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How Understanding a New Culture Can Change the World

by Corey Shaw
How Understanding a New Culture Can Change the World | AIFS Study Abroad

Culture is a beautiful thing. Each person has a culture that they identify with, whether it be the culture that they were born in, a culture from another country or even a subculture, like the surf culture that is highly popular in America. The culture(s) we identify with consist of ways of speaking, acting, thinking, feeling and essentially being. We as a people are our culture and our culture is us. Often times, as people grow, mature and experience the world, they come across people, music, foods or even television shows from other countries that interest them and spark an infatuation with a different culture. This infatuation sometimes grows and becomes more profound, igniting a lifelong love with the culture and finally becoming a new identity. For this reason, an international education and cultural exchange experience is beneficial to not only the individual but the world as a whole.

When people learn about these other cultures, whether it be first-hand experience or through friends, they learn about different people and how they think, thus becoming more tolerant and/or understanding of each other’s differences. For example, a person who is really interested in Turkish culture, but who may not share the same religious views, will  understand that if a person is Turkish, they might have islamic views rooted in and that stem from Islam and that they should learn to listen to and be tolerant of different points of view. My own experience is similar. I’ve been blessed with friends who make me so grateful to be alive. They vary as differently as that package of different brand name cereals that your mom would buy sometimes: all different tastes but still delicious (and part of a balanced breakfast). It’s through them that I’ve learned about many different cultures and subcultures, like Colombian culture, German culture, Northern American and deep-Southern American cultures, cultures in Asia and a multitude of others.

Some of my good friends have different political views than my own. As time went on and we talked about them, I still don’t agree, but I see where they are coming from. Now, we live happily and just agree to disagree. From time to time, we even joke about it. That is the kind of compromise and understanding that an education in International Studies can teach you.

Learning about another culture can be, as previously mentioned, life-changing. Many people who speak another language and work in another country will often say, when asked how they got into that language, that they learned a bit of it in elementary or high school and loved it so much they decided to continue with it and make a career out of it. Now, those people are educators, who are helping young people who have the same lust that they had at that age. Today, there are many young people, like me, who are studying abroad in cultures they find interesting to get a first-hand experience of that culture.

For me, it started one day when I was messing around on Duolingo in the French section. I had so much fun repeating the words that I took a liking to French, and as the years passed, I taught myself more and more about the language and the culture with the help of an online French course and the internet. My college in Florida required that International Studies students traveled abroad for one semester so, I chose to study in Cannes, France. I’ve been here for about three months now and I never, ever, ever want to leave. I’ve fallen in love with France. Yes, that’s very cliché to say but I’m serious.

I’ve learned so much about a different people, a different language and a different way of  thinking (also different fashions). I’ve also met amazing, loving, caring, fun, spontaneous, intelligent and culturally diverse people with whom I plan to visit in their respective countries because now, I can! One of my best friends here, Martin, is a really amazing guy from Spain with whom I connect. I talk to him about my problems, and he understands me and has kept me sane. I’m forever grateful to him for that.

If anyone asked me whether or not they should study abroad or take a course that focuses on International Relations or studies, I would passionately tell them, “Yes!” In the world we live in right now, there are many problems that we have that could have been avoided if we had a better understanding of the other cultures.

Deciding to pursue International Studies in college has been one of my best choices, because all I can see in my future is happiness through a career doing something that I love. What could be better?

This post was contributed by Corey Shaw, who is spending his semester studying abroad with AIFS in Cannes, France.

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