Slimbach says at the beginning of Chapter 5 of Becoming World Wise, “Among the many benefits arising from the global movement of people across national borders is the unprecedented opportunity for face-to-face encounters with different cultures in our own backyard. International students at a local college or university; immigrant shop or restaurant owners; and congregants of local temples, mosques, or churches – each are potential aids, even mentors, for the adventure ahead.” Part of the reason why I wanted so badly to study abroad was to meet new people from not only London or England, but from all over the world. I am very active on social media, and over the years I have gotten to know people from many different countries and cultures. Studying abroad gives me the opportunity to do the same thing, but face-to-face as Slimbach describes. So far I have had the pleasure to meet not only other American students that are participating in my program, but also many British students at my university as well as other international students from places such as France and Italy. I also got to meet a friend of mine that I met on Twitter who is from Poland but is studying here in London at Middlesex University. I have always loved meeting new people and making new friends and so far I have done a lot of that in my short time here.
I think that meeting people from other cultures and getting to know them is beneficial for so many reasons. First, as Slimbach says, meeting people who live in your host culture and have different values can help aid you in integrating yourself into the culture during your study abroad experience. Secondly, and I think most importantly, learning about other people and their culture and values can help you become more open-minded and change your perspective on the world. If you live your whole life only knowing your home country’s culture, then you are limiting yourself in my opinion. Learning about how others live can make you a more understanding person and help you see the world more completely, instead of just looking at everything from an American perspective, an English perspective, etc. Meeting new and different people helps you see every side to every story.
The person I decided to do this week’s interview activity with is someone that I met at my university. His name is Laurie Cope, and he is from London. However, the reason why I thought he was a good choice for the interview was that despite living in London for most of his life he has also briefly lived in New York City and Tokyo, and he has traveled all over the world, which I think makes him able to compare different cultures and their values very well. We met over the weekend at a coffee shop and ended up talking for a few hours.
Culturally, England, especially London, and the United States are very similar. When we were talking, Laurie even jokingly referred to England as “America 2.0”. One of the values that we talked about in which England and the U.S. may differ though, is Change vs. Tradition. Despite their role not being as important in government, England still has a monarch and royal family. England has also recently voted to leave the European Union, which as become known as “Brexit”. Although this is a change for the country, it is based on more traditional and conservative beliefs, held by mostly older people in the country. Also, when talking about the values such as Boasting vs. Modesty, Direct vs. Indirect, and Confrontation vs. Avoidance, there was a similar theme and difference between England and the U.S. In England, people are known to be less confrontational and direct about their feelings. As we talked about this, I shared my personal experiences of often being stared, and possibly glared, at by other passengers on the Tube while riding with friends because of our loud and seemingly obnoxious American accents. However, I did also express my annoyance at the fact that upon learning that I’m American, the British people I’ve met are very curious about my feelings about Donald Trump and his presidency. I learned from Laurie that because British people see Americans as more outgoing and loud, they as a result seem more approachable and easy to talk to. So although British people may seem more closed-off, American people seem to break through those walls and get them to open up.
A specific part of home campus life that I do not participate in, and frankly have no desire to participate in, is Greek life. Fraternities and sororities never appealed to me and although I don’t hold a negative opinion of people who participate in those groups, I could never understand what the appeal of participating is. To me, and this is in no offense to anyone, it just seems like you’re paying to have a group of friends and get invited to more parties and things like that. Especially at a school like Quinnipiac where we are not allowed to have fraternity or sorority houses. I have many friends that are in sororities, and through them I have become very knowledgeable about things like the rushing process and what the main differences between different sororities and fraternities are. However, I do think I should be more open to letting them explain to me what being in their sororities means to them and why they choose to participate in something that has no value to me. Maybe then I would be more understanding and see Greek life in a better light. Especially since a large percentage of Quinnipiac students participate in Greek life and those groups do many activities to benefit the university community and also the communities of Hamden and New Haven.