Traveling just to travel leaves you almost as unknowledgeable about a place compared to if you had never been. It is one thing to say, “Yeah, I’ve been there” and another to say, “Yeah, I went there and learned so much about the history and culture.” For example, last week I traveled to New Zealand on a trip through my university. All tours and excursions were set up for us, so we had guides along the way. Some of our guy friends, on the other hand, booked the trip to New Zealand on their own in effort to save some money. While hiking Fox Glacier, we saw our friends from afar because they could not come up to the area we were at without a guide. In this moment I realized how much more valuable my experience in New Zealand would be even though I had to spend some extra money for it. Instead of going to Fox Glocier just to see it’s beauty, I got to learn about the history behind it and how damaging the rising climate temperature has been to it. Learning about a place makes us so much more valuable to the global community because we leave our ignorance behind and have new fresh eyes on the world. We are no longer just another face in the crowd, but instead we can now impact the things around us. Global learning teaches us how to accept other cultures – whether they be similar to your own or completely different. It teaches us that even though a certain place with different people might not live or behave the way we do, but that it is our differences that unite us. The differences between Americans and Australians are what have fueled many of my conversations with strangers while at a coffee shop or checking out groceries at the store. When we learn from each other is how we unite. We learn and accept each others differences and can take what we like and incorporate it into our every day life. This is how our global community can expand and grow.
Many occasions throughout my time I have been uncomfortable or uneasy. Being somewhere foreign is never settling, but you cannot let it prevent you from learning more about a place. Being abroad and traveling to different countries has given me a newfound confidence I never knew I had. I am no longer afraid to ask a stranger for recommendations or to just book a plane ticket and hop on a flight without much of a plan on what I was going to do. On page 59 Slimbach says, “It’s a “conversion” of sorts – the process of being delivered from self-absorption and being opened to a bigger, more complex understanding of the world and, thereby, of ourselves.” Each place I went to these last four months has brought me in contact with a wide variety of cultures. Once you actually get to know someone, it is a lot harder to judge. Acceptance and understanding replaces the judgment and allows our eyes and mind to fully take in and appreciate the differences.
After these last four months, I can affirmatively say Australia has changed me in so many incredible ways. I will never be the person I was before, nor will I look at the world and life the same. Peppers (my apartment in Australia) might have only been my residence here for four months, but Australia will always be considered home to me. I will be leaving next weekend with many mixed emotions – excited to see my family and friends, but absolutely devastated to part from my new friends and home I have here. For one last farewell, all the guys and girls plan on having a photo-shoot on the beach dressed in all white. Our last night, we will toast with a glass of wine and sit on the beach sharing memories as the sunrises before we have to board our bus to go to the airport. I never imagined this day would come that I would have to leave, and part of me is still in denial that it is over. My suitcase is gradually becoming more filled as the days go by and the countdown to America trickles down. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to go home. I am different and am fully aware of that. Going back to my “real” home is harder than I thought it would be; not because I have to leave Australia, but because I am unsure whether I am ready to go back to life before I left.
As Pascal Mercier said, “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” Apart of me will always be left in Australia. I have too many memories and laughs here to bring them all back to America with me. I fully expect to make my way back here one day, and when I do, I cannot wait to re-explore the place I so naturally call home.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Stylus Publishing, LLC., 2010).