It is time to say goodbye, and I would like to start this piece of writing by saying that I did not consider the United States as my first option to have an experience abroad, but now that I reflect about it, this is the perfect place to have a multicultural experience. I used to have mixed feelings about this country, I was reluctant at first but later I changed my point of view concerning many different aspects. My view of the United States has changed enormously.
At the beginning it was hard for me to deal with the numerous stereotypes that people have about my country: Colombia. Since this was the first time I had left my country, it was also the first time that I had to face these kinds of issues. Although at first it was a little bit shocking, later on, I started to understand and learn to manage the uncomfortable comments. From my position, I learned that the idea is not to try to hide the truth and deny the reality, all the contrary, it was about facing the reality and being honest about how things are in my country, however I was always trying to focus on the positive aspects and encouraging acts. I lost track of the times I said “It’s Colombia, not Columbia” and, I think I was not only trying to clarify the spelling mistake but the misconception that Colombia is only drugs, violence and coffee. It’s hard to place the coffee in the same level of the other two –especially because we are very proud of it- but we certainly have many more positive things that we want to tell everyone about.
Regarding my experience here, I would like to emphasize in an aspect that greatly influenced me. Salem’s weather was something new to me, I never thought that the climate could affect your mood in such a drastic way. I reflected upon this issue and about the fact that I used to take for granted a lot of things about my country. Right here in the States, I felt more Colombian that I never did before. I realized how much I appreciate and treasure my country, my city, my family, my friends, my traditions and MY CULTURE. It was here, where, after spending a whole afternoon in the library looking for some
stimulating reading, that I discovered a book from Jorge Luis Borges “El libro de arena” in which I found a story called “Ulrica” that contained the following sentences:
Me preguntó de un modo pensativo:
-¿Qué es ser colombiano?
-No sé -le respondí-. Es un acto de fe.
She asked me in a thoughtful way,
“What does it mean to be a Colombian?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “It’s an act of faith.”
I could not agree more with this statement; to be Colombian is, without any doubt, an act of faith. An act of faith because despite the violence, the inequity, and the social and civil conflict, many of us still believe that the situation will definitively improve. On the other hand, it is not just blind faith, I belong to a generation of Colombians that has witnessed a meaningful change, maybe not visible or remarkable for the rest of the world. I can understand those that fled the country some years ago because the situation was really hard and problematic. However, nowadays there are more Colombians leave the country in order to have a better education, professional preparation and a wider perspective of the world so they could be able to work for the country from the inside. Things are different now, and although there are still some remains of the past difficult times, every day many Colombians are willing to break down the harmful stereotypes we have been carrying along the years.
Some may say that I have a romantic view of the reality, some others that I am way too optimistic, notwithstanding I think my perspective describes in some way the faith Borges told us about.
By the end of the day, the most rewarding of this whole experience and what I will always take with me is all the people I met. People from all over the world that taught me a lot of things about their countries, cultures and worldviews. I learned a lot about US culture and during that process I made really good friends, friendship that I will always cherish and value. There were really good times and some others in which I felt disoriented and even lost, however I always found someone that helped me out to face the difficulties and gave me support and joy.
This has been a fantastic journey! I have learned a lot and I thank each and every one of the people involved in this learning process.