- Posted March 14, 2014 by
New Delhi, India
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama
Crossing Borders: The power of the study abroader in dismantling concepts of the 'other'
I can’t think of the words ‘world peace’ without remembering watching Miss Congeniality as a kid, their association tied inextricably with mocking images of beauty pageants and a clumsy, belligerent Sandra Bullok. The seeming impossibility of such a state cannot put us off of its pursuit, however. And it hasn’t. Together with many Americans, I pray for peace. I want it desperately, more than knowledge or power or money.
It is to this end, that I believe in the value, or rather the absolute necessity of promoting study abroad among American students. Peace has no chance, none at all, unless we actively seek to understand those who have become the ‘other’. The best way I know of to break down the walls—both real and metaphorical—that have been erected between religious, ethnic, political, and cultural communities in today’s world, is to cross the boundaries that divide us, armed with a determination to learn.
Going to a country and living in a community with a language and society different from one’s own is terrifying, challenging, beautiful, and transformative. And what better way to build bridges between the diverse group of people that identify themselves as Americans and other communities in the world than to go abroad as an American student—by definition someone humbling themselves to learn, to listen, to observe, to experience life from a different cartographic perspective.
Learning another community’s language, sharing meals, studying their history, culture, politics, these are the ways that we further the cause of peace in the world. We return from these study abroad experiences, from our semesters abroad, our Fulbright, Boren, and FLAS fellowships, as Americans who understand a little bit better the people that we share the world with and need to cooperate with to promote peace in the international community. My experiences studying in India, Nepal, Ireland, and Azerbaijan have taught me the importance of asking questions and being willing to listen to unexpected answers, of building relationships based on things more fundamental than race, religion, or borders, of sharing ideas and dreams that were born in different places but ultimately bind together the fabric of humanity.