Learning Lessons on Culture in the US
Kotchaphorn Mangkalaphiban came from Chiangmai,Thailand, to the US to study abroad. During her time in the US, she has been able to look past the many cultural differences, eventually gaining the life experiences she was seeking.
The photo by Kotchaphorn (who goes by Kotcha) was taken on an airplane above the Pacific Ocean on her way to the US, and it won second place in University Language Services’ latest study abroad scholarship contest. Her reward is a $100 scholarship.
High Hopes for Her Stay in the US
The soon-to-be sophomore at Pennsylvania’s Wilson College (majoring in biochemistry and mathematics) chose to come to the US to study abroad to master the English language while also learning about the culture in this country. After all, she mentioned, “In Thailand, if you can read, write, and speak English very well, you can easily get a decent job.”
She also wanted to become more independent through her travels. Regarding studying abroad in the US, she says, “It is a life experience. I realize that if I don’t leave my comfort zone, I won’t grow or gain the values I need to become a better person.”
In the description of her submitted photo, she explains that she did just that. Thanks to her experience studying abroad, she now has more friends and a broader mind than ever before.
Learning a New Way of Life
But just because Kotcha was excited to come to the US does not mean she never became anxious or even downright homesick. In fact, she admits to feeling alone and sometimes frustrated due to customs she did not understand.
Fortunately, when she began making friends, her worries turned to relief and happiness as she made new connections and started to understand more about American culture. Though values and priorities in the US are not always the same as those in another country, such as Thailand, Kotcha was able to set the differences aside.
In fact, she even learned to appreciate some of the differences. Kotcha attests that “before judging somebody’s opinion or action, first, I should try to understand why they think the way they do instead of immediately disagree(ing) with them just because it isn’t what I was taught to believe.”
Embracing Cultural Differences
Both Kotcha’s initial anxiety and eventual understanding of a different culture can be considered normal for students studying abroad anywhere. Few countries share all of the same customs and values with other countries, so world travelers need to be aware of the differences.
The best thing you can do is learn from the many differences you encounter in other cultures, and that’s what Kotcha appears to have done. But that’s not all she learned.
“Studying abroad not only helps me learn other cultures, but also makes me aware of my own culture,” Kotcha explains. “Before I came abroad, I was blind to my own culture.”