Albert Einstein has this great quote that says, “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.” This delusion, I’ve observed, is very common in the United States. Most people seem to be stuck in their little bubble of oblivion, completely ignorant to the forces and experiences of people not immediately connected to their own lives. People seem to forget, including myself, that our actions not only affect our own lives, but that they also profoundly impact the rest of the world; the lives of people we may have never even met. Thinking about the bowl of cereal I eat every morning, I am mind-blown when I try to fathom the amount of people it took for me to get that bowl of cereal. The farmers who grew the grains, the factory workers who operated the machines in the cereal factory, the truck drivers that brought the box of cereal to my local grocery store; all of them made it possible for me to have my breakfast.
Most mornings, I don’t really contemplate this entire process, probably because I don’t have to. I live in this invisible bubble where I only worry about my daily trivial disasters, and I don’t have to think about those connections. I want to study abroad because I want to burst that bubble of ignorance, and I want to know what is happening elsewhere. I want to shatter my sense of entitlement and privilege and find out what is happening in the lives of other people that don’t live the same way I do. Growing up in the United States, I have been accustomed to a life of luxury. However, life is not like this everywhere, and is actually very different in other parts of the world.
If accepted, I plan on studying abroad in Bali, Indonesia, with the SIT program of “Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change,” in fall of 2014. Bali is an interesting place. For many, it’s considered one of the most beautiful places on the planet, not only because of the picturesque landscapes and wonderful beaches, but also through its rich cultural traditions. Yet, the Western tourist industry there is causing adverse effects on the infrastructure of the island and its local economy. Poverty is on the rise in Bali, and capitalist industries on the island are largely to blame. Ironically, Bali’s beauty is driving it to its own destruction. The United States is one of the most capitalistic countries in the world, and its capitalistic practices are inevitably taking a toll on the country of Indonesia, despite the great distance between the two countries. The two are inextricably linked, but most privileged US inhabitants rarely think about this reality.
In the SIT program, the independent study component will give me a chance to observe this relationship between the Western tourist industry in Bali, and its native inhabitants and culture. At the start of the semester,...