Month: October 2016

Estudiar En El Extranjero | USA

October ’16| VOL. 1, #2

Estudiar En El Extranjero

 


COLUMBIA| Julieth Maturana


Hola mi nombre es Julieth Maturana, soy una estudiante internacional en la universidad de Northwester State University of louisina de Cartagena Colombia, tengo 21 años y soy Junior y becada de dicha universidad. Las carreras que estoy estudiando son Music performance enfocado en Violin y Business Administration. Me encanta la música clásica, latina especialmente salsa, charanga y bossa nova. Estando en otro país en este caso Estados Unidos , Collegue ha sido una de las mejores oportunidades que se me ha presentado la mi vida, es una experiencia totalmente diferente a lo que estaba acostumbrada esencialmente porque vengo de un país opuestamente a este por ejemplo en cultura , agricultura, educación , nutrición, clima etc. Cartagena es una ciudad con una población de 971 700 habitantes ( sol arena y mar ) es un Distrito Turístico y Cultural , Cartagena de Indias es abreviada ,D. T. y C., es la Capital del Departamento de Bolívar en Colombia. Fue fundada el 1 de junio de 1533 por Pedro de Heredia. La hermosa ciudad está localizada a orillas del Caribe. Es una ciudad colonial, y fue uno de los puertos más importantes en América. El 11 de noviembre de1811, Cartagena se declaró independiente de España. Este día es muy conocido en todo el país y es celebra por cuatro días y es reconsiderado un festival para la ciudad por el nombre de "Fiestas de Independencia”. Cartagena ha venido desarrollando su zona urbana, preservando su centro histórico y siendo en uno de los puertos de mas importante en Colombia, el Caribe y el mundo. Cartagena es llamada la (Ciudad Amurallada), fue declarado Patrimonio Nacional de Colombia en 1959 y por la Unesco Patrimonio de la Humanidad en 1984. La música que más predomina en Cartagena es Champeta y salsa. La ciudad posee un clima tropical húmedo y una temperatura promedio anual de 29 °C. Cartagena de Indias tiene una humedad relativa +90%, con la estación lluviosa típicamente entre abril-mayo y octubre-noviembre aunque sea caluroso todo el año corre mucha brisa en todos los lugares de la ciudad.

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Una de las actividades más importantes que se presentan en la ciudad son:
Concurso Nacional de Belleza, es el punto de encentro de artesanos de toda la región Caribe, y principalmente del departamento de Bolívar. Tienen en la 'Feria Origen, Metro concierto Histórico, 'Feria de Artesanos Exportadores -FAREX-, Del 5 al 16 de enero, regresa el Festival Internacional de Música Clásica donde puedes encontrar músicos muy famosos reunidos solo para compartir lo que mejor saben hacer arte, festival de cine internacional etc..
En la gastronomía podremos encontrar la venta de frutas, por parte de las «Palenqueras», que se encargan de vender en varios puntos de la ciudad, fruta fresca, o a manera de salpicón. Igualmente, los cartageneros, poseen las mismas comidas típicas que el resto de la Región Caribe en Colombia, como la arepa de huevo, la carimañola, coctel de camarón entre otros mariscos, el buñuelito de fríjol, la Kola Román, entre otras comidas. Así mismo, por ser una ciudad con alto índice de Turismo.

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Cuando llegue a Nachitoches por primera tuve un choque cultural debido a los contrastes de relaciones interpersonales, en mi cultura no existe nada como espacio personal , estando en Collegue la gente veía nuestra cultura como ¨ extraña ¨, muchas personas pensaban que éramos demasiado afectuosos, fue gracioso al principio cuando nosotros nos saludábamos de besitos en el cachete , pero para las personas de Estados Unidos no es algo normal , entonces cuando yo me saludaba con mis amigos de Colombia nos veía mal, o cuando nos sentábamos muy cerca el uno del otro. Pero con el tiempo, hice muchos amigos y ellos se involucraron más en mi cultura y entendieron muchas de las cosa que hacemos diferente, principalmente con nuestra música y comida. Para mí lo más fascinante es el intercambio musical que se ha presentado con los estudiantes compartiendo su música con nuestra música, por Ejemplo ritmos musicales como salsa, champeta, merengue, vallenato, cumbia, folclor de Colombia y folclor de lousiana, jazz y Contry. Esto ha promovido un ambiente muy creativo en todos los lugares y actividades que se realizan en la universidad. Me encanta ver ese sentimiento amistad creado por el arte que es un lenguaje universal.

