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Global Citizenship

Global Citizenship, International Friendship

Why International Friends Rock Our World

This is a shout out to all the amazing people we meet during our travels, and to all our friends we keep in touch with even though we live so far apart. Because you guys change our lives for the better. Those precious friends who don’t live next door, but you still send a birthday invitation to every year (in the desperate hope that they will come), or you now have to part from at the end from your travels.

But no matter how large the distance sometimes is, the friendships that knows literally no borders and reaches over oceans enrich your life, and are the best thing you can have. And here’s why.

When abroad, they get you

During you stay abroad, when everything is new, exciting and scary at the same time, your foreign buddy knows exactly how you feel. They would never judge you if you drag them to a local pub to get a little taste of your home country, or talk with them endless on the phone and show them pictures of your dog every day.

They’re in this with you. The bond you form during your stay abroad, when you’re both exposed to a whole new culture and adapting to it while dealing with one or two lapses linguae, the mistakes you make will give you stories to laugh about years after your year abroad.

They teach you about the world

It is more than exciting when your friend brings you this new sweet they brought from their home country, and even more exciting when you realize it’s not sweet but in fact chicken feet. With toe nails. Even though when you realize what this… fancy snack is and give it back to your Chinese friend (or you try it, in which case you earn a medal of bravery), you learn more about them from their local food.

Your vocabulary will be enriched (and by that I don’t just mean swear words). And, when they tell you about their childhood, the food they grew up with and their school system, their experience will become yours somehow. And you’ll look at their country with new eyes, because it is not just some abstract shape of a map. With every new friendship, you’ll think, “my friend lives there!”. You become connected to the world, and wherever you go, you’re international friends have an empty couch for you or have an uncle’s friend who could pick you from the airport – just in case things go amiss when you land.

They also have a whole different set of resources, and when you feel lost they might have the final spark you need. For example, I had no clue where I wanted to go to college, when my friend from Thailand recommended this university in Japan – and voilà, here I am, forever grateful for setting my gut feeling on the right track.

Reunions are the best

After all the time you spend together during your year abroad, it will suck at first to not have your best friend as close as before. But, when you return home, you’ll see it has its perks to have friend living in different time zones – because whenever something is up, someone will be awake to give you immediate advice or lend you an ear.

And even if you don’t talk for a while, when the Skype connection is established it will feel like nothing has changed and you can catch up on what has happened in your lives. And what I love is sending postcards to keep one another up-to-date where you are, and it’s a nice gesture to show, “I think of you. I miss you. We should meet up.”

And that’s where the fun planning begins! Planning a trip is always a hoot, but planning a trip to meet up with your friend? That’s a whole new level of excitement! Your horizons will keep expanding, you will see new places and be able to invite them to your home – and, in doing so, see your own comfort zone in a whole new light.

They will always be there for you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you will have a precious person looking out for you. After all, to steal some words from Henry Drummond: “Wherever we are, it is our friends that make our world.”

 

This is a guest post by Selina Auer

Selina is a 19-year old girl from a tiny mountain village in Germany. She was born with a very strong sense of disorientation, which is why she is constantly following her gut feeling. So far it led her to a year abroad in Michigan during her High School Studies, volunteering in Israel, bag packing through Eastern Europe and now to Tokyo. If she`s not lost or on a dessert hunt, she is pursuing a Bachelor`s degree in Political Science at Waseda University. Her big passion is writing, travelling and to meet new people- and to satisfy her sweet tooth that replaced the space for her inner compass. Check out her instagram account and follow her on her journey!

Global Citizenship, Living Abroad

When Home Just Isn´t Where You Need to Be

There is no place like home, they say. And it´s true. But that doesn´t mean that ´home´ is always the best place to be. In fact, I think in many cases it´s good to not be ´home´. Sometimes it´s good to look for the discomfort, to get yourself out there, experience new things. Sometimes, ´home´ is just not where you need to be.

I just got home from being abroad for 7 months. During those 7 months I have endured a great deal of problems and struggles, and at many times I thought about being home. How great it is to have people around you that speak the same language, that you´ve known for a long time. How comfortable it would be.

Not being ´home´ makes you appreciate home more than you did before. I would even argue that you can´t feel at home if you have never not felt at home. Something about no darkness without light, and vice versa. Going abroad can make you more patriotic than ever, and at the same time make you realize that patriotism is one of the most ridiculous concepts people have ever created.

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Above all, what is ´home´? Not being home means to be able to create a new one. To leave your heart in many places. Not being home is creating a different version of yourself. Different, but still you. A version that would never be able to exist in any other place.

Being ´home´ right now is wonderful, it´s comfortable. But because of this comfort, it´s not a challenge, and sometimes being challenged is exactly what you need. Living in your own country to me is like living with your parents. Yes it´s easy, and in a weird way we would all want to do that forever, but there comes a time when you need to grow up and learn to stand on your own feet. Right now, I don´t want to be home.

