By MOE IRISH
Dreams of traveling the world have become somewhat cliché, and hardly anyone is fulfilling them.
Maybe it just seems so intangible that the concept has evolved into a common fantasy, rather than a palpable goal.
The idea itself can be somewhat overwhelming—envision yourself surrounded by strangers who don’t know your name or even your language.
There are weird smells your nose has been completely unaware even existed up to this point, and there is food that never occurred to you as edible.
You are in a world that is practically flipped upside down from anything you have ever known, stripped of all elements of comfort or familiarity.
Your senses are heightened and you’re hyperaware of yourself, staggering to try to make sense of something, anything, and figure out where you fit in amid all the vast disarray of your surroundings.
The hazy plane ride and everything leading up to this point almost seem like a dream and you are expecting to wake up any second.
For me, this was my experience in China. It didn’t hit me until the morning after arrival as I confidently embarked on an adventure to find my first meal.
That’s the simple beauty of this: at first, everything is an adventure. I didn’t know what I was trying to get or how to use my money or recognize what these people were saying to me.
I tried to join a line to buy what looked like a tortilla, but nothing was making sense because pointing was not enough to get me anything but frustrated, disgruntled looks.
An observant Chinese student must have seen how lost and confused I was and handed me some steamed bread rolls (baozi) out of pity. I was eager to ingest, but after a bite something even more unpleasant than the sweet, tangy taste threw me off.
It was pork. Although I had not consumed meat in more than seven years, I was immediately alarmed by the stringy, unmistakable texture.
This was my first reality check and it only got more real as it all started slowly sinking in. I asked for it, and there it was in all of its raging intensity.
Nothing promotes personal growth more than pleasant distress and subtle, continual discomfort. Learning to see things from a different perspective and adapting to various facets of foreign living has great value.
One of those facets is a rigid language barrier. We can study foreign languages all we want, but the real learning begins when you have no choice but to speak them.
In doing so, we learn a lot about ourselves. We also expand our tolerance for cultures with different social practices and belief systems. It is a priceless experience with the potential to change your perspectives on life. I know it did for me.
Don’t let the whole price factor discourage you, either. I have studied abroad twice, made possible with the gracious help of grants and scholarships. The opportunities are out there. You just have to seek them out.
In fact, Pima Community College just recently established an exchange program that sends students to Zhuhai, China for a semester.
The program provides fundamentals such as tuition, room and board, making it fiscally possible for students, regardless of financial circumstances.
It’s too late to apply for this fall’s exchange program but it is food for thought and a potential opportunity to experience what I am eagerly emphasizing. It is never too early to apply for your passport.
Now is the time in life to pursue these awe-inspiring opportunities. After all, we are only getting older. Endeavors like this become harder to follow as time goes by and various responsibilities enter our lives. If you wait around for the “perfect” time, you will be waiting the rest of your life.
Another way to learn about various cultures is getting involved with foreign students who are studying in Tucson.
Pima has a program called Global Peers that allows Americans to engage with international students and help them make the most of their time here.
Becoming a peer allows you to vicariously experience the world travel phenomena on a lesser level, from the comfort of your native soil.
Information on both the China exchange program and Pima’s Global Peer program is available through Daisy Rodriguez Pitel in the international student office on West Campus, or by emailing email@example.com.
Irish has ambitions to continue traveling far and wide, with hopes of eventually getting paid for it through a career in photojournalism.