Hiya – Nasir here. Welcome back to We Fly High!
I’m currently sitting in Manhattan’s West Village at some overpriced tea house. I’ve already had two cups of coffee this morning, so I thought that blackberry iced tea would be a safer choice. As I edit and write this blurb, thoughts of “what’s next?” float through my mind. Most students and post-grads become stressed by not having enough options, but it seems that SUAG’ers have the opposite problem – we have so many dang options.
Firstly, give us all of the deetz. Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Ciao! I’m Raman, and I’m 20. I like to think of myself as an angsty art enthusiast and lover of all foods. I’m Canadian, born and bred in the suburban city of Brampton. I went to a Catholic high school (I’m nowhere near being religious), and it was in high school where I really met people from different backgrounds and met the loves of my life, travel and art.
My goal in life is to spend a year living in different cities across the world and maybe actually move out of my parents home before 40. The struggle is real. I don’t know where I see myself in 5 years, I’m still gonna be doing me, traveling and making art but having some sort of a dating life would also be ideal.
You seem to have traveled a ton for a 20-year-old college student! I love that. Tell me a bit about the volunteer work that you did in Nicaragua.
Back in 2015, I heard about this volunteer trip through my school’s chaplain; she and I are super tight. I told her I really wanted to go on this trip, because I’d never gone out of the country before. She helped a sister out when she helped convince my mom to let me go. It wasn’t easy, but she did it!
I honestly didn’t even know Nicaragua was country. Also, did you know it’s the second poorest country near the equator? Yeah, neither did I. During my time there, I remember working in the blazing heat (it got to 42c at one point, it was rough), but I enjoyed every moment of it alongside kids in Jinocuao (the village that hosted us). We were laying down the foundation for a school classroom so that those same kids could go to school and get an education.
What was the most enlightening experience in Nicaragua?
It was an incredibly humbling experience to be surrounded by families who had little-to-nothing but offered everything. One experience that I can’t forget is playing soccer with the villagers. My friends and I, we got so into it. It was like the Nicaraguans’ energy rubbed on us. Every time someone got a goal in, we would all be screaming and laughing, regardless of which team got it in. It was such a meaningful time to experience community and to be with families who adopted us like we were basically their own children.
What was the most frustrating/difficult culture difference for you?
The obvious answer would be to say the language barrier. And yeah, I did struggle at first with communicating with people. We had gone through boot camp sessions in Spanish prior to the trip but I forgot all of that, as I usually do, and relied on gestures and head motions instead. I got lucky because my friend and roommate, Michelle, speaks Spanish (GO COLOMBIA!) and translated for me when our Nicaraguan mother didn’t understand what the girl with cat eyes was saying (I wore hazel coloured lenses at the time).
Other than that, seeing the large scale of impoverished kids and steel shacks on streets littered with trash right across the road from gated communities with large mansions was shocking. The wealth gap in this nation was intense to witness because you could literally see the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor on one street. This shaped my perception of class in Nicaragua.
How did your family react to you being in high school and doing a service trip? What are your tips for other high school or college students who want to do service trips, but their families are a bit uncomfortable?
Oh yeah, I remember bringing it up to mom first. At first, she was against the idea mainly because she was worried about me living alone (even though I was with a group), managing expenses and getting into “trouble” in a foreign country. I wasn’t going to give up that easily so after convincing her that I would be safe and secure, and with the help of my chaplain’s trusting words, my mom agreed to let me go. A service trip is one of the easier ideas to get parents on board with. I was able to talk to my mom and explain that I really wanted to broaden my perspective and make an impact and that I would call her as soon as I landed and keep her updated as much as possible. After begging my mom to let me go on this trip, I finally understood she would miss me more than anything.
And you traveled more throughout college? How’d you end up in Italy? Where in Italy did you go, and what were your thoughts?
After that high school trip, I caught the travel bug and wouldn’t let it go. After Nicaragua, I traveled within Canada and the U.S… fast forward a few years, I ended up in gorgeous Italia! In college, my professor, an Italian culture geek, told us about this opportunity to study abroad in Italy for 5 weeks. I was picturing what 5 weeks in Italy would be like – ancient historical buildings, amazing food, and all that eye candy.
And 2 years later, that picture became reality as I lived the Italian way in Florence, Rome, and Venice. I went down to the south, Naples (had a Margherita pizza in its birthplace, checked that off my list), and stayed in Rome for a few days. I was even blessed by the Pope! Then, I explored in and around Florence for a few weeks, ending off in Venice. What I didn’t anticipate was unreliable wifi, a complicated train system, and people trying to scam me left and right. However, each and every city had a charm of its own, regardless of the messiness that comes with it.
Do you see yourself living abroad?
Heck ya! After living abroad for a month, I’ve opened up to the idea of pushing my barriers and going out of my comfort zone so I can experience different cultures and make new connections. I would love to go back to Italy, possibly Milan or Rome and living in South Korea would be amazing too. I’d wanna go anywhere that has bomb food.
In your initial email to us, I love that you said, “if it’s free, it’s for you and me!” What’s your fave free thing to do in Rome or wherever you visit?
My fave free thing to do in Rome was to take walks through the different piazzas early in the morning, right after sunrise and experience Rome with fewer crowds and noise. In Florence, I loved to meet up with a friend and go to the Mercato Centrale and take in all the fresh local produce and packaged foods. I would always make time for a sketch session amidst our walks and record the sights in front of me.
Any last minute words/advice that you have? Or stories that you want to share?
Everyone needs to travel, seriously! Regardless of where you go, traveling always has the benefit of providing juicy stories. Without getting out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have gotten kicked out of a monastery in Fiesole or I wouldn’t have seen a payoff go down in front of a pizzeria in Naples. It’s much more than that though. I’ve made lifelong friends and lasting memories from all over the world because I simply just shut up and went.
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