The aspect of my progress towards cultural competency that has grown the most is my competence in the areas of national origin and ethnicity and how that shapes one’s experience in the world. An experience that helped shape this cultural growth was volunteering at the soup kitchen in Athens. There I met a group of boys on a missionary trip for a year, and a very friendly and welcoming volunteer staff, as well as the many refugees seeking help. This was a very humbling and reflective experience. I was in awe of all of the different people that came in, and I was especially rattled by the amount of kids and pregnant women who came. I wondered about every individual that I encountered, I wondered what their story was, where they came from, what they were running from, what their purpose and dreams in life are.
One little girl, probably no more than five or six, approached me and asked me “Are you American?”
“Yes. Where are you from?” I said.
“Afghanistan. You’re very pretty!” she said as she cheesed at me.
“Thank you, so are you. What is your name?”
“I like your name. My name is Keandra.”
She just smiled and waved goodbye as her parents called for her. This encounter has stuck with me ever since. I was so surprised at how crystal clear her English was, being such a young refugee from Afghanistan. Later that night I wondered about her specifically, where she was and what she was doing, and I hoped that she was okay.
This was by far one of the most rewarding experiences I had on this trip. It has prompted me to look into volunteer programs in Europe and contemplate taking a year off after I graduate, instead of going to graduate school right away. During my time abroad, I have not only met and had genuine conversations with, but formed long lasting relationships with so many people from different countries. I feel like I have made connections in so many places, and these connections have prompted me to question what I really want to do after I graduate. I have developed a passion for traveling, I want to see so many more places and learn about more cultures and make as much of a difference as I can. I don’t believe that my time in Europe is done, I know that I will be back for more than a vacation, I will be back for another life altering experience.