The whole world in your backyard

By the

February 8, 2001

I came to Georgetown for the diversity. The place sounded great, the number of international students was impressive and the options for study abroad were numerous. Coming from a relatively small and semi-rural town in Colorado, I was astounded by the different people I met. My first roommate was from Singapore, and I shared my Village C East lounge with people from Brazil and London. But no international contact has been quite as meaningful to me as my experience in the Global Living Center.

At the end of my first year I felt a little homesick and isolated, and I didn’t particularly want to return to Georgetown. However, I was extremely lucky to come across an application for the GLC and even luckier to get accepted. Little did I know what the true experience of the program would be. The people I live with are from Macedonia, France, Japan, Thailand, India, China, Belarus, Ethiopia, Singapore and America. I enjoy such perks as eating diverse foods, conversing in a variety of languages and making friends I can stay with one day when I travel the world. But the real wonder of the GLC is how much people care and how much they want to learn, discuss and really get to know each other across cultures. The people around me have changed my life forever.

Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t discuss politics or religion with people you don’t know well? In the GLC it is OK to break those rules. My discussions about politics and society with a French exchange student have changed the way I see the world. Indeed, I have a broader viewpoint and am probably much more liberal than I was before. I’ve discussed the origins of race and racism with a Chinese friend, a Frenchman and an Ethiopian. No voices were raised (well, almost none). I’ve discussed religion, birth control and love with girls from India and France. Touchy subjects like these weren’t difficult to broach, even among people who appear to come from such different backgrounds. Even subtle differences like the divergent mentalities and lifestyles between my roommate, a city kid who grew up in Minsk and New York City, and myself are evident and eye-opening.

In addition, some educational opportunities are more structured. We hold culture nights where members share the specifics of their own culture and International Reviews where professors are invited to eat dinner with the group and hold a discussion about different international issues. We’ve heard about the formation of the European Union, the effects of globalization on culture and Professor James Clad’s adventures pursuing journalism abroad. Bottom line: The people are open-minded and the first objective is learning, both from outside resources and from one another.

But the GLC isn’t only about discussions of a serious nature. The informal nature of the program means that the members together can make the program anything they want it to be. This year all of the floor members are active and fun. There are always people in the hall hanging out, always music playing and sometimes spontaneous dancing and singing.

Have you ever heard a Russian man singing a parody of “My Heart Will Go On?” (It’s hysterical in case you’re wondering.) Have you heard nearly every national anthem in the world? What about a French guy playing guitar and singing the French version of nearly every hit rock song in U.S. history? It’s great. There are midnight soccer matches and good-natured pranks. We celebrate birthdays and holidays from around the world. I got to participate in the religious and social aspects of the Indian New Year, and we had a holiday gift exchange before winter break. People received headwear from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, shell necklaces from Ethiopia and rice bowls from Japan, among other things. Eating is big around here; one of the best things I’ve learned is that French chocolate really is better than all the rest!

Reading through this account, I feel it doesn’t convey all of the things I’ve enjoyed during my time in this community. It’s impossible for me to explain how much I’ve learned, laughed and come to love the people who live with me in the Global Living Center. I remember the beautiful Spring day that I went to the Office of Housing and found my name among the people accepted to the program. Looking at a list of names, I could have never imagined these peoples’ faces and smiles. I could never have known they’d trust me with their secrets, teach me about the subtleties of life around the world and comfort me when I was sad. They’re with me when I feel serious, hyper or energetic (Well, sometimes I get thrown over a shoulder and deposited back in my room, laughing the whole way.)

Aside from the GLC, I don’t know if I would ever have had such a great opportunity to really become friends with these people. I’m not writing to brag but hopefully to encourage everyone on this campus to explore the opportunities that are here. My friend Justin said it best, the GLC is like living abroad without ever leaving home. And for me, the GLC is home.

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