This is the 5th week going on the 6th week of the program. There has been a lot that I have learned throughout this experience. I want to write about my experience throughout this journey, and the final days I have left.
Before I went to Germany, I prepared myself mentally to recognize my bias, stereotypes, and challenges I might have before I arrived. Doing this was beneficial because I was able to adjust my prior mindset. However, there was one thing I was not ready for. It was hard to adjust to being one of the only biracial women in my town and school. I wasn't prepared for the staring and feelings of alienation. That was the only thing I missed about Washington state. There are more biracial people at home, and I don't feel like an alien. In the first couple of weeks of the program, that feeling got to me, and there were times that I felt alone; however, the difference here is that I knew that people were staring at me because I was something new. I had some talks with a couple of locals about this situation. It was eye-opening for both of us because they didn't realize how staring would make me feel alone; they just stared because I was unique and something they hadn't seen. In Bielefeld, the majority of the population is white or black. Literally, out of the five and a half weeks of being in Bielefeld, I have only seen one other person in town who looks like me, and I have seen no one at school who looks like me. This sense of identity was a struggle, but it built character and created a better personal understanding of myself. What was an eye-opener about identity was when I went to Rotterdam, Netherlands, for a school trip. On every street, at least one person looked like me, and that area was so diverse. It felt really good to go down the streets and not have people staring at me like I was an alien. That was a really good experience for me because I felt included.
One thing that I would advise everyone to do is travel by themselves. In the Netherlands, after the program, my friend and I were going to stay two extra days. However, she got sick, and in the end, it was just me in the Netherlands. It's crazy to think that I was in another country, and it was just me and nobody I knew in the country. However, it was a lot of fun, and I met many people. I will include two photos of people I met while I was in the Netherlands. I think the number one skill I have learned throughout this trip is cultural communication and understanding. I learned that when someone is talking to me in English and I know that English isn't their first language, the translation may not come across as one would hope. Being able to not react, ask clarifying questions, or describe things to understand the other person's point of view has taught me patience, understanding, and compassion. There were so many times when I would have gotten mad in the past and reacted, but to see the growth that I have gained and trying to understand the other side is massive for me.