Guest Post by Marion Scotti
Submitted as part of the 2010 Crossing Borders Writing Competition
Nowadays, having an international experience is primordial. For us international students, it starts with the learning of English at elementary school. Indeed, English is the universal language and makes the connection between countries. Consequently, if people know how to speak English, it is easier to communicate with the ones who come from other nations. Most of the time, in addition to English, students start learning another language in middle-school. However, this is not the only way to have an international experience. For example, traveling or working in other countries can be other ways to have a contact with the rest of the world. In my case, after having traveled a lot, I desired to study in the United States.
I am from France, a European country. The culture is based on the traditions of Christianity, even though people are not as practicing as they used to be. Traveling a lot since I was a child has helped me to open my mind and develop my vision of the world. The simple fact of going out of my own country helped me to discover that the world doesn’t end at its boundaries. I started to travel in Europe, in the Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain and Croatia. It was really interesting for me to discover other languages, architectures and cultures. Every time I came back, I had learned a few words from each language. Then, I began to travel on other continents, such as Africa. I really discovered other cultures than mine and it was at this moment that I found that religion has a huge role in that difference. Indeed, the way people dress, the way they organize the plan of the cities, the way they live is different, according to religion. Therefore, customs and traditions are also dissimilar. The food and the way people consume it differ from European countries. For example, Muslim countries’ inhabitants can neither eat pork nor drink alcohol because of their religion. Even though traveling is a good way to discover another culture, another way is to live in total immersion in a different country.
Four years ago, at the age of 14, I decided to go to America after graduating from High School in order to improve my English. My goal was to spend one entire year to discover the United States and its culture. I have always been attracted to this country, in part because of the movies I saw on TV or in the movie theaters. Everything seemed better than in my country: life seemed funnier, and people appeared to be nicer and friendlier. Consequently, last year, before graduating from High School, I started to research about the place and the school where I wanted to go in the United States. In August 2009, I arrived in Charlotte. I started to take my English courses in the ELTI (English Language Training Institute) at UNC Charlotte. At the same time, I started meeting a lot of people from all over the world. I could discover different cultures from Japan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Since we could not communicate in our native languages, we had to speak English all the time. At first, it was really hard because French words could not stop coming out instead of English. In the end, I could speak fluently in English very quickly. However, it is not always easy to live with other cultures. Everyone has to remain respectful and tolerant towards others, even though his/her culture is different.
Having an international experience is very important and rewarding. It really helps me to be more open-minded, more tolerant towards others and to develop one’s culture. Having an international experience can teach people many life lessons. In my case, I developed my knowledge concerning the different cultures and opened my mind. However, living with people coming from other countries is not always easy. Tolerance and respect are very important notions everyone should keep in mind. My international experience has not only helped me discover other countries and cultures, but also to learn how to live in another society than mine, and to accept the fact that the world doesn’t stop at my country.