This I Believe…

Sonya - Greenville, North Carolina
Entered on June 15, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: change, place
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I believe in traveling the world and exposing yourself to diverse cultures and different languages. I believe it takes exposure to other cultures to truly appreciate your own identity and background. I believe keeping an open mind when experiencing a new culture and using the knowledge gained to further develop as a person and to better appreciate the differences in each person and in each society. I believe meeting different people from around the world less fortunate then we are, can help us better appreciate the true gifts we have been given in life. Lastly, I believe experiencing new places with new people can open your eyes to all the beauty and magnificence that exists in this world making one realize how much life really has to offer.

I began my tradition of traveling around my first birthday. Being of Spanish and Greek heritage has paved the way to many of the journeys I have experienced thus far in my life. My grandmother retired in Costa Rica in the 80s. Ever since, I have been visiting her in Costa Rica and traveling and exploring this beautiful country with friends and family. Given my Spanish background and my yearly visits to Costa Rica I have been lucky enough to have learned the Spanish language over the years. The combination of my frequent visits to Costa Rica and my fluent Spanish has made me a more open minded person who enjoys interacting with people of the Hispanic culture. It has also made me proud to be of the Spanish heritage and has helped me discover my true self.

My trips to Costa Rica were just the beginning of my travels in life. My father is Greek which has given me the opportunity to travel to Greece almost every other year with my family. Then, last summer I studied abroad on a Greek island with my sister for seven weeks. During these seven weeks, I traveled the country, immersed myself in the culture, and even learned the language by taking Greek classes as a student enrolled through the University of Connecticut. Living in a small Greek village for seven weeks made me feel more alive and more like me then I had felt in years. Having the locals look at me as if I were one of them gave me a sense of satisfaction and joy. It also made me more inclined to use the language when interacting and speaking with them. The Greek culture offers more then I could ever express into words. Their traditions, kindness, and way of life make you never want to leave the country. I even had the opportunity to travel to Turkey while I was in Greece given that it was only a boat ride away from the island where I was living. I never would have thought a country so close to Greece could be so culturally different. Although the travel time to this new country was only a little over an hour, in reality I was in a completely different continent, making the differences even more pronounced. Language, religion, architecture, and cuisine were few of the many differences I observed between the two countries.

I believe my travels to my countries of origin have made me the person I am today. I am now a person who takes much pride in her ethnic background and would do anything for the love of her country and family. I am also fully aware of the diversity in cultures and believe experiencing the best of both worlds. In the end, I believe all people should travel as much as they can. I believe they should get to know who they really are by exploring their heritage and their countries of ethnicity. I believe that traveling has truly changed me into being able to see the true beauty in everyone and in everything.