Staying Culturally Rooted While Assimilating Other Cultures

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For many international students, experiencing culture shock is something that they have to prepare for. However, no amount of personal and educational preparation can really ever prepare you for the harsh realities ahead. While international curriculum calls for the integration of American ideologies, customs, and norms within the framework of a much broader transcultural understanding, many international students simply forget that learning new cultures does not necessarily mean forgetting your own.

Perhaps what should be taught in higher institutions of learning is the respect for other people’s cultures – their traditions, value belief systems, and norms – that, in the American way of life, may be found to be very different. Adopting the ideas of a significantly different culture should never amount to losing your own unique cultural identity. For the most part of it, it is your own unique gift as a socioculturally different individual that landed you in one of the US’s premiere institutions of learning as an international student.

While American educational institutions talk about freedom of speech, equality, civil rights, and the right to self-determination, topics that are discussed and defended every single minute, many international students seem to be all too engrossed in these ideas. International students soon develop the impression that everything looks so liberating and straight-forward in America that they begin to compare their own cultural roots.

Whether you like it or not, there simply is no way to compare one culture to another simply because everyone has its own unique system of believing in and doing things. Just because your culture is greatly rooted in gender norms where men are largely taken to be the provider of the family and women more relegated to menial household chores does not mean that you should already be shouting for gender equality. While it may be right in the US, some countries still hold onto the timeless tradition of gender inequality. You may have also forgotten that this perceived gender-inequality in your own culture is actually what keeps the family together. Sure the US has gender equality yet looking at the divorce rates where women are far readier to file for a divorce than men, does this mean Americans do not value family ties?

Some countries are deeply religious and they often have prayer rituals for almost everything. Usually, even before a construction project can be initiated, they might call for the clergy to bless the project. In America, this might be seen as a total waste of time. But if you are going to reflect on the religiosity of your culture, more than 90 percent of whom are devout Catholics, will you even blame them for praying to God for some kind of salvation? You may now realize the often fatalistic attitude of your culture, always leaving everything else to the will of some Mighty power. But did you ever stop and reflect that you were actually raised that way?

International students are placed in a position where they can enjoy the best of both worlds. This means that they can actually learn new things about an entirely different culture and use this knowledge to enhance, not criticize, their very own culture. Whether or not your culture is sufficiently flawed in the eyes of American culture, it is still pretty much what brought you to America. So, learn to appreciate the wrong and be proud of the right. Show your love for you who really are, who you are now becoming, and who you as well as your country have been in the past.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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