Behind the Scenes of TBB Curriculum: Who Am I?

If you missed the first blogs in this series covering TBB’s three core academic curriculums, we encourage you to read them first:

The final post in this series will cover TBB’s sub-curriculum on identity development, called “Who am I?” Departing from the pattern of inquiry surrounding a single academic subject, this seminar series is interspersed throughout a TBB program at the discretion of both students and Program Leaders.  Comprised of 18 optional seminars, “Who Am I?” tends to be one of TBB’s most popular curriculums amongst students, as it dives into a variety of themes relating to identity development including race, power, privilege, gender and sexuality.  Perhaps most importantly, the series pushes students to explore their relationships with these identities and how identity shapes our views of the world.

So why is “Who Am I?” part of all TBB programs?

Traveling offers us a unique glimpse into the lives of people all around the world, but in the process, it provides us with perhaps the best opportunity to explore ourselves.  The concept of identity is somewhat relative to the identities of those who surround us, so the moment we travel outside of our spheres at home and meet different people, that relativity changes. Privilege, for example, means something entirely different in a rural Guatemalan farming village, than it does in many parts of urban United States.  And while gender equality issues exist in every corner of the world, they differ tremendously depending on cultural context and societal power structures, meaning our ideas surrounding gender tend to be the products of the societies where we come from.  How can one fully understand the consequence of the identities we hold until we leave home and explore the world?  The “Who Am I?” series helps TBB students process these differences they are noticing first hand while traveling, but also provides the space for deeper self-reflection that can only happen while abroad.

Self-reflection enables TBB students to embrace new perspectives and gain deeper emotional intelligence; two things which can play integral roles in a student’s life long after the program ends and help with the transition to college, (another time in which one’s sense of identity often changes drastically).  But gaining a better understanding of identity is also key in TBB’s mission to empower students to address critical global issues.  When we look back through history at movements for change, we see that many were initiated due to societal tensions surrounding identity.  The civil rights movement in the United States or Apartheid in South Africa for example, were both about changing the practice of discrimination based on a single piece of identity:  race.  So studying identity can help us understand how and why change happens around the world, but also helps us to understand our role as individuals within movements for change.

“Who Am I?” seminars explore questions such as:

  • What is my relationship to the identities I hold?
  • What does it mean to be an ally?
  • How does racial privilege function?
  • How does oppression show up in everyday interaction?

The work required in discovering who you are, who you want to be, how your identity impacts those around you and how you fit into the world is not easy.  Indeed, TBB’s “Who Am I?” curriculum asks a lot of our students.  At times it can involve a high level of introspection, reflection and vulnerability.  But engaging in this work tends to be far more empowering and rewarding inquiry than reading a textbook ever will be.  TBB Program Leaders are there for our students every step of the way through the process of self-exploration by facilitating a safe seminar space and creating meaningful one on one mentoring relationships with students.

The “Who am I?” series embodies TBB’s holistic education approach, which seeks to provide diverse and meaningful learning opportunities for our students.  This not only makes a TBB gap year experience more valuable, but more meaningful to our students as well.  TBB students return home feeling empowered by a clearer understanding of the identities they hold and their roles in the world.