Embrace the World
When I was in high school, I had a pretty good idea about my life after graduating college. I thought that I would get a simple job and live relatively near my hometown. Little did I know how those preconceived ideas would drastically change.
When I started at Carson-Newman, Financial Aid assigned me to work at the Center for Global Education (CGE). At the time, I was a tad nervous. I had no idea what this place was about, I didn’t speak a foreign language, and I had never met a foreigner before. I decided to give it a go and try something new. I’m sure glad that I did! Working at the CGE changed my whole perspective of the world. International students at Carson-Newman represent almost every continent so I was able to interact with people from all over the world. It was so fascinating to experience so many different cultures in such a small area. I was able to form so many deep and meaningful friendships that enriched my life forever.
Upon graduation I had a hard decision to make, either I stay in my bubble here in the States or I could break out and explore a different part of the world. After interacting with people from all over the globe at the CGE, I knew that I had to go out and experience the world. I packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and jumped on a plane for South Korea. There I worked at an English academy for children.
Living in a foreign country was such an unforgettable adventure. I was able to dive deep into a culture and explore it firsthand. I experienced and discovered so many new things that I had never envisioned before. Sure, it was challenging and overwhelming at times; however, the rewards were immense.
One important lesson that I learned is that people are all the same. It doesn’t matter about race, religion, or nationality. We all have the same needs, wants, and desires. So, I challenge you to break out of your safety zone and forget about your stereotypes. Embrace the world and learn from it.
Shawn Taylor, 2008 CNC graduate
My Cup Runneth Over
I caught a glimpse of my taxi driver's sympathetic eyes in the rearview mirror. I offered an unconvincing grin through my tears. It was the end of an exhausting yet invigorating summer teaching English at Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST) in northeastern China. I wept when I left China, but not because I thought I would never return. I will. I cried because I knew my summer in China had forever changed my story. I was reminded of a humbling truth in that moment: my cup runneth over.
Not only did I get to spend my days in classrooms with enthusiastic students, I spent my evenings and weekends with students as part of an English immersion camp. My four roommates were YUST students, and we did the typical roommate stuff. We stayed up late at night watching movies, playing cards, and eating take-out food. They taught me how to barter for jeans and sunglasses in the market, and I taught them how to make biscuits and gravy. We sang a Michael Jackson song in a talent show, and we hiked the peaks of nearby mountains.
The stories of my roommates, my students, and the teachers I met challenged me, confused me, amused me, inspired me, and ultimately changed me more than I could have ever anticipated. Before I went to China, I expected to learn about some of the vast differences between Chinese and American culture. What I didn't expect to learn so plainly is simply that people are people wherever you go. When we listen to the stories of the people we think are the most different from us, we often hear ourselves, and we learn that the most beautiful and profound stories are the ones we share.
Lauren Wood, 2010 MAT-ESL graduate
Discovering the Mission of God
Over Thanksgiving 2009, I went to Kolkata, India, with my class Discovering the Mission of God. A missions class taught by international scholar Dr. Geoff Pound, our only real expectation was to learn. After all, what could we possibly offer considering the time constraints and the cultural constraints with which we were going to be faced? We were eager to see ways in which the kingdom of God was being creatively coaxed into being in our breaking world, to learn new ways in which we can be a part, and to gain new insights and friendships from the lives we encountered along the way. We visited William Carey's church, the college he founded in Serampore, Mother Teresa's ministries, and kingdom-minded businesses that brought freedom to women enslaved in the sex trade such as Freeset and Sari Bari. We were challenged to immerse ourselves in Indian culture, to serve where we could, and to push ourselves beyond the edges of our comfort. India is a big country with a rich cultural heritage, and we barely nicked the surface. Although physically we have returned to the USA, I think many of us have been indelibly fractured in a way that leaves part of us in that noisy, colorful, wonderful place. We have brought back with us not only new ways that a heart can ache, but new hope and new vision.