By: Jacinto Arias, Class of 2013
With the desire to get involved with different ideas, thoughts, and perspectives about life and the idea of exploring the world, people’s curiosity starts to work and creates lots of images in their minds. The majority of people don’t know about the outcomes that could happen in an unknown place, but like cats, people want to experience new things. The emotion of seeing the diversity that the world has makes people excited, forgetting about their own cultural differences. From the impulse of starting the trip so fast, we forget to think about some important points before commencing a new chapter in our lives.
The feeling of missing our relatives, named also homesickness, is the first outcome of staying in a different culture. Wake up in the morning, take a shower and go downstairs, but suddenly noticing that we are in a different house, the dog who used to wake us up is not there anymore, the people we love is not there anymore. However, the first week is the best in the whole experience because the place we are has interesting things to see—sometimes they are not actually interesting, but being the first time we see them, they are interesting to us. Surprised by all the different new things, we totally forget our relatives and our interest is our own experience. The feeling of missing our relatives starts in the second week and starting to feel alone without any support, even we have it, but in our minds we don’t have any support. The taste of the food, the manners of the people, and the way of how people think begin to annoy us because everything is different and bad (we think), at this point we prefer to be with our family. The more we think that everybody is against us, the more we feel alone. However, three or four months later we would notice that it was just the culture and the only thing that is different is us. Everyone is different; therefore some people embrace the culture in three months, others in four, and others in more, but one thing is for sure, we cannot avoid the homesickness.
From the acceptance of the culture and understanding the different ways of thinking, also our way of thinking starts to expand, this being the second outcome. The things that one day were wrong for us, now they are normal and part of the life. The advantage of being in a different culture is that our minds capture different ways of thinking, which mean that we see the world with different eyes, and understand that one thing can be seen in different ways, depending on the culture. Even if we disagree with the way of thinking or the way other people do things, we respect and try to understand them because they grew up with that mentality. Some people come to visit another place to experience the risk of living in a different culture, not to embrace the whole culture, but with a concrete intention in mind: to take the good aspects and bring them back to their countries. Once we understand the different ways of thinking, our minds have more knowledge and when something happens, our reaction would be different because we have saved lots of information, which helps us to see or solve something in a different way. The important point of having more than one idea in our minds and understanding that people are not the same is to extend our way of thinking and respect the dignity of other people.
From the feeling of missing our relatives and extending our way of thinking is when the third outcome takes place: the re-entry to our own culture. The important things of the experience have already happened; however, the last leg of the story is when we return to our own culture. Obviously we are different people, referring to knowledge, that have a lot of information in mind, but when we realize that our own culture has something wrong—at this point we think that they are wrong because we haven’t been there for a long time. We get frustrated because we disagree with some things and we think they could be different like the culture we were in. Returning to the first outcome—everything is wrong—and we try to “fix” it. The mentality of thinking that everything is wrong again is because we were in another culture and we got used to it, and now we wish for the same in our own culture. The best thing will be to remember that the person who changed is us not them—the people of our own communities. The hardest point of this part is to get back to our mentality we had before and try to accustom again, without giving up our new learning. Doing whatever we want, we are not going to change anything, understanding that the re-entry is hard and knowing also that soon everything will be normal again.
In conclusion, at the beginning the perspective of being in a different culture could be the best decision of our lives. Drawing lots of images of what the experience looks like, and having the best thoughts of it could cause us to forget the different challenges—the homesickness, the growth of our way of thinking, and the re-entry to our own culture. The effective way of traveling is to know the outcomes and knowing also that at some point they are going to appear, but being prepared it will be easier to deal with them.