I woke up this morning to an article about the Ecuadorian embassy protecting the Founder of wiki-leaks. I read with avid interest and did extensive research on the article -an article I would have hardly given a second glance about a year ago. As I tried to express to my friend what I thought was an extremely exciting and somewhat terrifying article, she could not understand my captivation with it. She reminded me that this scenario was just like the time that I ranted for days about the death of Lonely George the aged tortoise from the Galapagos Island.
It was then that it hit me. Ever since I returned from studying abroad in Ecuador, I had maintained a more than average interest in the film festivals, political events and even species extinctions that related to that nation. I even watched Manchester United football games with slightly more zest, keeping an eye on the Ecuadorian player Valencia, whose hometown I had visited while in Ecuador.
Over time I had adopted Ecuador as another home away from home. I had bonded with the very abstract yet personally meaningful subject that was ‘all things Ecuadorian’. It took me sometime to realize that you cannot live and learn somewhere without taking just a little bit of the place with you, adopting it in your character, opinions and even in your passions. When you study abroad you make a connection that personifies what previously seemed like unrelated statistics and distant media reports. Whether or not you enjoy, understand or even support everything about your host country the experience highlights the place on the world map and opens dialogue about the nations.
A place, cultural practice or issue you may never have considered now assumes a reality. The more of these connection you make the more global a citizen you become. Although I am inclined to converse with almost every Ecuadorian I meet here, the truth is that they are not all my friends and just because I have visited a nation does not mean I know everything about it and everyone from it. Nonetheless that which I do know and understand of its people, its flavors, its music and shortcomings, which puts me in a relationship with a completely different culture from mine.
This is the kind of relationship that cultivates global citizenship is the kind of relationship OWYP tries to provide, even for students who cannot afford to study abroad. The video below is of one of OWYP’s summer interns, Miranda Morrison, expressing her views on how only 1% of American university and college students study abroad, the ramifications of limiting this opportunity and her ideas for possible solutions.