Prior to taking this course, I thought I knew what it meant to be versatile in various cultures. However, in reality, I really did not know as much as I thought I did. Last semester, I took part of the study abroad program to Costa Rica. I embarked on a cultural journey that forever changed my life. I was able to experience and embrace in a new and different culture than my own. I lived in Costa Rica for four months. While living there, I had opportunity to also travel to two other countries in Central America, Nicaragua and Panama.
After living in another country for four months, I believed that I was culturally diverse; I believed that I knew what it was like to being cultural, little did I know that there was so much more than to living in another country for four months. When starting this course, I had expressed how I wanted to know more about the Hispanic culture. I was under the impression that this course was going to cover the topics of how various ethnic cultures function and how each ethnic culture does certain things that us westerners might not do.
When taking this course, I believed that we were going to cover several of the main ethnic cultures such as Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, Germans and others. However, this was not the case. As a matter of fact, I felt that I learned more of various cultures as a whole in comparison to our own western-culture. This I was able to find very interesting because, prior to taking this course, I did not have much of an understanding of our western-culture as well.
For the past two or three years, I had never put much thought or paid any attention to our western-culture and to my own ethnic culture. I claim myself to be a Mexican because those were the people I found myself to fit in with more as oppose to the whites. However, even like that, I could not seem to fully claim myself as a Mexican because my family and I do not do the majority of the Mexican tradition. Needles to say, I was a confused person in who I am ethnically.
By taking this class, one of the most impacting things that I learned was actually what I can claim to be, that is to say that I am a Mexican-American. Throughout this course, I was able to discover a great number of various things about my own culture and other cultures. First off, I was able to finally distinguish that fact that culture, ethnicity and race have three completely different meanings.
Once learning about the meaning of culture and discovering how we as humans can fit into many various cultures, I was then able ‘categorize’ myself in a numerous amount of cultures that I ever thought I were even considered as cultural. Second, I had this mentality that because I had already lived in Costa Rica, I was considered as open-minded to a culture/ethnicity than my own. I came into the course thinking that I was open to a new way of thinking, when in reality, I found myself being very ethnocentric in a numerous amount of cultural things. Being a semi-conservative Christian living in the United States, for me it is rather challenging to be ethnocentric but also to be completely open-minded.
In one of our class sessions, we had an activity where we were given scenarios and we would have to determine how we felt about the case being either ethnocentric or accepting to the case. It was this activity that made me and I would say many other of my classmates appear to be much more ethnocentric than they thought they were. Another interesting topic that I found myself intrigued in was how within the various cultures communicate.
However, not just verbal communication; but also non-verbal communication as well. Ever since I began to learn about nonverbal communication among the various cultures we have, I have found myself noticing both myself and other individuals’ non-verbal communication such as: gestures, eye contact, hand motions and many others. One of the greatest difficulty factors about this course that I would have to say is the exam portion. For me, I have never a successful test taker.
I have battled with comprehending materials in school at a very young, especially when it comes to taking any form of exam. Therefore, this portion of the course was the most challenging part for myself. The exams did not seem very difficult in itself, however, because exam taking is my personal struggle, it made my learning in this class much more challenging. Also, this year I have been battling severely with high-stress and anxiety, which, needless to say contributed, in a negative aspect to my exam taking ability.
However, other than this difficulty, If by chance the exams had some multiple-choice and true/false questions, I would personally think it would have helped me gain better scores on the mini exams as oppose as the ones that I earned. I am most efficient when it comes to learning when I am engaging with others; this way, I am able to express myself with the help of others being able to understand what I am trying to portray. Fortunately, throughout this course, I was able to learn a great amount because of the act that I had countless of opportunities to sit with my group members and discuss various parts of the lecture with them and bounce ideas back and forth.
This also gave everyone within the class an opportunity to be able to get another insight on someone else’s perspective of what is being taught and he or she is using it and applying it into their own lives. What I enjoyed about this course was not only the fact that there was much discussions and group activities with others and also the assignments as we were able to express ourselves not only in the classroom, but also in our work.
Being able to freely express ourselves was very helpful as we were able to use what we have learned in the classroom and express how it is being applied to our lives today and in the lives of many others. Nevertheless, despite all the discussions and freedom of speech in the classroom and in our assignments, I really enjoyed the teachings of Dr. Fujikawa. I am not saying this because she is the instructor and I want a good grade in the class, but because I truly mean what I say. Since the first day, Dr. Fujikawa has been very real and down-to-earth; her teaching skills made one able to apply the lectures into our own lives.
The way Dr. Fujikawa taught made things understandable and easy to participate in the discussion as well, which actually made a substantial improvement in my learning and my desire to want to learn more about the topics that were covered throughout the course. Overall, I found this course very fun and very successful for me, as I was not only able to learn more about other cultures, but for myself as well. If there would be one thing that I would advise others who are taking this course in the future, it would be to not be afraid to ask questions.
I feel that if I would have been more intentional in asking more questions in times where I did not quite understand, it would have helped me a little more when trying to understand what I needed to understand in regards to taking my exams. However, other than that, that would be the only suggestion. As mentioned, overall, I really enjoyed this course as a whole; it is just a shame that I am graduating in the spring and I will not be able to have Dr. Fujikawa as another one of my professors for my psychology minor as I have now already completed all of its requirements.