An interview with Nell Gehrke, Development & Operations Coordinator

Ruby Shumaker (she/her) is a senior at the University of Amsterdam studying Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. She is set to graduate in June and has plans to return to Peru to work with an NGO.

Ruby reflects, “When I am hiking in Iceland, furling sails on a sailboat, or jumping into a canal in Amsterdam, I become a TTS student again. All of these experiences would not have been possible were it not for the doors opened on my semester.”

How did your Traveling School semester impact you?

The academic and cultural enrichment during my semester in South America opened up my whole world. I got so much out of the endless sources of stimulation and immersion that challenged the way I thought and lived back home. I gained confidence in my ability to be independent and make my way in the world.

Through my semester, I was exposed to many different environments and lifestyles, and it reignited my love for exploring and forming connections. I fell in love with learning again.

In what contexts does The Traveling School come up in your life now?

Thematically, what I learned on TTS remains quite relevant to my academic experiences, as I am majoring in anthropology where we study colonialism, development projects, globalization, and environmental implications of human activity. I have used some materials from my TTS classes as references for other university work.

The encounters we had with local organizers on TTS are something I think of often as real-world connections to theoretical material. Evidently, I loved the TTS curriculum and it has had a huge impact on my academic career thus far!

Did TTS equip you to become a strong leader?

Absolutely! Not only did I learn how to assume responsibility for myself and my beliefs, but I also grasped my capability to incite change towards the causes I care about. One of my favorite parts of TTS was the conversations we had with local organizers who were directing their energy towards so many causes ranging from permaculture to street art to sustainable tourism.

Can you draw any lines between what you are up to now and what was sparked for you on TTS?

The passion and curiosity that were sparked on the semester are attributes that I continue to nurture through my studies, travel, and friendships. The Traveling School taught me about the complex intricacies of humanity and nature, and the value in life-long learning.

I draw on the lessons and themes of TTS curriculum everyday as I continue to explore, connect, and grow.

Interested in exploring more alumni stories? Check out The Traveling School’s 2023 Impact Report