Ever since I become an exchange student, the idea of world peace never been so significant yet close to my heart. It’s not only because being an exchange student automatically means being an ambassador of one’s country, but also because it gives me unique opportunities to see things from different light with different set of values and mindset. Residing in a rather homogeneous community in Sandpoint [Idaho], I get the chance to understand the safe nature of it and why it might take longer for some people to finally adjust seeing and living with something — someone — different.
Every second of the day, I am exposed with differences and intercultural experience; and it’s not only about language, it is also about perspective and values. After the initial struggle of navigating the common ground, I can finally see an underlying core values — the same ideas about respect, honest, and decency that are expressed differently. These differences, if not being handled properly, can turn into the root of many issues we face in society today: divisiveness.
Divisiveness does exactly like that — dividing people. The simple act of this might lead into bigger issues like racism, islamophobia, and xenophobia simply because putting people in boxes and labeling them automatically reduce once’s chance to understand differences and recognizing humanity in each human. The failure of recognizing such trait makes it harder for us to relate to other people, and easier for us to despise and hate them. This mindset might not necessarily result any physical harm, but it certainly exists in all kinds of horrible actions like terrorism and genocide. Obviously, not everyone with this specific mindset will commit any of those, but it certainly hurts the chance of people coming together and understanding each other because in the core of this impulse, our perspective of certain groups of people could be heavily subjective.
Even though I’ve realized this phenomenon since before I became an exchange student, I never thought it will fit somewhere in the grand scheme of things. But, now that I’m here, and I notice the same issue lurking within American society and suddenly it all makes sense to me. If one society can’t function properly, chances are they might be having issues with differences that come from other society. It might not seem harmful at all, but if we’re talking about a hundred or so communities with heavily filtered perspective and minimum understanding, suddenly we get a big divisive world where people turn their backs on each other.
YES program has allowed me to live in one of the most developed society in the world. Not because Americans got everything figured out, but because they acknowledge what’s happening and continue striving to become more inclusive and more open than ever before. I feel like my home country needs to learn how to react properly to inevitable movements like feminism, LGBTQ+, and other 21st century movements. By learning right from the heart of Washington, D.C., I’m confident that I can bring home some valuable lesson about adapting to today’s ever changing society while simultaneously pushing through local communities to become more open and inclusive. I’m looking forward to implement the knowledge that I gain through community-based activities and school events because I believe that world peace is not only made in UN headquarter and it certainly doesn’t only mean charter or treaty. World peace is about us. It’s about people. And we have to pay the price.
If you are interested in helping to bridge cultural divides and bring the world together, consider hosting an exchange student like Ratu.