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A Reflection on International Education
By Catherine, YES Abroad 2014-2015, Philippines
I’ve always wanted to travel. My wanderlust came into reality this year. I left my home in the U.S. and I embarked on the most astounding journey. It’s changing me in all the good ways. My whole time here has been a rush of growth and learning and happiness that is so powerful. When people ask me how it’s been, I can’t bring the experience into words. There’s too much of it; it’s too intense to accurately describe. I do know that this year is making me a much better person. I’m learning so much about myself, about the Philippines, about the concept of family, and of friends. I’m learning so much about people. It’s making me see things in a broader way. My world is growing and I’m understanding how to understand people.
I’ve gotten to learn so much about the culture, traditions, and history of the Philippines. I’ve also gotten to see parts of my own U.S. culture, that I never would have taken notice of if I hadn’t learned that there was something different. There are so many differences that I’ve seen, but everything feels the same in the ways that matter.
There have been challenges, miscommunications, misunderstandings, but each one has taught me something new about the culture or about how to communicate. Each issue leaves me with a sense of triumph, and a better understanding of the world.
International education isn’t something that can happen in a classroom, through a TV screen, or from someone else’s experiences. It’s not about learning facts about a country or researching. It’s also not the same thing as being a tourist; going abroad, looking at pretty things, and buying some souvenirs. It’s about talking with people who are different from you, who grew up differently from you, who have a different culture from you. It’s about learning their culture as much as you can, understanding them. It’s about making friends, sharing stories, and broadening your perception of the world.
The benefits that I’m going to be taking away with me when I go home are numerous. I’ve gained communication skills, compassion, and courage. More abstractly, but most importantly, I’ve gotten a deep and wide knowledge of the people and culture of the Philippines. I’ve grown to understand the culture of my home in the U.S. so much better. And all in all, my world is so much bigger now.