Just Visiting Final Reflection

Final Reflection Questions

Learning often happens in the space between what we know, and what we are yet to know- it is in this chasm- this unfamiliar, perhaps uncomfortable space where our mind can be stretched to do and understand new things. Brock (et al, 2006:38) calls this a 'displacement space'- somewhere we move into (either by force or choice) whereby we see things differently.


Asking ourselves the tough questions can help us  'displace' well established assumptions about our practice. The willingness to consider things anew- to confront fears, misconceptions and open up the discussion to allow fresh visions and approaches to emerge.

This is also part of the reflective practice approach we have taken so far. Considering, sitting with, and wrestling with some questions can serve to further capture the positive potential of a student immersion program.

Further, all staff feeling confident with the motivations that underpin the program strengthens and infuses it with the passion and commitment necessary to build a fairer world.

Following are a few 'tough questions' related to local and global student immersion programs and partnerships. Some of these are based on MacNaughton's (2003) 'Six questions for critically reflective professionals'. These are denoted with an asterisk.


  • Has the host community invited you to visit?

  • Why have they asked you to visit? Do you know? 

  • Who holds the power in the partnership of travel experience/ the host or the visitor? Should it be this way? Why or why not?

  • How have we come to conduct the student immersion program this way? *

  • What is our motivation behind wanting to engage in a student immersion?

  • How have I come to understand things this way? * 

  • What makes me think this is an educational activity?

  • What makes me think this is a good service?

  • Who benefits from how I do and understand this? *                 

  • Who benefits more from this initiative- us or the host community? Is this the most desirable outcome? 

  • Are we having a more positive than negative impact on the host community?

  • Are you willing to eliminate any tourist activities at the exclusion of the host community- why or why not

  • Who is silenced in how we do this? *

  • Have you considered that the host community may not feel comfortable 'saying no' to a request to visit from an Australian school? Have you recognised donor privilege?

  • Is the immersion trip helping both you and your host community to learn about the root causes of the injustice affecting your host community – the economic and political forces and systems which are at play? Does the trip include opportunities to brainstorm ways to work together to address these systems of injustice?
  • Does the trip incorporate the opportunity to reflect together on sacred scriptures and our faith, and so deepen our understanding of our faith as when it is seen through the eyes of others?
  • Do the orientation, reflection and debriefing processes fully integrate Catholic Social Teaching and social analysis or are these aspects simply a “sidebar”?
  • Is this immersion trip or activity exacerbating, or breaking down, the historic feelings of superiority and inferiority?
  • Does the program re-inforce sympathy rather than empathy?
  • If performing a service (such as painting houses or building structures) has the host community identified the need for this type of work or professional contribution?
  • How many other ways are there to do this? * (To achieve the goal of global citizenship and faith formation?)
  • Which of these ways might lead to more equitable and fair ways of doing and understanding things? *

  • What processes do you have in place to ensure the organisations you work with and support are reputable? 
  • Is the program design, or operator with whom you are partnering more customer centric than community centric?
  • Are you willing to invest in the professional development necessary for staff to undertake this activity as competently as possible?
  • Are you willing or able to integrate a travel experience into a broader curriculum program that prepares students with the necessary knowledge and understanding?
  • Have participants made a commitment to continue to serve this community after the trip, in educating others, advocating for change, and promoting the partnership in their own community?
  • Are you willing to invest the time after the experience, to help students process what they have learned and experienced?
  • Are you willing and able to implement the experience as part of a consistent effort to advocate for change?
  • How does your current global social justice education program support students in development their own sense of personal responsibility?

Post immersion program

Immersion experiences can be transformative for the wider school community. Students who have participated in an immersion have had a rich experience, witnessing lives and stories of hope, faith and courage. 

Most young people will want to keep the experience alive and fresh. They will need support from others as they journey through ongoing discernment about how to respond to this experience. The more the broader community understands their experience, the more they can share this faith journey with participants and join in the efforts that help our brothers and sisters around the world.

Here are some suggestions:

Listed below are suggestions for keeping the experience alive and helping young people continue to “unpack” the experience long after they have returned.

  • Plan an evening of prayer and reflection for participants about 1-2 weeks after you have returned to help process continued learning, social analysis and discernment for a next response.
  • Invite participants to plan a process to share the experience with their home community. Invite participants to offer a reflection at a mass or school assembly. Organize a booth with information, stories and pictures. 
  • Use photos and videos about the trip as a tool to share the story when you return and to promote future delegations.
  • Designate a space in the parish for ongoing news and updates, including photos, reflections, cultural items, project information, etc.
  • Share stories from the experience through the use of one-page fliers in parish bulletins.
  • Use recipes and foods from the host region or country at parish dinners, and print the recipes for distribution.
  • Make use of special seasons or days to highlight issues in your partnership (e.g. Lent, World AIDS Day, Earth Day etc.)
  • Keep up with the news to see what is happening in your host region or country and keep your parish informed of any major events there.
  • Sponsor youth nights, talks and prayer vigils with guest speakers familiar with the host region or country.
  • Organize letter-writing campaigns on legislative issues that impact the host community and other domestic and global issues. 
  • Visit elected representatives to voice your concerns about legislative issues affecting the host community or region of the world.
  • Compose standardized prayers of the faithful for community liturgies to remember the needs of your host community and all our brothers and sisters living in poverty or rendered vulnerable.

Adapted from Catholic Relief Services.

I have always found that participants are surprised at how much they receive (physically and spiritually) through their immersion experience. The oft-heard line that “the people have nothing and yet they share so generously” is actually a comment on our own privileged and extravagant lifestyle.
David, Catholic Education Officer, Sandhurst.

Next: Conclusion