While leaving Germany was far from easy, being back in the United States and being able to see my best friends everyday was something I was very excited for. Back to fun summer nights and sunny days floating down the Chippewa River. Coming back to the small town of Menomonie, I felt the sense of home. The familiarity of walking into my favorite coffee shop and sitting in my regular corner with a chai latte. Spontaneously walking into my best friends house to find them playing some GameCube game from their childhood to find out they have been playing it for hours. Walking down the same streets every day to work to get to my campus job. Just a few examples of the normality of my life that exists in Wisconsin.
It is a world so different from that in Germany. While a comforting world, it is a small world.
Every once in a while, I will sit down and think of my time in Germany, how surreal of an experience it now seems. Every day in Germany, was a day that was full of the unexpected. Everything is new, always so much to learn, so much to do, but most importantly, you had no idea who you’d meet and how they would impact your life.
Now, I am spending my days with my very close friends I met in college. But as I reflect, my mind goes to all those that I met in Germany and other various European countries. People that have impacted my life in a tremendous way. People that have allowed me to grow in a way I did not expect. People that shared incredible stories about their lives. People, I may never see again. While I heard so many stories during the time frame I was there, more times than not, I think about those I met that told us their stories of their refuge journey.
Being in Menomonie, I rarely get to hear stories such as those that left their homeland in search of refuge. In fact, reflecting back on it, I have never heard a story with such impact that is near the caliber of those from Syria and Afghanistan. I knew once I left for Germany, I would be hearing stories that I would not be able to anticipate. But coming back to the United States, I have a sense of confusion that these stories don’t exist hear. Why can’t they? Why has life all of the sudden become so static?
Meeting these people and hearing these stories have exposed to me to what life is like on the other end of the world. I long to hear these stories again, and have become slightly unsettled not being able to come across such a strong and impactful narrative. These stories have altered my life and brought to me a new perspective on the world. One that is holistic and one of interconnectedness. Unlike Menomonie, in Germany, the world was not small. Life was not static. The importance of getting out a small world and submersing yourself in the rest of the world that exists outside of it.
I took me several weeks to come to the conclusion, but getting back into your everyday life can be dangerous. Going back into the same rut, participating in your daily activities, being comfortable is an easy way to miss out of all of what else exists in the world. The importance of getting out of your comfort zone and going to new places and meet new people to further your understanding and education.
I miss the stories I heard on that trip. I miss the people I met and the knowledge I gained, and learning about the reality that existed outside of my own. It is vital not to let go of these stories and frequently remember them for what they were, the truth.
The world is full of stories and there are still so many to be heard. Listening to these stories, sharing them, and creating your own stories, is what connects and progresses the world. Sharing perspective and understanding will inspire others and share knowledge. With knowledge and understanding, comes peace and compassion. Never stay static. Stay active. Search for the truth and never stop being engaged with what exists outside of your daily life.