The world as we know it is becoming a smaller place. With technology helping to close communication gaps and make the spread of culture easier than ever between countries and continents, we can no longer pretend to be as separate as we may have believed in the past. Despite this new level of interconnectivity, however, there is simply no technological replacement for experiencing firsthand the culture and diversity of other countries. To do this, we must embark outside of the world we know and open ourselves up to the worlds of others.
Travel has always excited me. It’s always been a fun, thrilling experience that I look forward to and lament when it’s over. But it was only recently that I saw travel as a way to help me genuinely grow as a person. Besides the benefits of a diverse educational background and the experience and adventure of living and studying in a foreign country, studying abroad offered me the opportunity to challenge my own worldview and shift my perspective on the fundamentals of our global society. In other words, I wanted to discover how it could change the way I see, think, and experience not just the world, but myself.
For me, London seemed the best place to do this. It is, after all, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, home to hundreds of languages and cultures. From the moment I arrived, I noticed the beautiful phenomenon of being unable to walk more than a hundred feet without hearing a new language. The other proof of this diversity is in the pudding, so to speak. Or rather, the food. Travel one block down any London street and you’ll see culinary displays from numerous countries, from Turkish to Vietnamese, from Greek to Spanish. Experiencing other cultures is especially exciting when it involves experiencing their food.
One amazing display of culture I’ve witnessed here in London was the parade and festival for the Chinese New Year, marking the arrival of the Year of the Rooster. From Shaftesbury Avenue to Chinatown on Wardour Street, the Chinese culture was celebrated and honored through dancing, musical performances on Trafalgar Square, and an abundance of dim sum and roasted duck. The value of experiencing something so significant to another culture is priceless.
Travel is essential to the human experience. It teaches us to be more accepting and more aware of the world that is ours and that which is not. As Terry Pratchett once wrote, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.” And even better than simply traveling? Living. Studying. Immersing oneself in the normal every day of another country and experiencing it as one looking to learn and grow. I realize now that we are all eternal students, and the world is our classroom.
The world awaits…discover it.