Over the past month, my London experience has drastically changed my perspective on Great Britain. Before studying abroad in the country, I had an overwhelming lack of knowledge of governmental processes, traditions, culture, and the everyday life experience of locals. To substitute for my lack of knowledge, I unconsciously let my American viewpoint and pre-conceptions construct a glass house of what Great Britain was. It was not until I entered the country and immersed myself in locals’ everyday life that my perfect glass house shattered into a million tiny pieces.
Upon my first few weeks in London, I strove to interact with as many British locals as possible and began to be enlightened and educated by them. Listening to conversations and looking for a deeper insight when speaking with locals, I, rather than rebuilding my glass house, found wood and nails to reconstruct my understanding of Great Britain. One day, while speaking to a British student at my institution, I was informed of the governmental structure and processes within the British Parliament. When they explained the five-year terms for each party and the lack of consistent general elections, I was shocked and began to compare the United Kingdom to America. However, I quickly stopped myself and realized that by comparing the United Kingdom to America, I was evaluating the country by my values and not by the United Kingdoms’. For me to truly understand the country, I needed to divest myself of my previous beliefs and look head-on at what was in front of me. Therefore, I continued to listen and expand my mind into thinking beyond borders culminating in an experience in which I realized how multifaceted life was for British citizens.
Furthermore, what I have learned from my host country has forever changed me. Witnessing protests raising awareness about the violence perpetrated against women in Iran for incorrectly wearing hijabs has exposed me to worldwide injustices and ignited my fervor for international women’s rights. Learning of the discrimination against immigrants coming into London has made me more aware of the issues they continually face as they seek asylum or a better life in a new country. Moreover, learning of the economic issues that many locals face in the United Kingdom, recent governmental shifts, and the housing crisis has forced me to think about foreign economics and the impact it has on the day-to-day lives of people globally. Additionally, witnessing many climate change protests in London and learning how it negatively affects the nation has inspired my support and rallying of what is occurring environmentally within the world.
Learning about all these things from my host country has made me realize that despite my identity, education level, and even my location, I have the power to affect and create change within the world. Globally, many issues, injustices, and catastrophes are affecting millions, and my time abroad has made me realize that I have a role in changing these things. I have the responsibility as a scholar to positively impact the world.