Hi! Miro’ here. So, as a location independent worldschooler, the internet has been one of the most useful tools in facilitating my learning abroad. Whether I’m in Latin America, Asia or Europe, the internet almost always has something interesting to say. Here are 3 examples of how my international, self-directed education has been enhanced by online sources.
1. Wartime History in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
While in Phnom Penh I visited the famous Killing Fields and S21 Facility, and while the information onsite was extensive and informative, it wasn’t nearly as interesting as what I found online later when I returned to my hostel. There I was able to find more accurate figures from various sources, academic articles, personal accounts of the harrowing experiences the survivors endured and pieces of information that slipped through the proverbial crack in translation.
Online I found a handful of books written by Khmer journalists which I downloaded in an e-book format. Among them were titles such as Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison, The Khmer Rouge Division 703: From Victory to Self-Destruction and A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S21.
While doing online research, I also found articles illustrating the effects of modern day tourism and the growing disdain held by officials for international visitors. This served as a good reminder to approach everything with utmost respect during my time in a country still mourning.
2. Culinary Research in Guanajuato, Mexico
One of my favorite aspects of travel is exploring the food and culinary traditions of another culture. I eat very adventurously, often frequenting street food hot spots and local, family owned hole in the wall style restaurants. Because of language barriers and foreign ingredients, sometimes this means that I honestly have no clue what it is exactly that’s in my plate in front of me. And one day in Guanajuato, Mexico my curiosity was piqued.
Having stopped in a local restaurant, I ordered a ‘chapulín’ quesadilla after seeing it on the menu. I had never heard of chapulín before so I figured that I would try something new and just go for it. Instantly I was perplexed by the flavor and the consistency as it was unlike anything I had ever tried before; tangy and metallic (but in a pleasant way). I asked the restaurant owner what was in it and he tried to list off the ingredients but I just wasn’t grasping what kind of meat it was and gave up.
As soon as I got a wi-fi connection I looked it up and was shocked: not only was chapulín cricket meat, it was also unique in that it had to be cooked in a specific clay bowl to get that flavor that it’s so well known for. My interest in Mexican cuisine didn’t stop there though as I fell into the rabbit hole of related articles, learning about Mole, Chilaquiles, and the other dishes that make Mexican food so internationally well known.
3. Mythological Texts in Athens, Greece
Personally I’m in love with ancient traditions and local history, and though I think that personal accounts and oral traditions are the best way to go when it comes to learning more about a culture, these things aren’t always easy to come by. Thankfully, however, a wealth of knowledge can be found regarding this subject online and can help paint a more vivid picture of your experience in a place.
During my time in Greece, I visited many archaeological and cultural sites and having the ability to access a wide library of information via my phone only expounded my already intense passion for the subject. I had historical accounts, mythological texts and modern day anthropological interpretations at my fingertips thanks to the world wide web.
With this accessibility, I was able to compare the information I was finding online with the things that my guide was saying, helping me to understand regional differences in storytelling and belief and allowing me to create a more nuanced understanding of the myth and how it influenced the development of the Greek people.
As illustrated above, the internet is an integral tool in any active learner’s arsenal, but it’s always important to keep safety in mind while perusing the web. As most travelers do, I often find myself using unsecure wi-fi connections at hostels, cafes, airports and the like, and as with anything discretion and awareness should be practiced. For more information about staying safe online, check out GetCocoon!