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Estar en collegue me ha ayudado a abrir mi mente mucho más, principalmente a descubrir que es lo que quiero en mi vida , quien soy , que me gusta , a ver todas las oportunidades que se presentan y decidir racionalmente que es lo mejor , a respetar las opiniones de todos , a ser más responsable, organizada con mi tiempo para ser exitosa en mi vida profesional , a hacer amigos crea lazos que pueden durar toda la vida, a ser independiente intelectual e económico, a escuchar todas distintas ideas musicales , a ser positivo y creer en uno miso .Con la ayuda de mis profesores he comprendido que nunca se va a estar lo suficientemente preparado para enfrentar el mundo pero si lo suficiente mente seguro de nuestras talentos y debilidades en nosotros queda fortalecérselas u olvidarlas .Estar en Collegue Es una de las mejores decisiones que puedes tomar lo la pierdas.

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Paint Meets Purpose by Felicia Anderson | USA

October ’16| VOL. 1, #2

Paint Meets Purpose

 



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Art is all around us; sometimes we just need to find a creative resource to help magnify it. Artist and entrepreneur Brandon Christopher goes a step further to suggest that “in each of us, [there is] an artist.” Figuratively speaking, Brandon rested with a crutch in one hand and a paint brush in the other as he settled in for our interview. He was nursing a leg injury in the middle of painting his studio space. He’s the founder of CANVASxDetroit (read “Canvas Detroit”), a public arts engagement studio in Detroit, Michigan- USA. The studio provides an artistic platform for the local community in which to create. I sat down with Brandon Christopher as he took a break from renovating CANVASxDetroit to learn more.  

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In 2013, the founder traded in his career as a lobbyist in the nation’s capitol to create CANVASxDetroit. His goal was to impact and enrich the communities he served creatively. After a recommendation from a friend and a warm encounter with the then mayor of Detroit, the conceptualization of making Detroit a new home began to manifest. “I wanted to empower people creatively,” says Brandon. Then, he sharpened his business plan through participation in a series of small business development trainings such as Challenge Detroit, D Hive and Revolve Detroit. In the end, CANVASxDetroit had the brick and mortar space, marketing and support needed for success. These programs were made available to feed Detroit’s present and incoming creative and entrepreneurial community.

CANVASxDetroit represents the intersection of art and the city of Detroit, the studio is “a canvas connecting… intersecting with the city in all its fullness, not only in the physical sense but in a spiritual sense too,” says the founder in reference to the studio’s name. Further, he cites Detroit as a city filled with inspiration- from its history as the heart of America’s automotive industry, to the present day innovation found in the ways of life of its Black communities.

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With programming spanning from work with children to teens and young professionals, “we’re teaching people that art is for everybody,” says Christopher. Unsuspecting guests consistently find themselves awed by their level of ability to create. The studio provides several different services for patrons. Personalized art classes occur when CANVASxDetroit customers discuss what it is they would like to create. The founder reflects on a previous class held for women wishing to paint ‘a girl in African dress,’ “[w]e like to consult with our customer… because you get a better result when the individual has direct input into what they’re creating.” Open art studios are another feature of CANVASxDetroit. This feature allows customers to come in and purchase creative materials to then use freely in the studio. Using methodologies based on research established in partnership with local leadership institutes, the studio also offers on and offsite corporate and non-profit art workshops- “[w]e take an arts based approach to teaching team building and leadership development.” Outside of the aforementioned, CANVASxDetroit also hosts other public community events related to music appreciation and street art.

BOUNDLESS, the founder’s favorite, is a floating street art installation program which simulates the creation of graffiti. Using industrial grade transparent wrap and aerosol spray paint, participants of all ages are allowed to create street art. BOUNDLESS serves as signature engagement program of CANVASxDetroit because they believe that “street art is a valuable part of the contemporary art canon,” as it is “a valuable mechanism to send messages to the community.” Street art serves as a presenter of powerful imagery which can timelessly serve as a sounding board to elicit varied emotional and cultural response based on the viewer. For this reason and others, CANVASxDetroit continues the BOUNDLESS program with hopes that it aids in the removal of the criminality associated with street art. “Artists risk their freedom,” to express themselves- the founder hopes to soon work with corporations and small businesses to establish contracted work opportunities through partnerships for street artists.

