors Drew Guzman and Justin
Bean shared similar enthusiasm,
though drastically different experi-
ences.
Guzman joined the program in
2005 as a vehicle to return to his
home country - the Phillipines.
Instead, he wound up in China.
"It wasn't my first choice," Guz-
man, who now works as Couzens
Hall's Minority Peer Advisor,
admits.
Looking back, "it was a good
thing that I was quote-unquote
'forced' to go somewhere I didn't
expect," he reflects, "if you go

into something with preconceived
notions or a huge knowledge of
it already, no matter what, you
already have somewhat of a per-
sonal bias."
His program toured the hospi-
tals of Beijing, Xi'an and Tianjin.
It focused primarily on local medi-
cal practices. Though he found the
program enriching, Guzman could
not help that they were seeing a
sterilized version. "The PRC is
pretty much all about appearanc-
es. You don't want to be showing
American students the nitty-gritty
of your system."
Over the three weeks of the pro-
gram, Guzman would spend his
transit talking with locals. "My
stories are all from the train," he
chuckles. One passenger stood out:
a well-traveled, multilingual Volk-
swagen employee who refused to
travel to "that shithole" - America.
"I'm a very proud American,
but at the same time I always knew
there was something wrong," Guz-
man says. "It's interesting to finally
actually put a human face on it."
"It's kind of like beinga stranger
in your own skin for the first time. I
think more people need to really be
in that situation to fully understand
their place in the world, because I
don't think a lot of us do."
Bean echoed this idea after trav-
eling to the Dominican Republic to
study Spanish and perform human-
itarian work in 2006. He stayed in
the remote Barahoma - three hours
from the capital, Santo Domingo,
and a far cry from the tourist-laden
northern coasts. There the unem-
ployed line patios with dominoes
and banter afternoons away aim-
lessly. Rough adolescent boys fill
the parks, taunting "gringos" and
cleaning shoes for change.
Unlike Guzman, Bean had pre-
vious travel experience. But none
of his experiences in the developed

t was almost November 2005,
and my best friend and room-
mate, Troy, and I participated
in one of our casual evening activi-
ties: throwing random stuff from
the third floor of our dorm window.
On that night, the "random stuff'
was firecrackers. Skipping over
several details, a security guard
caught my display of explosive nov-
elty and I was, ultimately, removed
from University housing.
It was the beginning of December
and I was preparing to move out and
find a new place. Then I received the
bill for next semester's tuition. To my
delight, the bill was almost $4,000
cheaper - as my housing contract
for the following semester was ter-
minated. The thought struck me: I
would save a lot of money if I don't
pay rent! Although this assumed
that I wouldn't have anywhere to
livethe thought still appealedto me,
being another lower-middle-class
kid whose family makes enough
to be shafted through financial aid
and yet still shafted when it comes
to paying tuition expenses, sav-
ing money can be fantastic. I then
reflected on some studies I read pre-
viously of researchers who left their
past lives to live homeless and col-
lect observations. Then I decided:
I'm going to live the next winter
semester homeless, save money and
film a documentary on my experi-
ence - and not tell my parents, of
course, because they would be too
worried.
I was very excited for the upcom-
ing semester. I would explore the
city of Ann Arbor, impoverish-
ment, minimalism and the notion
of not having even a single tiny
space to call "home." At least, those
were my original notions. Maybe I
could be the next Morgan Spurlock,
I thought. To summarize, my over-
all attitude going into the semester
was optimistic.
I came back from winter break
with a backpack and a hamper full
of clothes - these items would be
my sole possessions for the semes-
ter. I headed straight for the Central
Campus Recreation Building where
I rented a locker for the semester
at the cost of $55 - one of my
few expenses aside from books. I
placed my full wardrobe, sitting in
this small hamper, into the locker.
For the rest of the semester, I would
take all my showers and change
clothes at the CCRB.
Now, it was just my backpack
and I. In my backpack, aside from

all my books, I carried a tooth-
brush, face wash, a towel, deodor-
ant and an iPod. I had everything
I needed for my classes and daily
grooming. For sleeping arrange-
ments, I planned to sleep on floors
and futons of different friends'
rooms every night, never sleeping
at the same place twice - because
I didn't want to intrude. The last
thing I needed was food; I can't dis-
close my main source of food for
the semester.
In order to endure the semester,
I followed a rigorous schedule. I
attended class throughout the day,
I ate dinner, I went to the CCRB
to work out, shower and change
clothes, and then I spent the rest of
the night studying ata library until I
slept on the floor of a friend's room,
which had been agreed upon earlier
that day. Surprisingly, this schedule
worked quite well, and I was very
productive - until midterms.
I took 18 credits for the semester,
thinking that I would be living in
libraries anyway and would need
something to do. Classes weren't
so bad at first, but when midterms
came, I had too much work to
handle. As a result, my visits to the
CCRB were fewer, meaning fewer
showers and changes of clothes,
and I broke my rule of staying
at a different place every night
- I stayed at my friends Jenna
and Yelena's room throughout the
whole midterm week. I was tired
and distraught, and I didn't have
time to think of a place to sleep
or try to document my experience.
The only thing I wanted to do was
finish the semester and complete
my courses.
Near the end of the semester, I
was overstressed with classes and I
felt discouraged for intruding upon
many of my friends. I had slept for
almost two weeks in a study lounge
on a bench just wide enough for my
torso - allowing just one position,
of my invention, to prevent from
rolling off. I would wake up to
my iPod and head to class leaving
a note behind with my pillow and
blanket saying, "Please don't take
my stuff. I'm homeless." Although
not ideal conditions, I felt much
more comfortable here, as I began
to feel guilty in asking to stay at
another friend's place.
Looking back to the beginning
of my experience, I was unsure of
what I was trying to accomplish. I
thought any attempts of making
a documentary on my experience

would be worthless and artificial.
Knowing that it would soon be over
made it much easier to continue. It is
this fact that invalidates any type of
contrived experience. Even though I
did not attempt to live on the street
in poverty - conditions that gen-
erally pair with "homelessness"
- I could have never truly experi-
enced "homelessness," for I would
always know deep down, that I was
not truly homeless and that I could
return to my comfortable lifestyle at
any moment. Knowing this, I was no
longer optimistic of my experiment
- at least in the notions I originally
thought I might explore.
The summer came and I finished
the semester. I passed eighteen
credits, owning just a backpack
and a locker, showering at the rec-
reation center, never actually living
anywhere. I held a large barbecue
as a "thanks" to all my friends who
helped me through the semester
and as a way to share the surprise
news with my parents. I learned a
lot about myself during this experi-
ence. Although I do not regret my
pseudo-homeless semester, I do not
believe I would do it again.

JEREMY CHO/Daily
LSA junior Marty Stano spent a semester with no place to call home.

The Regents of the University of Michigan, President Mary Sue Coleman,
and Director James Steward cordially invite you to join in breaking ground
for the expansion and renovation of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
10 am f Campus and community coffee hour
11 am Program begins
The University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 South State Street, Ann Arbor
WWW.UMMA.UMICH.EDU

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