When You're Robbed Out of an Life
It's been a while since I wrote my last blog. The last two weeks have been a blur: I had training in London for new staff and then staff bonding in China for the entire team before the students arrived. The good news is, I work for a school that is all about cultural immersion, so “orientation” is unlike any other I have experienced. We spent lots of time exploring and getting to know each other and our community, as well as trying new foods (my favorite). However, after all the training they could not prevent or prepare me for: robbery. It is one of those things that travel books warn you of but when it happens, it happens and there is nothing you can do to prevent it or recover from it. It happened this past Sunday when the students arrived. There are 26 students in my cohort; they come from 23 different countries, speak at least 2 languages (many of them 3-4), represent a mix of 11th and 12th graders and are either in their 2nd or 3rd year with Think Global School .
We were between the residence and the airport collecting students. As I met them, they told me about their travel, their talents, their passions and their experiences. I was so caught up in their stories that I was not paying attention to reality. What I was learning: they are compassionate. Caring. And so globally aware. One student is not here in China because they could not get a visa (while simultaneously having to stay in their house to avoid the war zone going on in their country). Some were not allowed in countries in their TGS career and some will miss attending other countries in the upcoming terms due to the politics of the world that they fully understand. They adapt. They are some of the most amazing people I have met in my entire life. And they are high-schoolers. It was their curiosity of the world, their leadership abilities and compassion for society, that allowed each of them to be one of 4% of accepted applicants here at TGS. I kept listening and did not hold tight to my belongings. I let my guard down. As they were speaking, I started thinking about how I want my future children to be like them. However, my thoughts slowly went into the truth that America does not always promote global education. Many Americans do not own a passport and they never leave the US. When we as Americans travel for 6 hours we are still going to hear the same language, see the same culture and have the same food. When those in Europe travel 6 hours, they end up in a different country, with new people, a different language and different food. I began daydreaming about my time in Nigeria last summer when speaking with a new friend who told me she spoke English, Igbo, French, and Portuguese. I was so impressed. Her family (as well as many others in West Africa) spend their holiday in London or Paris (depending on if it is an English-speaking or French-speaking country). She went to college in Paris, did an internship in Brazil and now owns her own company. And we are the same age. I recalled her saying, “Tiff, we are so much more traveled and cultured than most Americans.” I don't know why...but that experience along with the narratives of my students made me feel robbed. Okay, okay, I know you have been wondering if I realllyyy got robbed. Actually, no - Shanghai is a super-safe city. However, I would actually rather be robbed of my phone or wallet than feel robbed of life; of culture; of the world. My blue passport grants me lots of privilege but it also comes with a mindset that was ingrained: America is great and there is no need to leave. And America is great, but it is not the best, which is the notion many feel: that, if they leave America, THEY would somehow be robbed of life. In actuality, when we do not explore, we are the only victims in the situation. These students are looking all over the world for college and that is not abnormal for teens back in their home countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. I am now faced with the task of deciding where I want to live and raise my offspring. I don't want there to be a generational feeling of robbery. I now commit to challenging the notion that America is the best place to be and everywhere else means missing out or giving up something. I hope you become open-minded, too. Through my stories and my podcast, I hope you realize that you can be uprooted without being robbed of your roots, the essence of who you are and where you came from.