I was recently asked about potential outcomes of my study abroad experience. I thought about the changes that have taken place in me since I’ve been here. For me the impact was quite huge for me. Being an American and living in a society where, practically, you can live your entire life, whilst knowing very little about cultures and the world abroad. So when I came to live abroad for 4 months, I was not only constantly enriched by German culture but by other cultures I’ve encountered here as well. And all the Europeans I’ve met here had an impressive range of cultural knowledge compare to many of my American counterparts back home. Some people even knew more about the U.S. than I did. Like my Spanish friend taught me about Route 66…hope I’m not the only one here.
As a result of this entire crash course of culture, I feel more connected with the world. For me, this greater sense of connectedness is most important outcome and the most important mindset to have as we progress toward our ever-changing and ever-shared future. I wanted clarify this idea of connectedness. After surpassing my original culture bubble (America) and finally being exposed to many different ways of life, people and philosophies, I realize that we are deep down all very similar. We all share one planet, we all have fears and we all want to be happy. Even though we live differently and have different languages, we are all humans and I guess I never thought of it like that before. So in that way I feel more connected to others from all over the world. It’s just not something they can be taught but something that needs to be experienced.
For sure, anybody that approach study abroad with an open-mind and a drive to learn and experience, they will receive a feeling of greater connectedness and understanding of our world. I think this intercultural understanding is absolutely crucial in our world today. Nations are becoming increasingly multi-cultural, to a point where the lines of cultures are blurred. The traditional way to think of culture is like separate strange bubbles within which a certain type of people grow up and develop customs. Now we see hybridity of cultures like my Spanish roommate who spent half his life in the UK and half in Madrid. You can’t use one culture define him now. I’m happy to say that although I don’t come close to understanding the cultural phenomenon as a whole, I am at least aware and I think that is what’s most important.