Undoubtedly, I have been very limited in the number and range of stories I have heard. Most of my influence has been what is immediately available to me – family, friends, school, television, and the ideologies of the majority of people in Oklahoma (where I was born and have lived my entire life). Luckily, I’ve found outlets to connect myself with other people and ideas, and that has been extremely liberating. The Internet, for instance, allows me to watch numerous videos, read dozens of articles from various points of view, and keep up to date with current events. I can converse with people from other places and learn how they go about their lives. College has been especially helpful, since most all of my classes have foreign exchange students or people who once lived in a foreign country. I love talking to them and getting an idea about how their lives differ from my own. I have also found several clubs that provide a platform for positive connections with interesting people.
When I was much younger and didn’t have a means of accessing the internet, I felt so confined to the attitudes and beliefs that Oklahoma offered, and I thought that some of my personal opinions were wrong because of the overall conservative attitude of the state. It was isolating and depressing, so when I did have the chance to explore my thoughts more openly on the Internet, I was able to break out of my feigned personality and step into my true self. Even so, sitting behind a computer offers only a virtual experience of the world, and I long for the real thing. That’s why I wanted to be a Global Fellow at OU and to participate in the global engagement classes. I don’t know enough about the world outside the United States, and I desperately want to.
I’m sure the people in many countries have similar issues with understanding the United States – and other countries, for that matter. I hope to bring kindness, open-mindedness, and understanding to the countries I visit. They need to know that there are plenty of people in the U.S. who are willing to listen to them without judgment and help them without repayment. I hope to help shed both my ignorance and theirs when it comes to the motives and mindsets of the people of the United States and the places I visit.