At Leaders of the Free World we are passionate about the transformative power of international travel. To that end, we are highlighting the stories of several young, Black men whose international experience had lasting impact on their lives. In some cases, these experiences spurred them to make a difference in their communities.
Bashir Harrell, now 29, traveled to Japan at age 21. A trip meant to be just a few months expanded into a year: “I was selected for a semester study abroad program at Kansai Gaikokugo Daigaku (Kansai Gaidai University). After my first semester, I enjoyed the program so much I made a request to the dean to extend my stay.”
“The people I met during my first time abroad were not just from Japan, but from all over the world. Many of them were there to study the language, but some had moved there long ago. I believe that meeting all these people that traveled for many different reasons from many different places essentially opened my eyes to the differences and most importantly the similarities in people of all race, creeds, and cultures.”
While in Japan, Bashir was able to develop his linguistic skills. He believed his trip played a key role in this. “I truly believe that traveling to Japan was a pivotal point in my life. My time in Japan, first as a student and then as a teacher amplified my love of languages. I am happy to say that I am now proficient in Japanese, I am currently learning Mandarin, and occasionally play with French and Spanish. These are all things that I do not think I would have done if I did not make that first step.”
“This trip opened my eyes to the world outside of my hometown, schools, and university community. It was a transformational experience where I was able to look back at my life and reflect on where I had been and what I had been through, while simultaneously comparing the culture of Japan to the cultural upbringing that I had in the Unites States.”Bashir’s trip made him feel that he could travel anywhere he wanted to go. “Since my first trip to Japan I traveled back there 2 more times both for stays of over a year. My curiosity of world languages and cultures propelled my graduate studies of Applied Linguistics at Teachers College, Columbia University. I believe that experiencing another culture is one of the best lessons that one can have.”
“The world is your classroom. Learn everything you can from anyone who is willing to teach you. Do not be afraid of trying new things, but know yourself and understand your limits. Be true to yourself and take in everything the world has to offer. Take many pictures and keep a journal. It doesn't matter what you write, just make sure that you do.”
The son of African storytellers, Bashir Harrell is not your average South Carolinian. Born in Georgetown, SC the second of four children, his parents named him Bashir because it means “messenger of good news”. Bashir has spent his 29 years bringing just that to everyone he meets. His life goals has lead him from South Carolina to Florida, to Japan to New York City. Now as his journey to share “good news” with the world continues as he is making plans to land in Beijing, China.