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Moving forward, CANVASxDetroit is exploring the intersections of art and the environment. They believe that increased art exposure and environmental awareness can in turn reduce public health issues exacerbated by pollution. The studio is working on crafting programming which turns waste materials into art materials to launch by Summer 2016’s end.

 

CANVASxDetroit hopes to continue to be a connector of people and art because, “[art engagement] has no negatives,” says the founder. When asked of an ideal partnership, Brandon named Sean Anderson (American music artist Big Sean) as a first choice. “The Sean Anderson Foundation has displayed creative and philanthropic talents,” that CANVASxDetroit recognizes as inspiring. Specifically, CANVASxDetroit would love to partner up to set a world record for the “largest publicly made street art ever, doing something that sets the precedent for something… different.”

 

Continued inspiration for CANVASxDetroit’s founder is found in the fact that many poorer communities do not have sufficient funding for arts programs and access. This studio and other cultural expression spaces assist in combating the erasure of Black communities in the Detroit area. Lastly, CANVASxDetroit serves as a creativity magnet for adults as life’s responsibilities pull us further away from seeing the art around us and “in each of us…”
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Felicia Anderson is an International Immersion Enthusiast, Educator, Visual Artist, Writer and Outreach Coordinator residing in Cincinnati, Ohio. She can be reached at felicia@globalcreativitymagazine.com

Why Teachers and Artists must travel by Jacqueline Cofield | USA

October ’16| VOL. 1, #2

Why Teachers and Artists must travel

 



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There are over 7.4 billion people on this planet. Many are intellectually stimulated by investigating our multicultural, ever-changing world. Educators and artists challenge our perspectives, influence our worldviews and how we interact with one another. It is largely when we travel--be it regionally, nationally or internationally-- that we truly grasp cross-cultural norms. To engage the world from a myopic identity is to ignore the billions of possible perspectives that the world has to offer. Both teachers and artists have an opportunity to impact and encourage people to think beyond borders. The exponential affect is great.

 

When an educator or artist explores diversity through cultural immersion, their students and audiences benefit. An educator can bring the lessons learned to their students in the form of cultural applications of history, science, language, and so on. A well-traveled person cultivates the ability to synthesize different perspectives and values. Many educators and artists strive to take in as many life lessons through cultural exposure and relay that to their respective students and audiences. Several of my educator friends regularly travel abroad during school breaks. In his EDWEEK article, educator Noah Zeichner explains, “We should be teaching our students these skills, and of course, mastering the competencies ourselves. Students need to go beyond their comfort zones and actively learn from (not just about) people who have different worldviews.”

 

Another reason that it is important to travel is to understand one another. Our culture is increasingly reflective of cultural microcosms in the international environment. Internationally known author Eckhart Tolle suggests, “If you live only in one culture for the first 20 years of your life, you become conditioned without knowing it.” Just imagine an educator that has traveled to France and observed the impact French colonization in contemporary France, or an artist with vivid memories and stories from living and working with the people of Brazil. Research suggests that it’s difficult to learn reading and writing without the cultural context to make sense of sentences (see E.D. Hirsch’s book Cultural Literacy). These experiences become tools that the educator can utilize to bridge cultural gaps, demonstrate context, and inspire change in their community.
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Seattle's John Stanford International School (JSIS)’s mission is to teach students global competency skills and they put this knowledge to work, as mentioned in an EDUTOPIA.com article, “the focus of the global curriculum is not just to talk about social issues, like a lack of potable water, but to do something about these problems.” Helen Lewis, Head Teacher of Ysgol Uwchradd, a leading school in Wales, says, “Foreign travel has also opened the eyes of our youngsters to the importance of being culturally sensitive in a globalizing world. As well as being fascinating, being aware of the cultural values of the country you find yourself in, also helps us to understand a little better some international issues and conflicts. It is a significant skill to be able to see where someone else is coming from, to see things from a new or different perspective. The confidence and cultural sensitivity that traveling helps us to develop, can be used effectively to also help us to be successful.” Some students may not travel abroad until college or later, so their teachers can impart global experiential knowledge onto them.

