Monday, June 25, 2012

True Life: I Grew up in a Developed Country

For those of you that haven’t heard of MTV’s series True Life, it is a reality TV show that documents about five people per show who all share a certain quirk. Episodes have included True Life: I am a Beauty Queen, True Life: I Live with My Parents, and True Life: I am Obese. As you can imagine, some shows are more dramatic than others. The most shocking episodes are those in which the interviewees gradually realize their destitute state after living a life of ignorance. As the title of this blog post suggests, I realized just how provincial of a life I have lived.

Having my Brazilian friend from school visit was probably the best thing that could have happened in my dire state. Saturday afternoon, I woke up feeling mediocre and by 7:00 that night, I knew I was ill. I woke up Sunday morning hardly able to open my eyes, fearing for my life (who knows what kind of diseases one can acquire in Bangladesh). At this point, I was extremely flustered; away from home, the only consistency one has is the comfort inside their own skin. Suddenly, I no longer had this consistency or comfort.

After a few hours of complaining on my part, my friend explained that no matter where people travel for extended periods of time, they find something to complain about, a cultural trait that drives us mad. Suddenly I realized that every year at college, not only do the international students suffer the rigor of college academics, but they feel just as destitute as I did this weekend. When I thought I experienced a little culture shock moving from Minnesota to California, I was clueless.

Throughout my life, I had put America on a pedestal and assumed everyone else saw it this way. When I asked international students if they planned to stay in the United States, I was always shocked to hear that they wanted to move back home. Why would you want to leave this beautiful, free, limitless country? Well, not everyone sees it this way. Through the support of a friend from college, but born in a world so different than my own, I was able to fully comprehend Judy Garland’s famous line, “There’s no place like home.” The Bangladeshis I work with get sick when they come home for the summers, they hate the traffic in Dhaka, and they find their country’s cinema repulsive, and yet they miss home horribly when they study overseas.

Part of me is a little embarrassed that all this time, I assumed citizens of third world countries would choose life in the United States over their lives in the developing world. There may be some benefits to life in developed countries, but nothing can replace the culture and people that make your nation feel like home. Having accepted that I will not feel home until I am with my family and within U.S. borders, I am focusing on aspects of the culture in Bangladesh that I like and will miss when I am home. There are so many things I am learning here that I could not have learned in the United States, even at one of the top universities in the world. 

Just for fun, my friends showed me this super endearing olympics promotional video. I almost cried, maybe because I'm a little homesick, but the video also reminded me that it doesn't matter where in the world you are, the support of family is universally important.

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