This past year has been a particularly tumultuous one. A lot is going on both politically and socially. People are upset, tired, and have strong opinions. Conversations have devolved into monologues. All this made me reflect on communication, and how essential it is for events to move forward in a productive manner. I use the cross-cultural communication skills I learned at ASM both in my professional, as well as personal life every day.
This short article, originally posted on Medium, is dedicated to the school that taught me how to live in a multicultural world.
Now that it has been more than a decade, since I graduated high school, I find myself looking back at my education at the American School of Milan more often than ever.
Being brought up in a multicultural environment will have a priceless effect on your life. You will strive to be more open minded. You will be more patient. More compassionate. Humble. Your fluency in cross-cultural communication will make you easily adaptable to the most unexpected situations in life.
When I was in school, my group of best friends was made up of kids from Italy, South Korea, Finland, Turkey, Paraguay, Japan, United States, India, France, Switzerland. My classmates consisted of even more nationalities. This obviously meant, great food at slumber parties. It also meant we were able to ask questions most can’t.
When I saw something on the news happening in a country I knew nothing about, I could turn to a classmate and ask them about it directly. Conversations were encouraged in class, and teachers helped monitor difficult discussions that let us make sense of things. Looking back at this, it was incredible; it was like being part of the UN summit everyday.
What I learned by being a part of an international community, is that everything can work while there is communication. All opinions are valid, and with enough conversation, there is always a solution. The minute we stop listening to each other, is when we let bigotry in.
Most of the hate in the world comes from ignorance. We all want the best for those we love. It’s easier to believe our opinions are correct and that we are fighting for the right side. It’s terrifying to question our certainties. In a country like the US, where everything is oceans away, and information is safely fed through media giants, it’s easy to get sucked into dangerous thoughts.
If you haven’t had the privilege of familiarizing yourself with other cultures in the past, it’s never too late to listen to a second opinion. Listen to what others have to say before you correct them by quoting your preferred newspaper. Embrace your international connections. While you can learn about the world through a screen, you need to meet it in person to understand it.
To students attending international schools all over the world: I wish you strength to keep speaking your mind and patience to keep listening even to the quietest of voices. Your ability to comfortably converse with any nationality is what keeps the world whole.
To the American School of Milan: Thank you for having taught me how to navigate peacefully through our stormy world.