 
Artists also impact audiences that engage their work. A single country mentality will relegate the artist to a closed minded perspective that does not allow for variety and beauty to be translated into performance or production. Travel engenders dynamic, multisensory expression and connection. In the WSJ essay “Freedom and the Role of the Artist,” Terry Teachout explains, “ In addition to giving comfort and joy, art also has the miraculous ability to let us live in other men's skins, to test our perceptions and beliefs against theirs, and perhaps to be changed as a result. It does this by portraying the world creatively, heightening our perception and enriching our understanding of things as they are. Art makes sense of life.” Some people consider the arts as solely as entertainment, but truly the role of the arts includes expanding our awareness through contemplation of the human experience.

 

I’m American, an educator, a creative, trilingual, and I’ve traveled to 60 countries and lived in 8. All of these experience impact my professional and personal life. A dominant perception of Americans that I encounter and challenge in the global environment is that they are unlearned, uncultured, unaware of and uninterested in international affairs. Every since I studied abroad for the first time in high school to Mexico, I’ve wanted to learn more about the rest of the world. I’m able to relate and connect quickly to so many people because I’ve had several global experiences and I encourage others to travel globally. By creating opportunities for teachers and artists to travel abroad, I am certain their students and audiences benefit.

 
The artist and the educator have important roles. They inform, teach and inspire others to explore the world. They motivate us to better ourselves and to expand our own horizons. A well-traveled teacher or artist who has global awareness is the best diplomat a country, state, nation, or a classroom or audience can have. Combatting ignorance and hatred happen when illusions of separation and cultural fragmentation are deconstructed. To step outside one's comfort zone in the global environment allows the artist, the educator, and the person to become more aware of themselves, ‘the other,’ and how globality connects us all.

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Jacqueline Cofield, M.Ed. is an advocate for global arts education and founder of J Rêve International.

Where Is Your Revolution? by Wendi Cherry | USA

October ’16| VOL. 1, #2

Where Is Your Revolution?

 


Where Is Your Revolution?

 This was the question our revolutionary tour guide, Ahmed, asked me and my fellow travelers in July while we were in Kemet [Egypt]. After risking family, life and limb to participate in the two most recent revolutions in Kemet; he posed this question to us. I felt embarrassed, sad, confused and honestly unprepared to offer any substantive answer.

 

More travesties the same ole-same-ole were taking place on American soil while we were away; the news was non-stop showing the stories of black lives being murdered in the streets, mothers, wives and children in tears, random, short-lived protests, hashtags, Trump spewing hate and white cops being exonerated, like they have been for centuries. Like I said, nothing new. To be away from it all, even if just for two weeks, was refreshing. Everywhere we went people shouted, “…O-ba-ma!” [One even shouted, “…Queen Latifah!”, *blink* *blank stare* #randomright]

 

Many people asked us how we felt about what was going on; I was speechless most of the time not wanting to speak for fear of going the f*ck off giving into the boiling emotions I’d been piling up since 2nd grade. Yep, 2nd grade, the second time I’d experienced racism during an overnight trip at Camp Sacajawea with my Girl Scout troop. While attempting to go to sleep, the other girls (all white) decided to look for something “bad” to do. There I was, all cozy in my damn sleeping bag, minding my damn business, flicking my damn flash light on and off, when I heard a certain girl (who shall remain nameless - ooooh, giiirlll, you lucky…) say, “Let’s ask Wendi what to do, she’s black, she’d knows about “bad” stuff.” #WTF! I was hurt and pissed all at the same time, so I slunk down and covered my face with my sleeping bag, signaling the first of countless times of me having to push down such disrespect and pain. So yeah, I had to guard myself in Kemet because I had no idea how to articulate how I was feeling, other than tired, viscerally angry, ‘woe’ out and so, so sad.

 

While traveling internationally over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the poor conditions of black and brown people and unfortunately, saw the same while on my trip to Cuba. Making me 100% clear that…
Black folks are still catching hell all over the world!

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Wendi Cherry in Regla, Havana, Cuba.

