The first time I stepped onto an airplane, I was twenty-three years old, had been working in the international education field for eight months, and was certain that the plane would explode spontaneously during my ten-hour flight. My imagination was running wild, as was my heart rate. I could see headlines: “Fiery Irony: Untravelled travel professional perishes aboard first flight.” Foolish and morbid, I know, but the unknown can be a bit daunting, especially when it’s altitude is 30,000 feet.
Of course, the ride went smoothly, the following flights were even easier, and the experiences unforgettable. But since that first flight, a phrase has skittered around my head, born as I shuffled through the security queue in Detroit Metropolitan Airport: “What have I gotten myself into?”
I began working at Panrimo as a part-time intern, focusing primarily on social media, writing informational materials, and research that entailed each. Not having previously traveled overseas, I was uncertain if I would be exceptionally useful, but I appreciated the opportunity and resolved to broaden my interests. It didn’t take much. Within a few months, I had learned more about European history and culture than I had during school. Countries I hadn’t considered with interest unveiled their charms, and I grew enamored.
Panrimo grew in tandem. I watched a new program catalog come and go and assisted writing our Orientation Booklet, a major resource offering detailed information about a student’s host country. I learned about local customs and habits, the subtle differences that exist even within the same city, and, to my chagrin, how easy these can be to overlook. I found words repeating: “resort,” “spa,” “relax,” “leisure.” Was this traveling? Global resorts where you remain sequestered, venturing out only when led to a pre-ordained spot to witness something vaguely “cultural?”
Hand-in-hand with these ideas, I learned Panrimo’s mission: to teach students to become educated, interested, and involved travelers. To avoid becoming too comfortable, familiar, or jaded, and learn the tools that create life-long experiences. Experiences you instantly recall, not pictures hidden deep in the archives of Facebook, Flickr, or photo albums (they still exist).
It became apparent that to learn these skills, students must engage local culture and take their first furtive steps out into the world. Seizing this line of thought, Panrimo began creating new programs, emphasizing our desire for cultural immersion. We revamped our entire website, adding sections to educate students about local culture before leaving and urge travel to neighboring countries while abroad. We created unique excursions and city immersions to interest, entertain, and educate students. And we’re debuting the Panroamer Travel Club, where students can utilize our resources for free during future travel.
With these changes came apprehension. Would these help students? Would they prove successful? I remember the research, writing, editing, and re-editing. And I remember thinking to myself, “What are we getting ourselves into?”