Snorkel or SCUBA?

How do you define Immersion? What’s the difference between skimming and swimming? Toe dipping and cannon balling? Share your immersion stories.

I was speaking to 200 7th graders this week. I quized them on Africa facts and trivia. They did well. When I asked for a show of hands on the meaning of “immersion”, not an arm raised. “Ah ha – this is an education opportunity,” I thought.  I began to describe the analogy of snorkeling and scuba diving. Well, I’ve done both of those, so that makes sense to me, but how many of those kids have been scuba diving? Help me out. What other analogies would work – within the context of an hour presentation?  I welcome your comments.

In Village Wisdom, I describe immersion like this:

For me, immersion is one of the keys to intentional living. Sure, it’s more risky, takes faith and has no guarantees. But the treasures nestled deep in the ocean can only be discovered by going deep and staying deep. Fluttering around on the surface, looking down on a beautiful but foreign environment, with your bum sticking out of the water, is a good starting place, but as is inherent, will only ever be surface-level engagement.

To put this analogy into a global context: When we travel, let’s always get out of the bus, eat in  common local restauarants – not the ones just for tourists -, stay with residents when possible, leave plenty of unscheduled time in our agendas, and go off the beaten path to experience the richness of diversity that exists in every place. Traveling in this fashion is “scuba touristing.” 

When we live in another place, we should do the same, except tenfold. SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Aparatus and means: an apparatus for breathing underwater consisting of a portable canister of compressed air and a mouthpiece. Basically, a scuba tank is a life support system while you are under water.

When living overseas in an immersive fashion, it’s important to go with a scuba tank. Those come in all forms. My scuba tank is the most powerful support system that exisits. Other equipment pieces are extremely valuable and they vary according to the environment I am entering, but the SCUBA tank is constant.

Our family is learning Spanish in preparation for our language immersion trip to Guatemala this summer. We have begun the process of immersion and we are excited to share the journey with each other. Can’t wait to experience the hidden treasures.

About Carrie Wagner

Author, Photographer, Speaker, Educator
This entry was posted in Global Citizenship, Immersion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Snorkel or SCUBA?

  1. Floyd Nelson II says:

    Good take on the word “immersion.” When I think about that word, I think about how when one is immersed, one is totally present. There are no thoughts regarding what’s for lunch and what I should be texting to my friend. There are no thoughts about past or future–one is totaling focused on the present or the NOW. There is depth, richness and beauty that can only come about with a NOW focus—with immersion. Your words are correct: If you are going to learn about another culture, language or way of life, immersion brings us to the NOW and that is where the wonder lies.

  2. Kevin Hall says:


    Your trip to Guatemala sounds like a wonderful idea. We have a relatively large Guatemalan community living here in the DC area. Our church has a justice mission there. A man who went, like yourself is a wonderful photographer. Last Sunday, I arrived at church at the wrong time. I used the extra time to wonder around and look at his photographs we have hanging there. The thing that was striking was the amazing colors in their society. I look forward to seeing your pictures and hearing your stories when you return.

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