By Vaishali Joshi, Volunteer from Indore
“Paying my heartiest gratitude to AFS India for providing such an opportunity and making this cultural exchange one of the best experiences of my life. I started from India with all curiosity and excitement to visit a new country with almost different culture than ours with a hope to inculcate the best parts there to create a strong bonding. Our journey towards cultural learning began on 5th May when we proceeded towards our first chapter. The first thought in my mind was that I’ll have to adjust a lot as the people here would be very practical with high-class mentality living a different lifestyle from us, but to my amazement everything turned out to be opposite. Instead of their busy schedule they welcomed us with warmth and love and took us to be a part of their family which is one of those hidden aspects of their culture which I discovered. We visited many places of historical importance and different schools that gave us the chance to get the detailed knowledge about the political conditions in the past and in the present, also the Education system and the policies there, which helped us to compare them with that in India and broaden our outlook to try to get some positive changes done in our styles.
The second and the third chapter brought us closer to them because of their hospitality, understanding and helping us to feel free and comfortable. The most exciting parts were the visits to different schools where we presented ourselves as the representatives of AFS India and were able to impress them with the qualities of India, inspiring them to visit India. Students and the teachers welcomed us and our thoughts wholeheartedly. A peep into their culture gave us a colourful view of beautiful dresses, food, folk dances and music (blend of folk and modern) and many more.
Truly speaking my first impression was that, these people cannot be like Indians, but on being involved with them as a family, in every situation I happened to discover the core of their culture and now I could say that they are unique in themselves. I learnt a lot from them which gives me a feeling of achieving some goals and expectations from this exchange. The knowledge and awareness towards their culture, learning basics of a foreign language and getting skilled in non-verbal communication, being concerned about their choices and trying to keep up to their expectations, discussing worldly affairs in a congenial atmosphere, being sensitive towards their cultural needs and giving respect and affection are some of the goals that I really experienced.
I learnt about their different conversational patterns in different situations. The amiable nature, the concept of cleanliness and their tempo of work is worth appreciating. Their way of handling difficult situations, keeping their cool, taught me to be patient and calm even in worst situations. The concept of relationship and having one’s own space is something very different from our culture but worth mentioning. There is a lot that I could share but keeping the limit I would like to say that,
This learning experience has transformed my way of thinking, perceptions, dealing with situations and above all taught me to accept others not only by looks but by their beautiful inner self and have respect and love for all. Once again Thanks a lot to AFS India for such a revitalizing trip and experience.“