Just one month ago I was packing my suitcase to get ready to leave for Germany, feeling utterly terrified at the thought of leaving my friends and family behind for a few weeks. Now, here I am today packing my suitcase once again, feeling utterly saddened at the thought of leaving all the new friends I’m made behind indefinitely to return to the United States.
Although today is officially the end of my time in Darmstadt, it is only the beginning of my lifelong journey of knowledge and self-betterment. I have learned so much more in this last month than would have ever been possible just sitting in a classroom at my school in Wisconsin.
I will never forget the stories I’ve heard, the people I’ve met, and the connections I’ve made since coming to Germany a month ago, and frankly I am not ready to leave. I am ready, however, to apply everything I’ve learned on this trip to my daily life back home. I will stay curious and continue to educate myself about the world and the people around me; I still have a lot to learn.
The topic of refugee resettlement is vast and complex, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface after studying it for four weeks. I am not writing this post (or any other post, for that matter) as an expert on refugee migration or the events taking place in Syria, but simply as a human trying to learn from and understand the experiences of others.
That being said, I believe that you don’t have to travel thousands of miles from home to leave your bubble. All it takes is the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Make it a point to venture away from your group of friends and speak with someone you perceive as being different from you, whether that be a person from a completely different culture or someone who simply holds different political views.
Ask questions, listen, absorb, and reflect. Acknowledge your differences, but find common ground. We all have so much to learn from each other, and perhaps the most important lesson is that we’re not all that different.