As I prepare to head back to the states at the end of my three-week journey across Asia, I’ve grown more comfortable with being stared at and noticed simply for being different. (I didn’t even mind the 20-something man who joined me in mid-stride on the treadmill to take a selfie.) The experience has given me a small taste of what it’s like be a person of minority status.
Although I understand that my presence as a visitor here is more of a novelty for my hosts—and isn’t necessarily encumbered by the sometimes discriminatory baggage carried by minority groups living and working in the U.S.—my travels have nonetheless been an incomparable opportunity to put my learning first. This exploration has instilled in me a deeper appreciation of how arduous and tiring it can be when you are continually surrounded by people who don’t understand what you are saying. Even a task as simple as finding a bathroom becomes a strategic challenge.
Making my way across nations that are profoundly dissimilar to my homeland—linguistically, culturally, and socially—has renewed my admiration for the fortitude demonstrated by students who study abroad, for the resourcefulness required to communicate successfully on someone else’s terms, and for the resilience needed to be a stranger in a strange land.