Hello again aspiring Study Abroaders!
Your friendly neighborhood blogger Ashley here. It’s been a while, but ’tis the season of final exams and desperate supplications to the deity of your choice to save your GPA. After all, your GPA is an innocent—merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Let me know if that excuse works on any of your teachers).
This is my third blog, and my fourth month in Tokyo. Time flies, but at the same time, it feels as if I’ve been here five years. I must admit I have been avoiding writing this last blog. A lot has changed since my previous blog, and I wondered what could I possibly give to those who would come after me. I wanted it to be something meaningful and not just a long-winded monologue about the joys of sight-seeing and local hobnobbing.
Luckily for you, I chose a short-winded monologue about the changes I’ve observed in my own demeanor and way of thinking since studying abroad. Thrilling, I know. So pop on your sunglasses and prop up your head, because your quasi-attention is mandatory. I still have six months to go, but in these past four months, I have changed more than I have in 22 years of life.
What I mean to say is, in four months, my perception of the world has taken a 180. I had always considered myself open-minded and objective. Prided myself on it even. Sure, I was going abroad, but I’d read the books, I’d watched the documentaries, I was prepared for whatever I’d encounter while living overseas. I don’t want to discourage anyone from attempting to learn about their destination before they go, but rather, I want to encourage everyone going abroad to continue learning when you get to your destination. Don’t assume because you read and researched about Nepal’s Tihar festival that you know everything about it, that the physical act of going to see it, talking to people, won’t add depth and understanding.
I’ve met so many wonderful people here: Japanese, German, French, Austrian, Australian (mind those L’s and A’s), Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and even other Americans who have taught me more about myself and life than anything I’d experienced while in America. To my great shame now, I realized that I had always thought like an American. Viewed things, like an American.
I can say with all sincerity now that I view myself as truly part of the whole. When I say that, I mean that, before coming here, I labeled myself “American” and I wanted to do good works in the world as a representative of America, and as an aspiring diplomat/ambassador. The difference now is, that I only see myself as Ashley. Yes, I still aspire to use my skills and knowledge to (hopefully) better American society and the government, but I guess…what I’m trying to say is, I always viewed my interactions with others as friendships with which to glimpse aspects of other cultures and ways of thinking. The truth of the matter is, now, the people I’ve met, no matter their creed or nation, are family to me. I view them as family. My global family. I care about them in a way that I couldn’t fathom before.
To make it more clear, I was forced, I suppose due to my upbringing, to default to American ways of thinking, to approach things as an American. If something politically terrible was happening in country X, what would that mean for American-X relations? How will that effect us, Americans? But now, all I see is my friend from country X. What does that mean for them? How can I help them? How can we make this world better for everyone?
In the end, to be cliche, I finally understand what it means to be a global citizen. It’s not just caring about other cultures, or taking an interest in the affairs of other countries, it’s about connecting with people. Truly connecting. It’s about taking people’s hands and affirming that we are all in this together. No one person, no one country stands alone. We can observe the effects now. The heightened phenomena of globalization means that anything happening in country X has repercussions not only for country X, but every country of the world. There are global issues (global warming, pollution, excessive fishing, etc.) that require the global community at large to come together. To work together, to overcome.
But what I learned is, it’s not about caring because it might effect you, but caring because we are all a part of the global community. We are all a part of the human race. Because event X is effecting your fellow man.
I’ll clamber off my soapbox now, but I hope that you guys, whoever you may be, will connect with everyone you meet in your life. I hope you will find the comfort I do in knowing that no matter where I go, there’s a friend waiting with an easy smile, a good story, and a warm cup of tea.
Until next time.
Your friendly neighborhood Bama blogger,