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  • I was asked awhile ago to discuss “The point is…” I wasn’t really sure what it was seeking to discuss. The point of travel? The point of study abroad? The point of reflecting on past experiences?
    I have come to realize that it is a collaboration of all these questions and many more. It is in relation to what is the point of being a globally aware individual? Some may call it a global citizen.
    I have been very blessed to not only travel different parts of the world, but to do so with an academic lens as well as an experiential learning lens. I have not only read literature regarding the history, culture, and issues of a nation, but I have gone out into communities listening to individuals stories, the positives of their community, the negatives. Some positives or negatives may have clashed with what I may see as a positive or negative, nonetheless it taught me something. It taught me that there isn’t a perfect lens to view the world.
  • While abroad it was extremely difficult for me to share my experiences to family and friends back home. It wasn’t that I didn’t have internet access, which they may have thought. I actually had internet pretty accessible. The reason that I came to figure out was that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing what I was up to for several reasons. 1. I was still in the process of reflecting on my experiences and figuring out how to talk about them. 2. Many of my experiences needed context that would not be feasible to provide via an email. 3. Many of my family and friends already had opinions on the places I traveled to and an email didn’t seem to be the best place to open their mind as it wouldn’t allow for a true dialogue. I knew that even if they responded at that present time I didn’t have time nor did I want to sit by my computer talking about a couple of experiences I had had when I could be having more. Maybe I’m just selfish.
    In each country I had amazing experiences, but I also had experiences that shoot me up. The experiences that shook me up often were the things I thought I’d share, but new they would be taken out of context and unfortunately probably generalize a nation. Which obviously was unfair and wrong and I would not be educating, but just continuing a trend of ignorance based on a lack of knowledge and education.
    One of these stories goes as follows. We were in Ahmedabad, India and arrived to a small community of predominately if not all Muslims. A community formed by tension with the surrounding Hindu community. Which if I were to say it was a community of all muslims, most people would assume they all chose to live together, however they were forced to live together beyond a certain wall in the city and have less access to the resources of the city. Context that I may have mistakenly overlooked in an email when I had not had adequate time to reflect on my experience.
    So we arrive to this community to meet with an organization that addresses various issues in the area, predominately protecting women. We get out of our auto rickshaw after a crazy, but awesome drive. We honestly felt like we were real life Mario Kart racing each other. I believe we won.
    No more than five minutes later we see smoke run across the street. A man had doused himself in fuel and torched himself. We came to find out the man had been called to the organization to discuss his alcoholism and abuse of his wife. He fled the meeting and attempted to kill himself. A moment that I will never forget. The next day we walked to a market, which residents were recently displaced from. We walked over a bridge build by the British, a remaining sign of the colonial rule. We were at the market for about ten minutes when everyone looked at the water. I saw a small boat. Men held long poles poking for something. A man had jumped off and committed suicide.
    I wanted to tell my family, tell my friends. I was in shock. I been that close to two people dying and almost dying, the man who torched himself survived. The reason I could not was because they already had misconceptions of India, and this would only fuel those perceptions.
    The point is we must travel, we must study, and we must reflect. As much as we can share our stories about other places, when the opportunity to see it for yourself, to talk to people that are described by someone else, presents itself...Go. Because your lens may not have been the same lens of the person writing/sharing, perhaps theirs was smaller.
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