The world is brimming with cultures and unique people and perspectives. Technology and travel have brought our world closer together. But even though people can reach each other more easily doesn’t mean we all perfectly understand each other’s cultures. To really begin to understand a culture that isn’t your own requires cultural immersion.
What is cultural immersion? What are the benefits of cultural immersion? And how do you do it? Read on to learn more about cultural immersion.
What Is Cultural Immersion?
Culture immersion is diving into a culture and surrounding yourself with it. It’s all about interacting with local people and understanding who they are, how they view and interact with the world, and having an opportunity to experience the culture for yourself. Maybe it’s spending a semester abroad or volunteering with a humanitarian group for a month or becoming part of a community a world away from home. However it looks, the goal is to surround yourself with the culture and immerse yourself in it.
Taking a week-long vacation to country-hop through Europe isn’t full cultural immersion. You don’t spend enough time interacting with the residents or go deeper into understanding and experiencing a different worldview and way of life. To really immerse yourself, you need a bit of time in the culture and to be intentional about immersing yourself.
What Are the Benefits of Cultural Immersion?
Why should you want to experience cultural immersion? What are the benefits of doing so? These are some of the key benefits of culture immersion:
- You can make meaningful connections with people around the world. Spending quality time with people in new cultures is an amazing way to connect with people all across the globe. While a quick vacation abroad isn’t enough time to build real relationships, cultural immersion can provide that, so you can connect with new people and learn to understand them and their lives better. Meaningful connections allow you to create real relationships and to have opportunities to learn from people around the world.
- You can learn new art forms, practices, traditions, and perspectives. When you immerse yourself in a new culture, you have the chance to learn more about the culture and to learn their art, practices, traditions, and ways of connecting and viewing the world. Maybe you can learn a new sport or try your hand at traditional art and dance. Maybe you learn to cook a traditional dish or participate in an annual festival. While culture can include trying new foods and celebrating new holidays, it also includes learning about how people understand and relate to the world around them, and you can learn that and appreciate other ways of living and connecting.
- You can experience personal growth and get to know yourself better. Learning more about another culture doesn’t just lead you to learn more about others. It also helps you learn more about yourself. As you see how other people live and understand the world, you will gain a better understanding of your own culture, the way you live, and the way you view and interact with the world around you. Learning about another culture also allows you to grow. You can integrate some of the new perspectives and practices into your own life, values, and plans for your future.. Immersing yourself in a culture also helps you develop more empathy and understanding for others and differences, which are important human skills for meaningful collaboration and connection..
- You can connect with new cultures and gain a broader perspective. Immersing yourself in a new culture allows you to gain a new and broader perspective on big world issues like climate change, pandemics, and poverty. These are global issues that impact all of us, and will require collaboration across different countries and communities to help solve. Learning about how other people experience these same challenges helps you gain a new perspective, and it also helps you see just how much you do have in common with so many people around the world. Cultural immersion helps you see the interconnectedness between us all and gives you the skills to start collaborating with others to make a positive change
How to Immerse Yourself in a Culture
With all those benefits that come from cultural immersion, how do you immerse yourself in a culture? These are some ideas of ways to experience cultural immersion:
- Try a gap year or semester abroad
- Travel abroad regularly or for periods of time
- Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people
- Volunteer with the community
- Learn from the community through internships
Cultural Immersion with Global Citizen Year
If you’re looking for cultural immersion programs, Global Citizen Year is dedicated to providing those opportunities. A great opportunity for culture immersion is to spend a semester experiencing a new culture with Take Action Lab. Take Action Lab is an immersive semester abroad that helps you learn lifelong skills and advocate for human rights and social justice. An entire semester in South Africa learning from advocates and interacting with the people of South Africa provides a unique cultural immersion experience that can help you learn more about the world and yourself. Learn more about Take Action Lab.