There is a psychology concept widely accepted by social scientists called ‘linear thinking.’ The idea is that humans naturally think in a linear manner, meaning that if we take ten steps, we are only going to be tens paces away from where we started. This is also how the average person thinks, and it represents one of the greatest barriers to our transcendence as intellectual beings. Studying abroad has taught me how to think ‘exponentially,’ that is how to be global in how I interpret the world around me. Although this undoubtedly gives me an advantage as I prepare to begin the next chapter of my life, it also has created friction with many of the people who I have known or continue to meet. I feel this most intensely when I meet people here in the States who show no interest in traveling outside of America because they believe there is nothing else worth seeing, or its simply not worth the energy. Another example is depicted by the lack of emphasis in our youth language learning programs. The general census essentially infers: why learn another language when we already know the ‘best’ one? There is no greater detriment to any society than ethnocentric behavior. It is this arrogance that has posed the greatest challenge to my reincorporation.
Sharing my reincorporation letter with my family gave me the best opportunity that I’ve had to summarize my time abroad and, more importantly, what I’ve learned. I believe the greatest advantage this letter has given me was discussing how my family could help me by working to understand that I am not the same person I was when I left. My principles are the same, but I am now less convicted to them because the context in which I now know exists has forced me to question and revise them. With this being said, I told them one specific way they can assist my reincorporation is by asking me questions about. I feel as though this will catalyze me to introspect and will therefore help me find a better fit into society. I further pointed out that maybe even asking simple question like ‘what was it like taking a train everywhere?’ or ‘what was it like not understanding anyone?’ may be beneficial in my long-term incorporation. Who knows, maybe it will change the way they think as well. I believe the key to becoming ‘world wise’ lies, not necessarily in the travels, but rather practicing how to be sentient like a traveler. With great effort, I believe one can think globally depending on how well they listen.
Slimbach wrote, “to change a deep-rooted habit, you must take steps to divert the stream—that is, to consciously form a new habit. By making a conscious change in behavior, you begin to dig a new channel in your psyche.” (Slimbach, 226) Habits are powerful indicators of our character, and I believe that way other’s perceive us relies heavily on our habits. I think the effects of studying abroad are going to reveal themselves in the new habits I have accrued. As I have listened to my peer through the years, I had come recognize that I live in a deeper state of introspection than most. Some call it maturity, other label it self-consciousness, and to be honest I have no idea. What I do know is that it will now work in my favor because I will be that much more aware of when I begin to fall back into my routine of old. I am going to carry forward my experiences by journaling about my memories and the gridlock between my old, current, and future identities. Nikki Giovanni once said: “A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” The quote reflects I am today, because it is just now that I realize my world changes every day. Studying abroad also taught that I am agile to keep up with.