I don’t know who said that quote but it is so true. The utter disrespect, disregard, intentional blood + resource and culture sucking has been going on since ancient times. Many of us still have not been able to rise above the financial, emotional, physical and spiritual toll this trauma has taken on our psyches for centuries; a pain passed down thru generations. A healed people are a powerful people! (that is my quote!) The healing part is the hardest part, though.
Of course, I enjoyed the opportunity to dance, practice yoga and experience educational tours around Havana. However, behind all of the bright colors, rhythmic music, cigars and mojitos, I learned that the pain of my/our Afro-Cuban brothers and sisters is oft unspoken of and dismissed. We met scholar, Roberto Zarbano, who shared information about the state of Afro-Cubans that most don’t know. Check out his NY Times article “For Blacks in Cuba the Revolution Hasn’t Begun”. He was actually fired for writing this article. Damn, right?! Just like I said, black folks still catching hell…

 

Since I can’t speak for or control anyone but myself, I’ve embarked on an internal revolution - a revolution of self love, if you will.
Def. Rev·o·lu·tion, a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

 

You see folks are bugging out about Colin Kaepernick’s protest so can you imagine a full-on revolution?! According to the definition above, I’m not sure we are coordinated enough or sick and tired of being sick and tired enough to set something like this off. A long-term strategy and coordinated effort has to be in place, once it begins, there can be no retreat, no fear, complete solidarity and unity among all people who care about life, love and liberty. That’s a tall order.
I’ve come to realize that the revolution begins with me. Like the definition says, I can only attempt to bring love and light to any given situation or forcibly change my thoughts and beliefs for a new system. The first step was to find out who I was and what I wanted. Next, I began to heal (still in progress) myself from past traumas and issues - ouch! Then, I surrounded myself with a tribe who keeps me on track and when they call me out on my occasional wackness, I work hard to get my ish together. This is a private and personal revolution, one that won’t be televised. I believe as more people attempt to heal and love themselves, more love will automatically be infused into the world.

 

Once you begin to heal, you understand just how powerful, brilliant and worthy you are. With this knowledge, you can break out of the mental, emotional and spiritual chains that could potentially be holding you back from being your greatest version. I can vouch that though this work isn’t easy, it is required. Like any revolution, there is a lot of pain before the change. Through the work of my one- woman-revolution, I am beginning to feel more confident, less tolerant of da bullshit, peaceful, loving, light and connected!

Does that sound like the type of revolution that you’d fight for?


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Wendi Cherry : In addition to being Mommy to #TheSydSyd, this Jersey born and bred Goddess was born to Inspire, Connect and Empower people of African descent to be intentionally, conspicuously and unapologetically proud of who they are and where they come from. For more than 20 years, Cherry has carved out an amazing career mixing her passion for music, mentoring, event production and service to others. Follow her journey of self-discovery at FromJerZtoMe.com, where she documents her journey through Adoption, DNA, genealogy and international travel.

She can be reached at wendi@globalcreativitymagazine.com


Yoga And Creativity by Clau Cesar | MEXICO

October ’16| VOL. 1, #2

Yoga And Creativity

 


MEXICO| Clau Cesar

I have learnt much from my time being a yogi and fairly recently, a yoga teacher. It has been quite a journey within and I have also seen my external relationships nourish and grow from a place of peace, love, and calm.

 

But surprisingly for someone close to the arts like me, I have found something invaluable in my yoga practice and teaching: the importance of living a creative life. Creativity plays a fundamental job when it comes to Yoga. You would think that the already ‘established’ 108 postures of yoga might make the journey a little too predictable, but in all seriousness, it kind of goes the other way around.

 

Once you are left alone, connected to your center and rooted into the earth, only then will you understand how creative your spirit, body, and mind can be. We are all so very different. The way we react to things, the words we choose to communicate with, the height, weight and complexion of our bodies and even of our expectations.

 

Once you are plugged into what I call ‘the yogic trance’ everything you know by the book sort of passes to a secondary level or channel and you are truly and fully left to deal with your own self, in your own way.
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That is how I felt when I improvised my first full flow, both by myself and during my first class as a teacher. I felt it. Inspiration came to me in the form of breath and movement and beauty and only in that moment of devotion, I understood it had always been there inside of me waiting to happen.

 

As a writer, creativity comes to me in the least expected of places like driving the car and having the next big idea for a novel, or while sharing a deep conversation with a deep human being at a dinner party and finally figuring out the best way to close that article you were stuck on for so long. But when I enter into the yoga field, deeply focused on my own movement and in control of my strain of thoughts, it feels as if my body calls upon creativity prepared to nestle it, in the deepest of concentrations.

