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I Traveled Out of My Comfort Zone, and it Changed My Worldview

Author: Nicole Chininis, Real Life Stories

Traveling truly does provide you with just about everything you need.

It allows you to expand your point of view, and expand your knowledge. Think of it as being completely nearsighted, and then putting on glasses for the first time in your life. You now can see not only what is in front of you, but the the things beyond what your hands can reach. Things are clearer, and you have a better understanding of what’s around you.

My time spent traveling abroad shaped who I am today because of the people I met, the food I ate, and the life that I lived. But, I felt like for a long time that I never really expanded outside of my true comfort zone. This is a big confession for a Study Abroad Advisor, but let me explain.

I’ve spent my fair share of time across Europe and some of Latin America, visiting friends who are living abroad, or living abroad myself. In Spain, I immediately felt at home, because I spoke the language, and the culture felt familiar, thanks to my Greek heritage. Of course, the cultures are different, but there was something about being in loud, friendly groups of people that made me feel at home.

Even though I felt at home in Spain, I still experienced culture shock, which mostly came from speaking Spanish as a second language. For instance, it was difficult to not be able to find the right words I wanted to use, or not fully being able to understand things my friends said. But after some time, I was able to blend in and adapt to Spanish culture and language like it was my own. 

After my time in Spain, I was then fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in South Africa, immersing myself in local culture, as I did in Spain. It was an experience unlike any other I have ever had. It was one of the first times that I didn’t know what to expect. I knew about some the history of Apartheid, a system of government that required segregation by race, but I had no idea of the tremendous impact it still has on the day to day lives of the people who live there.

I also didn’t know what to expect in terms of food while traveling, as South African cuisine is not something that is as internationally common as other cuisines, and I really had no idea of what to expect in the townships. I was constantly out of my comfort zone, but at the same time, I felt like I was taking in so much.

Over the course of the trip, I spoke with everyone I could, and I really reflected on my preconceived notions, stereotypes, and misconceptions that I had about South Africa prior to my trip. Without any expectations for the country, I was able to truly see things with clarity and open eyes.  

My trip to South Africa provided my ability to take a step back in my own life, and reflect on experiences here within the United States. South Africa ended Apartheid a little over 20 years ago. But, I felt like so many of the conversations we were having about racism, segregation, and where they were as a country were so similar to the conversations we are having here. It challenged my perceptions of where we are, and how far we have to go, and it made me truly admire the South African people. As much as they have to go, South Africa is incredibly resilient, strong, and mindful of the work that is ahead. It was inspiring and eye-opening.

I wouldn’t have had this moving experience if I stayed in my comfort zone. It made me more aware of my experiences, no matter where I travel to, because it has given me a different point of view. I learned that I need to take myself out of what I think I know, focus on what I don’t know, and challenge myself to find out. I challenge you to do the same.

Where Hateful Acts Are an Everyday Reality

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Current Events/Politics

In the wake of the white supremacist events in Charlottesville, it’s easy to be disheartened. To lose hope. To wonder how these types of acts continue, how we’ve allowed them to continue, and how their perpetuators think any of it is acceptable. While it’s apparent that the mentality has existed in Charlottesville even before these rallies, many of us are hearing about all of it for the first time, or may not have even known this was still happening in our country.

Sure, we’ve known about the existence of white supremacy, even in 2017, when we’ve “made progress.” We’ve seen and become outraged over hate crimes. We’ve fought for acceptance for all races and supported and realized the importance of Black Lives Matter. But after Charlottesville, this is right in front of our faces. And while we should never have let it get this far, we didn’t take what led up to it seriously enough. As a result of the belief that we didn’t think it was “this bad,” we are nothing short of shocked.

The good news for America? We still live in a country where there is shock and anger and heartbreak over events like Charlottesville because we have certain freedoms, and we have enough of a collective conscience (minus, of course, the members of groups like the KKK and the National Policy Institute) to know that this type of racist, bigoted thinking is wrong. As a result of our freedoms, we’re allowed to the belief that it’s wrong, and we can raise our voices without fearing for our lives or the loss of the freedoms we’ve always known.

In certain other countries, acts similar to what happened in Charlottesville, and worse, occur ever single day at the hands of the government. They occur in the name of bigotry and hatred. In some cases, civilians commit these acts and the government either responds with denial, or doesn’t respond at all. What’s worse, in some cases, they are the law of the land. And as they’re occurring, civilians aren’t allowed the right of peaceful protest — as they fear for their lives as well as the potential loss of whatever freedoms they do have.

 

North Korea
The nuclear threat out of North Korea has been in the news for weeks, as well as its general threats toward the United States. But what we don’t always hear about is life in North Korea for civilians. Women and children are being executed at the hands of the government for what is considered a crime — including watching a movie out of Hollywood. In other words, something that isn’t propaganda in favor of the government. Something that doesn’t promote hate and violence. This viral video gives even more of a glimpse:

South Africa
According to Human Rights Watch’s 2017 World Report, the government of South Africa has been based in bigotry, hatred, and corruption for years. It has not “developed a national strategy to combat the high rate of violence against women and the continued underreporting of rape.” It has “failed to hold accountable those responsible for xenophobic attacks on the businesses and homes of refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants between March and May, 2015.” And it did not condemn or properly address Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s 2015 remarks that foreigners should “pack their bags and go home.”

Latin American countries
These countries — not limited to one or two — have a long and unfortunate history of violence. According to an openDemocracy report, seven out of ten countries with the world’s largest murder rate for women are located in Latin America, based on 2015 statistics. While these murders — based in a sexist line of thinking — are often found to be based in the home and not based out of the government, many of the countries are based in “male-dominated power structures.” In other words, the governments may not be perpetuating the acts, but their actions promote the notion that they are acceptable. Additionally, such power structures allow for women to be forced into organized crime in order to protect themselves, and the government hasn’t done a whole lot to stop that.

India
While not all of the hate perpetuated in India is at the hands of the government, women live in a state of constant fear. And while the government may not be the source of the hate, officials haven’t done much, if anything at all, to stop the country’s general attitude toward women. As if that’s not enough, the hate crimes that take place aren’t just specific to women, but also to other races. Human Rights Watch cites an incident in which a student from Nigeria visited India and received a public beating. While the government condemned the act, it did not acknowledge it as a race-related hate crime.

Poland
Again, another government that did not commit the acts, but, in a somewhat worse display of judgment, let neo-Nazi acts perpetuate. VICE News reported in May 2017 that Poland’s populist government has allowed “far-right extremism explode into the mainstream.” While that echos of Charlottesville, the situation appears to be even more out in the open. Not to mention, “Openly xenophobic far-right politicians have seats in Parliament, and the populist government of the conservative Law and Justice party has adopted a nationalist, anti-immigrant platform that shares much ground with the far right.”

 

While Charlottesville may have opened our eyes to the fact that white supremacy and other hateful acts are unfortunately alive and well, it’s important to recognize that in no country should they be permitted to just be a fact of life where not one person, not even government officials, bats an eye. Millennials, let’s not forget that this is happening both in our own metaphorical backyard, as well as across the world.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.