Like I’ve said before, I went/am going abroad because I want to see and study about the world while I’m young and there’s nothing holding me back. Recently, I was inspired by a number of posts (which I’ll list at the bottom) to reconsider why myself, and all young Americans, should go abroad at some point in their young lives. Believe it or not, I am coming to a somewhat contradictory realization that it’s almost my duty as a good U.S. citizen to go abroad.
This duty is a result of my coming from a particular generation, commonly referred to as Generation Y. I’m not going to go into depth about how our generation gets a bad rap; people can think and say what they want. I think our generation is great, and we are privileged to live in the time we do.
See, we’re really the first generation that hasn’t had to deal with large scale issues surrounding civil rights, immigration, or nuclear warfare. While racism will unfortunately still permeate society for a long to come, for the first time in just about all of history, our generation’s perception of other countries and their peoples hasn’t had to be colored by a commonly accepted fear and hate for other races and ethnicities. (I didn’t forget 9/11, I just choose to believe that those 20 fundamental extremists don’t represent the thoughts and ideas of an entire region of the world.)
There is still a large amount of hate and suffering in the world. As someone who comes from a generation that is free to develop our own perceptions of the people in this world, largely without the restricting chains of racial fear, ethnocentrism, and lack of information, I would be letting every generation that came before me down if I didn’t make every effort to travel abroad and learn about these people in an attempt to promote a greater understanding of mankind, so that our own country can exist in a more accepting world.
I like watching the news just as much as the next guy. But if we all really thought about it, most of what we see on the news is pretty depressing. And you know what? I don’t blame the news stations. Negative stories gain more attention because we as consumers seem to be more interested in them – myself included (could be human nature, I don’t really know). As a result, news reflects a pessimistic and dangerous world that hates America, hates Americans, or is somehow “against” America. It’s no wonder your everyday person could easily think everybody hates our country.
From my experience, which at age 22 is still very limited, I think I can tell you the world doesn’t hate America or Americans. In the 10 plus countries I went to, not a single person singled me out for being from the U.S. Yes, some people will have a problem with a decision our President made or a law Congress passed, but so does the average American citizen. People in other countries are too busy to care about everything that goes on in the U.S., and I think if we weren’t so self-absorbed, we wouldn’t assume we know the political position of every citizen in every country.
As someone who comes from a generation that has every nugget of information and news spoon fed to us, it is my duty to go abroad in order to discover my own news, and discern other people’s opinions by asking and not assuming, so that our country can exist in a more informed world. I don’t think it’s as dangerous or as cruel as it’s sometimes made out to be.
Some point out that many Americans don’t travel outside of the U.S. because we have every existing type of climate and geography within our own borders, and that spending the money to go somewhere else doesn’t make any sense. Sadly, I can’t even use that excuse because I live about a 4 hour drive from New York City, and I’ve never even been to see the Statue of Liberty.
Traveling abroad doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have a problem with the U.S., or that our country is lacking in some way. In fact, traveling will probably give you a better appreciation of where you’re from. After traveling a decent part of Europe while I was studying abroad, I realized that while I was fortunate enough to see things like the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum, I really hadn’t made much of an effort to explore my own backyard. When I came back to the States, one of my goals was to actually explore and learn about the state and country that I was proud to be from.
As someone who’s from a generation that has the means to travel the same distance in 3 hours, in what would’ve taken our great grandparents 3 weeks, I would be letting every previous generation down if I didn’t make every effort to go abroad and explore as many places as I could so that our country can exist in a state that is less isolated from the rest of the world. In developing a better appreciation for other countries, I believe we would also gain a better appreciation of our own.
If we saw travel as less of a vacation and more of an experience, I think we would find that pampering the mind is just as rewarding as pampering the body.
This isn’t meant to be a negative post about the past. Instead it’s supposed to be a positive insight into the future – and our generation has a bright one. I see it as our duty to use the privileges we have been given to explore the world and promote some sort of cultural understanding and acceptance so that future generations can live in a freer (in all aspects of the word) world than generations in the past.
I’m not an ignorant and naive upper class kid who mooches off his parents bank account so I can party hardy in the big cities of the world. I’m also not without my own flaws ( I have plenty), and neither is our generation. I’m just your average 22 year old college grad who came to the conclusion that it’s hard to know how you’re going to make the most of your time in this world if you’ve never seen it.
As I promised, here are the posts that inspired me to write this:
- Why Americans STILL Don’t Travel Overseas
- Gen Y will save the world, even if we don’t have jobs
- Public Policy Benefits of Study Abroad
This post genuinely took a lot of time and critical thinking, and I hope it opens up the door for people to really develop their own position on going abroad. I would really love for you to share this post, and respectfully comment with your own opinion down below!