Written by Mira Zimmerman, an FGHS senior and Opinion Editor. This is her last contribution to The Advocate.
The last meal I had in the US was a delicious Italian dish in Seattle. It had beets in it. I hate beets, but I went for it anyways- and I loved it. Trying new things on a small scale is normal for me, but truly jumping outside of your comfort zone can consist of many things. Whatever that thing might be, people who cross the line of certainty and step into the unknown are people willing to learn. For me, it was stepping onto the plane to Germany. I expected to see a new world, a new culture, a new way of life. I expected to learn a new language, and to see the history and all of the life that Germany had to offer. I didn’t expect to learn about myself.
In bits and pieces, I have a grasp on the culture. I can navigate as a German. I can speak the language with an ability I couldn’t have dreamed of when I arrived, and I’m proud of that. It allows me to further immerse myself in Germany. I was on the train last weekend, and an American sat next to me. It was almost embarrassing to talk to her because she was fitting the often less-than-positive stereotype. It occurred to me that I understand my own culture better as I look at it with eyes from another country. Neither way of life is wrong, just incredibly different.
In the midst of seeing a different world, I’ve experienced real difficulties. I know what miscommunication, mistakes, and loneliness look like when they stare back at you. They look like painful education, like life lessons. I haven’t enjoyed every moment of my time in this country, but I know more about complex relationships than I ever did before. I know about the importance of being clear, and the importance of respecting what is different. I know how to ask questions, how to be drastically wrong, and how to be a cheerleader for myself. I know how to take care of myself in isolation. I know how to be grateful. I am glowing with confidence and fighting the quiet doubts. These skills I get to bring home with me and is why I am encouraging everyone with the means to travel and live somewhere different to do so.
Not only does travel encourage growth as a person- from mistakes and misunderstandings to revelations- but it shows the traveler how much they have yet to learn about the world. One perspective, no matter how in depth, will never be enough. It is in the beautiful cluster of differences that real understanding begins to take hold. Even if the traveler doesn’t learn anything about the culture around them, they will know themselves better. For the rest of my life, I will be chasing greater knowledge, knowing that the world is far too full of interesting places and people to be able to understand it all. I only intend to understand a little bit of the proverbial pie, but at least I get to have a slice, and I hope that others can too. Whether or not that means hopping on a plane, take chances, ask questions, and when any opportunity arises, explore what the world has to offer.