For my STEP signature project I participated in the Multicultural Histories and Legacies of London and Rome program. The purpose behind the trip was to observe different cultures in the US and abroad. We got up close and personal experiences with different cultures and religions that make up part of Europe and discovered how they were similar and different to those in the United States. We met different people of all sorts of race, religion and ethnicity during our time abroad. Along with the cultural diversity, we were able to do some service of our own while working with a local food bank collecting donations for those in times of crisis.
Our journey through out Europe was one that I will never forget. My perception on how I view this world completely changed after coming back from this trip. We had the opportunity to interact with so many unique individuals that all had different beliefs and life experiences. We had the pleasure of partaking in stimulating dialogue with these people and it opened my mind to a different level of thinking and understanding. There were interactions with Italians, the English, and people of the Islamic faith, people of the Hindu faith, the LGBT community, and a wide range of others. The trip really brought together the fact that no matter our differences, we are all equal. There may be different beliefs, religions, ang languages, but we all are still human.
During our time at these places we weren’t just looking at buildings and tourist sites, we were getting lived experiences of people and places that all told a different story and it was so interesting to me. Places and people all over the world have different ways of doing things and different things they believe in, but its important to embrace all of this, even if it’s a little uncomfortable to you. Once I was able to leave my comfort zone, I felt as though I could better grasp what I needed to. That’s the most important thing this trip has taught me; in order to be comfortable with your self, you must be comfortable with others.
There were so many fruitful conversations with local people that know the struggles and benefits of being who they are, and living where they do. Being able to interact with the locals that can tell you first hand what its like to be in their shoes is absolutely fascinating. It’s easy to just be a tourist and make assumptions of others you don’t know, but being able to set aside those assumptions can be extremely beneficial. I was certainly put in some situations that made me a bit uneasy because I felt like a complete foreigner but that was when I was really able to take a step back and realize some people feel like that on a day to day basis.
The experience that had the biggest impact on me was the service we partook in. We linked up with a local food bank in London in order to collect food donations for the ones that were in desperate need. We went to the local grocery store and set up shop by the front doors. I really didn’t know what to expect but our turnout was eye opening. We had some people that donated more than they bought for themselves. The people of London were incredibly nice and gracious and I gained a new respect for the people that work day in and day out to help those that may be struggling.
I see so many possible benefits that this trip will leave me with. The biggest benefit this experience helped me with is being able to keep an open mind with anyone I might come across. The old cliché that you “never judge a book by its cover” got a whole new meaning. If I am able to open my mind, along with my ears and my heart, to anyone I come across in life then there’s no telling what I could learn from them. I will be able to make life long connections with people that before I would have never thought about interacting with. Relationships are the staple of a successful and healthy life so the more diverse I can become in my relationships the more I can grow and mature as a person.