My parents taught me at an early age to always keep an open mind, and I do to this day. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that not all children my age were blessed enough to receive that same lesson. When I become frustrated with narrow-minded attitudes, my dad always gives me the same exact lecture. “You need to remember that you had an opportunity to see a whole world that most people will never experience in their life. Not everyone gets to travel the world, Brooke.”
Having a dad in the military wasn’t so bad, after all. When I was ten years old, he was assigned to an international base in Belgium. I wasn’t happy about the move at first; I didn’t want to leave my friends and family behind. I even asked my grandma if I could live with her for the next three years. At ten, I was quite the narrow-minded child.
Getting off the plane after a fourteen hour ride didn’t exactly change my attitude right away, either. In fact, it didn’t transform until I made new friends and overcame the shock of being plunged into a new culture.
In Europe, everything was different. The currency, the food, the scenery, the people, the attitudes; the entire atmosphere took some getting used to. We lived in a primarily French neighborhood, and I had to learn to speak French just to converse with my neighbors. My brothers and I attended the American school on base, as did kids our age from many other nations. I made friends with Canadians, Bulgarians, Germans, Norwegians, Spaniards, and fellow Americans. My elementary school was the melting pot of education. With all that diversity, however, came plenty of beliefs and experiences that differed from my own.
One particular instance I remember quite well happens to be a conversation I had with some British kids on my bus. They claimed that the American Revolution was a joke and that the United States should be a part of the United Kingdom. I, being a typically patriotic child, argued with them for half an hour about how the U.S. won fair and square and that we deserve to be independent. I could’ve sworn I started a miniature World War III that morning. After sharing the story with my parents, they explained that just because those kids were bigoted, didn’t mean I had to be. Instead of continuing my debate the next day, I just accepted that other people have their own ideas and opinions, and I had to respect that. (Even if I thought they were completely wrong.)
I continued to travel the world over the next three years. I saw Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I came across many more people with diverse views and attitudes, but I learned how to handle those differences with grace. Currently, I’m living in a small town with people that have even smaller, more conservative views of the world and its issues. When I moved back home, I came back a completely different person. Traveling the world and experiencing what I did can definitely have that effect on a person, especially a child. It was a surprise to see that everybody didn’t change with me. Even today, I get irritated with biased attitudes and one-sided arguments. I want everyone to see the world through my eyes, and experience what I’ve experienced. Since that’s not possible, I always try to do the next best thing. I close my eyes, open my mind, and think back to the time I was a stubborn, short-sighted ten year-old. I remember how blessed I am and have been, and think of my father’s words. “Not everyone has been where you have been or seen what you have seen. You are blessed, and that is evident in your words and your actions.”
Four years and many arguments later, I’m ready to share my experiences and words with the college of my dreams. I don’t have to travel around the world to keep to my path; instead, I hope to continue my journey at your school and open up numerous opportunities, just as traveling the world has opened my eyes.
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