My Taste of Abroad

Florida State University is more than just a world-class academic institution preparing you for a future career. We are a caring community of well-rounded individuals who embrace leadership, learning, service, and global awareness. With this in mind, which of these characteristics appeals most to you, and why?

If I ever felt like an outcast, now was the time. Loose brown hair, dark eyes, and olive toned skin, my Middle Eastern features were nothing like those of the other 500 or so passengers. As the plane rapidly reached a halt, the flight attendant announced, “Welcome to Takamatsu, Japan.”

Four months earlier, I could never have fathomed that I would be selected from a pool of St. Petersburg students to travel abroad to our Japanese Sister City. It wasn’t the travel that daunted me, or even the fact that I would make the journey with only one other student: it was the great prestige and responsibility that came along with pursuing this opportunity. As a first generation-American, I have been fortunate enough to be immersed in two different cultures, a lifestyle that has led me to recognize aspects of global citizenship that others might not see. As I look back to when I was sitting in City Hall awaiting my Sister City interview, feeling a surge of chills and a pang of cold sweat on my palms, I can’t help but recollect how uninformed and absent-minded I really was. I, at age sixteen, felt as though I knew the world: I understood the problems and, better yet, I could fix them. But the painful truth was that, in many ways, I didn’t have the slightest clue.

Japan changed all that. Four planes and a few language books later — mostly, intense study of the simple greeting “Konichiwa” — I still wasn’t ready. I had never felt this type of emotion before: it was fear, fear of disappointment. I couldn’t help but notice the refined manners of the Japanese, how each person bowed when greeted and timidly looked away when I passed. There was an aura of respect and order, one that was foreign to the chaotic life I had become accustomed to in America — something unfamiliar even from my more easygoing life in Morocco. I grasped the handle of my suitcase, took a deep breath, and turned to Maya, my sole colleague on the trip; then, we headed towards the automatic doors. As the doors slowly opened, we were greeted by car horns, delighted screams, and underlying laughter. I saw a neatly dressed man and woman standing by a cab: that was my first encounter with my forever Japanese family. “Host family” would be too weak a description.

This image is forever etched in my mind even now, no longer sixteen and only months away from college, the next stage in the beginning of my adult life. I realize that stepping into Japan’s ways was truly my first exposure to becoming globally aware. Coexisting in a society that was accepting, eager to understand and befriend me, unmistakably changed my outlook on international cultures. Global awareness is not just a characteristic, something you inherit. It’s an active way of life. It’s how I choose to live.

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