20 Feelings My Liberal Arts Education Helped Me Realize While Being Abroad in Mozambique for Two Years.

This post was written by Sam Dirt, a New College of Florida graduate who is spending two years in Mozambique serving on the Peace Corps. Read her first post on her experience here

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Mozambique
source: usaid.gov

1. You’ll stick out. You’ll stick out worse than the kid whose mom is chaperoning the middle school dance. Embrace it.

2. Integration does not equal blending in. Sometimes you’ll wish your accent wouldn’t give you away. And that the clothes you carried didn’t always out you as foreign. But integration into a different culture isn’t about mimicking the local customs to look the same, but learning how to symbiotically slide your way into your new community to jive with the people you call neighbors.

3. School is just one place to learn, and not always the best place. Sticking to academia is one course of action, but not the only one. Consider what you want to know and try learning about it somewhere outside of academia. When you put every experience under the microscope you’ll learn things in places you never expected.

4. Your relationships will change. Humans are social creatures and leaving a supporting community can be hard. You’ll leave a lot of relationships behind. Relationships with lovers and friends and family. Try not to expect certain outcomes. Try not to say we should do this, this, and this. Instead, communicate as often as you can your honest sentiments.

5. Give your things away. Do not rent out a giant storage space to keep all of your things for “one day”. Give it to a stranger. Learn to live your life out of a backpack.

6. Trust strangers. Find faith in people. Try hitchhiking.

7. Never stop challenging your beliefs and traditions. Especially the things you believe most strongly.

8. Listen before you speak. Learn how to ask people questions, and honestly care about the response.

9. Let people see you vulnerable. As college educated westerners we can seem intimidating. And often we want to appear as if we know what’s up, that we are put together humans, capable of handling anything. But while people admire a person who has their life in order they also enjoy seeing that everyone is fallible. So, let people see you fuck up a little.

10. Never judge a culture by its idiots. The people who give you rude glances and leers turn around at the end of the day and do something equally insulting to their neighbors and friends. Everywhere has its fools and crooks.

11. Even in the fanciest of clubs dance like it’s your living room. Dressing up real nice and sippin’ fine wine is fun and all, but remember under all that clothing we’re always naked.

12. Success takes a lot of failure, like a lot. Sometimes you’ll just unsat life. But embrace confusion, it means you’re learning. Embrace failure, let it shape you as much as your successes.

13. Everything is a hustle. You’re trying to make your life as much as the person next you.

14. Remember your privileges. Before passing judgement ask yourself what would my life be like if I had grown up in this environment.

15. We all have feelings, despite our circumstances. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sour-faced lady farmer in the bush of Mozambique or a duchess of Monaco. We all feel love, ennui, and hate.

16.Say yes. We’re alive to experience. Be a human. Be a human with other humans. Treat life like a scavenger hunt.

17. Find beauty everywhere. A place can be ugly, sacred, scarred, plain, common, rustic, foreign, but despite it’s facade there is beauty there to be found.

18. Take risks. People will tell you to be afraid. People will tell you not to travel. People will tell you to stick to safe places, but there is no such thing as a safe place. You can die choking on a hot dog.

19. Help. Ask for help and give help.

20. That the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder! That we should not settle for less!

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