“Me, me, pick me, pick me!” I remember shouting to my third-grade math teacher as I was on the verge of blurting out the answer to the math problem that was on the board. I was always the child in class who wanted to answer every question. I was too, the child who had every question in the world for the teacher to have to respond to. I always wanted to know more. I always wanted to be more. I always knew I’d have more.
Growing up, I lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with my mom, stepdad, and brother. We didn’t have much but we had each other — and that was more than enough. I saw my mom sacrifice so much for me and my brother at such a young age.
I’d like to think that it was the strength she embodied that inspired me to be fearless in my pursuit of the things that the world has to offer. Early on, I knew the most powerful thing I had was my voice.
As I sat at the coffee table interviewing a local tour guide from the city of Brixton, in the United Kingdom, I couldn’t help but be inspired by her personal stories that encouraged her fire and zest for this beautiful area in south London.
A week before this, she took me and some of my colleagues from the study abroad program around Brixton showing us the area’s richness and culture. I knew immediately after sitting down with her that it would be more than just that. It was an interview that led to a lesson on ancestral history and the importance of identity.
Our conversation focused on knowing who you are and where you come from so that you can be more receptive to the people and world around you.
“The world is not flat, but it is indeed round,” Angela said.
And no, she was not talking about geography. She meant it as a way of encouraging the pursuit of curiosity that can ultimately lead to the exposure of your true identity.
This was a full-circle moment. Talking with Angela reminded me of how important my voice was and still is.
My voice was made to advocate for stories that inspire, to tell others the true realities without sugarcoating, and to amplify those who may be underrepresented. My inner child was so happy to be sitting across the coffee table from someone that I truly admired. The little girl in me had the chance to ask all the questions she wanted to a woman who wanted to share all she knew.
My curiosity was not a hindrance all along, it was just the real me showing up in those spaces at such a young age.
Identity is found through experience
College has allowed me to branch out. I have never been more open than I am now to trying new things and meeting new people. As a first-generation college student, I wanted to make sure that whatever university I chose to attend would be the one I finished at. I’ve experienced so much in the past three years of college. I have met so many people, traveled to many different places to represent my institution, and also had various opportunities to expand my network. College truly promotes character skills and professional development.
Experience has allowed me to form my own opinions and thoughts about the realities of life. College is one of the biggest transitions a child becoming an adult could ever have. Before college, my world was heavily based on the perspectives of others around me. I followed the influence of my parents and valued what they valued.
It was not until college that I gained more independent experience in life from the lens of my view. I think that is the first taste of what true identity stems from. My family roots and traditions contribute to who I am, but my beliefs and perspectives make up a great part of that as well.
Traveling Abroad Changed Me
One of my most pivotal moments took place one summer in London. I was overwhelmed with excitement when I found out that I was selected to be a part of a six-week study abroad program in central London. I didn’t know what to expect. I am the first person in my immediate family to ever leave the country. All I knew was the United States.
This was huge for me. I remember so vividly when the day came for me to leave for England. As I said my goodbyes to my family, my eyes watered. Not everyone gets the opportunity to study abroad on a full-ride scholarship. Hard work and dedication got me here. The support from others around me did, too. I was truly proud of myself and my family.
The first week of adjusting to the new environment of London was tough. Trying to get used to the time change, accents, transportation, and living accommodations was a real hassle. Once I established a routine though, things started to move along much smoother. It was my curiosity to venture out that opened up my eyes to the many beautiful things of London.
I learned so much about the history of Great Britain. I was introduced to their perspective on world wars, migration movements, and traditions of their culture. Being that London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, I met many people who had different religions and social backgrounds. I visited many museums. I sat and talked with people who were Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian. In all these conversations, one thing remained the same: they were all kind people who were from different places and different backgrounds.
I consider traveling to be educational. Between my classroom lectures and my outings, I found myself constantly learning and faced with the opportunity to grow. Experience is growing. Curiosity is learning. Both contribute to shaping who you are. I left the United Kingdom grateful for the life-changing impact it had on my life.
The World is Round
Life is a constant cycle of highs and lows. You have to experience it all to gain unique perspectives. A narrow mind sees the world as flat. This person looks through one lens and considers nothing to be acceptable besides what he or she thinks is right about a subject or circumstance. They have no faith or hope for what is unknown. They neglect curiosity out of fear of failure and are opposed to change.
It is the person who sees the world as round that has an advantage. It is with experience and curiosity that I have been able to enjoy the fruits of life. Without my curious mind, I wouldn’t be who I am today. The world is round because there is something always on the other side to explore and learn from.