Expecting the Unexpected: A Lifelong Connection

Ronald and Kathleen Beck’s support for The Experiment in International Living pre-dates World Learning’s digitized archives. They are lifelong devotees of The Experiment and have been valued donors since the pair graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 1966.

As such, Ron and Kathy are also members of World Learning’s Global Loyalty Circle, which honors members of the World Learning family who have provided critical support to the organization for at least three consecutive fiscal years.

Kathy was a freshman at Lewis and Clark when the school established a study abroad program in partnership with The Experiment in International Living. She was a part of the university’s inaugural cohort of Experimenters and left for her first trip out of the United States to Japan.

Kathy remembers the experience fondly and as having a lasting impact. Her first time being an obvious outsider, Kathy said she was taken aback at first, “but at the same time it was very liberating because I could not be expected to know how to behave. So I did my best, and apologized when I didn’t. Those things have really made a difference in my life since then.”

“I’ve learned to be not so self-conscious and to not be afraid of making a wrong step, and laughing if you do,” she said.

“The Japanese people were unfailingly helpful and hospitable,” Kathy recalled. “They took us into their homes, made us a part of society as much as possible.”

Upon her return to Lewis and Clark, Kathy urged her future husband Ron to travel abroad and “practically filled out his application.” Ron’s Experiment trip to Mexico was equally impactful — he still remembers one of the highlights being the opportunity to shake Donald Watt’s hand.

The Becks credit The Experiment with feeding their “appetite for international travel.” Since then, they have journeyed to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Iceland, Peru, the Galapagos, and many other spots across the globe. In 2009, Kathy and Ron even returned to Japan on a hiking tour. “I was taken by surprise by how comfortable I felt there,” Kathy remembered. “I felt at home.”

Of being lifelong Experimenters, Kathy said, “It’s given us a real curiosity about how other people live. We always try to seek out opportunities, wherever we go, to meet local people. When we travel independently, we always try to engage with the local culture. Go to the places where the locals go.”

The Becks’ spirit of travel and adventure has also been inherited by their son, Colin, who is an SIT Study Abroad alum of the Peace and Justice program in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.

The Experiment’s motto, “expect the unexpected,” has persisted as the couple’s maxim. “In our travels I think of that all the time,” Ron said. “If something doesn’t quite work out, well, that’s the way it is.”

“I don’t think we ever took another trip where we haven’t said that,” Kathy added.

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