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The Benefits of Cultural Immersion

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Study abroad in Spain with IFSAStudy abroad in Spain with IFSA

One day my roommate (and now lifelong friend) Joyce, went out to find a pastry shop to get a treat. We found two rivaling bakeries across the street from one another. One barely had anyone in it, the other was packed. The packed bakery was the one we were planning to go to, but the number of people in it made me nervous. After protesting to go into the quieter shop, Joyce convinced me to go to the busy one. “Don’t be scared! Let’s see why this one is so packed,” she said.

I reluctantly follow her into the shop, where I was met with chaos. Walking in and maneuvering the line about gave me a panic attack. Then, as I was trying to find what I like in the display cases, nothing was labeled and there was no menu. In my anxious demeanor, I pointed to something in the case and paid with a few coins. The cashier handed me a paper with her phone number on it, and said something in Spanish, where I could only make out “help with English.”

Later, I used the phone number to contact her, and found out she was originally from Argentina and was looking for someone to have coffee with and share an intercambio idioma—a language exchange. I helped her find other groups that do this for free, and we were able to improve our language skills.

If I had not overcome my nerves and walked into that shop, I would not have found that opportunity. Moreover, if I had not bought the plane ticket to Barcelona and gone with IFSA to study abroad I would not have had that opportunity, along with so many others. Even something as mundane as getting a gym membership in Spain taught me a lot about local relations and customs. Events like these prove that cultural immersion provides a benefit to yourself, others, and the world around you.

How can cultural immersion benefit me?

The gift of receiving other’s cultures with respect is the ability to widen your preferences. Often in our lives, we rely on what makes us comfortable. Being integrated in another culture shows you so many different practices, forms of religion, people, and ways of life. When I took a trip to Marrakech, Morocco, with some friends I made abroad, this only solidified this truth: Understanding other cultures can help you make conclusions about your personal identity and preferences.

How can cultural immersion benefit those around me?

Study abroad in Spain with IFSA

Even in our everyday communities, there are many individuals who live vastly different lives from most others. Because we do not expose ourselves to these people normally, we can fall into ignorance and be unaware of our surroundings. By experiencing other cultures, you can further understand others, become less quick to judge, and become aware of hardships or other disparities you otherwise would not have known, helping spread awareness and knowledge.

Bri Morris, a student at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, studied in Spain with the IFSA Barcelona Universities Program: UAB in spring 2024.