Remove your inner jerk: Go abroad!

By: James Neyer ~Staff Columnist~

There is a saying that if you were born in Cincinnati, you die in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is the type of city that people may leave, but will inevitably come back to. Some are born, go to college, get a job, raise a family and spend the rest of their lives in the Queen City.

They might come back because this is the place where they were raised or where they have strong connections. This is true not just for Cincinnati, but for other places also.

Neyer's QuotePeople generally like to stay where they have roots. Some may stay in a single town or city their whole lives. Others may not understand this and feel that another city is best, for personal reasons. Cincinnati has its own version of chili, ribs and barbeque which are really good. Others say that these are junk and the food where they come from is way better.

Their preferences are caused by the belief that, to quote the Father of History, Herodotus, “Custom is king.” Every city has its own customs and habits and believes that its own are superior.

The problem with this thinking is that there is an innumerable amount of cultures on this planet. To just stick with the devil you know is incredibly intellectually limiting.

One cannot really know what culture is best for them until they have traveled around the world, and experienced many. It’s the reason why foreign language classes are mandatory in high school and, usually, college.

Not only do languages open one up to different modes of thinking, they can help grant insight into different cultures, their world views and everything in them. It is by absorbing different cultures and languages that one can fight predisposed prejudice and hate.

A good example of this is my brother Jay. Between his 4th and 5th years of a co-op at UC, he did a study abroad in Madrid. While in Spain, he partied with new friends, was a part of a diverse workforce, celebrated local festivals and even participated in local political demonstrations.

This did not all happen in the six weeks that he spent studying abroad.

Neyer's Pic
James Neyer is staff columnist at the Newswire. He is a senior Honors Bachelors of Arts major from Cincinnati.

Partway through that experience, he found a job with a developing company called Fever. He stayed there for a little less than a year, but in that short amount of time he ran with the bulls, marched in the streets and learned about a foreign culture.

Like an addict needing a cultural fix, he traveled next to New York City.

After a short time working there, he moved to Rio de Janeiro and learned Portuguese while working real estate, renting out rooms for the World Cup before ultimately calling Indonesia home.

It is not without difficulty that he travels to such varied places. Through his travels my brother saw that cultures are different, but that no matter where you go, people are similar.

As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I did not write this just to say that my brother is a cool guy. Don’t get me wrong, he is great, even though he can be a bit of a jerk at times. He is less of a jerk now than he was before his travels. If traveling the world can make Jay less of a jerk, it can make anyone less of a jerk, and Lord knows jerks are something we need less of in the world.