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Stonehenge

What I wanted study abroad to do for me is easily describable. I was restless, wanted adventure, a change. It just felt right. Certainly it provided me this. But more difficult to articulate is all that it continues to reveal itself to have done that I never would have imagined.

To put it simply, it taught me lessons I didn't realize were there to learn. Much of it was personal- the kind of stuff that’s not worth listing here specifically because it would be different for each person. But there does seem to be a thematic through-line among people. The experience seems to make people quite introspective for one. You're away from the all the elements that combined to form what you perceived as “your life” and in this vacuum the only familiar thing is yourself, and you burrow into that. To a certain extent you're able to re-prioritize the elements of your life, seeing how much the different elements of your life really mean to you. Perhaps it was just a case of absence making the heart grow fonder but I realized how fortunate I was to have the specific reality I inhabited. Only by stepping outside my life could I look upon my life and deem it to be good. There are negative elements dredged up as well of course but at a distance it seems surmountable. One discovery I had was how much potential my place at UNO and in New Orleans holds for me career-wise in contrast to elsewhere. I saw that the grass was indeed not greener on the other side of the fence. So personally- without a doubt it taught me a great deal. Though specifically what a person could discover in this process is pretty wide-ranging but from those I spoke to it was almost always pretty dramatic. I can't imagine anybody going through it and not acknowledging it having changed their lives and them as a person to at least some recognizable degree in a decidedly positive way.


The Tower of London


Flipping on the Train

If I had to articulate a single most significant discovery it would be this:

Not all peoples (nations and cultures) see things the exact same way. And to assign any people as having gotten it "right", that is to say that from any particular vantage point the world can be viewed with total clarity is unrealistic. The thing that struck me the most from moving to a new place of new peoples was the maddening interplay of similarities and differences. There are differences, superficially and inherently in the people, some that I expected and some that surprised me. But simultaneously I found myself awed by the uncanny similarities- themes in thought and culture. I think it is only through the synthesis of these similarities and differences that one can ascertain what it is to be of a certain nation- and only by figuring this out can one begin to understand what it means to be of Earth and to be human. Indeed the only way to understand humanity is to understand it in all of its forms. Only by understanding the different implications of nurture (historical and social influences) can one understand human nature.


The Globe

And something that I think Americans need to understand, that I certainly didn’t before, is to what extent our geographical isolation has caused us an isolation of awareness from the rest of the world. This can work for Switzerland but not for us. We hold a peculiar position here in the U.S.. Each country's population believes its nation to be the best nation, which is natural enough. But as Americans we have a peculiar distinction; we're sort of right. Okay we aren't the best by any means but we are the most influential at the moment. It wasn't until I met a Lithuanian man in Amsterdam who explained how America's recession had caused Lithuania a dramatic recession of its own (couldn't say how now, it made sense at the time) that I realized just how impactful the U.S. is. We are living on a progressively global globe. The importance of understanding the U.S.'s role in the world is more important now than ever as the line between influence and responsibility blurs

So, for effects both personally and interpersonally, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of studying abroad. The awareness that global connectedness brings changes not just the life of a person but the lives of peoples.

 

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