A Reflection...

Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
Trip End Mar 28, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When I think back to my six months in China, they seem to all blur together.  It's as if my brain's self-defense is to group everything as to avoid a system overload.  The truth is, there was so much that I experienced during that time, which has forever affected my present life.

It is easiest if quote the newsletter that I shared with family and friends in June.  Much of it still holds true:

10 Ways My Time Abroad Has Affected Life Back in the US
Having had 3 months to acclimate myself back in the US, I have finally reached a rhythm of sorts in my new surroundings.  I will admit that my initial relief of being in a country that I “understood” was equally tumultuous is many ways.  However, the true treasures of what I have brought back from my time abroad can be found in the changes in my habits and perspective.
1.  A heightened appreciation for nature and the outdoors
Zurich, when that I look back on it, was a place of nature paradise.  At that time, I never grasped the significance.  Not until I was far removed in Beijing, that all of it changed.  It may sound outlandish, but now I can’t help but subconsciously marvel at the clouds, blue skies and the rain.
2.  A persistent drive to genuinely become multilingualIt is incredible how much of an impact language has on one’s personality.  I have decided to take German and Chinese more seriously.  The former I have started teaching myself on the side, the latter I practice at work.
3.  A renewed love for health (foods and fitness)
 Something that I unknowingly took for granted before was the wonderful access we have to healthy foods.  Produce from around the world, organic or not, is there!  I have vowed to eat healthier and exercise regularly more than even before… simply because it’s possible and convenient
4.  A growing intention to explore what lies in the Americas
Still on my list is to explore the US.  I met people around the world who have traveled through the US more than I have.  So hopefully I can make it back to the west coast and see Seattle, Vancouver, as well as surf trips to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, random islands, etc.

 5.  An unsettling sense for the US’s irresponsibility
Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, the oil spill.  When did the country begin treating “freedom” as a code word for “profit”?  Or “liberty” equated with “bloodshed”?  Could we have put tax money into energy, infrastructure, and education (i.e create jobs) versus “defense” or giving it away to financial institutions which were the root of the problem in the first place?

6.  A mental shift in attention to the world’s newsLiving abroad has made the world a smaller place.  World news no longer feels so far away anymore.  In several cases, I can say that I used to live near there!  It almost becomes local.   This mental shift extends similarly for the places that I’ve traveled to and where my friends are from.
7.  A proactive sensitivity for foreignersTime abroad has given me a way to connect with immigrants to the US.  Yes, I know what it’s like to be in a different country and not know the language well.  What I like to do now is, when I see people’s last names, I’ll try to guess where (at least part of) their family is from.  Recently, I guessed correctly that a student was from Turkey.
8.  A fresh fondness towards my hometown, Columbus“Columbus is actually quite a nice place.”  I think to myself more often.  It’s true… we have Potbelly’s, Five Guys, Donatos, Jenni’s Ice Cream, First Watch, Flying Pizza, etc., quaint neighborhoods, great places for shopping and reasonable traffic.  
9.  A tangible understanding of how organization can alter one’s lifestyleI truly admire the organization of the Swiss, German, and Japanese.  Perhaps it fits my personality; I like things to be neatly in the right place.  Somehow I have become a minimalist.  In fact, I make my bed everyday now.  A messy apartment isn’t quite visually appealing.  Yet, strangely enough, I don’t mind the occasional chaos.
10.  A strong belief that traveling can...a) supremely broaden one’s education b) steadily give insight and open doors to one’s dreams
My time abroad has undoubtedly been a blessing.  To summarize my feelings and thoughts,  here are some of good quotes on traveling that I found:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - St. Augustine
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” - Henry Miller
“Not all those who wander are lost.” - J.R.R Tolkien
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” - G.K. Chesterton
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