Making Connections a World Away

By Bev Munday, Director of Education

I left Michigan on August 1, flying to India for a four-day to visit Sri Atmanada Memorial School, which has been affiliated with Clonlara since 2005. I had never been to India and expected to experience a very different place, which or course it was, but I unexpectedly came across many connections both personal and work-related that made it feel more like home. I had been invited to speak at the school’s Fifth Annual Colloquium on “The Student-Teacher Relationship in Education.”

It took two days of travel to reach my final destination, including three flights, three different airports in three different countries, and two car rides, plus lots of airport security, heat and humidity, and jet lag! After settling in where I was staying and taking a quick nap, I met the other houseguests, all fellow speakers at the Colloquium, and began making connections that even after such a long journey made me think, “Wow, what a small world!”

Stephen Slater is the Chief Executive Officer of the UK Light Aircraft Association and is from Chesham, England, which is just nine miles from where I was born and grew up. He knew about my town and the exact road where my parents still live to this day. Next came Associate Professor of History Bob Bain from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where Clonlara School is based. He lives just five miles from my home in Michigan. Bob has been very involved in the Big History Project, which Clonlara advisors often recommend as a resource to our students, and was instrumental in making the materials accessible to high school students. Through Bob, I discovered that I also knew another influential contributor to the Big History Project, Craig Benjamin, a professor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan who I met while my daughter was studying there.

The remaining three speakers represented Biomimicry. (Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it yet. I hadn’t, but it was fascinating learn about.) Two of the speakers were from Bangalore, India, and the third was from France but now resides in India. Our connection was that by the end of our time together he was ready to take Clonlara to his son’s school in northern India, and I was sure that some of our students would be very interested in Biomimicry.

Finally, I made many more special connections with the staff and students of Sri Atmanada Memorial School. The philosophy of the school is very similar to Clonlara’s, and so I felt at home and inspired by what they were doing there. Like Clonlara, they put each student at the center of the learning process and focus on fostering curiosity and listening to the needs and interests of each individual. Their high school students have the option to prepare for the national Indian exams or follow Clonlara’s requirements and earn their diploma. It was a truly amazing experience to meet their many Clonlara students and alumni. The graduates spoke of their gratitude to Clonlara and the opportunities that their diploma had afforded them, and they were all attending or had graduated from various universities in England, France, Australia, and the United States, as well as in India.

Having the opportunity to travel to India—a place I had never been—and making so many unexpected connections with people from around the world was an amazing experience. At Clonlara, we often say that the “world is our classroom,” and a trip like this is a reminder of how wonderful that classroom can be.

Have you had a similar experience while traveling to a new place or learning something new? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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