Lexi Louis – Opinion Columnist
Traveling should be a requirement for a liberal arts education. Experiencing different customs, learning to be open minded and seeing other places in the world is beneficial for becoming more knowledgeable about effective communication. It makes traveling easier and lessens culture shock and cultural barriers.
Cultural shock is the experience someone has when moving somewhere else and cultural barriers are challenged by cross cultural communication. It would improve students’ problem solving skills. Students would benefit from traveling abroad in their education. Gustavus has fifty percent of students studying away before graduation, 475+ available programs, and ten faculty-led programs each year.
When we experience another way of life, we need to be adaptable and open minded. There may be different norms, language and values. If we ignore these, there could be potential conflict and ineffective communication. Smiling, using eye contact and making certain gestures can be seen as negative in other places. I believe before traveling somewhere else, it is beneficial to know about the customs. Researching the society beforehand will lessen the culture barriers and culture shock.
I moved from Colorado to Minnesota in grade school, which was a new environment for me. When we live in a place for a longer period of time, getting used to the environment becomes easier. I went to Canada, and I had a difficult time noticing differences because I wasn’t there long enough. Being in a new place for a long time makes it easier to understand cultural differences. I learned that if we spend more time somewhere else we gain more knowledge.
My grandparents’ friends from Denmark visited us, and I could see that they spent a lot of time learning about America. They were exposed to the language, values, food, behavior and other customs of America. Because of this, it was easy to communicate with them. We went to a Twins baseball game together and it was fun spending time with them. I was surprised when I researched Denmark and found out they don’t have a word for “please.” This could be misconstrued here as being demanding, but there it is normal. Also, they have the word “hygge”, which is a state of contentment and coziness. Understanding these things lessened communicational challenges.
Traveling to different places presents many obstacles and helps students learn how to overcome them. When they travel to another place, they will need to research it. They will then use the knowledge they obtained and apply it, and they will be able to solve problems. Some of these could be knowing how to properly address someone, how to order at a restaurant, how to attend a gathering, how to greet someone, how to say goodbye to someone, politeness, manners, proper etiquette and many more. The consequence of not researching a place before going there or communicating with someone from there is potential conflict. Assuming that other places are the same as America isn’t beneficial, and it can inhibit reaching or experiencing different opportunities.
“The consequence of not researching a place before going there or communicating with someone from there is potential conflict. Assuming that other places are the same as America isn’t beneficial, and it can inhibit reaching or experiencing different opportunities.”
Although many of the mistakes travelers make aren’t major and are forgiven, sometimes they can cause a negative situation. A traveler may unintentionally act offensive by pointing, smiling or using too much eye contact. In other places, these actions can be perceived as rude or aggressive, which is avoidable. To reinforce what a student learns from researching a place, applying this newfound knowledge is essential.
Although students can read about different places, it doesn’t provide the same benefits as traveling to different places and interacting with others. Practicing interacting with other cultures verbally and non-verbally can give students experience with challenging communication. Experiencing another way of life firsthand will give an entirely different array of benefits beyond just looking at pictures. Some may say that the costs outweigh the benefits of traveling. It could be potentially dangerous, there could be conflicts, and it could be stressful. There are strategies to make traveling abroad safe. Researching is a way to avoid conflicts and there are ways to make it less stressful.
Sometimes traveling isn’t possible and it is expensive; virtually communicating with others is a good alternative. It would give the student the benefit of experiencing the culture’s verbal and non verbal aspects, but they wouldn’t experience the other aspects of a society such as food and music. With the Coronavirus, traveling abroad is not completely possible right now. When it is completely possible, it should be added to a liberal arts education.
If traveling became a requirement for a liberal arts education, then students would be given a lot of benefits. They would have stronger communication skills, better problem solving skills and more confidence in making decisions.