Problem-Posing Vignette

Understanding the Dynamics of Culture Shock as a Tool for Vignette Reflection

After I finished my Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, I taught for one year in primary school. After which, I taught in the King Saud University which relatively offers better income than my previous work. In order to upgrade my educational skills, I went to the University of Wollongong in Australia to take Masters of Education in Educational Leadership. However, since my arrival in the said university, unexpected things came up. These “unexpected” things I classified as “problems” since they were disrupting my psyche (ability to understand why things happen in such a way) and to an extent my studies. These problems ranged from the difficulty of learning English to the so-called culture shock.

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Identification of a couple of problems

When I took a taxi from the Sydney airport to my place of stay, I noticed that driving was done on the other side of the road unlike in Saudi Arabia. I really thought that I could not drive in Australia, but in due time I was able to do so. Added to that, I also noticed that many people in Australia liked to walk, unlike in Saudi, where all people have cars to use. It was pretty odd for a developed nation not to require its citizens to use cars as a mode of transportation. Maybe it was the preference of most of the people in Australia to walk than use car as a mode of transportation. Whatever the case, I was bound to examine the dynamics of this odd experience.

Detail of experience

With regard to the issue of gender, in Saudi Arabia, it is the norm that boys cannot study together with girls. In Australia, especially in the university, boys and girls are usually involved in group studies, that is, boys and girls can study together without the restriction of law or custom. One of the “greatest” culture shock that I experienced was the time when girl students of the university (my classmates) study with me. Corollary to that, I also noticed that in Australia, women can teach men on a wide variety of subjects which is generally prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

Hence, there were many times that women were teaching me; some were connected to my subjects, others issues essential to my field of specialization. Lastly, I really thought that books in Australia are much cheaper than in Saudi Arabia. But such was not the case. Books in Australia are actually more expensive compared with the books in Saudi Arabia. I was really caught up on this experience since Australia being a developed country can afford its citizens cheap books, but it was not the case (thinking that since Australia encourages promotes education at all levels, it necessarily follows that it will provide cheap educational materials). More detail of experience

Now, my primary concern was to how to adapt or at least understand the justification of my experience. Since I came from a different cultural setting, it was hard for me in the start to cope up with the habits and customs of the Australian people. For an ordinary Australian or European, this is not really a problem since their cultural settings are almost similar. In Europe, boys are usually mixed with girls during study periods.

I do not know about the prices of books in Europe, but certainly it would not be a problem for the Europeans if the books in an Australian university are cheaper or more expensive than the books in a European university. Walking as a preferred mode of transportation was not really a big deal for Europeans or Asians perhaps. Most of them usually walk as in the case of major European or Asian cities. But in Saudi Arabia, things are quite different. There are laws that prohibit boys from studying with girls. Girls are also prohibited from teaching boys, and with regard to walking, the Saudi government advises its citizens to use car as mode of transportation.

Initially, I had this fear that I might not be able to interact effectively with the students of the university because I belong to a different ethnicity, but because of continued acquaintance with the students, gradually I was able to understand the justifications of the cultural setting to which I am now seating. It was really odd for me that because of continued interaction with them, the culture shock that I experienced when I first came in Australia was melting away. Indeed, almost all of the “culture shocks” were for me just common events here in Australia. Now, there are definitely reasons or justifications for events that what meets the eye in the first instance. First, it is the perception of “oddness”, and then there is understanding. I was able to conclude that continuous interaction with people who came from different ethnicities or cultural settings can help reduce culture shock.

The more one interacts and talk to people, the more one understands the concerns of those people. Nonetheless, if biases are removed in the daily interaction with people in the university, one cannot discern the true meaning of the cultural setting presented to you. As such, without much effort, my culture shock was gradually reduced. I just noticed that I was beginning to understand the dynamics of the events that I previously experienced. Reflecting on the past also helped me assessed my understanding of the issues presented to me. Thus what I did not really understand in the past was tested through real-life interaction. Thus, the things or situation I termed as “culture shock” were becoming common things for me. Now there are two questions that should be presented: “How do I absorb “culture shock”? and “How can I help my friends or anyone who wants to reduce the effect of culture shock?”

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