Food for thought

We’ve seen this quote attributed to several different sources, including Anais Nin and the Talmud. Wherever it comes from, we are wowed by the truth of this statement:

“We do not see things as they are,
we see them as we are.”

Whether you’re studying abroad, traveling away from home, or simply starting a new job – you are coming to the table with a set of preconceived notions, about the place, the people, the food – you name it. The likelihood is quite high that where you were raised and where you’re going are very different places. And that’s a good thing 🙂

So what can you do to keep an open mind while traveling somewhere new?
Consider these 6 tips.

  • You’ve heard us say this in pre-departure: “It’s not weird, it’s different.” Think about it – there are things we do in the U.S. that other cultures may think are weird, ugly or stupid. Does that mean their way is right and our way is wrong? Not at all – it’s just different. Think about the differences and draw your own conclusions.
  • If you want to get academic about it, consider the D.I.E. model*: Describe, Interpret, Evaluate. What exactly are you looking at? What does it mean to you? Where do you go from here?
  • Try new things. This can mean anything! Food prepared by your host mom, or available at a street vendor. Sign up for a salsa class or a capoeira lesson. Take a cue from our girl Eleanor Roosevelt and “do one thing every day that scares you.”
  • Ask questions. No one knows better than the folks that live there. Whether it’s a taxi driver or a local shop owner, you will learn more about your new home simply by asking. Where’s your favorite market? Can you point me to a good bookstore? Extra points if you try to communicate in the local language.
  • Are you a picture perfect photographer? or a blossoming blogger? Take these skills with you to your new destination. Document it and digest later. You will want to remember everything from the big monuments to the small side streets, and it will help you unpack your experience when you return.
  • Don’t keep to yourself. Yes, there will be gloomy, rainy days where you cannot bring yourself to leave your room, but don’t let the weather (or the Internet) tie you down. Remember that study abroad is a two-way experience, and you have an opportunity to share yourself and your experiences with others.

What are your suggestions for keeping an open mind while traveling abroad?

* Paige et al. (2003).  Maximizing Study Abroad


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