“Honestly, I think Americans are ignorant and arrogant,” Tessa said. Suddenly, my mouth formed a small ‘o’ and I was speechless. At that very moment, it seemed that I had to travel 8,000 miles to Cape Town, South Africa to get an honest perception of Americans from an outsider, and I was shocked by the response. “Well, you all put on airs to be better, when really you are just as educated or undereducated than everyone else.” I asked myself, could she be right? These blunt words realigned my thinking, and I realized that Tessa was right. As a whole, Americans are unaware of the role we play in our globe, and should work toward bettering our perception. During my experience abroad, I learned about the differences between countries as well as unifying factors within our world.
â–º quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
While debating in South Africa as a part of my Model United Nations team, I discovered the dichotomy between America’s and the world’s educational standings. From an American standpoint, the caliber of the debating teams was exceptional. As a team, we felt drastically under prepared as teams from Nairobi, London, and each prefecture in South Africa took the podium to represent their countries’ interests. From the topics of global communication and international security, they commanded our attention and epitomized seriousness, preparedness, and excellence in debate and global awareness. Although our team was comprised of very intelligent, hard-working students from a top public school in the country, we simply could not display the same finesse. Inevitably, I learned that the competitive stakes are much higher on a global perspective and I motivated myself to stretch my abilities to that of a global citizen.
Although there were tense moments in debating caucuses, I experienced positive moments while in South Africa. Our group visited the Cape of Good Hope, where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet at Africa’s southernmost tip. After seeing a family of baboons on our drive, we pulled into Table Mountain National Park and handed over 75 Rand to experience the breathtaking views. Upon entering, the wind blustered outrageously, and my braids swept through the air while climbing up the rocky path overlooking the ocean. My teammates and I giggled as Japanese and Italian tourists photographed us as we ascended the steep stone steps. Once we reached the top, the panorama of the crisp sky and glistening ocean enveloped us. We realized our immediate surroundings – wood and stones bestrewn with signatures and affirmations such as “be resilient” in black marker. A post with signs pointing around the world read “12,541km to New York City,” and “9,296 km miles to New Delhi.” It was evident that our cities and countries were not greater than one or another, but were on the same level. This spot, one of trillions on our planet, filled me with hope for our world. The writings, whether in English phrases, Mandarin pictographs, or Arabic script, signified their visit to a place of interconnectedness.
I have learned a lot about myself as a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the world during my trip to South Africa. It is my responsibility to think on an international standpoint and to educate others about the cultures and politics outside of our country. Ultimately, there is an abundance of false perceptions as well as wealth of knowledge, and it is our choice to eradicate such negativity and glean such understanding for our betterment as American and global citizens.
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