Young Zionite’s Travel Reveals Cultural Insight
My name is Naomi S. Campbell, I am a member of Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church in Harrisburg, PA. I am currently a senior at Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA., where I am pursuing a double major in English Literature and German. As part of my studies, I spent my Fall 2019 semester living and studying in Freiburg, Germany. While abroad, my program also provided opportunities for me to travel to Berlin, Germany; Switzerland; Padua; and Italy to include Venice, Italy. This was an intense immersion into the German culture. My suite mates were German, my classes were taught in German and I had to learn to navigate the German public train transportation system (die Straβenbahn) in order to navigate through the city of Freiburg to attend classes. The University and the City of Freiburg are merged together – over the years, the city has grown around the university, so they are interwoven.
This experience has affected my way of thinking and actions that I still carry with me today. Before my trip I understood that the culture I was going to enter would be constructed and made differently than my own. Although I have studied the German language for a number of years, the language, a critical pillar in the definition of culture was still a stark and yet foreign concept to me. When I was away, my understanding of culture deepened and I saw it not just as a new mental reality but also as a concept that can morph into physical shapes such as buildings and people. Since coming home, I have seen that culture is a two-sided concept with the one side being the mental and the other side being physical, each of which has allowed me to better apply the concept of culture. Reflecting on my experience, it has helped me form a general working definition of culture by allowing me to expand my worldview. I discovered that this study abroad opportunity not only allowed me the possibility of encountering the world, but also of encountering myself — my national identity – in a context that may stimulate new questions and new formations of myself. In changing the way I see the world around me (language, books music), I have put together in my mind a physical representation of a different culture and through that acquired an ability to present a definition of culture to the world.
My thoughts about my place in the world have shifted from existing in a few strands of a solitary web to a whole web of interacting lines that bound me to my host culture and the culture that I have been a part of since birth. Also, I was not just enriched by solitary events but also by international events such as the German Reunification day. This gave me access to the international landscape. By focusing on the daily activates I did while away I was able to see myself not just as someone engaging in a routine abroad but also becoming a global adapter myself. For example, riding the Straβenbahn every day gave me the skills to view the environment not as simply a mode of transportation but also one of communing with the community.
This experience has helped me to think more globally by helping me to exclude thoughts about just the solitary things and instead to focus more on what is going on in my present situation and abroad. Something that I think differently about now is travel because originally, I just thought that this was a way to become immersed in a new culture, but now I see that it is a way to add more and more pieces of knowledge and experience to the ever-growing and constantly expanding mosaic of life. I will consistently remind myself that going to a new place is not just about gaining the physical experience but also adding more layers to my wealth of knowledge.
As a result of my experience, I intend to reflect more and not be so content to explain the very surface of my experience but to go deeper. For example, when I elaborate about the people I met over there (including my German friends), I will think of it as not just meeting new people but also physically interacting with the culture.