As someone who has studied and worked in several foreign countries, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to immerse yourself in another culture.
I will never forget the first evening I spent with my host family when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan. I didn’t know what to expect or how to act, and I couldn’t communicate more than my most basic needs in the local language.
My host family and I sat at the dinner table, making gestures and laughing awkwardly. It was terrifying and uncomfortable.
Fortunately, persevering through the challenges of intercultural exchange can bring enormous rewards. By the time I left Uzbekistan, my host family and I had become very close, I had learned a new language, and I had a whole new perspective on the world.
When my husband (who was also a Peace Corps Volunteer) and I had children, we made a commitment to expose our kids to intercultural experiences so they could learn to be more open-minded, compassionate, and empathetic.
We feel strongly that it’s important to teach our kids to respect other cultures and be comfortable with people different from themselves.
Although we love to travel abroad, it’s not always possible. Job schedules, commitments to extended family members, and limited time and money can make it difficult or even impossible.
The good news is that you don’t need a lot of time or money – and you don’t need to travel or live abroad – in order to teach your kids to be more open-minded, accepting, and compassionate. Your family can experience the joys and lessons of intercultural exchange without leaving your hometown!