Stories that Shaped Us: Eye Opening Cultural Experiences
Melanie Borson is an ISA Stirling alumna and current ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador at Augustana University whose experience abroad during Fall 2021 helped her to branch out in unfamiliar yet rewarding ways.
We reached out to learn more about why she chose to go abroad with ISA Scotland and how her experience abroad has shaped her view on her own culture and those around her. Check out this unique story below.
What were some of the biggest differences you saw while in Scotland? What were some aspects you liked better than what you were accustomed to?
MB: One of the biggest differences I saw while I was in Scotland was the use of public transportation and choosing to walk to destinations, rather than having to drive everywhere. While the buses were sometimes late or trains canceled a few times, I was still able to get to many places without a car, which I feel can be difficult here in the USA. Additionally, when I was grocery shopping, I wasn’t used to bringing my own bags but it only took me one time to forget my bags and having to buy new ones for me to get into the habit of bringing them with me. Also, seeing the peanut butter and Hershey chocolate bars in the American international section of the store gave me a little laugh every time I passed it.
What tips could you give future study abroad students as they adjust to a new culture and environment?
MB: My biggest piece of advice for adjusting to a new culture and environment is to give yourself time and keep an open mind. Personally, I’m not an extremely outgoing person so I tried to give myself time to settle in, try new things, meet new people and simply enjoy being in my new temporary home. Keeping an open mind also was crucial in adjusting to most things being new, just because things were different than what I was used to didn’t mean that they are inherently good or bad. Just being in a new place and trying new things is an accomplishment so give yourself time and enjoy the experience!
In what ways has living in a culture different than your own helped you to become more open and aware?
MB: Living in Scotland opened my eyes to many cultural differences, which inherently taught me so much about their culture. However, not everything was completely different from what I was used to and it was intriguing to find ways in which our cultures were more similar than I had previously thought. Additionally, living somewhere new taught me a lot about things that are unique to American culture that I wouldn’t have noticed before.
What advice would you give to someone back home about how to learn about cultures and become culturally aware even before traveling abroad?
MB: Again, keep an open mind and seek out learning about different cultures in any way possible! Become involved with the international students, clubs, and activities on campus as it provides a way to become culturally aware without even leaving campus. Ask others who studied abroad about their experiences and listen to their stories (as I’m sure they would love to share with you!). Really anything you can read, listen, or watch about new cultures can give you some insight into learning about new cultures.
I would also say that remember that as curious you are to learn about new cultures and traditions, other people are curious to learn about yours. Sharing traditions or customs from your home is a great way to stay connected to your home from many miles away. One of my favorite memories was getting some fellow Americans students and all our new Scottish or other international friends together for Thanksgiving. While it was a weird feeling to not be home with family for the holiday, it was special to be able to share our traditions with all our new friends.
Inspired by Melanie’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in a study abroad program? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!