able to develop cultural awareness begins by understanding what culture is.
Culture is the values, beliefs, assumptions and ideas that a people and/or a
society hold in common.
Although it is sometimes simple to notice the
differences from one culture to another, it is not always easy to be conscious
of how we behave in our own culture. When you enter into a culture different from your own, you are
exposed to new sights, sounds, and ideas, people and feelings. Much time
is spent experiencing this "New World". Understanding the new culture
is very important but so is understanding your own culture. In fact, the more
you understand about the origins of your own
values, practices, and beliefs, the more you
will be able to understand another culture.
Another great reason to develop cultural awareness is
that it makes your entire experience as an exchange student more memorable. By
opening your eyes to the new details of your surroundings you actually take in
more of the experience and years later you'll be surprised to realize how vivid
your memories of your exchange experience can be.
However you look at it, cultural awareness is essential
to getting along in a new culture. The more effort you put into developing
cultural awareness, the more successful you will be in your international
exchange program. A special focus on cultural awareness should be made in the
weeks and months before departing to prepare
yourself for the upcoming exchange by reading,
watching videos and intercultural programs, and
by writing a journal of your thoughts and your
expectations as an exchange student. Make a list of your expectations for the exchange experience and make
brief written descriptions of how you will or would like to act in certain
situations that may arise with friends, your host family or at school. Don't
just wait until packing your suitcase to think what it will be like, be prepared and
take measures to prepare yourself.
After your arrival it is interesting to compare your
expectations written in your journal before departure with what you find after
arrival. You will learn a lot about cultural awareness just by recognizing
stereotypes that you had about your own culture and the new culture you are
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