There and Back: Living & Learning Abroad by Donald G. De Graaf

Something hidden. Go and find it.

Go and look behind the Ranges—

Something lost behind the Ranges.

Lost and waiting for you. Go!

—Rudyard Kipling

With this Kipling quote, Donald De Graaf begins what is not so much a “how-to” as a “how-to-be” concerning traveling and studying abroad for college students and their mentors. De Graaf encourages them to be pilgrims rather than simply tourists. With the pilgrim mindset, they’ll be equipped to find that “hidden something” behind the Ranges. Drawing on his years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and his subsequent work in Korea, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands, De Graaf knows what he’s talking about. Now director of off-campus programs at Calvin College, he uses that experience to create this book as a guide for journey preparedness. His passion for this topic is clear.

The first part, “Before you Leave,” invites the student to consider the why and how of her adventure, to develop an actual sense of calling. While De Graaf gives advice about practical matters, he emphasizes preparing the heart and mind for the trip.

The second and longest part, “The Experience,” focuses on making the most of new cultural experiences, such as learning local mores, taking responsibility for one’s freedom in a new setting, acting carefully with social media, learning the two-way nature of hospitality, navigating culture shock, and developing awareness of one’s own spirituality (and that of other faiths).

De Graaf’s chapter “Living in the Middle” is especially helpful as it calls on the reader to expect the tensions of living abroad: the desire to be a full part of the new setting while retaining connections to home; striving to be a pilgrim but recognizing the traveler will likely always be a tourist; working for justice while realizing the traveler may be part of the problem. [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]

Works Cited

De Graaf, Donald G. There and Back: Living & Learning Abroad. Calvin College Press, 2015.

Kipling, Rudyard. “The Explorer.” In Rudyard Kipling’s Verse, Inclusive Edition, 1885–1918. Doubleday, Page & Co., 1922.

Dorothy Wassenaar taught for several years in CSI Christian schools in California, Michigan, and Illinois, spending the last 14 of those years in Christian education as Library Director for Southwest Chicago Christian Schools in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She currently works part-time as a youth librarian for Palos Heights Public Library in Palos Heights, Illinois.