 

Creativity arrives to me when I am ready, when I have set my intentions, settled on my mat and calmed my busy brain down. Out of the blue between one inhalation and one exhalation here it is, this multi-color energy creating itself from inside, moving and reaching every corner of my body, guiding me through something I can only describe as a dance with myself.

 

This is how I know creativity exists, not because it is a concept I use when I write, but because it (is) something that was born in the center of my soul, and without control or need, it splashes out towards the world. I am the channel, creativity is the message and yoga is the space to find a balance between both.

 

My classes have become my most creative and insightful lessons. I try to get in touch with my students’ feelings as they walk into class and then I get in touch with myself, deep down, ready to begin something completely new, unique and special for that very moment. I feel so present while creating, so absolutely there.

 

If I have struggled before with the creative process (and boy, have I struggled!) blaming it on the timing, the lack of inspiration, the overwhelming era of information we live on, or any other auto sabotage when it comes to the absolute terror of creating; my real and pure creativity has shown me otherwise. It has shown me that, through yoga, as through many other ways, creativity presents to us in the most unimaginable ways, and it takes a lot of awareness and focus to notice it, and a lot of effort and devotion to dance around it. And this goes on every single day, for the rest of our beautiful and creative lives.

My practice now is strictly linked to, for and from a creative space within me. I feel free and complete when I am together with creativity and yoga. This is how it is supposed to be for me.

How does it work for you?
What is it that you are doing right now to link yourself into the field of creativity?

If I can offer a piece of advice for anyone looking for it, I would most certainly say this:

Close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath.

Let it come to you in your very own way.

Breathe it all in and let it all out.

 


Clau Cesar : Claudia is a Mexican world-traveler-yoga-teacher and is currently writing her first memoir.
She was born and raised in Mexico City and has been living on and off in the city for the past few years, traveling through Asia in the search for deeper spirituality and eastern knowledge. She teaches Vinyasa and Yoga Therapy in the city and works as the Latin America project coordinator for The Green Lion, a foundation created in Asia that promotes worldwide volunteering through programs such as education, construction and conservation.


Americans When They Study Abroad by Victor Zheng | USA

October ’16| VOL. 1, #2

Americans When They Study Abroad

 


 USA|Victor Zheng


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Victor Zheng in Cameroon


 I am a strong advocate for the many clichés of studying abroad. I believe that studying abroad really opens up one’s mind and that there is so much value in traveling and immersing in new environments. To be placed out of your comfort zones, to deal with different cultures, and to learn more about other places in this world are incredibly important life experiences that help us grow in immeasurable ways.
Whenever I study abroad, I make it a point to do my best to immerse in my new environment. I also find making local friends to be the greatest honor and pleasure of my excursions abroad. Going to a new country and sightseeing is one way to experience a new place, but in order to dig deep beneath the surface, meeting people from the host county is imperative.
With help through funding, scholarships, and support from my parents, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to study abroad six times. Each time, I felt that I grew a little more and learned a bit more about myself and the world around me. I truly realized that there is no end to learning and that the more one sees, the more they realize they do not know.

I do have one grievance about my time studying abroad through American programs. It seems that I do not seem to share the same ethos of study abroad with several of my American peers.
It is understandable that when one goes abroad, that excitement really catches up to us and potentially puts people on a frenzy of night activities. People enjoy drinking, clubbing, night life, party life, and so forth. People have the right to enjoy indulging themselves in these activities. The problem that I notice though is that my American classmates tend to overly invest in finding the nearest bar or club whenever they study abroad. I would often question if this truly is an international experience? They might try to justify their actions by saying that each country has their own clubbing culture and that going to these clubs is still a great way to meet locals.
By communicating with my local friends and visiting the club a few times myself, I found that the rule of thumb seems to be that most clubs in other countries are frequented by mostly Americans. The other patrons might be from other countries but are still not from the host country, and then local people seem to be the minority. This is why I am staunch in my beliefs that going to bars or clubs abroad is not the best use of time abroad.

As much as I love the United States, I find going abroad to meet Americans abroad to be slightly counterproductive, especially for immersion and the purposes of expanding my creative horizons. Immersing within the American expat communities has its perks and is a good way to find a network abroad when one is out of their usual comfort zone, but I observed it becomes very hard to leave once you become entrenched in that social circle.

