The concept that Slimbach discusses is a pertinent issue for all study abroad students. It is common for people to not fully understand the learning process that occurs during the study abroad experience. The persona of an individual that just goes abroad and ignores schoolwork, cultural immersion, and seems to just want to party constantly, is a sad but true reality. This may be the case for a small handful of study abroad students, but the majority have much different intentions. Unfortunately, this reputation follows the many that seek to understand and grow in a new culture. As the old saying goes “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” It is important to for all study abroad students to be aware of these stereotypes and do everything they can to overcome them. Knowing many of the typical American images of ignorant tourists that are self absorbed and judgmental of other societies should cause you to be even more open-minded to counteract the preconceived notions that someone might have of you.
As Slimbach states on page 36 “these students (at best) simply get American college experience in a different time zone,” if you aren’t branching out are you even learning more than you would if you were simply taking classes back home? Studying abroad allows you to learn outside the classroom, but if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you, you are missing out on half the experience.
Integrating into a new culture is not easy. It takes time and effort. The area that I have struggled with cultural immersion the most is language. I knew very little Italian before coming to Lugano and I still know very little Italian. Almost everyone here and all over Europe speaks English, so it is incredibly easy to get around without knowing the language. I am not taking a language class and once people in town hear that I speak English they almost always begin speaking to me in English. This is not to say that I couldn’t do more to bridge this gap. I feel it is the largest barrier separating me from the local communitas. The other day I was waiting at the cross walk and this small old man walked up beside me. He started speaking to me in Italian and despite telling him that I could not speak his language he continued. I see him and several other individuals around often that I would love to ask about their lives and their stories or even just exchange a few more words than hello, but I feel as though I cant get to know them because of the language difference.
I hope in the coming weeks to utilize some of my friends who speak Italian more. I know that there is no way I will be to the level I would like by the time I leave, but I want to be more respectful of the culture I am in and learn the language.