My name is Hana Bushara, and I am a rising sophomore at St. Lawrence University, located in Canton New York. I am originally from Warwick, Bermuda, though I completed my junior and senior years of high school at the United World College of the Adriatic in Duino, Italy. Now, you may be wondering how did I go from Bermuda, to Italy, all the way to Upstate New York? I don’t think giving you a definitive answer would give you an accurate and honest account for how I ended up in each of these places, though I stand firmly behind the belief that a culmination of sacrifice, hard-work, vulnerability, and sheer luck helped pave my journey to each of these respective places.
Coming from a small island can be isolating, at least it was for me. Bermuda is an incredible place, rich in history, traditions, and home to some of the most beautiful and intelligent people I have encountered. With this being said, I had spent much of my teenage years on the island imagining what life would be like elsewhere; if I had the opportunity to interact with people who did not share the same values and traditions that I did. When I was granted the opportunity to study abroad in Italy for two years, I recognized not only the privilege of being able to leave the island, but the duty that I had to take what I learned during this experience, back to Bermuda.
Having international experiences are undoubtedly enriching on an individual level; our exposure to new languages, ways of life and varying perspectives. I had never experienced being the “other”, and though it was intimidating and uncomfortable initially, I learned to embrace my difference and wore it proud. Studying abroad or having the opportunity to travel means that you are able to interact with people and places that you perhaps wouldn’t encounter otherwise. You not only are growing on a personal level, but you also have the opportunity to make a lasting impact in the place that you travel to. What can you bring to the table?
Upon arriving back to Bermuda, I realized that many of the things I learned while I was abroad were lessons that were also applicable to my life and surroundings at home. I learned to listen, to understand, and to recognize that every person carries a story, a context, and a set of values that ultimately makes up their person-hood, myself included. As cliché as it may sound, behind the language barriers, clothing, and cultural differences, we are much more similar to each other than we perceive ourselves to be. Studying abroad inspired me to dig deeper to find common ground with people. Maybe we couldn’t speak the same language, but we both shared a similar passion for soccer, or music. I learned to appreciate the fact that my way of life is not superior, it is just different. Having the opportunity to travel is a huge privilege, and I am forever grateful for the people who made it possible for me to do so.
It is my duty now to take those experiences, and make something of them, not simply for myself, but for everyone around me.