One of my favorite motivational quotes growing up was “We do not fear the unknown; we fear what we think we know about the unknown.” When I started seriously considering moving to China and working abroad I found myself referencing this quote a lot. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and spent my entire undergrad experience in Georgia as well. So beyond a few international trips in college, traveling and living abroad was truly a foreign concept to me. And on top of that, I am a minority, an African-American male, which many parts of the world have never come in contact with or even seen beyond TV, especially China. This was by far my biggest fear with considering making the jump and living abroad. If you are a minority student/adult considering traveling or living abroad don't be afraid! As minorities, we have something positive to offer the world and the world has many benefits for us!
Living abroad not only exposes you to the country's culture but you also have an opportunity to share your culture and traditions with native people and other foreigners! My office has a healthy balance of local and international teachers. Many times I find myself talking about my college experience, my fraternity, musical taste, and language differences with local teachers! In addition, when traveling abroad you often meet many people from other countries traveling as well! Two of my closest friends in Shanghai are a South African couple. Often times our conversations are spent talking about the different lifestyles we lead in our home countries, talking about our respective country politics, watching Rugby (which I have never done before), or watching basketball (which they have never done before). This is perhaps the coolest thing I have noticed about moving abroad.
You truly can impact and change people's lives by your interactions abroad. As an English Teacher, I only teach Chinese children. Many, if not all of these children have never come in contact with a foreigner of any kind, let alone a minority! I have had countless encounters with children where they stand speechless by seeing me or students who are so interested to touch my skin or hair! Even if you are unable to speak the native language of that country, the body language that people show is obvious and many people make it apparent that they are happy you are visiting their country and embracing their culture. Are there times where I am tired of being stared at or just want to blend in when I am traveling? ABSOLUTELY. Have I encountered some hate or negative situations? ABSOLUTELY. But traveling abroad also means cognizant to other cultures global awareness and accepting what you have signed up by traveling abroad, the good and bad.
As crazy as it sounds, many times when I am living in China I forget that I am a minority! I attribute this to living in a country where I am not the majority. When you are constantly around a group of people that do not look like you it increases your social, empathy, and communication skills! The enhancement of these skills has led me to becoming open to other cultures when traveling abroad. Being open to the culture of a country is essential to your success and fulfillment when traveling!
Many people read these articles or see pictures of minorities living abroad and believe it is out of their reach or are afraid to take the jump. If you do not take anything else from this article, don't let the fear of being uncomfortable control your life! When you begin to open your mind and look beyond your current situation, the world becomes your oyster. Don't waste your opportunity.