By Sameen Kinza
America is often seen as a quilted blanket or a melting plot. Whichever way we see it, this is still the only country that can boast about its large and ever-growing diversity. However, it becomes harder for us to interact with most newcomers because of our lack of similar backgrounds. Studying abroad is a great way to bridge that gap. It can also broaden our intellect- we start seeing things from a new perspective and learn much more about ourselves.
Even a semester of studying abroad will teach you much more than you would learn in a year in college. In college, you are confined to a fixed place that does not provide you with the many unique opportunities and experiences as an education received in a different cultural setting. This way you get a semester’s worth of education, but you also learn to appreciate different cultures, their way of life, and most importantly get a deeper insight into your own self and personality because of these many changes around you.
I, too, have found the education in different cultural settings to be eye-opening and this experience has helped me understand myself better and has made me appreciate the beauty of one’s culture and traditions. When I first came to America from the Middle East in the late summer of 2007, I was a sophomore in high school.
Even though, I was looking forward to this new “adventure”, I did not realize the insight it would give me into myself and the many changes that I would be making in my lifestyle which I now see as changes that have helped me grow into an independent and confident person. The biggest change was adapting to the different education system over here. Believe it or not, I had no idea what MLA formatting was! Nor had I ever had a ‘health science’ class that raised awareness about the issues the youth faced and how to deal with those issues. However, what made my transition here easier were the kids in school who were very welcoming; they showed me the ropes on how to manage school life.
Outside of school, more changes awaited me. I had never really done chores back home because everyone was able to afford a housekeeper there. So the idea of cleaning the house, doing the laundry, taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn were pretty foreign ideas. At first all they were to me were tedious wastes of time. Over time however, I realized that doing these little chores made me more disciplined and in a peculiar way, more independent.
Now, over four year later, I have made many changes in my lifestyle that have made me appreciate my background even more and have been a catalyst for me to become a better individual.
The bottom line is, studying abroad for even a semester brings about experiences and lifestyle changes that makes one appreciate diversity, culture and best of all gives a deeper understanding of one’s own self. Who knows, maybe a semester overseas could bring about positive lifelong changes!