By: Liz Behrens
When asked to consider the most important thing I have learned from my May Term Thailand trip the potential answers were endless as the trip has been a learning experience from start to finish. However, two of the more poignant and underlying themes of this trip were that of global citizenship as well as tolerance. I had some idea of what these things meant prior to going on this trip – but it was so much clearer after seeing both in practice. I have gained an understanding of another culture as well as respect for that culture. This is part of global citizenship and tolerance. Becoming a global citizen to me means taking a culture for what it is worth and not dissecting it and comparing it to that of my own. This trip made me realize that there is more than one right way to do things and that it is neither fair nor legitimate to think that the way your culture does things is “right”. There is a term “counter-transference” that is used in many of the social sciences that roughly describes this phenomenon. In Thailand, and in regards to global citizenship, this meant that I came to the realization that I am not an expert on someone else’s life and way of living and I cannot come into a culture and act like I am. To me this is what being a global citizen means. It means accepting and respecting a culture no matter how different it may be from my own. This idea is crucial not only when traveling the world but also when encountering people in your own neighborhood who may not share the same experiences that you do. The idea of tolerance folds nicely into global citizenship. Tolerance was shown to me as a two way street in Thailand. I learned tolerance of another culture through the different way of living day-to-day life. This includes language, food, customs, norms etc. However, even more apparent to me was that of the tolerance shown to me by the Thai people. I have never felt more welcomed into someone else’s home and life than I did in Thailand. There were definite struggles and language barriers but the patience and tolerance from the people of Thailand was truly something I had never seen before. All in all, Mayterm Thailand was the best experience of my life. I cannot think of a better and more effective way to learn about global citizenship than going on this trip.