Wrap-up

Trip Start Jan 03, 2007
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Trip End May 19, 2007


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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's been almost 6 months since I returned to the United States - but I can still feel the effects of my experience profoundly in my day to day life.

Living abroad provides a new perspective for interpreting the things we see, everyday. How we buy our groceries, how we interact with eachother, everything we do is just one way of doing it - and only by living in another country can we even begin to appreciate that and understand the beauty of difference that proliferates our world.

When I left in January, I was giddy with expectation. I wanted to escape American life, I wanted to escape the United States. By the time May came around - I could hardly wait to come home. I never understood how much I had always taken for granted. When I got to Spain, I went through an acultueration process - I went through a "culture-shock". When you loose all the subtle social cues that define your existence, it can be a jarring experience, and people deal with it in different ways. After the gleeful first few weeks, when I started getting used to my surroundings, I tried to act like I was Spanish - tried to be one in the culture. I thought that I should - that is why I came here right? However, I discovered I wasn't very good at being Spanish. I tried and tried, but I couldn't deny who I was - an American.

And thus I came to a great realization - we are all "from" somewhere, we all have our home culture. I had to try and alienate my home culture before I could appreciate it, and now I feel incredible gratitude and pride in my country. I learned that I can appreciate, experience, and expose myself to another culture, without judgement, through the framework of my home culture - and that this framework added to the enrichment of the experience, rather then detract from it.

After my experiences abroad, I feel that everyone should experience something like this at some point in their lives. For some, like myself, it is the only way to really appreciate where we are from. For others, it provides rich, vibrant memories that we carry with us indefinately. For all, traveling and seeing new places shows us how beautifully rich and differentiated our world really is.
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