Cultural Exchange

Mariana / Uruguay

Life is a play that does not allow testing. So, sing, cry, dance, laugh and live intensely, before the curtain closes and the piece ends with no applause” said Charles Chaplin one time. Since I was a 15-years-old girl, this quotation has made me think about how to live my life to the fullest, enjoying every single moment. Even if I had to study all the weekend instead of having free time because I understood that if is it your choice, you have to do your best although it may not be easy.

But, why the hell am I talking about this? Maybe another question can help: Why would someone go out of her comfort zone? Why would I leave my happy and ordinary life to live for a while in another, completely different country alone? I mean, “alone”. Let me explain to you from the beginning.

I am always thinking about my future, my projects. Last year, I was finishing my degree in civil engineering in Uruguay and also planning to move with my boyfriend this year, when  this opportunity came to light. It was about living for one and a half months in Santa Barbara taking English classes at EF. I thought it was the moment to say “yes” and I could not have made a better decision.

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I am going to talk about my experience emphasizing the amazing Cultural Exchange you can have sharing your mores, customs and culture and asking and being interested in each single little detail that is part of a different country in the world. It’s incredible how everyone thinks that his country is “normal”, and it makes me wonder “what is normal?” “for who?”.

We are so absorbed in our reality that it is difficult to open our minds to the world. In Santa Barbara, I stayed in a house sharing my bedroom with a French girl first and then with a Japanese girl. My  host family was a couple, Marietta from Philippines and Billy from U.S.A. Also, there was an Italian man staying there. Then, we were five people from countries with different native languages. Amazing!

 

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Not only did we learn a bit of each language, but I also gained an understanding of their lifestyles, their traditions, their countries. For example, in Italy they drink expresso coffee. It is stronger than the American. Italian people are very proud of their country.  About France, I don’t know if I actually learnt so much, but I spent lots of time with my roomie trying to say some easy phrases or pick up lines in French, and it was very funny. Also, we were attempting to translate and explain some expressions and idioms which are amusing in our own countries.

 

From Namiki (Japanese girl), just the day I met her, I felt the strong need to know about her language seeing that Google’s Translator didn’t translate her name in the right way. They have three types of writing: hiragana, katakana and kanji; they can use any one of these and it’s okay, or at least that is what I understood.     

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In my class, I have mates from Austria, South Korea, Germany, France, Spain, Argentina and Chile. Also, I met people from Brazil, Hungary, Switzerland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, etc.; so I am going to talk about some interesting things that I learnt about these countries.

In Switzerland, your first language depends on which part are you from; it could be French, German, Italian or Romansh. The most incredible thing is that there are just eight (8) million people! There are lots of work and there is no homeless! I met one girl from this country who not only speaks German for the reason that she belongs to this part of the country, but also she speaks Spanish and Dutch because of her parents’ origins. Also, I met a Swiss guy who speaks Italian and his parents are from Serbia. I had the pleasure of listening to the passionate story about this little country which has been in war almost always. Adding two different interesting things, people from Switzerland kiss three (3) times each time the say hello, and they don’t have one person who represents their country like a president, instead of that there is a group of people.

The most different culture is from South Korea, I think. Firstly, they have two ages, one from their country and the other is the international one. They are 1 year old when they are born and, on the other hand, they change their age the first day of  each year. I mean, everybody who was born in the same year has the same age no matter when his true birthday is. Another thing that caught my attention was that every man who is over 20 years old has to be in the army for at least one (1) year to be prepared for a possible war against North Korea.

What can I say about Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain and all the other Spanish-speaking countries? Maybe I didn’t really learn about them, but it was fascinating that, despite speaking the same language, we have a pile of words with different meanings and uses. It is really funny. Besides, each person has her own accent. It is wonderful that the same language is so varied and versatile.

To sum up, I didn’t even tell the half of what I experienced, what I learnt in Santa Barbara. My mind was astonished by every little different thing I saw, I heard, I smelled, I tested, I felt. It was an excellent experience. It made me wonder if it would be good to have another experience like this, maybe larger, around the world. And the answer was very simple: Why not?

 

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