Be a traveler, not a tourist when it comes life

NICOLE HAMILTON Columnist

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in class and the professor had us introduce ourselves to the person sitting next to us. The student next to me said he was a junior, and this was his first year here. Curious, I asked him where he went to school previously. He had come from across the world: Egypt.

 It is amazing to me how here in the middle of the United States there are opportunities to meet others with such diverse backgrounds. At South Dakota State University, there are students from over 81 countries, according to the Office of International Affairs & Outreach. It gives us a great opportunity to not only learn from them but also learn about ourselves.

 Just because people from across the globe are coming here to learn does not mean we can sit back and never explore where they came from. Everyone should travel and broaden their horizons.

 The world is much bigger than what we can see. I have traveled to seven countries on four continents in my lifetime, but that is still only four percent of the world.

 Traveling to a new place is essential if we wish to develop our communication, independence and cultural skills.

The first time I traveled abroad was in 2013 when I went on a cultural exchange to Finland. Before going, I thought the world was black and white. Everything was clear and there was a definite right or wrong. As I spent that month living with a host family, I learned that the world is not that way. It is full of color. My host family would do some things differently, such as visiting a sauna every night or eating raw salmon on rye bread.

 As my dad would say, “It is not wrong. It is just different.”

When it comes to learning about a new culture, I would say dad nailed it. Look around and try to understand the reasoning behind what people are doing. Ever since that first journey to Finland, I see the world differently. I do not just think about myself anymore—I think about other people across the world and wonder about their lives.

 Traveling benefits us in so many ways.  According to the U.S. Travel Association, it keeps our brain and heart healthy as well as causes us to be adaptable and open-minded.

 Going abroad allows us to take on new challenges. I had never ridden a train until I went to Finland. I had to ride it alone for the first time in a foreign country where I could not speak the language. Challenges open our eyes and change our perspectives. It humbles us by allowing us to see how big, beautiful and colorful the world really is.

 Seeing other parts of the world causes us to have empathy. I do not think anyone really truly understands poverty until you are standing in the midst of it in South Africa or working in Mexico. We can only be thankful for our living conditions when there are people who live in shacks made of scrap wood, cardboard and metal.

 Traveling—and not tourist type traveling—teaches us to appreciate where we come from. It shows us the value of others. Every person I have met on my travels could have been a friend or family member from home. Even though thousands of miles of land and oceans separate us, we all desire the same things.  We want to be happy, safe and loved.

 When we share our experiences and allow others to share theirs, we make the world a little bit more colorful. It becomes a more understanding place to live in and enriches our own lives and those around us.  

 As I sat next to an Egyptian, I learned a little bit more about the world we live in. What about the person sitting next to you? What can we learn from them? There is a great big world for us to discover.

 

Nicole Hamilton is an agriculture communications major here at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected]