Five Thousand Mile Bridge

Nicholas Chieng - Brazil


July 30, 2014

Hello! My name is Nick Chieng; I am 18 years old and a graduate of Franklin High School’s class of 2014.

“Half of the time I couldn’t understand what he was saying because he spoke with a thick
accent, but immersed in the moment of it all, that didn’t even matter. There I was walking the streets of Insadong in Seoul, South Korea with a caring host brother who knew about where I came from and wanted to learn more about it. I wasn’t worried about whether or not I was using the correct honorific ending or forming adverbs correctly. That didn’t matter  because he was just as intrigued in my culture as I was in his—that in itself was absolutely breathtaking.

It’s these moments which I value the importance of cultural immersion and living my life as a global citizen. It’s these nuances of cross-cultural interaction–the questions about language, and most importantly, the proclivity for cultural knowledge–that have made me become more cultural sensitive and aware.”

Last summer, I was privileged to cross a 6,809 mile bridge to Seoul, South Korea for a cultural immersion scholarship program. After studying abroad in South Korea for two weeks on a full-scholarship provided by the Council on International Educational Exchange and volunteering abroad in Malaysia with the Salvation Army, I have realized how profound the impact of cross-cultural interaction and learning can have on the world.  My experiences last summer have left me gripped with a proclivity towards a more global education that involves the world as my classroom.

What led me to explore Global Citizen Year’s program was my ambition for a different type of learning. Nowadays, schools are like factories that make us study, but I want to learn, not study. We have been told that the “right” pathway is to go straight into college, get a degree, a good paying job, and then we will succeed, but I cannot wait for the day where taking a bridge year is just as conventional as going straight into college. I cannot wait for the day that at high school graduations, those taking a bridge year abroad  are recognized for making this decision. Holding a youth ambassador position is just as crucial as holding a military one.

I know I will face various challenges like language barriers, limited forms of technology, and unknown environments. However, these kinds of challenges are ones that I will not get in a classroom environment or in my hometown. It’s these kinds of challenges that will shape me in a way I cannot imagine. I am ready to cross that five thousand and twenty seven mile bridge to a nation that I might fall in love with just as much as Malaysia or South Korea.

Nicholas Chieng