It's been roughly four months since I moved back stateside. Now, I'm based in the Bay Area working to close the "Opportunity Divide" at a non-profit called Year Up. It's taken some time to process living in a new country and to adjust back to the US. It's been great to be closer to family and friends. Time zone differences between loved ones are now three hours at most as opposed to fourteen. Also, this election cycle...wow. No doubt 2016 was a rollercoaster.
Between listening to stories of courage from 21 indomitable North Korean defectors and learning about different ways of being across 41, 215 miles, 21 flights, and 12 countries, I feel so thankful for my time abroad.
From this experience, my key takeaways are:
- Under no circumstance should you walk 60,000+ steps in converses. They are not made for vigorous, rigorous walking. Thanks Hong Kong.
- Your upbringing in a particular country will affect how you think, engage, and converse in ways you never would have imagined. A recurring thought I kept having during my time in South Korea was "I'm so American". I felt that my being vocal and opinionated was different than the socio-cultural tendencies of my South Korean counterparts.
- Following the aforementioned point, I learned to appreciate even more the sacrifices my parents made as first-generation immigrants. To come to a country where you cannot speak the language or know the cultural norms in hopes for a better life for your family... it's is a testament to their great strength and perseverance.
- The privilege I have as a U.S. citizen and English speaker is astounding. Out of the countries I traveled to, I never had serious communication issues. The world at-large is catered to the Anglophone community. What's more, with my U.S. passport, I was easily able to travel through sovereign borders compared to many others.
- Rupaul's Drag Race is everything. Can I get an Amen?
With gratitude and optimism, looking forward to what the new year will bring.