What the NFL Can Learn From an Alabama Teenager
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
If I lived in…
• Thailand–I would be in prison
• China—I would lose all of my Snapchat streaks
• Germany—I would have failed 8th grade
• Namibia—I probably wouldn’t be alive.
My parents are firm believers in experiential learning, which is why I spent five months during 8th-grade world-schooling on a cheap laptop wherever I could find WiFi. This was not a five-month vacation in fancy, all-inclusive resorts. It’s authentic travel featuring public transportation, hostels, and street food. I can’t recall any of the online lessons I learned through “Rosewood Academy,” my homeschool cover, but my real-world education will never be forgotten.
In our country–where so many people are divided over racial and socioeconomic issues–we often overlook the privileges that all Americans possess. If you’ve never traveled beyond the borders of our country, or your travel has been limited to resort destinations, then it can be easy to focus on what is wrong with our nation. However, even with our issues, the United States is still far better than just about anywhere else.
EXAMPLES OF OUR AMERICAN PRIVILEGES
Freedom of Speech
Thailand and China gave me a new appreciation for freedom of speech. In China, we couldn’t get on Facebook, Snapchat, or even our personal blog because the government blocks these forms of social media.
In Thailand, insulting the king can land you a spot on the next episode of Locked Up Abroad. Coming from a country where bashing the president (no matter who is in office) is a national pastime, I had never really understood the magnitude of freedom of speech.
Freedom of Religion
In Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, my parents required my sister and me to wear long pants and modest tops, despite the vicious heat because of religious norms. American fashion, while popular back home, is not always welcomed abroad.
I was fortunate that through homeschooling, I was able to continue to my 8th-grade education while exploring the world. However, many countries, like Germany, do not allow homeschooling. Americans so often see European countries as having all of the freedoms that we do, but that is not always the case.
Furthermore, many countries around the world do not provide free education for its children. If the parents cannot afford to pay the school fees, the children don’t attend school. These children have no way to break the cycle of poverty in which they are trapped.
While road-tripping through Namibia, my sister came down with a scary ailment that resembled meningitis. After a tense, glitchy phone consultation with a U.S. doctor, we were given the prognosis that if she weren’t dead in twelve hours, she would probably be fine. All we could do was wait in the middle of the desert, hours from the nearest doctor, and pray we didn’t have an empty seat on the flight home.
Also, as an infertility treatment baby, I am thankful to live in a country with advanced healthcare. Without it, I wouldn’t be here.
What I’ve Learned
Every country I have traveled to has both educated me and strengthened my love for the U.S.A. more than my AP Government textbook ever could. After six continents and 30 countries, I have become an expert at packing for every climate imaginable in a carry-on suitcase. I have learned how to sleep sitting up for sixteen hours straight. I have learned to hope for the best and brace for the worst because sometimes you can’t predict being deported from China.
But most importantly, I have learned why living in the United States is the greatest privilege.
There are some things—like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, public education, and advanced healthcare—that you cannot appreciate until you see firsthand what life is like without them. And there’s nothing like visiting the Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi, Vietnam (AKA the “Hanoi Hilton”) where many American heroes spent years as POWs to understand the debt of gratitude and respect that all Americans owe our servicemen and women for the freedoms we enjoy.
About the Author: Delaney McIntyre is a senior at Vestavia Hills High School and world traveler. Although she has traveled to 30 countries across six continents, she is just a Southern girl at heart. Delaney can be reached at 4wornpassports.com