What really irked me recently was when I studied abroad in Taiwan just this summer, this student I met really enjoyed the club scenes and night life of Taipei. When the program finished, this student made a big post on Facebook emphasizing how they “lived and breathed Chinese for the past three months”. Based on what this student was telling me and our classmates, most of this student’s time was spent at the bars and clubs with their American friends. I think this example demonstrates an interesting cognitive dissonance among Americans who spend time abroad. They realize that there are great rewards for immersing in the local environment and making local friends, but why don’t they?

There are many reasons why Americans exhibit this behavior when they are abroad. When you’re in a new country, it’s understandable that it may be intimidating to meet the locals, and it may be even more of a challenge if there is a language barrier. So when most people study abroad, they go to a new location and usually gravitate towards people who are in a similar situation, excited and nervous about being in a new place. Meeting Americans abroad and classmates that have the same interest of studying abroad is part of the experience, but it is incredibly important to reach a balance. To me, meeting Americans abroad as an American almost defeats the purpose of studying abroad. That is not to say that you should completely discriminate spending time with Americans but the essence of studying abroad is to get out of one’s comforts zone while truly breathing and living in a new environment. I use my limited time abroad to take advantage of the unique opportunities to meet people in the host country. To spend time with Cuban college students in Havana or having your Taiwanese friends take you around to Taipei’s local night markets are experiences that can only be attained in those local environments. Creativity seems to spur from interactions with locals from the host country. My fear and observations have been that by being unable to truly immerse, Americans impact their own creative outlets and do not make room to develop creatively when abroad. If they are unable to immerse, they only carry their American ideals with them without being able to truly meld with the local environment around them. As a result, their ability to be creative abroad is impacted significantly and limited to only what they experienced before going abroad.

My humble suggestion is to take these interactions naturally. Sometimes, local people come up to you to initiate conversation and that should not throw you off. Take this as an opportunity to really listen to what they have to say. Use your judgement to make sure this person does not have bad intentions. If locals initiate conversation with you, I would take advantage of that momentum to continue the interaction. I can also give cliché advice on joining clubs abroad and so forth, but what I find to be true is that there is always an avenue to meet people. As long as you are involved and creative with your pursuits, the chances of running into locals who are willing to interact with you and have common interests are relatively high.

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Taiwanese friends Victor met at the gym while studying abroad

I could go on and on about how lucky I am to have met local friends during my study abroad experiences, from that fortunate encounter with a French college student at a bench in front of the Eiffel Tower to the gym at National Taiwan University, I’ve always been blessed with meeting hospitable and kind local people. I did not limit myself to meeting people in one specific setting or circumstance. I allowed myself to be creative even though I do not consider myself an artsy person. I allowed myself to go out of my comfort zone and found myself meeting people on trains, buses, gyms, tourist sites, lines for food, and so on. I had to be creative with the way I met people, and even though it did come with some risks of running into awkward situations, I found it to be incredibly rewarding and meaningful.

Creativity, art, and culture are all fairly hard to find at nightclubs and bars. The best chances of discovering the spark of creativity is just by engaging with the local culture around them and thus entering a situation where the creative possibilities are truly boundless. Immersion is a key to a creative growth experience abroad. This piece is not meant to come off as harsh criticism as opposed to being an imploring encouragement to those who study abroad, particularly Americans, to really reflect on what their purpose is when they study abroad. American students do exhibit what I would almost call an “anti-immersive” kind of behavior when studying abroad. There are many Americans who are probably an exception to this rule, but this is a pattern of behavior I have noticed during my time abroad and have had many long conversations about this phenomenon with both my American peers and local friends who I have met abroad. It truly is not easy when it comes to meeting local people. The chances of getting into some awkward situations, encountering language barriers, and just feeling out of place are relatively high, but that is a growing experience in itself. I have heard my American classmates complain about how it is hard to meet local people during their study abroad experience. That is something I agree with, it truly is not an easy endeavor. The important message and lessons I want to share is that genuine cross-cultural exchange is incredibly valuable. I constantly think back to my own interactions with my local friends in various host countries, and I only hope that my American peers can enjoy the same kinds of rewards and euphoria from these kinds of cross-cultural interactions.

 

Victor Zheng : Graduated from the University of Virginia double majoring in History and Chinese. He has had the opportunity to study abroad in college six times through various means, such as scholarships and self-support. Victor hopes to explore the realms of international journalism and perhaps one day become a foreign correspondent.