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Jesse Dart, Cultural Explorer

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Jesse Dart, Cultural Explorer

Jesse Dart, Cultural Explorer

Stop, look listen.

For Jesse Dart ’04 the call to pause is much more than a childhood formula about crossing streets; it is the key to treasures hidden in everyday experiences – the conversation he shares with a stranger on London’s “tube,” the basil and cracked black pepper he sprinkles over fresh tomatoes in season, the old guy on the side of the bike path who sold a whole box of the ripe beauties to him for only €6.

A world traveler, author, photographer and self-described gastronome, Jesse has followed his passions from Greenville College across the globe to Mozambique, Australia, Italy and now London. His articles have appeared in The Atlantic, The Culturist and The Daily Beast, and his learning continues down a path of study he charted as a student at Greenville College, a path of his own design.

As a college student, Jesse found himself drawn toward courses in art history, sociology, communication and photography. His scholarly passions leaned toward the arts and humanities, so with the help of Professor Rick McPeak, he created a unique course of study with GC’s Individually Tailored Education Plan (ITEP). “It was liberating, motivating and inspiring to think about the questions that were asked during the process and to think about what it is I wanted from my time at GC, as opposed to being pushed into a line of study I didn’t think I fit into,” shares Jesse. “I’ve never been good with boxes. I don’t follow normal paths; I never have.”

A winding road of deeply meaningful learning has given Jesse a contemplative perspective. “Finding beauty and peace in the moment will be a lifelong quest,” he reflects. His photography and writing echo the beauty he unearths.

Jesse’s first experience abroad came at age 13 when he took a 4-H exchange trip to Japan. In the days before instant connectivity via Wi-Fi and smart phones, the young teen immersed himself in a culture completely unlike Montrose, his tiny hometown in southern Illinois. “Japan was and is about as different as you can get from the Midwest,” Jesse says, “but after that experience, I came away wanting to continue to travel and experience as much of the world as I could.”

Tuscany

During his junior year at GC, Jesse’s growing wanderlust led him to study in Mozambique for a semester. Once again submerged in a culture poles apart from rural Illinois, he cultivated a sense of satisfaction by coupling daily adventure with reflection. “We read a lot, talked a lot. It is one of the few times in my life where I’ve been given the gift of time to truly and fully absorb what is around me.” Even more powerful than roughing it in the bush were the opportunities Jesse realized to closely examine the full spectrum of life. “We were, on a daily basis, confronted with humanity in many of its best and worst forms. Even now, it is an experience that is hard for me to put into concrete terms.”

He remembers his college experience more as equipping him for life’s journey than filling him with information. “GC doesn’t give you answers to questions of life, but it gives you the tools to find answers for yourself and experiences to think about your life, your path and journey,” he reflects.

Jesse still fashions a trail of learning that integrates world travel and cultural immersion. His passions for gastronomy, identity and a connection to place all came about differently and at different times on that trail, but he feels them close together. These days, Jesse helps his readers see the connections and dig deep into the experience of culture too. One publication says Jesse makes his readers think and gives them the ability to connect to a location as a traveler, not just a tourist.

The student of culture, it appears, is now a teacher.

Photos by Jesse Dart.

This story was published on June 26, 2014




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