In his book Becoming World Wise Richard Slimbach discusses the potential that education abroad has in shaping the way we view the world. Specifically he states, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within,” (Kindle version location 1080). Based off of my experiences studying abroad, I somewhat agree with his reasoning. Education abroad undoubtedly causes a new way of thinking and acting. Integrating into another culture forces people outside of their social norms and causes significant change in their life. Slimbach states that these changes leave us vulnerable and suggests that we “surrender” to the culture (Kindle version location 1112). Reflecting back to the beginning of my journey I can highly relate to this feeling. There’s a clear feeling of being lost when entering a new place for the first time. Without any knowledge of the area or customs of the culture you have to learn how everything works over time. Slimbach claims that these feelings of vulnerability, deprivation, and aloneness are what influence us to ultimately “surrender” to the host culture.
However I don’t think that this weakness is the sole factor driving global learning. I would argue that this state of weakness is often coupled by feelings of excitement. I see learning abroad like the first day of college. Similar to education abroad, college is a place for study and learning more about yourself. There is a feeling of being lost and alone, but most people are excited for the experience. Most freshmen year college students aren’t driven by the feelings of aloneness, but rather are motivated by their excitement. Slimbach thinks that the feeling of being weak and alone influences people’s self-discovery while abroad, but I think that their openness and enthusiasm is what drives people to learn more about the culture and themselves.
Personally my global connections while abroad have greatly influenced the way I viewed the world. I came into my education abroad with an open mind and as a result it has dramatically impacted my perspective on becoming a “global citizen.” At first I thought being a global citizen was simply being an active participant in worldwide events. However after traveling to multiple countries and living in New Zealand for 5 months, I learned that a global citizen is much more than being an active participant. People need to be active listeners in addition to active participants. First, people need to be active in the global community. They need to be aware of events across the globe and interact with them. Acknowledging situations around the world and not taking action does not create a global citizen. Secondly people must be active listeners as well. Every country has its own beliefs, issues, and dignity, which we can only comprehend and relate to through active listening. Active listening includes learning and appreciating the differences between cultures. In order to understand the world and be a part of the global community it is important to listen, to understand, and to act with people across the globe.
As my time in Dunedin comes to a close I have to say goodbye to my friends I’ve made over the course of the semester. I’m currently planning a final group dinner with my friends. During the dinner we will share photos of our adventures together, swap memorable stories, and reminisce about our favorite moments of our journey. As my time in New Zealand comes to a close, the feeling is bittersweet. I am excited and anxious to go home to see my family, but I also don’t want to leave my new friends. Many of them live across the country and I may not see for years to come. In order to combat this sadness I have been in contact with my friends from home and making plans with them for when I return. I think that my eagerness for home will help me reincorporate back into society. The familiarity of family and friends will make being home enjoyable for the first few days. On the other hand I think that showing everyone pictures and telling them stories will make me miss New Zealand and hold me back from reincorporating immediately. Overall I loved my time in New Zealand, but am looking forward to sharing my experiences with my loved ones from home.