Do you love to travel? Want to learn another language? How about exploring and experiencing new cultures and countries? Increasing your cultural awareness? My name is Danielle and I am about to embark on a study abroad experience in Madrid, Spain. When traveling, it is important to not only be aware of the new place you are visiting, but also learn about the importance of cultural awareness.
Cultural awareness is learning about the differences among countries in regard to their cultures, values, beliefs, and ideas as a way to promote diversity. Once you are exposed to new aspects of the world, your cultural awareness grows as well. Being culturally aware and traveling to new places go hand in hand.
I have done a bit of traveling myself and, therefore, wanted to provide some tips I believe all travelers should abide by to make their traveling experience more worthwhile.
Advantages of learning languages and traveling
Daily Activities are easier
- Living and traveling abroad are exciting and memorable, even more so when you understand and are able to interact with the people. With that, daily activities become easier. People frequently have small interactions, whether that be asking for directions, shopping, taking the bus, or looking for a place to eat. Your knowledge about the culture will only continue to grow, as you learn about its language and culture. Not only am I able to get by in a Spanish speaking country, but I am able to use my knowledge and learn from my mistakes. It is all a part of the learning process and will soon become second nature for you to understand when the cashier asks “Did you found everything okay?” or “Would you like a bag?”. By living in Spain, I will become more culturally aware of their lifestyle while also learning about how they perceive the American culture to be.
The world truly becomes your classroom
- One of the most exciting features of traveling is that the world becomes your classroom. Language classes not only teach you how to construct sentences and conjugate verbs, but also teach you about cultural events, customs, art, fashion, history, etc. By expanding your learning outside of the classroom and into wherever you are abroad, you instantly gain a first hand-knowledge of the country’s culture by actively communicating with the locals. This is something I strive to do during my study abroad experience in Madrid, Spain. I will be fully immersed in a Spanish speaking country, so taking advantage of this opportunity is so important. Madrid will be my very own community cultural immersion, where I can not only practice Spanish, but get the chance to explore a new country and interact with locals. These experiences enrich your perspective on how you not only view, but also understand the world you live in. Once again, your cultural awareness will enhance your time traveling the world.
Your resume will grow
- As a college student, I want to constantly build up my resume whether that be a new internship or job opportunities, developing new skills, or networking. All of these features make a candidate more desirable for job opportunities. Additionally, knowing how to communicate via a second language is very beneficial in the workplace. Being multilingual makes you a more viable and attractive candidate and improves problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills. So to be perfectly honest, I love being multilingual for career purposes as well.
Cultural Awareness and other learning opportunities increase
- Not only should you learn a second language, but you should definitely experience and learn the host country’s culture in order to appreciate and become more culturally aware of the country you are visiting or living in. At the same time, when speaking the language of the host country, people are more willing to engage and converse with you, even if your speaking skills are not fluent. Cultural interaction is about stepping outside your comfort zone and practicing your skills! Before I depart for Madrid, I want to be as familiar as possible with where I will be living, learning, and living! So, I would suggest not only brushing up on your speaking skills, but also getting to know the city you will stay in and what they are most known for. These are the first steps in becoming culturally aware of where you will travel.
In case of an emergency…
- You might think that these occur on rarer occasions, but I would not underestimate the possibility of an emergency! While spending a bit of time in Spain with my family in 2014, my grandfather fell ill and passed out, causing a nasty gash on his forehead and a broken rib. With no knowledge of Spanish, my grandparents were at a loss. However, I was close by and was able to contact a medic and have my grandfather transported to a local hospital. After spending about 5 hours at the hospital, he was discharged and able to safely go home. Had I not been there, my grandfather would have most likely not received the proper treatment he needed, because he could not communicate with the Spanish-speaking medical professionals. Had I not spoken the language or known a bit about healthcare in Spain, our outcome might have been completely different.
Overall, the experience of traveling is what you make of it. It is a learning experience, a chance for your assumptions and ideas of the world to translate into a reality. Whether you speak the country’s language or not, it’s always better to become informed and knowledgeable of where you are going. You will never be able to replace your memories, so make sure you make every moment worthwhile!
At Bromberg, our cultural awareness training programs cover everything you need to know about working with other cultures in a variety of field with programs that are tailored to your organization’s specific needs. Be sure to contact us to learn how we can help you meet your cultural awareness goals.