Students gain valuable insight from class interactions with people of different backgrounds. Here are 7 benefits of a culturally diverse study abroad program.
One of the biggest draws of international study programs is diversity of the student demography. Top international universities attract bright minds from all corners of the world. You will find Asians, Europeans, Americans, and individuals from all countries across the globe studying, sharing, and exploring new ideas. A foreign educational institute is not just a melting pot of cultures, it is also a confluence of different mindsets, social conditioning, economic disparities, and diverse outlook. For a student aspiring to develop a worldview, foreign education is the best bet.
Students experience ‘culture shock’ when they go offshore. The sights, sounds, and language accents are unfamiliar. The environment inside the campus as well as outside is brimming with diversity. Everywhere you look, you are faced with strangeness. Getting used to this new environment takes time. You have to get acclimatized to different cultural norms than what you are used to. This helps you shake off traditionally held beliefs, and hard-conditioned notions. What used to be sacrosanct will now seem as one of the many ways of living. Just like the foreign culture may seem alien to you, others may find your culture strange. It is natural to experience a culture shock. Allow yourself some time to settle down, and absorb your surroundings. Gradually the new environment will grow on you.
Only a foreign education program can bring so much diversity to your plate that you develop a sense of how the world functions. You no longer see a limited horizon through a narrow peephole, but now you can open your mind to match the best ideas of the world. You also learn to accept different perspectives, without losing your core values. You can see how others solve societies tackle their problems and come up with solutions. You develop an intuitive problem solving skill, by approaching them through multiple viewpoints. This unique thought process will become a building block for problem solving all through your life.
As an international student, you learn to cohabit with people of different races, religion, and nationality. You could be working on a project with a Hispanic, while you would share accommodation with a Haitian. Working with people from diverse background requires you to develop religious and racial tolerance. You accommodate other traditionally held beliefs, without diluting your own ethnicity. Tolerance and political correctness go a long way in building a strong relationship with the international community.
International colleges are the hub of all potential business opportunity. As you mingle with people of different nations, you also understand how different nations face a diverse set of challenges, and what measures countries take to resolve them. Moreover, you can look for future employment or business opportunities by connecting with your batch mates. They can also be your future mentors, advisors, investors and so much more!
Overseas, you will be overwhelmed with the explosion of delectable cuisines from around the world. If you have never ventured beyond your safety zone, here is your chance to broaden your mind. Immerse yourself in your new surroundings, and experiment with your choice of food and clothes. No one’s judging you, and you have the liberty to do follow your mind. Step away from your old prejudices, and accept different learning paths. By participating in festivals of your international classmates, you can also understand the ethos and cultural context of other nationalities. Celebrate Hannukah with your Jew batchmates, or bring in the Chinese New Year with your Chinese friends.
Back home you may have had little or no exposure to people with different gender identities. Perhaps you have been brought up in rigid social conditioning where sexuality is a taboo subject. Foreign universities don’t discriminate people based on their identities. Their gender or sexual orientation is not a matter of concern. By mingling with people of all gender/sexual preferences, you also get to understand deeper socio-political issues. You broaden your views about inclusiveness, learn about social taboos, break stereotypes, and engage in intellectual exchanges.
In your own country, you are like everyone else. But as an international student, you bring your uniqueness to enrich the diversity in the class. In the process, you also rediscover your roots. Many students have encountered a tremendous feeling of patriotic energy after going abroad. You value every aspect of your Indianness that you otherwise took for granted. This results in a higher understanding of your own cultural background and lineage. You become the custodian and brand ambassador of your heritage. Despite living far away, you feel the invisible thread that connects you to your country and home.
If you were to rate the various advantages of a foreign education program, I’d rate diversity among top 3. No program can match the cultural interface that you can gain from an international course. As a student, you are well advised to exploit this benefit to your full advantage, and build yourself into a viable, global manager.
This article is written by Ms. Vibha Kagzi, Founder and Chief Education Officer, Reachivy.com