Changing Perspective

30 Apr

“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”-Alan Keightley

I have neglected a component of this blog that I believe is key to learning in this day and age: global citizenship and mindfulness. To be relevant and respected in this world, we need to begin to integrate other world views into our basic educational practices. Otherwise, people will continue to have a negative and hopeless view of the world, fed to them constantly by various popular media outlets and negative commentators. I reflected on this recently because while I was in New York I stayed and hung out with several close friends whom I had met while studying abroad in India for a semester in high school. I did this through the SAGE program, and I wrote the following piece while I prepared for an information session I hosted for the organization several weeks ago.

Growing up, my family traveled and lived in various countries, and my parents knew the profound effect travel could have upon anyone, especially young people, in learning and living a passionate and meaningful life. Therefore when my brother and I were in elementary school in the US our parents told us that once we reached high school we would each get to spend a semester abroad to gain new perspectives, independence, and make lifelong friendships with people different from ourselves. After participating in a 3-week Spanish immersion trip to Mexico when I was 15 (which included living with a host family), I became even more passionate about the prospect of going away for a whole semester. Knowing how big (yet interconnected) the world was and what other ways of knowing and living existed was so exciting.

Around this time, I also began to become frustrated with my own experience of living in a bit of a sheltered bubble. Many young people in my community are under a lot of societal and academic pressure, not to mention the other superficial aspects of being a teenager in the US. This, paired with the burnout commonly associated with our system of education in this country, led me to begin to feel stuck in a rut. By this time, I was very ready to take the plunge and push myself out of my comfort zone. 

Woodstock School, nestled in the Himalayas. A truly beautiful place.

Eight months later, I was boarding a flight to India. I could honestly sit down and tell you every minuscule, amazing detail about my time there, but that would take far too long (and I’ve probably talked peoples’ ears off about it already). However, I had some transformative realizations while there. The thing about going abroad, as many of you may know from previous travel experiences, is that you don’t only learn about the country you are visiting or the people you meet, but you learn so much about yourself, where you are from, and how it all fits into the wider picture of things. It was as if my own self and the US were reflected back to me from a totally different perspective. And I can tell you, without any hesitation, that this insight helps you exponentially in the long run. 

You see things differently, and because of this, you have more wisdom and essential knowledge that can help you in many spheres of life. Traveling abroad for vacation is great, but living there for a longer period of time (especially at a younger age), engaging with the people in the country, will give you skills you will be so grateful for later. You don’t only learn about things the way you do in school or from reading books, but you learn and experience why and how things are the way they are. You learn about cultural sensitivity and communication. You learn how to be independent and really put yourself out there in situations you are not used to. You see past superficial differences and are more open to what’s possible instead of impossible. I began to notice all these unexamined assumptions I had held before going abroad, and I had previously considered myself to be a relatively open-minded person. Another important thing the experience gave me was the confidence to take steps that involved thinking and venturing into the unknown, partly because I saw how despite being halfway across the world, I was able to deeply connect with people from different backgrounds. 

Upon returning from India, I began to further realize the value and importance that a change of environment and perspective offered. If you are able to go abroad, or if you are a parent who has kids and can offer that opportunity, then I highly suggest it. With a little bit of research there are also scholarships that make the opportunity more affordable for those with limited resources. However, I also believe that people can gain this perspective without having to leave the country. If you find creative ways to surround yourself with people who are different than you in your own community, the same effect can take place. Volunteering at an organization that supports and assists different ethnic and immigrant populations, joining a cultural or arts group, learning a new language through conversation exchange, or just simply spending time with people in your community with diverse backgrounds and world-views can be huge learning experiences in themselves.

As I continue to profile more Eduventurists (by the way, I will be re-focusing on current “students” this coming month), I have found that many have had their own transformative change of perspective, realizations, and epiphanies during experiences they have had abroad. Stay tuned to hear their stories 🙂


4 Responses to “Changing Perspective”

  1. sophie April 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    Thank you Weezie!

    • Weezie May 1, 2011 at 12:20 am #

      Thank YOU for inspiring ME. I want to do a profile on you and your path when I get the time! By the way, your class proposal form you emailed me was great. I loved the book choices, had to add some of them to my syllabus. 🙂

  2. SAGE Staff May 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Weezie! This is a great read. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  3. haley May 21, 2011 at 12:48 am #

    Weezie, this is fantastic. In the chaos of the semester I failed to note your site change but am now on top of it again and can’t wait to hear more.

    Happy adventuring!!!

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