In Indonesia, there is a small community of people called the Toraja people. This community is known for a variety of things, but most notably known for living with the dead. They do not bury their dead relatives, instead, they set up their bodies in their homes and dress them. Most people do not even know that these people exist. In fact, when they hear about this spiritual practice that takes place in this community, many people will become appalled as this is not a “normal” practice that happens in many places. This judgment that a majority of people have of other cultures when they discover different practices that may seem “odd” stems from our ethnocentrism. I decided to study abroad because I am determined to challenge my own ethnocentrism and discover new practices and ways of life.
I specifically chose Paris, France because I have been studying the language for years and I could not have imagined myself living abroad for the first time in any city other than Paris. Parisian culture and American culture are incredibly different. There are some customs in Parisian culture that startle many people going abroad to Paris for the first time such as greeting when you first walk in to a place. This is not necessarily “normal” in American culture. For example in your local Walmart, it is not common for people to greet you and tell you goodbye, but this is a commonality in Paris—in fact it is so common that people may look at you differently if you do not participate in this.
This is an example of what I look forward to when studying abroad. I yearn for unfamiliarity. To see people reading on the metro (which is very common in Paris), taking many stairs as opposed to waiting for huge elevators (which are very uncommon in Paris). While I am anticipating these things, I will still have culture shock to other things I have not uncovered in my research regarding Paris. I look forward to these culture shocks because they will challenge my ethnocentrism which I am determined to beat. I believe the most important thing a person can do is challenge themselves to learn more about other cultures and meet people from different places so that they can get the most out of their human experience. This is why I decided to study abroad.
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My name is Alicia Strader and I am currently a junior at Fordham University. I am an International Studies major and I have a minor in the French language. I enjoy reading, socializing with my friends, and trying new restaurants.