We’re Not So Different After All

This is my third country I’ve studied abroad in and it’s amazing how unique each experience is and what I gain out of it. Because this program brings together over 1300 students from over 50 countries, I’ve gotten to learn a lot more about global differences and similarities versus just the country I am in. Both classes I’m taking discuss the views of students from each country represented on every issue we talk about.

In my health equity class, we mainly discuss US socioeconomic problems and its effect on the nation’s health. This isn’t my favorite class because I’m in healthcare and from the US, so it’s repetitive information. I do enjoy listening to the differences versus other countries. Initially, I thought I would be learning more about universal healthcare since the US is the only country without it, but we hardly ever touch on that.

For example, racism doesn’t exist (at least as extensively) in Singapore and the concept of racism was mind-blowing to the Singaporean students. Singapore is a melting pot of mainly Chinese, Malays (Eurasian islanders), and Indians, so they are used to diversity in their culture and everyone being an immigrant. They did say that first generation immigrants aren’t liked as well, but after another generation of being raised Singaporean, it no longer matters. An overarching sentiment between all students was that no country accepts immigrants well. In the US, we constantly fight over Mexican immigration laws. The Dutch hate basically everyone, I’ve learned. Australians are surprisingly intolerant of Aboriginals (the original Australians – equivalent to Native Americans to us). The Chinese dislike southeastern Asians (Thai, Vietnamese, etc.) but they work the lower jobs similar to Mexicans in the US. We all feel this way because the immigrants are supposedly taking our jobs (even though they work the jobs no one else will do for lower pay) and taxing our economy (even though they spend their money back into our economy). Our professor brought up a good point that statistically, increased immigration actually lowers crime rates. First generation immigrants aren’t the problem, it’s the US born generations that continuously grow up in poverty that is.

My adulthood and aging class is hands down my favorite. I wish that professor taught at ONU because you can tell he legitimately cares about student success and has had so many different life experiences. The professor was born in Ohio, studied in Japan for two years, finished college in Hawaii, and has served in the US Marine Corps. We study life stages progressively, reflect on where we think we are at, and get to listen to speakers from different life stages speak about what it is like in Korea for people in their age bracket.

Last week, we talked about young adulthood and today we moved into dating and marriage. No matter what societal expectations each country has, it’s funny to see how people our age still live life the same way. For example, the South Korean government has been encouraging young adults to get married and reproduce because their birth rate has declined to an average of 1.8 children per household. They are experiencing their baby boom generation and need more children to be born to fill in the job and military gaps projected by 2030. But I’ve talked to a bunch of Korean students here who aren’t even thinking about marriage until they graduate and establish a career, like in the US. Although the US has the highest divorce rate in the world, common couple issues got laughs from everyone in the class – showing that in the end, we’re all the same.

Although we may exist under different governments, speak different languages, and eat different foods, this study abroad has brought me back to the reality that everyone values the same things in the end. When we talked about military service – compulsory or not – no one likes going to war and its psychosocial stresses affect everyone the same. In both classes, we talk about death a lot, whether from disease or war, and the emotion evoked from pictures, videos, and stories all look and sound the same. I think we get caught up a lot contrasting different cultures, that we forget we are all human beings. Unlike past study abroads, I haven’t gotten myself familiar with the history and government of the country but have definitely gained a lot culturally.

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