One of the things that I really liked about college was that, for a school in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio, there was a reasonably strong international student program. The residence life program, which I was a part of as a resident assistant for two years, also recruited heavily from that pool. After going to a high school that was essentially all white and suburban, it was my first exposure to a bigger world. It's also one of the reasons that I grew particularly interested in the people of India and their many cultures, because one of the other RA's in my building was Indian.
When I rolled into a software career a few years later, being around people not born here, either by way of immigration or work visa, became my default. Having not really sowed the seeds of travel desires until after I became a parent, I haven't had the opportunity to travel abroad as I'd like, so these folks have become my next best thing for now. I am fascinated by their stories, about what is different, and what is the same. I've made great professional friendships with people from India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, China, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Russia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Syria, Turkey, Germany, UK, Ireland, Australia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina... and certainly others that I've forgotten. Oh, and Canada, eh?
As you might expect, this is one of the reasons that I love cruising as well. The cruise lines bring together people from all over the world who work their asses off for you. I enjoy the opportunity to talk to them about their families and the homes they go for months without seeing. My only wish is that they could spend more time being social and less working!
About three cruises ago, we had a server in Palo, one of the nicer upcharge restaurants on the Disney ships, who was unusually young, presumably 22 at the time. I say unusual, because it's typically the best servers who work up there, and excellence does come with experience, and therefore age. She was from Estonia, but most recently living outside of London. She was charming, smart, interesting, with the sort of kindness that you can't really fake. To that end, we requested to get her serving us the next two cruises, and were successful the last time. From there we followed her on social media. She mentioned that she would be passing through Orlando after her contract on the way to Columbia and needed a place to crash for a little less than 48 hours, so we offered. It seemed unlikely that she was an ax murderer.
We were pretty excited because it was a little like having an exchange student, only post-university age and free enough to travel the world. Her perspective on the world, and really life in general, seemed 10x more informed than my own when I was 23, and in general she was a lovely human being. Simon had a big sister for a day or so. It was actually the first time she ever spent time in the United States, in an American city, since to and from the cruise ship she never had the opportunity to move around. Hopefully we represented well, taking her out to the legendary Hamburger Mary's (between drag shows, unfortunately), and the timing was right to get cheap tickets for Aladdin at our beloved Dr. Phillips Center. Also, she was definitely not an ax murderer.
Our next international encounter will be with family friends from Norway this summer. That's very exciting. I might not be able to travel as much as I'd like to, but it's great when a few people can come to you. The world is a beautiful and diverse place, and I value the opportunity to meet the people in it.