To see, or to understand?
Solveig S. | Thursday, February 18, 2016
There is an vast gulf between the experience of visiting a foreign country, and living in one. Travelling can be a great adventure, but long-term residence allows in depth knowledge of an entire culture, language and identity; the place itself.
Analog Collage by Iuri Kothe under Creative Commons Licence 2.0
. The image has been cropped from the original.
Travel can offer an initial glimpse of a country. You visit the famous monuments, take in the riches of civilisation, try to seek out the “best” and “most authentic” places to go for a stroll or a meal. You can see everything in a few rushed days. Reducing the United Kingdom to Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London is to skip most aspects of what makes Britain unique.
Visiting a country is seeing. Living in a country is to know and understand - Hortense, OISE tutor at our Oxford Centre
It is precisely living in a place, sharing the daily life of a host family, working in a multicultural team, studying in the company of local students that provides a direct and unfiltered appreciation of reality, far from the glossy pages of a tourist brochure.
You will not be considered a tourist by the population in your host country. The tourist can be viewed as a nuisance, one who swarms in to take pictures of monuments, as if going through a list, and this stigma can make it difficult to meet people. When we make an effort to get involved, learn the language, open up our cultures to each other, people give us the means to get to know them, and to explain their way of thinking and living.
A long stay abroad is an incredible opportunity to learn the language “on the ground.” Hello, goodbye and thank you set you up for a good start – but won’t cut it in the longer run. Speaking the language becomes a matter of survival; to be autonomous and to integrate.
I have lived in Russia for five years. I could not imagine doing my shopping or getting on the subway without learning Russian. When I first moved here I didn’t quite understand its importance but I soon realised that to feel at home I had to speak the language - Claire, daughter of a French diplomat
Not everyone will have the opportunity to go and settle abroad. The alternatives are there; a semester at an English speaking university, a language course in Spain or France, spend time with a host family in Germany. If you want to live in the UK, US, Germany or Spain for a few weeks or months, OISE offer uniquely tailored programmes which allow you to claim an international identity – in a real environment.