An Isolated Perspective

After returning from a spring break trip to Germany, many people asked me if I had been changed by my experiences abroad. Even though my answer was usually no, the actual answer is yes, just not in a way I expected.

Before I left the U.S., I was aware that there were roughly seven billion other people living their lives just as I was living mine. In the past, I’ve met people from other countries and talked with them about life where they’re from. Regardless of this knowledge, I still managed to have an isolated perspective on nearly everything. I did not realize it until I was sitting in a coffee shop with German college students. These students were my age, and they were worrying about the same things I worry about. They were hoping for some of the same things I am hoping for. They were dealing with a lot of the same issues that I am dealing with.

I talked to people in Germany who were concerned with the refugee situation. This is something that is very controversial here in the U.S. I have heard about the refugees and how they are seeking asylum. However, prior to my trip to Germany, I was interested in only how the U.S. responded to this crisis. I had not even considered what Europeans were facing with the refugees, and this is what I mean by an isolated perspective. Even though I was aware that there were people outside of the U.S., it was hard to try to imagine their situations until I was in their country listening to them talk about the refugees.

An interesting point to this is that nearly the same thing is occurring in Germany as it is here in the U.S. There are people who are afraid of the refugees and want to keep them out, there are some who want to welcome the refugees in and then there are some who want to take some in but are concerned with the amount of refugees a small country, such as Germany, could handle.

Even though we are separated by an ocean and many miles, we all are still human beings facing many of the same problems and reacting in similar ways; we are more alike than we think.

Another experience was that I talked to students who were anxious about the U.S.’s next president. This is a topic that is at the forefront for many Americans. Several students expressed concerns with potential policy changes that may follow the presidential election. Again, hearing these things from students in Germany, somewhere other than home, opened my eyes to thoughts bigger than just me, my state and my country. I was able to see that the country we take for granted and easily say we are willing to leave is the same country that others would love the opportunity to study and live in.

So, was I changed by my experiences in Germany? Not drastically, but I think the changes in the way I view my place in the world, the world as a whole and my fellow human beings have been positive. My isolated perspective has been broadened, and I have a deeper understanding that there are seven billion other people in the world and many other countries. As silly as it sounds, getting out of the U.S. made me realize there was more to the world than just here.