Starting your tertiary education is a momentous time for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is that you are entering a wider world, one that is probably more complex and diverse than the one you grew up in.
A previous blog post discussed cultural diversity, and how it makes life richer and more interesting, allowing you to experience a wider range of human experiences and friendships. Taking the opportunity to learn as much as you can about people who come from different ethnic, economic, religious and cultural backgrounds to you is a good way to gain cultural competence.
Cultural competence – say what?
Having cultural competence means that not only do you respect the many differences between people, but you’re able to interact positively and successfully with everyone you come into contact with.
How do you get it?
It’s impossible to learn everything about a culture – even your own! But there are positive steps you can take to improve your cultural competence.
The first step is to look at your own cultural background, and ask yourself how it has shaped your values and the way you view the world. What are your attitudes towards people who come from a culture different to yours? How much do you know about all the values, history and religious practises of the people around you?
Remember that differences between people are neither good nor bad – it is what you do with these differences that matters.
Build friendships with your fellow students based on an eagerness to understand, and on mutual respect. Be yourself around people, no matter who they are – you don’t have to change who you are for anyone. Go to your friends’ family events and cultural festivals to see what they are all about.
Nurturing your flexibility and openness with regards to others will boost cultural competence, which will in turn boost your success at university – and beyond.
Photo credit: Stuck in Customs