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    Posted March 14, 2014 by
    Durham, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    Shared experiences become our own

    I am an international student from Italy currently studying at Duke University. I am double majoring in Political Science and Asian and Middle Eastern studies with a concentration in Chinese. I have had the privilege to study abroad and intern in China (University of International Business and Economics - Beijing), Qatar (Georgetown School of Foreign Service - Doha), and South Africa (working alongside Nobel peace prize laureate FW de Klerk - Cape Town). These three experiences have been the most transforming adventures of my life so far. I had taken courses related to all three places, however the experience of studying the policies, histories, and issues related to these countries in an American University, cannot be compared to the analysis of those same topics in the relative nation of interest. Through the ties that were made with people from the different regions, my mind has undergone a deep transformation. Every idea I had relative to religion, identity, culture, the "western" world, race, sex, and much more had to be re-evaluated. I developed a deeper sensitivity to issues that I had studied in books. Reading about a problem in books is one thing, living it, even if not directly but maybe indirectly through natives, makes all the difference. Regardless, of where one studies abroad, he/she will end up loving the people that welcome them into their own world. All of a sudden, those issues that we hear on the news every now and then become relatable. Suffering becomes universal, and the struggle becomes your own. You start relating faces; friends, classmates, host families, girlfriends, and boyfriends, to those issues. It happened in Beijing when I was listening to my friend’s complaints relative to the one child policy, in Qatar when my Palestinian friend was telling me how hard everyday life under the occupation is, or better yet in South Africa when I was asked to work on affirmative action legislation (BBBEE-Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment). I have tens of stories like these and I cherish them all dearly. The world is shrinking, and we must develop a stronger global awareness. My study abroad experiences did not only teach me that there is no difference between something happening around the corner or 10000 miles away. We should care just as much. The value of life is universal and it is just as valuable here as it is anywhere else. My experiences also pushed me to challenge my beliefs while at the same time reasserting my identity. Most importantly I learned that it is essential to analyze any issue from both sides, regardless of how personally uncomfortable it might be.
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