Why Cultural Identity Is Important for Exchange Students

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Being an exchange student is one of the most eye-opening experiences a student can have during their university education. Going on an exchange opens students up to a whole other world of culture and society that they would never have gotten the opportunity to experience had they stayed only in their home country. Seeing the world in this way offers lessons in tolerance and mutual understanding, and can teach us a lot about changes we want to make to our own community back home. 

For Danish and American students who make this leap and go abroad, a whole set of exciting experiences await them. Sometimes, the differences between cultures that exchange students encounter can be a source of confusion or misunderstanding, and cultural identity lies at the heart of this. Free essays on cultural identity can help students understand this, and perhaps inspire them to write their own essays on cultural identity after they’ve had their own exchange! Understanding the concept of cultural identity is key to making sense of an exchange experience. 

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What exactly is cultural identity? 

Cultural identity refers to the set of characteristics shared by a given group that make those who are a part of the group feel tied and bound to their culture. This identity doesn’t necessarily just refer to nationality, but can also describe the commonalities felt between different groups within a single society. 

Humanities studies students in particular will be drawn to this concept of identity. They will often focus on the role it has in distinguishing one society from another and defining their interactions. Students who are curious about this topic can consult free essays on society online, and use their exchange experiences as inspiration for writing their own research papers. 

How is cultural identity expressed?

A group’s identity can be expressed in many ways. Language, customs, holidays, food, and clothing are all major ways through which this identity can be manifested. The culinary identity of an American, for instance, might have the same identification with a hot dog or burger that a Dane might feel towards frikadeller or karbonader! At first, the mode of expression in a foreign land may appear strange to a new arrival, but it’s important to treat all cultures with respect and equality. Respecting the community practices of other groups leads to a better sense of tolerance and mutual understanding. 

Especially for exchange students, it’s important to confront the cultural differences of your adopted society with a mix of curiosity and respect. Only through exploring the other culture without a sense of judgement can a student truly learn a lesson in thinking outside their own community’s box.

When an exchange student keeps an open mind about their heritage and identity, everyone they meet on their exchange becomes a teacher of sorts. One of the most rewarding aspects of doing an exchange during your studies is receiving a non-academic education, and having the opportunity to immerse in a culture entirely different from your own!

How to explore a foreign cultural identity 

Once a student understands the importance of cultural identity, they may wonder how best to understand that of their new host country. Doing some research about cultural expectations before you go on your exchange is an important way to avoid breaking any uncomfortable local taboos without realising it. Once you’ve arrived in your new home, the best way to get to grips with the new culture is by talking to locals, and seeing what the place has to offer! 

Trying to make local friends, attending local festivals, and even attempting to learn a bit of the local language are usually the best approaches to diving deep into a new society and its identity. One of the best parts of an exchange semester is what you get to take home with you after it’s over, such as new friends, previously unknown recipes, and life-changing memories. When you get back home, you can share the experiences you’ve had within your own society, and expose your local culture to an entirely new one! 

Final Word

Cultural identity is an incredibly important concept for students considering an exchange to bear in mind as they embark upon their journey. Understanding what it means and how it manifests is the key to making the most from your time abroad!

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