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Be at home in the world

Illustration by Mike Padilla
By Keren G. Raz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
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BALI - You are about to join the company of some great UA alumni who have surfed off the coast of Africa, met the prime minister of Australia, hiked the mountains of South America and endured the cold of Siberia.

Now it's your turn to be at home in the world.

So what are your travel plans?

For the past five weeks I've been traveling through China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia.

I've done the hotel bit, especially for the few days my stomach turned on me in Beijing.

But, without a doubt, the most rewarding experiences came when I decided to venture off the beaten track.

In China, an unusual request to visit a school rather than the standard sites of the city led to one of my favorite stories of the trip.

That request turned into an invitation to a five-hour Chinese banquet complete with pig's stomach and duck soup and the expectation that you follow local drinking rules - even those that leave you drunk at the end of the night.

And there's more to the story.

That banquet turned into a chance for the school principal to ask me to do a commercial for his school.

By a commercial, he meant that I would sit at a table on the side of a road and attract attention with my pale skin and curly hair.

Keren G. Raz

It sounds boring, but I assure you there's no better way to see life in a city than to sit where no foreigner has sat before.

Kids ran around the table, scared of me. Farmers carting vegetables home to the countryside stared at me as they walked by.

I get much of the same treatment here in Bali because I'm living and working in an area where few tourists venture.

I took a walk around a nearby park the other day. I didn't see a single other tourist. I was surrounded by Indonesian families who spend their early evenings in the park, playing soccer, jogging, just spending time outdoors together.

I decided to join the families in their walk around the park and the stares began.

It took awhile for me to get used to this kind of attention, but now I realize the fact that I get those stares is all the more reason for us to get out into the world and travel off the beaten track.

Cross-cultural understanding begins only when people see each other and learn how to live with each other.

Our world is becoming increasingly connected thanks to the quick pace of globalization, which leaves it up to us, the next generation, to make sure we understand the world around us.

So my advice to you: Make it a point to leave the comforts of America behind.

Prioritize travel in your Finish in Four program.

If you do the legwork and the networking far enough in advance, you can probably even get someone else to foot the bill.

My time in Bali is being paid for entirely by a foundation I am working for. The downside: I spend my days in an office. The upside: a paid for vacation on the beach.

Check out the honors college Web site ( for information about Fulbright and National Security Exchange Program scholarships that pay for study abroad programs.

For science students, look into the Undergraduate Biology Research Program. It has a program called BRAVO that funds research projects abroad.

You can also start looking for connections with international nongovernmental organizations and businesses that will pay for you to do internships with them.

Most importantly, talk to those who have traveled before and learn.

In Cambodia, I had dinner with Andrea, a recent college graduate working in Phnom Penh. While in college, she came across an NGO operating in Lao. They needed someone to help with computers. She packed up and left for a six-month stint. They paid for her to work there.

While staying at a hostel in China five weeks ago, I met Tom from Belgium. After burning out from his job, Tom decided to backpack around the world. He's financing it by writing articles for a Belgian paper.

If he were interested in teaching, he could have been paid a salary to teach English in China.

There is no reason why you need to be stuck at the UA for four years without once stepping foot on foreign soil.

So I ask again: What are your travel plans?

Keren G. Raz is an English and political science senior. She can be reached at

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