Not wanting to be home has nothing to do with being ungrateful. It doesn´t mean I don´t like it. Quite the opposite. But there is a time for everything, and now is not the time to be comfortable. Now, as a young woman trying to figure out her life, now is a time to be uncomfortable, to look for the limits and then cross them. To find out what I want and what I don´t want. What I like, and what I don´t like. Who I am, and who I am not. Then, and only then, will be the time to come ´home´,

Global Citizenship, Love

6 Tips To Make Your Long Distance Relationship Work

Love is a tricky thing that usually has to overcome some obstacles. One of those obstacles can be distance, and with things like phones, planes and Skype, it is easier than ever to continue a relation despite the distance between you and your significant other. However, this doesn’t mean that long distance relationship are easy.
In fact, most people who I asked for advice on long distance relationships told me not to have one. Now, I don’t want to say that means you shouldn’t have a long distance relationship, but there are a couple of things you should keep in mind when you decide to do so.

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1. Be realistic

Before you and your partner decide to go long distance, you have to be realistic about the future. Yes, you are having a great time together, but is it really worth it? Breaking up doesn’t always have to mean you are not compatible. Sometimes it just means that the time is not right, that it was not ‘meant to be’. And that is okay. Don’t be afraid to admit that breaking up might be the better option in some cases.

If you do decide to be in a long distance relationship, be realistic about the fact that it is going to suck. A lot. You are going to miss each other. A lot. This might seem logical, but one of the main killers of any type of relationship is having wrong expectations.

2. Be honest

This is key in any relationship, but even more in a long distance one. Since you are not spending a lot of time together it is hard to read someone’s emotions. Your partner won’t always be able to tell when you are upset about something, so if you are, let them know.

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3. Give each other space

Understand the other person has a life of their own, a life that doesn´t include you as actively as it might when you live near ach other. Sometimes it´s best to have a schedule. That way you will always have the certainly you will talk to your partner at the end of the day/week, which might make it easier to let go at other times. Besides, when you are dealing with a difference in time zones, it might be best to have a fixed time since it will save you a lot of time trying t plan every single Skype session.

Try to avoid being on your phone all the time as that will only make the longing worse, same as skyping or face timing all the time. Yes, you are in a relationship and in an ideal situation you would see each other 24/7, but it´s not ideal. Try to make sure the relationship doesn´t take up your entire life and give each other some space.

4. Understand it is not going to be easy

.. and that is an understatement. Having a long distance relationship is not like any other normal relationship. It requires even more hard work, trust, honesty than a normal relationship. It´s hard to find some real statistics on this subject, but it is estimated about 75% of long distance relationships end up in failure (because of the long distance). Now that doesn´t mean your relationship has to fail, but it does mean that you have to perform ‘above average´ to make sure your relationship does make it. Probably none of the failed couples went into going long distance thinking it was going to be easy and that they would fail in the end, but they did. You can beat the odds, but it is going to take some work.

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5. Set goals!

As part of being realistic, you have to set goals. What do you want in life? Are you going away for just a semester, or are you planning to spend the next couple of years looking for employment abroad? If so, what are your partners plans? It is important to set a goal for when you are going to actually be together.

This also counts for the short term. Having an idea about when you are going to see your significant other again can really help make the situation less tense. Plan ahead who will visit who and when. This planning also goes for speaking to each other. If you want to both enjoy your time abroad and keep a good relationship with your partner, it´s a good idea to have a set time and day where you are going to speak to each other. This way you won´t continuously talk to each other and you will also have something to look forward to.

6. Complete trust

With complete honesty also comes complete trust. When you are not with someone the entire time you need to completely trust this person to not betray your relationship. Jealousy is one of the biggest risks in a long distance relationship, and it can easily cause a lot of unnecessary tension.

A relationship expert named Ian Kerner claimed in order to save your marriage, you need to delete each other from Facebook. Not seeing what your partner has been doing all the time might give you more things to talk about, and not seeing all the hot girls and boys that just befriended your love on Facebook might make you a little bit less on edge about what they are doing in their free time.

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I have seen many people return home and or not fully enjoy their time abroad because of a relation, and while it is a very romantic gesture to come back for someone, I think it is important to keep in mind that a healthy relation isn’t necessarily based on being near to each other. Being apart from each other, trusting each other completely is in some ways the ultimate test for a relationship. Because if your relationship can overcome time apart, you know it is real and that it can survive a lot more.

 

Global Citizenship

What does an enlarged European Union mean to you?

This article is the winning article of the age category 19-25 in the European Writing Competition entitled: “What does an enlarged EU mean to you?” organized by the European Commission and DG Enlargement in 2014.

