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Anticipating a Cultural Exchange

Hills in the Commonwealth of Dominica.

Emily mentally prepares for her volunteer experience overseas.

As my departure date quickly nears, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about what things make me nervous about my pending trip to Ghana. To be honest, there isn’t really anything, other than the fear of forgetting to pack sunscreen or pictures and notes from family and friends.

However I am most looking forward to the aspect of cultural exchange. Perhaps this is my researcher hat talking, but one thing I enjoy about travel is seeing how the area I am freshly experiencing is both similar and different to home.

A typical day for me in Canada consists of an early rise, a cup of freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee, and an hour or so of catching up on news and emails. The constant connection to technology surrounds my every move—from my morning routine, to making plans for my day, to running errands. While I do not want to suggest that technology will not be present in my life when I’m in Ghana, one thing I look forward to is a slight detachment from Western society’s dependence on it.

Almost purposely, I have avoided researching the region I will be living in just so I can soak up as much of the culture as possible during my time there. I want to have as few expectations as possible going in. This may prove to be a bad idea, but it has worked out well for previous travels.

When I travelled to Alaska, I noticed how, aside from the mountains, the atmosphere and friendliness of the people were quite similar to how I view my home province of Nova Scotia. I also noticed how they shared an appreciation for nature and their rich history. A major difference, however, was that there seemed to be a greater acceptance of not only their indigenous people, but people of various cultures in general. This may, in fact, be due to the diverse backgrounds of many of the people I met and how only a handful of them were actually from the State.

The Commonwealth of Dominica, on the other hand, was almost a polar opposite of life in Canada. Everything from the way people interacted with each other (particularly between genders), to the lack of beaches was different. But, this is not to say that there weren’t commonalities between this tiny, lush island and where I am from. There was an obvious sense of pride in showing off their home—tourism was more than just a marketing gimmick, it was actually something that Dominican’s took pleasure in sharing with visitors. I also noted the strong appreciation of farming and food production, even though their methods of doing so may have been different from what I was used to.

The point is travelling has a wonderful educational component to it. I mean, that’s pretty much the origins of travel, is it not? Not only do I get to learn about a new culture, city and country, but I also get to grow as an individual.

When I return to Canada, I’ll have the opportunity to share my experiences with others and enable them to grow as a result. Last year I had the unique experience of participating in a traditional Vision Quest. The one thing that our guide emphasized was the importance of sharing the experiences with as many people as possible, as it can only help to create understanding. So, here’s to a world of unknowns and the many things I will learn along my way.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Emily Kennedy

Emily Kennedy is an enthusiastic traveller from Nova Scotia, Canada. Upon graduating from Acadia University in May 2014, Emily is embarking on multiple adventures, including a 12-week volunteer position in Koforidua, Ghana with Youth Challenge International. Read up on Emily’s adventures here!

Website: theorangecanadian.blogspot.ca

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