Study Abroad for a Deeper Cultural Experience

 In Cultural Immersion

Having studied abroad changed you in ways big and small. One of the most significant ways you changed is to have become more culturally tolerant.  Your mind is more open and adaptive to cultures different from your own.  This is important because the world, particularly the world of business, is becoming a much smaller place!

Being immersed in another culture forces you to think beyond stereotypes.  There’s a term, “passive tolerance”, to describe how even just living in an ethnically diverse area will make you more tolerant.  When you’re given the opportunity to really get to know someone, defining them simplistically becomes impossible.

US schools are richly diverse.  Your time as a study abroad student exposed you to people of many different races, ethnicities, and religions.  These people became friends, mentors, teammates, classmates, and maybe…   even more.  Learning to respect another culture’s values and customs isn’t something you get from a textbook, it’s something you live.  You listened to your friends, paid attention in work and social situations, saw how people danced, dressed, ate.  In other words cultural tolerance is a skill borne of experience.

What It Means To Be Culturally Tolerant

The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Declaration of Principles on Tolerance are worth reading in full, but my favorite part within Article I, Subsection I, defines tolerance as… “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.”

“Ways of being human.”  Worth saying again because it underscores that we, people everywhere, are the same in the most essential of ways.

You’ve opened your eyes, mind, and heart to other cultures through your time as a study abroad student, and as a consequence have become a deeper, more informed human.

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