It’s a big planet, full of cultures and perspectives that can enrich our daily experiences. But how do you dive in and make the most of intercultural opportunities? Sangita Gosalia, the director of campus engagement in UD’s Center for International Programs, encourages students, faculty and staff to consider ways to develop skills that broaden cultural awareness and help them thrive in cross-cultural environments. Below, she shares some tips.
Imagine an alternative perspective
“Naturally, we tend to experience the world through our own lens or sense of reality. By challenging ourselves we view other possibilities and deepen our understanding of the world,” Gosalia said.
Grab a journal
Self-reflection looks different for everyone, whether it’s writing it down or sharing in a group discussion. “Start with yourself and evaluate your own personal values, strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself how your upbringing and experiences in life have informed that and why?” Gosalia said.
An experience outside of your comfort zone will be significantly more productive and meaningful if you take time to familiarize yourself. “Take the initiative to read foreign media and watch documentaries. Educate yourself around international issues, global issues and trends,” Gosalia said.
Balance structure and spontaneity
Attend a neighborhood street festival, or visit a cultural center in your city. At UD, there are a number of initiatives that provide great opportunity to ask complex questions. “The structure removes the intimidation and makes [interactions] more comfortable and authentic. It puts more intentionality into the process of relationship building,” Gosalia said.
What’s holding you back?
Fully immersing yourself in another culture can be overwhelming, and that’s okay. Ask yourself what you are afraid of and identify the barriers. Maybe it’s cultural perceptions or maybe it’s unease surrounding travel. “It’s really about starting with the self. We build critical-thinking skills by examining the self in relation to others,” Gosalia said. Once you know where your hesitation is coming from, you’re more likely to be willing to take the risk. Remember: It’s OK to be uncomfortable. Embrace it!