The chance to take a gap year is a unique opportunity in a student’s school career. Students will experience taking classes in a new environment, being away from their hometown and even home country, and, most importantly, have the opportunity to become fully immersed in a completely different culture.
Cultural immersion is defined as the action of surrounding yourself and being involved in the culture of a new place. You can do this in small ways, such as sharing a meal with a local, or in larger ways, such as living with a host family and mimicking their lifestyles. No matter what form, you are likely to develop meaningful relationships with people who, although may seem initially different from you, are ultimately the same.
There are so many different benefits to cultural immersion. For one thing, if you are learning a particular language, you may be able to see this language in action. Instead of just studying it from a textbook or in the classroom, you can see how it is applied in real life. Being surrounded by the language will help you see it and learn it in a new way.
Another great thing about cultural immersion is that you may develop authentic cultural experiences. Like learning a new language, learning about a new culture through a textbook cannot compare to experiencing it in real life. Through visiting monuments, eating authentic cuisines, and interaction with locals, you may truly start to feel as if you belong, even briefly, to a new place.
Cultural immersion may also give you a new perspective of the world. Oftentimes, we picture cultures and countries different from ours with stereotypes. However, upon actually visiting and living in these countries, you may see these stereotypes break down. A culture cannot be defined by a single set of images and ideas. Instead, you discover all of the intricacies of a culture, all of its beliefs and history and traditions. You may then use this newfound knowledge to spread it to others, thus reducing unfounded stereotypes.
Finally, by studying abroad, you may play a small but important role in preserving an indigenous culture. Many indigenous cultures are struggling to maintain their traditions in the face of a rapidly changing and modernizing world. Many people may leave their homes to travel to big cities in search of jobs to support their families. However, by visiting these places and being eager to learn about their unique ways of living, you are helping, in your own way, to maintain these cultures and keep them alive for generations to come.
Therefore, there are many benefits of studying abroad. You are helping yourself by immersing yourself deeper into the language and culture of a different country and thus changing your perspective of the world. You are making connections with new people. You are helping others through your service (if you are doing any), or by simply being excited to learn and thus preserving a rapidly shrinking culture. As long as you go into the programs with an open mind and an accepting nature, you will surely have a great and meaningful experience.
Author: Mingyang Yuan