By Olivia Alexander
Travel in itself is an exciting learning experience, where customs are exchanged, friends are made, and patience tested. Though it takes place in two local settings, cultural exchange takes learning from a local setting, to that of the global society.
Moving to a new country is difficult. There are many ups and downs; there are days when you ask yourself why you thought you could handle it. There are also days where you are so happy that you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. That is what cultural exchange is.
Sure you try your patience and test your abilities to assimilate and learn, but you know that when the day is done, your best is all that matters. I can tell you that it is not an easy journey, but it is a journey that will stay with you forever.
When you remove yourself from your natural setting for a period of time, you begin to form your own identity
Working and living in a country is an entirely new experience. Though the prospect doesn’t seem too difficult, the time you spend abroad will challenge you in ways you have never been before. We are all up for the challenge; every person has the ability to do it, as long as that is what they want. It is amazing what a person can do when they put their mind to it. That perseverance seems to be the single most enabling attribute, and we all have the potential to incorporate it into our everyday lives.
I am not trying to scare you, but to sugar coat it would be an offense. Know what you are getting into, and realize how much it will develop your independence, self-identity, and basic communication skills. When you enter into a new culture, regardless of language, you are confronted with barriers of social difference. With time, you will develop a way to approach these barriers and break them down. You must have patience not only with others, but with yourself. Everything takes time and a little bit of effort.
So what happens when you return?
The skills developed when faced with cultural immersion are infinite, as each situation you face will better prepare you for similar challenges down the road. When you return, all those feelings and situations you have faced will challenge you again, as you attempt to re-assimilate into your previous routine. Everything you have experienced abroad is, in a sense, local. You have learned and grown in a local community in a different country, and now those skills developed will aid in your understanding of not only your own community, but the global society.
You will bring back something extremely valuable to your local community: Knowledge. Throughout your time in a new culture you will be continuously learning, and once you come back, that knowledge is shared and passed on to friends and family. This network of information is a building block for our global society. As small communities are becoming diluted by varying peoples of different ethnic backgrounds, there is a much greater need for a diverse knowledge on a variety of cultures, so as to eliminate ignorance. By doing this, discrimination and prejudices will inevitably be eliminated. Globalization calls for a global perspective, and by taking knowledge from a local community in a different country and relaying this to your own community, you will begin to eliminate ignorance on a global level.
In our increasingly global society, communication with other countries has become the foundation to economic development; we rely on many different countries for resources, production, and information. Every community has been impacted by globalization and will be affected more so in the future. If you think about it, every new innovation marked by progress, brings the world closer together- it is a small world after all.
By immersing yourself in a new culture, by taking that first step on the most exciting journey of your life, you are taking a step towards a broadened worldly view and endless possibilities for the future. Though the road may be tough at times, the skills and ideas you will develop will only improve your ability to choose the right path to follow for your future, cultural immersion is a path to self-discovery.
This article was provided courtesy of AIESEC Canada Inc.
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