Tariq finds all the world’s a stage
A young Bermudian who spent a year travelling with the cultural exchange programme Up With People has said the experience opened his eyes to the world and gifted him with a network of friends for life.
Bermuda College student Tariq Brown, 20, set off on his journey in June last year and travelled to ten countries visiting numerous cities in each destination as part of his gap year.
He was part of a class made up of 100 young people from 21 countries. They came from a variety of racial, religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, which helped him to become a more rounded person, he said.
Among the stops on his journey were numerous states in the US including Colorado, California, Montana, Denver, LA and Utah, as well as Mexico, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and Holland.
Mr Brown hopes that his momentous journey will inspire other Bermudians to take the leap.
Up With People is a study abroad programme, but study is not an essential component. Qualifying students may travel with the programme, which carries out charity work, allows participants to live with host families and perform in a theatrical production in each city visited.
Mr Brown, who took a year out of his studies in the field of psychology to participate in the programme, told The Royal Gazette: “I heard about the programme when they came to Bermuda and I thought why not travel, meet some new people and get some different experiences. They have a saying, places become faces. Now, when I think of Florida, I think of friends there. Just the other day, during the storm in Barbuda, I had host families hitting me up. You look at a map and you no longer see countries and dividers; you see your host families and friends.
“Up With People forces you to be more open and listen to other people’s opinions. It makes you more comfortable around people you are not used to being around.
“Colorado immediately blew my mind because I had never been in the mountains before. I spent weekends in the mountains with my host family. Switzerland was my favourite place; it is so pretty and everything about it is scenic; you see the Alps and the lakes. I got to meet people from places I never dreamt of going.
“You won’t love every country you go to. I found Estonia was really dark and gloomy and it was depressing. Finland was beautiful, but it was dark most of the time.
“I really liked Mexico I loved the food and the people; everybody was really friendly and their culture is so similar to ours where it is family oriented, they meet up on Sundays and eat together.
“I really liked Belgium and Holland; it felt comfortable, it seemed very close to England, people are easygoing, everybody speaks English and everybody was friendly. It was like a piece of home.”
Young people must apply for the opportunity to travel with Up With People which is open to anyone over 17 with an academic qualification.
Mr Brown had already travelled to places like Cuba to play drums and the Caribbean and Costa Rica to play football and cricket. An alum of the Impact Mentoring Academy, he graduated with honours and received several awards including Student of the Year, as well as leadership, Centurion and sporting awards.
He encourages any young Bermudian to apply from any background. The programme costs $17,000 for six months or $26,000 for a full year of travel including food and accommodation. Mr Brown said it was important not to let financial constraints hold you back. He was able to raise $15,000 in just one month thanks to help from family and friends as well as a host of generous donors keen to see a young man do good things. Jim Butterfield, Caesar’s Pharmacy, Curtis Dickinson, Frank Arnold and the Kiwanis Club were among the individuals and organisations to help him achieve his goal.
“I tell people, don’t let money be reason the that you don’t travel. Up With People helps with fundraising; they give you tips and access to an advisor. We did pot lucks, bake sales, car washes, all of those things. With persistence, the process is a lot easier.”
As well as meeting people and seeing new places, Up With People has a social component and Mr Brown enjoyed taking part in charitable activities as well as attending educational lectures.
“It is a non-profit, so we do a lot of charity work; I got to work in refugee centres and got to talk to refugees. It is very hard to put it into words, to walk into a room of people who have no identities because they were released from their own countries. We do small stuff. We might go to a school for the day and assist some teachers and students.
“We got to sit in on a talk by a girl from Montana who was sex trafficked from the age of 17. It gives you a different perception for how you see people and even for how people see you. When I left Bermuda, I thought things were going to be stuck at a standstill. I came back with brighter eyes.
“You come back and see how other countries have overcome big challenges and there is no reason we can’t — it brings you home with a more positive meaning.”
Mr Brown also wanted to highlight the show participants stage. His was called The Journey. With it being Up With People’s 50th anniversary, the show was a musical journey through the decades that brought elements of previous shows together in one.
While many Bermudians have participated in Up With People, Mr Brown hopes that they will connect and help those looking to apply for the programme.
“Now that a younger generation is coming in we need the alumni to come together to help others achieve their goal.”
• For information about Up With People visit: www.upwithpeople.org and visit the Facebook page Up With People Bermuda Alumni
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