By: Brian Craig, Greenheart Work and Travel Operations Assistant

With loads of museums, monuments, state buildings, and more, Washington, D.C. is one of biggest tourist attractions in the United States — including for Greenheart’s participants. Before June, I had never visited our nation’s capital, so I was very excited by the prospect of seeing some of these sights while also visiting some of Greenheart’s participants and host organizations.

During my visit, I was able to speak with some of our participants from all over the world, including the Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, and the Philippines. In our conversations, I learned more about what these participants are studying in school, what they like to do in their free time, where they are planning to travel in the United States, and what they have learned about American culture so far. It’s amazing how much these young people are challenging their own perspectives about the world! They have an amazing opportunity to learn about what makes us different and what makes us the same.

Through the Summer Work Travel program, we, as Americans, are also having our perspectives challenged! By interacting with people from a part of the world we may have never encountered before, we have the ability to stretch our understanding of global issues. As I spoke with these students, I gravitated back to a quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. which I saw at his memorial in D.C:

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

In order to come closer to creating mutual understanding globally, we must continue to challenge our cultural perspectives. While Greenheart participants are taking a huge step in doing this by traveling to another country, opportunities to expand our cultural understanding could be right on our doorstep! As soon as I started thinking about this, I found that I was able to do this in D.C. in a variety of ways: visiting the National Museum of the American Indian, going to a Middle Eastern restaurant on the final night of Ramadan, sharing my love of baseball with participants from the Dominican Republic, and learning about our host organizations’ experiences visiting alumni in their home countries.

There is no one correct way to participate in cultural exchange. The most important aspect is that we all strive to continually develop a world perspective, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described it. It’s a big, wonderful world we live in — with so many different people, cultures, and norms! The more we learn about the small details in each other’s lives, the more empathic we can be, and the more we will come together as we face big challenges as a planet.

Expand your global perspective by spending your summer abroad! Take a look at Greenheart’s Work and Travel program and apply online today!