If you’ve been shopping around for the right study abroad program, you’ve probably come across the term ‘cultural immersion’ once or twice. Or fifty. It might even become one of those terms that’s been repeated to you often enough that it has completely lost all meaning to you. This article will help guide you through the question most likely floating around in your head: what is cultural immersion?
|Read on to have all your questions about cultural immersion finally answered!|
To put it in perhaps frustratingly unhelpful terms, cultural immersion is the act of immersing oneself in the culture of a specific country or place. Yes, that much is obvious. But how does one go about doing this? What are it’s benefits? And how do study abroad programs help facilitate cultural immersion?
How to immerse yourself
To really immerse yourself in a culture, you’ll need to step away from your role as an outsider. Which can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re in a country vastly different than your own. Some simple steps can help guide the way.
For one, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Your zone of comfort is what is familiar to you- and true cultural immersion lies just beyond the realm of familiarity. This means perhaps taking part in activities you normally wouldn’t, like dancing, or it could also just mean something as simple as being open to learn about traditions.
|To immerse yourself in a culture, you need to take the initiative to take the first step. Show curiosity and genuinely care about the culture you are learning about!|
Your comfort zone can also be the physical boundaries you put around yourself. This means you need to literally get out there! A study abroad semester should not be spent idling away in your room. To immerse yourself in a culture, you need to physically place yourself in the thick of it. Go to events, markets, festivals. See local movies, listen to local music, or even go to a local bar and make some new friends! Cultural immersion has many different dimensions, and all can be achieved with a little initiative on your part.
What are the benefits of cultural immersion?
Being immersed in a different culture allows you to see the world from a perspective alternative to the one you’ve grown up with. Think of it as seeing the world through a new lens; you will be able to see certain things in different shades perhaps, or understand the nuanced nature of life, or even just learn a new language.
|It's said that travelling leads to growth and understanding. Experiencing the new and unfamiliar will allow you to expand your world in ways you never can by staying at home.|
This can be something that you carry with you for the rest of your life, and will undoubtedly be reason for internal growth and understanding. And when is internal growth ever a bad thing?
How do study abroad programs help you become culturally immersive?
Studying abroad is a great way to culturally immerse yourself because it takes you out of a ‘tourist’ context, and instead allows you to live in the place as a student and a worker. Because of this you are exposed to the realities of living an everyday life in the country, instead of the romantic glimpse the tourist gets. You get to meet, study alongside, and work with locals, who you most likely befriend and keep in contact with. They can teach you a lot about their home country.
|Being a part of a study or intern abroad program allows you to be more than a tourist. You get to live in a new city as a local, which is a much more enriching experience than any ten-day vacation!|
A study abroad program is also a much longer term visit than an average vacation. Because of the long term nature, you begin to settle in much deeper than an average tourist. You fall into a routine like you do at home: buying groceries, going to the gym, seeing a movie, running errands. It is these mundane elements that can actually evoke cultural immersion- there is nothing like the banality of a routine to make you feel like you belong in a new place.
That is not to say your time studying abroad will be boring in the least! Studying abroad also allows you to explore nearby areas, go on weekend trips, and take part in different local events and festivities!
|Remember to make the most of your time there by going on adventures, exploring the country, and getting out of that comfort zone!|
So, if you’re planning to really culturally immerse yourself while studying abroad, be ready to embrace new things, while also finding comfort in the familiarity of an everyday life. Let yourself be open to meeting new people, and learn what you can from them! And lastly, remember to savour every moment of it: cultural immersion is best when it’s been thoroughly digested and internalized.
Learn more about study and intern abroad opportunities in Fiji, Uganda, and Ecuador!
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