When my parents visited
My trip to
It is interesting to briefly look back on, and compare how individual students made use of their free time.
Some students came into the program with a laundry list of places to see and things to do; they had done their homework, and knew exactly what they wanted out of their visit. These students were really “tourists”, in the sense that they plowed through numerous tourist locales and other ‘destinations’ at an almost frantic rate.
Some students had been to
And, further still, another group of students did very little on their own. These “programmers” focused on classes, choose to attend social functions in large groups, and only really interacted and associated with people from the Study Abroad Program.
If we try to assess which of these three groups most experienced the true culture of
Overall, the cultural consequences of any visit are difficult to define, quantify or measure. I think that is extremely difficult for anyone to actually grasp an understanding of certain elements of the culture of a foreign country. That is why it is called a “foreign” country (once your visit extends past a certain length, it no longer a foreign country…what that length of time may be, however, is genuinely debatable and probably varies depending on the location…).
As for me, there were only a few specific moments during my stay that stand-out as times when I definitely felt like I was absorbing the culture, when I was witnessing Japan at its pure and raw cultural level. Further still, these moments were highly limited due to
These fleeting moments came at times when I would not consider my activities to fit into one of the categories, either “tourist”, “comfort-zoner”, or “programmer”. These moments hit me strongest at times when I was acting simultaneous as all three, and yet somehow acting within no category at all.
Additionally, I believe that the cultural consequences of any visit are invariably personal in nature. My opinion of Japanese culture reflects my moments, while every other visitor will necessarily generate their own perspective. Later on, it is the collective of these individual opinions and perspectives, as they mesh and blend together through the telling of stories and the showing of pictures, which creates a community vision and the ideal of the culture of a foreign country.
Over time, these community visions further blend together to create a national vision of foreign cultures, which eventually results in stereotypical and heuristic thinking, whether ultimately positive or negative in nature. While it may be impossible to ever experience the true culture of a foreign country, through these community and national visions, culture (at least in an amorphous sense) can be ascertained.