“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
Studying abroad can seem overwhelming at times, especially if you have not traveled before. Going abroad with the right mindset can make a major difference in your experience and can help you to truly enjoy other cultures and make your trip the best that it can be.
One of the most important things to remember when traveling someplace new or unfamiliar is to keep an open mind and embrace other people and their cultures. This is applicable whether you are overseas or right in your hometown. You may be surprised to find that you have more in common than you think with people who seem so different than you.
Be careful not to judge others for the differences that you do find. Instead of thinking that what they eat, wear, do, etc. is strange or weird, ask why it is they do what they do. Many times, when meeting people from other countries or cultures you will discover an interesting story or custom that is tied to that person’s background. This may all sound easier than it actually is. As human beings, it is our natural instinct to judge others who are different from ourselves. But over time, you will find that you can change your behavior to be much more accepting of those with different backgrounds. Especially when going abroad, view differences with others as an opportunity to engage with them and find out more about their culture and customs they participate in. You will gain more by doing so than you ever could from reading about it in a textbook.
So the next time you cross paths with someone unlike yourself, take the opportunity to start up a conversation with them. We would love to hear about how it turns out! Already have a great story about connecting with other cultures? Feel free to share it with us!