I'm sitting in a 1970 Peugeot pickup as the radio blares Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" until the driver, decked out in a neon windbreaker jacket-pant set lowers the volume and holds Nokia's first cell phone model to his ear.
For the longest time after leaving America in June 2015 to teach English in southern Madagascar, I felt like I was living life in a bubble. When trying to explain my reality to friends back home, I grasped at ways to connect familiar American lifestyle with pop culture or technological trends from my village. But it was tricky. Everything was so different. (My feelings of disconnect can partially be attributed to Madagascar's lack of development.) While American influences were apparent — the 90s' greatest fashion trends finally made it! — my world felt isolated and idle, while the rest of the planet was moving at an unprecedented rate. Our world is a complex web of connections and interdependencies but I started to question: how interconnected are we, really?
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I was switching classroom this past January, about to begin my 7th grade English lesson, when a fellow teacher approached me and asked "So, what do you think of Donald Trump?" I was caught off-guard — it was the first time a significant connection was made between America and my current world. (Some people living in the countryside have never even heard of America). Next, it was inside a taxi brousse where the passenger next to me explained his preference toward Hillary Clinton and his uncertainty toward Trump. He shared with me what he heard on a BBC newscast. My students too, who just the day before asked me, "Are there cows in America?" were now asking me about the President-elect. And just like that, my bubble popped.
It was then that I realized how interdependent this world can be, even if the correlations aren't immediately visible. Our choices, our voices, our demeanor and even our presence, make an impact beyond our small bubble. The past 20 months serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar taught me what it truly means to be a global citizen and my role in interacting, communicating and understanding a community far different than my own. If nothing greater, my experiences in this small village have changed me by opening my eyes to human needs and human universals.
Now, arguably more than ever, America needs more millennials engaging with the world. Americans abroad give other countries an intimate peek into who we are beyond trending news headlines and government policies.
But it's not just about protecting our country's reputation. Time abroad broadens perspectives. What would our country look like with more young people spending their time understanding a global issue by experiencing it first hand as opposed to just scrolling through it on their Facebook feed?
Foreign policy could become wiser. National social issues, such as gun control and poverty, could be addressed with fresher perspectives.
What will convince more young people to interact our world in a bigger way? How can America recruit more global citizens?
Let's brainstorm together. Share your ideas in the comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts.
"This post is part of Blogging Abroad's 2017 New Years Blog Challenge."