Lasting Lessons from Cultural Exposure

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Dat Manh 1 IMG_8338 DigniTEA14

Time flies so fast. It’s like the moment I was preparing everything and imagining what would happen to my three months in the Philippines just happened in a snap! Now we just finished holding our biggest event, the Emerging Leaders Conference, and I am about to go home in a few days.

I made a brief mental recap of what I’ve done so far and part of me is pleased. As I usually do before I go to another country- especially one I’ve never been to- I made a to-do list. I wrote quite a lot on that list, many of which I cannot anymore remember. But I do remember that one of the first things on that list is to explore the culture.

Knowing the culture of a different place always excites me. I believe culture is the foundation of living life in anywhere in the world. It forms the thoughts, feelings and routines of people. It creates the social manner. Fundamentally, it has a strong influence on everything happening around us. That’s why I love exploring local cultural features much more than sightseeing whenever I have the chance to discover new places.

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“Salamat po,”

“Kamusta,”

“Paalam.”

I’ve learned a lot of Filipino words since I came here. I have learned to speak a little Japanese, Indonesian and Malaysian as well! (It’s amazing, I thought coming here was mainly to improve my English, but now, I have a strong desire to learn even more languages.) Fortunately, English is widely used in Philippines as a second language and I didn’t find it too difficult communicating with people.

I realized this country is really diverse in language, in ethnicity, in religion, and in cuisine. I noticed that Filipinos live the Western way of life in almost all aspects and it took a long time for me to get used to some of those. For example, they have the similar education system to the USA. They love basketball most, unlike most countries in Asia, which enjoy soccer or football. They also go to church every weekend for the “mass” since they are mostly Catholic.

People are hospitable, friendly and always have an open-mind. It’s so easy to make friends and have an interesting dialogue with a stranger. I do not experience much of these in Vietnam, which is why this country’s culture has attracted me in a fascinating way.

Besides the concepts of human dignity, solidarity and freedom, World Youth Alliance gave me the chance to learn more about culture, not only in the Philippines but also all around the world.

Quoting Neale Donald Walsch, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” In the same way, I believe life begins when we learn to expose ourselves to other cultures outside our own.

By Dat Manh, a Vietnamese regional intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office. Application for the Batch 1 of the Regional Internship Program of WYA Asia Pacific is already open. Send in your applications before October 31, 2014. Email asiapacific@wya.net for more information.