Since I was young, I have always had a keen interest in other cultures. Having grown up in a homogenous background myself, it was easy to develop stereotypes and assumptions of people who were different from myself. But when I would learn about the differences between other cultures and my own, I would become eager to learn more and experience them for myself.
Deciding on a life-long career is no easy task, and it took me five long years after high school before I finally made my choice. During this time, I worked in numerous industries; retail, beverage distribution, parcel delivery, and even in fast food. Each job felt mundane and unfulfilling. I realized I wanted a job that did more than pay the bills. I want to be an English teacher in other countries. This career would allow me to ask questions about the differences between other cultures and my own. With this goal in mind, I began studying global literature in order to get a broader understanding of cultural perspectives from around the world. If I can teach the English language abroad, I will not only be providing a service for people eager to learn my native language, but I can hopefully use some of my literary knowledge to provide them with different cultural perspectives and new ideas as well.
I attended Tacoma Community College (TCC) for two years before graduating with my Associates Degree. It was during my time at TCC, that I met the most inspirational professor I ever had: Professor Stephen Johns. Professor Johns was a communications teacher and his teaching focused primarily on multiculturalism. He held class discussions about sensitive subjects in a civil manner, where productive conversations about language use, privilege, and stereotypes could be addressed. Everybody was welcome to ask questions as well as contribute their own personal perspectives about our subjects. However, if at any time, people began to feel offended, Professor Johns disarmed the situation, and took control of the discussion. I really enjoyed his way of teaching. It was refreshing to finally have a conversation about issues that cause tension between different groups of people. By doing this, we could finally understand what the real underlying problems between the groups were, rather than having to speculate about them instead. It was also enlightening to read and hear about some of the struggles my peers have been confronted with simply because of the color of their skin. A black classmate of mine talked about how every time he would walk into a grocery store he felt as if he needed to smile and wave at employees in order for them to believe “he was one of the good ones.” As a white male, situations like these were something I had never even thought about, nor will I ever be fully able to understand without living through something similar myself.
Ever since taking Professor John’s course, I have been inspired to work toward connecting different groups of people. I began pursuing this goal by attending extracurricular activities that addressed achieving equity among the entire campus. These activities were targeted toward discussing privilege, the use of language towards other people, as well as identity issues such as sexuality and gender. The goal was to determine the best way TCC could approach these subjects and effectively teach these sensitive subjects to the student body. Through my participation in these events, I was eventually awarded TCC’s “Identity, Culture, and Community Leadership” Certificate.
In a globalized world, people, cultures, and languages are all becoming more interconnected, but the blending of traditions is not fully accepted everywhere. Japan for example, is scarce of multiculturalism; therefore, I am determined to focus my career there. The Japanese government has been reaching out to foreign countries in hopes of bringing in immigrants to add diversity within their population. Japan hopes that intersecting the cultural beliefs of foreigners with their own will dissipate much of the xenophobia that is embedded within Japanese society. I would like to be a part of this movement and I am confident that my participation and teaching abilities can improve opinions and remove stereotypes about foreigners, one student at a time. During my time at PLU, and studying the Norwegian language, my instructor, Dr. Collin Brown has proven to me that by struggling as a group to learn another language, stronger bonds begin to form between people. By teaching English abroad, this sense of camaraderie can help us break through cultural barriers. Learning new languages is a difficult hurdle to overcome, but by helping my students conquer these challenges, we can gain better understandings of one another.