Another kind of family
I’m sitting at the back seat of a minibus, listening to music and watching the emerald-green trees passing me by as the car reaches the borders. I’m thinking to myself that this is how it must feel to be part of something bigger, something greater. We crossed the borders. I smiled.
But it’s not only about crossing the physical borders of a country when you travel. It’s about crossing the imaginative borders of your mind as well, taking a step forward and getting out of your comfort zone. You see, a truly magical thing happens once you travel abroad. You enter a new country, and then there is this excitement about discovering a new, unfamiliar culture, the eagerness to taste new flavours and the growing anticipation to grasp as much as you can. But at the same time, you gradually become aware of the fact that you actually belong with those people you call ‘foreigners’. You are able to communicate with them, either by using a lingua franca or through gestures and body language. No matter how different you consider them to be, they are indeed part of a larger community, a community to which you also belong.

But let’s go back to my entering the borders. I reach the country. My excitement reaches its climax when I receive a call from my Erasmus buddy who happens to live in the city where the youth exchange is going to be held. It has been a year since I last saw her and this youth exchange trip has given me the opportunity to reunite with her again. My unfathomable exhilaration cannot possibly be described in words. It is truly amazing how much you can learn from other people once you sail away from ‘the safe harbour’ and take a step forward into the unknown, yet fascinating world that spreads right in front of you and awaits to be discovered. Indeed, when I come to think about it, an enlarged EU for me is nothing more than the family I have built outside my country’s borders. It’s my crazy bilingual German roommate from Erasmus back in Krakow, or the Turkish fellow participant I met in the training course who was passionate about half-serious, half-playful conversations like me, or even the intriguingly weird yet astoundingly clever Portuguese friend I made during a youth exchange program. All these people, and many more, coming from different corners of Europe, have contributed to my self-development and have, indeed, given me a glimpse of all that is out there and waits to be grasped. They have taught me to look beyond what I see, to view people regardless of their cultural background, sex, or colour. And, most importantly, they have helped me realize that my own concerns, thoughts and experiences, even if they are articulated in a different language than theirs, are in fact common and shared by them as well. It’s funny how we are put into categories (sex, nationality, religion), separating ourselves from others according to certain ideologies, when deep within, we are all united by a single, intrinsic essence: that we are human beings, along with everything that comes with it. By eliminating any physical and imaginative borders, we move beyond the alleged limits we are confined to and construct a larger, greater community, a community whose family-like bonds are the foundations upon which a better world is unfolding.

And this is precisely what an enlarged European Union means to me.

 

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This guest post was written by Anastasia Liopetriti. She loves literature, wine, chocolate and adventures and wrote this article as part of a writing competition about the subject of an enlarged European Union.

 

Culture, Global Citizenship

Don´t ask me where I´m from, ask where I am a local

“How can a human come from a concept?”  – Taiye Selasi

Indeed. How could a human come from a concept? How can a concept define all of it´s millions of ´nationals´? I have always wondered how and why people feel so confident saying they are from a country. Because in any country, as in the entire world, not two people are alike. So how can millions of people have common ground in a concept, a concept that is different for each and every one of these millions of people based on the place they grew up, based on the way they were raised.

It´s absolutely amazing to hear someone else speak the words you have always thought of. Though Taiye Selasi and I have fairly little in common when you would look at our histories, I feel like I know her very well, and I think all other global citizens, so-called third culture children, will do to, because we share ´ Rituals*´.

The feeling of not telling the complete truth when people ask you where you are from, because you have been influenced by so many other things, so many other places and experiences, yet people will only hear where your passport says you are from. People will put you in a box and say you are a national to this country, but you aren´t.  When you act too different, people will take you out of the box and say you are not a national,  but you are.

“My experience is where I´m from¨ is among the brilliant this Selasi claims in this video. Experiences shape who you are and are in many ways far more important than concepts and the stereotypical ideas we connect to them. Saying you are from a certain country means nothing when you consider all the different nuances there are in being from a country. Did you grow up there? Where? What social class? How did your parents raise you? Where did you go afterward? What influenced your life? All of these are experiences. Experiences that shape your life. Experiences that are more revealing than the simple question of where someone is from.

“You can take away my passport, but you can´t take away my experience” or in other words, my passport or lack thereof doesn´t define my experience as a local somewhere. It does not take away the fact that I feel connected to these people. It doesn´t mean I am any less of a local than those who do have a passport to ´prove´ they are from someplace.

One of the biggest myths about nationalities is going back, and I agree. “I go to Accra every year but I can´t go back to Ghana. […] That country doesn´t exist anymore. We can never go back to a place and find it exactly where we left it. Something, somewhere will always have changed. “ No place can ever be the same as it once was. Times change, people change, rituals change… This is one of the hardest things to accept after having lived abroad. That every place you will go ´back´ to, you will only be chasing memories that are no longer there.

This might be one of the most relatable TED talks I have seen yet. It is beautiful and inspiring and to all of those that don´t relate to one ´ nationality´ or place, this is a must watch.

* Watch video