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I’m from L.A. — Lower Alabama.
Lower Alabama is nowhere near as glamorous and full of culture as the real Los Angeles, California.
So, when living in a “Great Value” version of L.A., things may seem dismal and cookie-cutter.
I’d probably only met five or so people from out of the country before coming to Troy, and I’d spent my whole life without meeting someone of a non-Christian religion.
For 19 years, I’d been frustrated that the only culture I could really see in my backyard was groups of redneck teenagers hogging a Sonic late at night.
When I came to Troy University, I was amazed at the number of people from outside the Bible Belt—and from outside the United States.
After spending my life as one of the young Alabamians dying to leave, coming to Troy helped me realize the cruciality of meeting people and working to change your outlook on a place.
I began to enjoy being in Alabama more when I got involved here, but becoming friends with international students has absolutely been one of the most beneficial parts of being at Troy.
Now I have stories for when I return home to Lower Alabama. My family delights in hearing tales of my friend from Portugal or Malaysia or Colombia or Egypt.
Troy offers a haven, not only for international students, but also for down-home folks who’ve never had the chance to experience anything other than church on Sundays and a required Spanish class.
Meeting people from other places is about so much more than stories to bring back home. For me, speaking with international students was the first chance for me to understand how others were raised and their beliefs.
My only exposure to other faiths was in a “religions” class in high school, where I was given a textbook that only explained why other people are wrong and why Christians are right.
Having conversations with those of other faiths expanded my worldview tenfold. We should question ourselves constantly, and having tough talks with those a little different than you is one of the best ways to either reinforce your beliefs or try and change them for the better when presented with another option.
Plus, these conversations make you better equipped to fight judgment and prejudice that can rear their ugly heads in Alabama.
Understanding other cultures and worldviews forces you to think critically about the current state of the world, and those conversations with others may change your outlook on some long-held beliefs.
If you’re like me, all the different people and cultures and languages may sound intimidating.
You may only be accustomed to Saturday football games. Try getting into soccer, and you’ll find national rivalries that (arguably) run stronger than Alabama and Auburn football.
We Southerners tend to drown everything in butter and oil. Have a dinner party with friends from outside the U.S. and try finding a new favorite dish.
Southern slang is a language in and of itself. Try learning phrases from a new language you find interesting, and maybe you can show someone how to nail a true Southern accent.
Don’t be afraid to get out into the community at Troy and meet new people. Experience what you’ll never get to see in L.A.