Traveler or Traitor?

Damn! Are we traitors? Un-American Commie sympathizers? Freedom Fry-eating liberal whackadoos? Or just misguided college kids?

In our discussion today, many people mentioned that they had received negative reactions to our trip.  They were called un-American or traitors, and chided for not volunteering at home, or treated as stupid for “wasting money” to volunteer abroad.  Here are some of my thoughts on the matter:

  • Our trip is service-learning, and for credit.  It actually costs less than a regular summer semester at NU would, if you include housing, food and such.  I would also be taking classes regardless of whether I traveled this summer, so the argument that my program fees are better spent on aid/charity doesn’t quite work here.
  • Many of the people who say things like, “why aren’t you doing something about all the poverty at home?!” aren’t actually doing anything about it either
  • Service doesn’t have to be either/or.  Volunteering at home and abroad is not mutually exclusive
  • Experiences abroad can make us better volunteers/employees back home
  • Things will never be perfect at home, so by that logic we (as people, a community and a nation) should never help any other country, state, neighborhood or even family.  That sort of logic doesn’t help make the world a better place, and if you start applying it to the prioritization of issues it is a virtual spiral into inaction
  • It is no one else’s decision but my own to determine my priorities and my path in life.  In other words, buzz off!  This is my money, my credits, my scholarships, and my time.  I’ll put it where I think it can benefit me and others the most.

What do you think?  Are we wasting our time and our money by going abroad?  Should we be focusing on Roxbury, the Reading food pantry and other such local isssues?  Is it better to do something like go work on Katrina relief effort, or is that not okay until we’re done fixing Massachusetts?  Would my tuition money be better spent at some charity or relief organization while I stay at home?  Should we, as an imperialist nation (and human beings) feel obligated to help?  Is helping foreigners un-American?

3 thoughts on “Traveler or Traitor?”

  1. Delia, doing what you’re doing, is helping you understand the world, as a whole, way better than most. Therefore, you can help the “world” be a better place, in the long-run, with your international experiences behind you. To “H–L” with anyone who thinks otherwise. You’re doing the right thing, and we all support and love you for “stepping-up to the plate”. Hang in there. And, stay safe. Uncle Joe O.


  2. This quagmire is one that has vexed me, as well. As I crafted a response, I had the ensuing revelation.

    Generally, what is appropriate depends upon your social proclivities. Many people are communitarian, and they feel beholden beholden to the land in which they were born and the people raised them. Others might favor a global approach; they would prioritize no particular ethnic group, demographic or nation of people. I think that globalization has negated the notion of the “modern” nation-state, and therefore favor the latter approach.

    I hope that this is helpful. Most importantly, enjoy your time, and know that you’re doing something good no matter where it is. That is, in my opinion, what is most important.


  3. I love your last bullet point as a classic example of what we call “getting your Irish up!”:)
    But seriously. we need both the travelers and the stay at homes to balance our world. As an example I recently read “Three Cups of Tea” which totally humanized Pakistan and other regions”over there” and showed a peaceful solution to conflicts. I would be much less apt to stereotype a class after reading such a personal account. I have a feeling Delia’s travels will also add to that knowledge and bring the world closer together. You go, woman!


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