When we travel we not only become more aware of the community around us, but also of the community we have come from. But what is a community? When I studied in North Carolina last semester on a study abroad student exchange, I realized that I had no idea of the value of a community. During my exchange I lived in a residence hall that was half American students and half International students – a ‘Global Community’ I guess one could call it. Within this community everyone shared everything, from environments such as study spaces to bathrooms to kitchens to bedrooms, we shared ideas by having cultural debates in the basement and we shared experiences – such as planning trips together during Fall break. It was within this community that I learned a lot more about myself than I could have done in the familiar boundaries of my home community. I learnt that I work harder than most people I know, that ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’ is Australian, that gum is illegal in Singapore, that there are many more flavours of Cheerios than I ever thought possible and that my accent is stronger than I thought it was!
Within this type of close-knit community comes a sense of family. There was always the sound of laughter coming from the hallways, music playing in the distance, people sitting in the study lounges and activities happening in the basement. There was always a chance to be a part of the community, to contribute. We became a part of each others unique experience, we had something in common with the strangers of this community that we could not share with our friends from back home.
Being part of such a close knit ‘global community’ made me more aware of where I had come from. The type of community I was used to back home in the UK was much like that of New York City – everyone keeps to themselves, everyone always has somewhere to be and something to do and life is more fast paced. In the community I was a part of in North Carolina, life became much simpler. I could walk from one end of the dorm to the other and have made three friends in that short walk. Everyone wanted to be friends and wanted to share every experience with each other. Everyone had places to go and things to do, but we did it together. As a community.
Now that I am back in my normal bubble, living my normal life, I have realized how important it is that we create a sense of community in our everyday lives. We have to surround ourselves with positive people who will want to share every experience with us, we have to be more open and let people in to our communities and to never go anywhere alone. Studying abroad has taught me that we are not alone, we must never do nothing and that sometimes, to really appreciate what we have in front of us, we must look at it from a distance.