When International Travel Isn’t An Option: Finding Intercultural Experiences At Home

Syd O'Wesney

International Education and international travel have largely come to a standstill until the near future due to the global pandemic. As aspiring global citizens, the best thing that all of us can do right now is to stay home until the world is safe to open back up again. With our knowledge on the novel virus constantly evolving, the safest thing you can do to truly keep the global community safe is by staying home and stopping the spread. As fellow travel lovers here at Learn International, we understand that the itch to see the world doesn’t just go away. That’s where this article comes in. Here, we hope to give you a wide variety of options to still engage with the world, even if you’re sitting at home at your desk. There are a few in-person options as well (safe and socially distanced, of course) that can scratch that itch. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

1. Language learning and language buddies

One of the best ways that you can connect with another culture is through learning the language. For many, the idea of trying to learn a language on their own or without immersion can be intimidating. Luckily, there are a wide variety of online resources that make learning other languages more accessible to everyone! One of the best language apps I’ve found to start with is Mango Languages. Although it isn’t normally a free app, if you have a local library card, you’re likely to have free access to an account! Check out your local or university library to see if they offer Mango as a resource. It offers over 70+ languages and begins with the basics that are crucial to know starting out, rather than teaching you sentences you might not need right away just for the sake of grammar. Below are links to other highly rated language apps to try out!

Another great way to practice a language and make connections with the culture is through language buddies. Nowadays, it’s easy to find a language partner online with whom you can practice the language you’re learning, as well as help them if they’re learning yours! Practicing the language with native speakers is one of the greatest ways to learn, and you’re likely to make some friends as well! Here are links to various language partner databases for you to check out:

 

2. Netflix and other streaming services are your friend

A great window into other cultures is through the movies and TV shows they produce! Streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and more have wide selections of international media for you to consume. Expand your cinematic horizons and even use it as a way to practice a language as well! Here are some examples of well received movies and TV shows that you can find on streaming services:

Netflix Movies:

  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople (New Zealand)
  • Atlantics (Senegal)
  • Roma (Mexico)

Hulu Movies:

  • Parasyte (South Korea)
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)
  • Close-Up (Iran)

Netflix Shows:

  • The Valhalla Murders (Iceland)
  • La Casa De Las Flores (Mexico)
  • Kingdom (South Korea)

Hulu Shows:

  • Elite (Spain)
  • Dark (Germany)
  • Ghoul (India)
 

3. Podcasts, books, and other media

Another great way to learn a language or discover the history and culture of another place is through media like podcasts, books, comics, and more! Spotify and Apple Music have great selections of podcasts that can transport you to other places and help you learn about other places around the world. Talk To Me In Korean was a great source for me over the summer in learning a little Korean language, with some cultural background added in! Books are another magical way to delve into another culture and feel like you’re truly there. Don’t feel that you have the time to read? Audiobooks are a great way to still get some reading in while doing other tasks. Going for a walk or cooking dinner? Slide some headphones on and immerse yourself in another country’s literature. Here are some examples of podcasts and books to look into:

Podcasts:

  • A New Normal
  • The Moth Podcast
  • Tiny Spark
  • The Renovation Generation

Books:

  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchú
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

4. Find a digital penpal

Language buddies aren’t the only thing you can find online if you’re looking for a cultural connection. Plenty of websites facilitate penpals for people all over the world! There are options for both virtual communication as well as sending physical mail or postcards to each other, depending on what you prefer. Some also involve language learning components as well, but all provide a way to connect with those all over the globe:

5. Support local restaurants and try a new cuisine!

One of the few ways you can enjoy another culture in the real world is through the local cuisine around you! Food is a wonderful window into another culture, and takeaway is now our mode of transportation to new countries. Research your city or town online to see what cultural cuisines are offered in your area. There are a lot of big name restaurants that boast ethnic cuisine, but try to stick to small businesses where you can bet on the food being authentic. During a time like this, these businesses would love your support more than anything! If you can find an international grocer near you as well, be sure to check those out. There you can find brands or country staples that may be hard to find in regular grocery stores, and you can try your hand at cooking a recipe or two yourself!

6. University or community clubs and organisations

Just because they can’t meet in person doesn’t mean that organisations near you aren’t running programmes! Whether you’re a student or a lifelong learner, check out university or city clubs and organisations with cultural focuses. These associations may be holding virtual meetings or other events that you can attend and still find a way to scratch that itch for human connection and the bond that learning about other cultures can create.

7. Virtual museum and tourist site tours

Even before the pandemic, many museums and historical sites were finding ways to bring those who can’t be in person to the places virtually. Many of them have created amazing and innovative virtual tours so you can explore these areas as if you’re really there. From archaeological digs to museums to cultural sites, the world wide web has a lot to offer. The virtual tour for the Pharaoh Ramses tomb is particularly striking to watch.

Archaeology:

Museums:

Tourist Attractions:

 

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