Recently, I worked with a graduate student from China in the Writing Center. He’s graduating in May, and he’s currently debating whether to stay in the U.S. or to go back to China to try to find a job. He told me that he thinks it would be easy to find work in China, especially with his graduate degree from the U.S. However, he doesn’t know if he is willing to give up the comfort of life in the US. He told me that I don’t know how lucky I am to have been educated for my whole career in a country that has access to clean air, water, and food.
He asked me if I had ever been to another country, and I told him that I have been to Europe a few times as well as Australia. I told him that I’ll also be going to Switzerland, France, and Italy this summer, and I’m looking forward to studying higher education in a global context.
And he said, “So basically…no, you’ve never been to another country.”
Now, I don’t consider myself a particular well-traveled individual. I’ve had a few international experiences, but I recognize that it’s probably nothing like studying abroad in a country that does not use my mother tongue. And in all the countries I’ve been to, I had easy access to things like shampoo, electricity, clean food, water, and air.
I wasn’t insulted by his insinuation that I don’t know anything about what it’s like to be in a different country. But I was certainly surprised. And it made me think about what it really means to experience a different country, a different culture.