Courtney Spence on How Common Human Spirit Prevails Across Varied Cultures

In Chapter 11 of 15 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive and Students of the World founder Courtney Spence answers "What have you found most rewarding about immersing yourself in foreign cultures through traveling?" Spence details her travels to developing countries and what she has learned from the people she has met. Life and death issues, including famine, poverty, lack of clean water access and HIV / AIDS do not keep the people from being hopeful, cheerful, loving, and optimistic. Spence sees not only common themes across cultures but also a triumphant spirit in developing cultures not always present at home in the United States.


Erik Michielsen: What have you found most rewarding about immersing yourself in foreign cultures through traveling?

Courtney Spence: You know, I will be with people who have had life experiences that I will never be able to understand, I mean they were a child soldier at the age of fourteen, they were kidnapped, they were this, I mean we have worked with people who have had incredible hardship and at the same time they find humor in their life, they find love in their life, they find, you know -- you find that people are open to you and wanting to learn from you and genuinely, parents want a better life for their sons and daughters, like there’s commonalities among us all that, without sounding cheesy, they’re very true and I think I’ve also become very inspired by – the sense that I feel like sometimes people in these situations are happier than I find my friends back at home are, I mean everybody has their own sets of worries, everybody has their own sets of challenges and they are all valid, but I think that when you go particularly in the developing world and people are facing life and death issues, I mean it’s not ‘I can’t sleep so I need to take a pill’ it’s like – it’s HIV- AIDS it’s famine, it’s poverty, it’s lack of access to clean water, I mean, it’s life and death situations… but they’re not – there’s hope and there’s humor and there’s love and there is a sense of humanity and community that I don’t always feel like I find here and I think that that to me is knowing that people are out there facing things that I would never have been able to imagine ten years ago or even every year, I mean I  meet knew people, I just can’t imagine their life but they are – somehow there is optimism and there is love and that sort of the human spirit can triumph.