Here's a flavor from an application I wrote to "Win a Trip" with Nick Kristof of the New York Times:
Though I was born in the US, I’ve always endeavored to be a global citizen. Whether interviewing a traditional sword maker in rural Japan, joking with young monks in Cambodia, or questioning Mexican villagers about a political assassination, I’ve always sought out moments of personal connection across cultures. While studying in the School of the Arts at Columbia, I volunteered for PEN and did research for Words Without Borders, because I believe in the power of stories to bring people together, and in the responsibility of writers to combat the narcissism Americans are often prone to.
As an ESL teacher, I’ve taught hundreds of students from dozens of countries on every continent. It is quite literally my job to be able to communicate with anybody, and facilitate cultural exchanges between people. By combining a ready intellect with an easy smile, I have a natural talent for getting people to open up and tell their stories. And though I’m not shy about asking difficult questions, my students know I value them as people regardless of their history, language, or circumstances, so they’re willing to be honest with me. I know these skills will come in handy when we encounter hostile villagers on the Serengeti or the Amazon.
As a journalist, I wrote a column called ‘Your Man in Japan’ as foreign correspondent for the Middletown Times-Star. While teaching English in Japan, I lived in a small town called Naka-Cho, which means "middle town", and Middletown was our sister town in California. Each summer we alternated bringing Japanese students to America and vice-versa; and during the year I wrote a monthly column for rural Americans about culture and life in rural Japan. I also published an article in the Kansai Time Out about the temples of Angkor Wat when the only way to get there was by boat across the Tonle Sap, and you needed an armed guard to go past the Bayon. Whether it’s sneaking up a pyramid, or slashing through the jungle, I’m always ready to trade in comfort for adventure, and doubly so when there’s a real human story at stake.
I’ve ridden busses through Guatemala, taken all-night taxis across the Sinai, and huddled over toilets in Tangier; so I’m a weathered if not weary traveler. If anything, it is traveling that renews my optimism about humanity, and our ability to thrive in all manner of trying circumstances. In 2005, I was awarded a fellowship to attend the Summer Literary Seminar in St. Petersburg, and was able to spend a month getting a sense of the rare window opening on Russia right now. It is amazing to see such a vast nation reinvent itself yet again. But isn’t that what all peoples, and all nations do? This process fascinates me, and I’m constantly scheming ways to get abroad as anything but a tourist.