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The Importance of Visiting New Cultures

Kelsee Ha

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This past summer, I had the privilege of staying in Vietnam for six weeks with my family. Although the 20 hour flight from LAX to Ho Chi Minh City was extremely boring and uneventful, the trip was quite the opposite.

Since it was my first time leaving the country, I experienced quite a culture shock. Although I knew Vietnam would be tremendously different, I never would have guessed it would be to such an extent.

It is very important for students to visit other countries in order to learn about different cultures. For example, when traveling throughout Vietnam I saw a great deal of swastikas. At first I was a bit curious as to why swastikas were on people’s doors, gates or even graves. I asked my grandmother (who lived in Vietnam for 40 years) why they were there and she explained to me that they were a Buddhist symbol which represented good fortune.

There is no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself into it. Being exposed to the language is much more effective than just sitting at desk for an hour during school. In Vietnam, I learned much more valuable information than what you start off learning at school.

For example, over the span of six weeks, I learned useful yet basic phrases like “Where is the bathroom?” and “How much does this cost?” as opposed to in French I, I learned how to say “I speak French.”

I realized that we take a lot of things for granted, whether it’s fresh water, clean air or free education (no matter how boring it may seem). As opposed to the U.S., people in Vietnam must buy bottled water because the tap water is undrinkable. The air is extremely polluted so when you leave the house, you wear smog masks to filter the air. Education is fairly cheap in Vietnam, assuming you get good grades. If you don’t get satisfactory grades, then you are sent to go to a private school to be taught separately from the other children. Attending those private schools is much more expensive.

Traveling abroad helped me gain perspective. It showed me that not all countries are as fortunate as we are. We take things like water and education for granted but don’t take the time to think about how troublesome it is to access them in other countries. Every student should study abroad to see how cultures vary around the world and to expose yourself to new opportunities and knowledge.

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The official source of student news at Portage Central High School
The Importance of Visiting New Cultures