It’s been said that everyone in the world has a twin somewhere in the world.
I found mine on a spring break trip to Shanghai, China.
Meet my Asian counterpart, Tina. (My friends call me “Tinz.”)
We’re both barely 5 feet tall, dislike eating fish (a Chinese favorite) and love Taylor Swift. Our parents are teachers.
We met because I traveled to China over spring break as part of COMM 402 (International Reporting), a course designed to give student journalists the opportunity to report in a foreign country.
I could write about our similarities for days, but what struck me most were our differences.
Tina, whose Chinese name is Boran, and I come from two completely different worlds — a communist country that is quickly becoming a superpower and a country that was founded on the ideals of liberty and democracy.
An aspiring broadcast journalist, she has never been educated much about the realities of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Once she gets a reporting job, she will be directed by the government as to what she can and cannot report. Her health is in jeopardy with the heavy pollution that infests China’s air quality and the toxins that lie in some of the foods she eats. She can’t make a Facebook status or send a tweet with ease, as many social networks are blocked by the government.
Over the seven days that Tina and I worked together on reporting a story about the struggles Chinese migrant workers face in educating their children, I learned about a completely different culture.
Listening to Tina’s life story and hearing about her plans for the future made me realize how much I appreciate the freedoms I have in the United States. But more importantly, spending time with my new lifelong friend made me realize how closed-minded I was about the world.
Before my 15-hour flight to Shanghai, I didn’t think much about who I would meet in China.
I was more concerned with packing my bags finding an angle for my story, instead of thinking about the people I would be interacting with.
Being self-centered is a problem for my generation, even though we can connect to other parts of the world with two clicks on a keyboard.
It’s so easy to get trapped in a bubble, especially in State College. There’s much to worry about from group organizations to class assignments.
But, I think it’s time to open our eyes to the rest of the world, and we can start right on Penn State’s campus.
Penn State has so much to offer for students to experience other cultures, from study abroad study abroad programs to having tea at the Penn State Tea House. But, few students take advantage of these programs.
In November, Penn State was ranked 12th in the nation for international student enrollment with more than 6,000 international students enrolled here at University Park.
Sadly despite the record numbers of students enrolled, there’s no denying that campus is divided. Just take a walk through the HUB-Robeson Center. You’ll see that students often talk with the peers who resemble with them. The Asian students sit with the Asian students, the sorority women sit with the fraternity men, the white students sit with the white students.
There may not be another time other than college to interact with such a diverse population so easily. I urge Penn State students to step out of their comfort zone and to try something different. Sign up for a World in Conversation session, join the Spanish Club or even strike up a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t.
It took me 21 years to actually realize that the world is so much bigger than State College or my home in Philadelphia. But, it shouldn’t have to take a trip to another continent to realize this. It takes interacting with people from China, India or Pakistan. Every student has a story to tell that will introduce you to an exciting, new culture that you’ve never imagine.And all those students are within walking distance from you.
Christina Gallagher is a junior majoring in journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Wednesday columnist. Email her at email@example.com.