Exploring the world through a teacher’s eyes

By Meghan Merkel
October 19, 2000

by Meghan Merkel
features editor

Anne Vilar Iskrant, adjunct professor here at Cabrini, made two major mistakes in her life. One: she should have accepted the offer to travel with the Peace Corps to South Africa. Two: she should have studied abroad in college.

Nevertheless, she’s been making up the travel miles ever since

After Iskrant graduated frm Smith College with a degree in government and a minor in English, she moved to Bogota, Colombia. That’s right, South America.

“Back then Colombia was not a drug haven, but a showcase for democracy,” Iskrant commented.

She also became involved with a program called Experiment In International Living, which is now called World Learning. “This program allows learning about cultures by living with their people,” Iskrant explained.

She traveled to three different countries with World Learning. Her first trip entailed living in Holland and learning Dutch for six hours a day for two weeks straight. It was a unique experience. When she got off the bus in Holland she immediately ran into a Dutch family she lived closely to in Colombia.

On her second trip, Iskrant ventured to Spain. She still keeps in touch with her Spanish family, 25 years later. They even came to visit her recently here in America. “I took them to see the sights of Philadelphia. My Spanish brother, Juan, loved the cheesesteaks,” Iskrant recalled.

Iskrant and her spanish sister are in the process of starting a program called “Mujeres,” a Spanish exchange program for women.

Her third trip brought her to Israel where she worked on a Kibbutz, or a collective type of farm. “We picked peaches and plums. It was wonderful,” Iskrant speculated.

But the traveling didn’t stop there.

Her 40th birthday was approaching. There were no requests made for the typical presents. No jewels. No parties. Instead, Iskrant wanted another stamp in her passport. She got what she wished for. Her family visited the former Republic of the Soviet Union. They went to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbajian.

Her cultural exploration continues on to Australia, South Africa, Guatemala and China. Iskrant saw a Zulu Macbeth production in South Africa. She loved the ruins of seven temples in Tikal, Guatemala, where the rebel base for Star Wars was filmed. She noted that the Chinese love children. “They were intriqued by my children’s blonde hair. My son came up to me saying, `mom, that man touched my head,’ ” she remembered.

Egypt was her latest excursion. Of course, an anniversary present. “We went in 2000, but we traveled back 5,000 years,” Iskrant stated.

All of her traveling has paid off.

Through the course, Voices of Other Cultures, she is able to implement her learning experiences into teaching.

“When I teach, I like asking questions I don’t know the answers to,” she reflected. She also loves maps and feels that it is important to learn geography.

“I tell my students to go in their closets and look at the labels on their clothes. I ask them, `do you know where that place is located in the world?'”

Although there is room for growth,Iskrant feelsCabrini “has come a long way culturally.” She plans to continue researching other cultures for her courses.

Iskrant’s advice to travelers is simple: “Expect the unexpected.For the people who are intimated by the notion of being in such a foreign place, travel with a structured group.”

She added one more comment: “People want risk-free lives and they can’t have it.”

Next on the list for Iskrant is Japan.

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