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Inspiring Conversations: The Importance of Culture

By Chelsea McVay, Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) with the degree of Bachelor of Laws

As I sit here on my couch in the midst of the Sydney lockdown, I thought it apt to reflect on my past travel experiences. It is without doubt that travel teaches you many things. A country’s culture, traditions and people challenge your perspectives. Perhaps it teaches you gratitude. Or maybe it teaches you wonder and curiosity or understanding. It is so important to expose yourself to different cultures and people from all around the world, as international conversations inspire you to think differently. For me, two of my past travel experiences stood out when contemplating how I have been inspired; changed, perhaps.

In Year 10, I completed a five-week exchange in Paris with my host, Claire, and her family, and I had the fortune of travelling there again in 2019 to stay with them for three weeks over the summer. Classic ‘I was in Europe for the summer,’ I know. My host family showed me places that I never would have travelled to had I been alone or with friends. Travelling with someone who knows the culture like the back of their hand and can help you navigate the complexities of their language so that you can understand that ‘est-ce que tu suis le foot?’ is asking whether you follow the soccer and not, in fact, whether you’re a soccer ball, is such an invaluable experience.

I remember that Claire had a German friend come to stay for a couple of nights, Julien. We ate dinner at a restaurant and could see that all ears were on us. A French, a German and an Australian, all at the same table; it definitely made for some interesting conversations and disagreements about whose way of life was best! I remember thinking how amazing it was to be getting insight from two different cultures in the same room. Having international friends is the best way to stay open-minded and challenge your ways of thinking. The GLP gives you the opportunity to learn about different cultures, not only through the colloquia and activities offered, but through meeting other like-minded people from all over the world, and connecting with them on common, topical issues that affect us all. Also, if you ever get the chance to host somebody from a different country, jump on it! It’s an awesome way to get an insight into another culture and might even inspire you to adjust your list on where to travel next! Claire had actually stayed with me in Australia twice before I did my exchange over in France with her.

14th July 2019: Bastille Day

The second journey that comes to mind is my trip to India with my family in 2018. On this particular trip, we visited extended family, as I am half-Indian. It was a wonderful experience that really excited the senses. There was yummy food every day, trips to the market and saree shopping, and learning to give and eat with only your left hand, not drink water from the tap, and not wear a seatbelt in the rickshaw, were all very different experiences! The last time I had been over there was in 2008, so it was a completely different experience this time round. I noticed so much more and felt impacted by the poverty within the country. I was definitely able to appreciate India in a deeper way. One encounter in particular comes to mind. In the city of Chitradurga, a beautiful city located on the valley of the Vedavati river and covered in green pastures dotted with cows and rice, tea and coffee plantations, we visited some friends; a mother and her daughter. In their house, they sat on the floor to eat their food, and their television cut out halfway through the day to save electricity. But they seemed happy. It is interesting to consider the meaning of happiness. It is not always about success or wealth; it could be health, or the people and places that surround you. This experience really stuck with me.

Pepper and rice plantations in Chitradurga

However, since we are living at a time when travelling seems to be off the cards for a while, we need to try and find other ways of broadening our horizons and learning about the world, and this is exactly what the GLP does. Through this program, I have been encouraged to understand the lack of child rights in many developing countries, toxic masculinity, and how health taboo issues are viewed all around the world. Moreover, the world music Colloquium that I attended gave me a new perspective on how musicians are influenced by music and particular styles from other countries. When choosing Colloquia, I would encourage you to not only choose topics that pique your interest, but also topics that you may not have thought about before or are just curious to know more about. The Colloquia provoke you to question your beliefs and teach you responsible ways to make a difference in the world, one step at a time. Most of all, the GLP inspires conversations.


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