As a student at Hanover College, I have had many opportunities to travel and learn about different cultures. Our campus has a variety of students and opinions which are able to be expressed through senate meetings, club events, and a school run newspaper. I think that this exposure has really expanded my mind in terms of travel and companionship.
I am by no means an expert on any of this. Acts of terror and unstable governments are scary things. However, these are things that I don’t want to ever limit my openness to experiencing new cultures, making new friends, and learning alongside others.
My first real experience with this was visiting Greece on a Richter Grant my freshman year. A Richter Grant is
an amazing opportunity provided by the college which allows a student to complete an independent study practically anywhere in the world. I chose to complete a study on animal welfare practices in Greece. This was in the midst of the economic depression and my interactions with people reflected this. Regardless of the challenges everyone was facing while I was there, I was always greeted with kindness, respect, and openness about citizens’ situations. I was welcomed into homes for meals and still remained touched to this day how people who were struggling so greatly were able to help me gain so much- knowledge and friendship.
This past year, I took a class on anthropology in Egypt. Many responses were worries for my safety, critiques of the culture, and general non-understanding. We entered the country with two professors with heaps of cultural knowledge. While the culture in the country was different and for this reason, sometimes shocking, we never felt unsafe. In most instances we felt welcomed, and if not there was a learning situation on cultural differences. Overall, my first experience with Middle Eastern culture resulted in an addiction to good food and a fascination with the vast array of lifestyles within one country.
I guess my take home message is this. We cannot go through life never talking to strangers, how else would we meet someone new? This is how I have made some of my best friends in the world. Regardless of what the media wants you to believe, people are not inherently bad and the world is not a scary, bad place. It’s just an adventure waiting to happen.