During my junior year of university, I took an incredible class called the New Humanitarian. In it, we had a number of people Skyped in (and also in-person) to discuss a variety of issues related to humanitarianism and international development.
One day, we had the privilege of having author and poet Nathalie Handal as one of our guest speakers. Upon introducing herself, she explain she lived “a nonlinear life” because she grew up in many countries and cultures. This phrase has stuck with me and I continue to carry it with me because it beautifully sums up my own nomadic upbringing.
My “nonlinear life” includes having lived in three countries, holding dual citizenship and extensive travel.
While there are many challenges to this kind of lifestyle, there are also unique benefits, as well. Here is what I’ve learned:
A nonlinear life has allowed me the opportunity to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds and appreciate their unique perspectives.
This is important in any profession, but especially higher education since we work with students on a daily basis. Everybody has a story worth listening to if you give them a chance to tell it. It might surprise you what you’ll learn!
It has given me a desire to seek diversity in all of its form.
At the international school I attended for six years, nearly every country was represented among the student body. I loved being lost in multitudes of languages spoken, lost among the kaleidoscope of cultures. I didn’t think I would find somewhere that would make me feel that way again – until I started working with international students at my university’s international office. From there, I knew I wanted to become an international student advisor.
It makes me a better advocate and activist.
Part of the appeal of working in higher education, for me, is the fact I advocate for the students I work with. It has helped me find my voice, and I want to help others to do the same. Since I encounter so many people who are different from me, I have an appreciation for their perspective.
It continually fuels my passion for international education.
I realized that many professionals within the field have also lived “nonlinear lives” to some degree. My nonlinear life helps me connect with international students on a more personal level since I’ve also struggled with the same things they have (coming to a new country, culture shock, adjusting to a new school system, etc). Not only that, I’m always encouraging people to study abroad or travel every chance I get (I call it “spreading the gospel of study abroad”). Travel has this amazing transformative power that I’ve experienced firsthand and I want others to experience it too.
It has taught me that being an outsider isn’t always a bad thing.
I consider myself to be a third culture kid. A third culture kid is defined as someone “who was raised outside of their parent’s culture during their formative years.” In other words, I’m used to feeling like a foreigner and outsider wherever I go. But it has given me the chance to see the big picture and the smaller details simultaneously.
It has taught me valuable life lessons.
My travels constantly remind me to be grateful for things I have. It taught me that while there might be cultural differences, our shared humanity transcends borders.
This post is part of our #SAinternational series. We will hear from #SApros who work in international student related services. We’ll also hear from those those who have had the fortunate opportunity to work overseas or have a global perspective to higher education. For more info, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Maryann Krieglstein on Social Justice & White Privilege