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Rachel Long, recipient of the Office of Experiential Education's Student Experience Fund

Around the World in 25 Weeks - The Rachel Long Story

Rachel Long, a second-year Social Sciences student and recipient of the Office of Experiential Education's Student Experience Fund, has found a creative way to see the world during the pandemic.

Jun 08, 2021

A few years ago, in a pre-pandemic world, the idea of visiting multiple countries within a short space of time didn’t seem farfetched. Ambitious? Perhaps – but it was doable. Today, country-hopping is far more difficult. With international travel heavily restricted for much of the last 14 months, people who want to safely experience foreign cultures and experiences have had to postpone their travel plans – or innovate.

Rachel Long, a second-year student in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour falls into the innovator category. Rachel describes herself as naturally curious, a personality trait which led her to apply for the Student Experience Fund—a reimbursement-based fund, based in the Faculty of Social Sciences, providing financial support to undergraduate students who want to participate in experiential learning opportunities. These opportunities focus on skill development, career exploration, community engagement, or hands-on learning. At the end of the experience, students are asked to submit a reflection sharing their thoughts on how it connects to their academic program. The fund is managed by the Experiential Education team in the Faculty of Social Sciences. When Rachel applied, her goal was to use the fund to experience different cultures and to meet new people. Mindful of the travel restrictions in place, she was determined to find a way to visit the countries online.

“Everything has been so significantly affected by the pandemic but at the same time, it’s also been a time of innovation and opportunity,” she says. “I thought that I could still virtually reach out to people from different countries and cultures.”

For five months, Rachel will participate in virtual activities based in 25 countries using Airbnb’s Online Experiences. She selected an impressive array of classes, including a ballet class in Russia, meditating with a Buddhist monk in Japan, samba classes in Colombia, and hunting the Aurora borealis in Iceland.

“Each week, I take the time to step outside of my comfort zone and meet with someone from a different country and it’s a great opportunity for me to reflect and understand that there really is a bigger world out there. I chose as many different cultures as I could so that I could have the most diverse experiences possible,” says Long.

Her first encounter, a tarot reading, and meditation with a specialist in Mumbai, India, took place in early March. Rachel notes that while she was uncertain about what to expect, the experience was ultimately powerful.

“What has really been amazing is that even though we're online, the energy from the other person still comes through. After the experience, I called my family to talk to them about it and they all noticed that I was so happy. Before the session, I had so much this stress but afterward, I really felt as though I had been transported.”

Rachel admits that she isn’t certain about how this experience will impact her in the long run. However, she remains curious and is keeping an open mind.

"I don’t know how I am going to be changed, but I am glad for that. My intention is to build on my education and expand on what I learn in school. Yes, I want to learn, and I want to reflect, but my outcomes are broader than that. At the end of this, I want to see exactly how I’ve changed so I can truly appreciate how this experience has affected me.”

You can follow along on Rachel’s journey by visiting her Instagram page.