“If my son has the opportunity to interact with young people from other cultures, he’ll learn they’re just the same as him,” said the mother.
As a result, that young boy is growing up with an open mind and acceptance of other people, so by the time he’s an adult he won’t see the sense of warfare against people he considers friends, despite their colour, race or religion.
“It’s one way of helping to end wars in future,” she said.
I hadn’t looked at it that way, before.
But if you think about it, that 11-year-old boy is already broadening his mind and breaking through cultural barriers and prejudices.
His mother believes this is her way of contributing to world peace.
That insight came from asking a simple question: Why are you interested in hosting students from other cultures?
After interviewing around a dozen potential host families, that answer was the most profound.
What better way to broaden our children’s minds by giving them the amazing opportunity of interacting with another culture in their own homes?
Why wait till you’ve finished school or university to start exploring the world?
How I broadened my horizons
By the time I left home to study at college, I already had 18 years of rigid family beliefs and prejudices embedded in my brain.
So my first culture shock was, ironically, right here in Australia – living on campus among Australians.
Until then, I’d had a fairly sheltered, limited Greek view of the world (in my last year of high school, about 85 percent of the students were Greek, and we could count all the Aussies on the one hand).
If you’ve been to university, you may have noticed it accentuates students’ extreme personalities; extreme, as in beliefs, behaviours, attitudes and dress code.
Apart from obtaining an education, I also obtained the art of drinking copious amounts of alcohol and saw my first (of many) porn movies at college. What an eye opener!
And despite my quasi identification with my heritage, my Greek professor was continually flabbergasted by my appalling lack of knowledge regarding Greek grammar, history, philosophy and mythology.
I was floundering in a cultural quagmire.
Fortunately, travel broadens the mind. It also helps break down cultural barriers, prejudices, hatred and, mostly, misconceptions.
If we’re flexible and open minded, we’re more likely to accept cultural differences or temporary discomforts; we may even feel compassion and empathy with those living in considerably alien environments.
My second culture shock, therefore, was back in my country of birth, although I’m not sure who was shocked the most – me or my Greek relatives.
After spending a year in Greece in 1988, I returned for a two-year working stint in 1994 and a four-month sojourn in 2004. Those second and third visits weren’t necessarily easier, as my beliefs and cultural barriers had been significantly blasted open by other travel jaunts to Nepal, Japan, China, Eastern Europe and Peru.
I was finding it increasingly difficult to tolerate other people’s narrow-mindedness when I returned to Sydney (or Greece). My sole advice to their exasperating attitudes was: “You really need to get out and see the rest of the world.”
It puts life in perspective, doesn’t it?
In the meantime, there are families out there who are bringing the world into their homes by hosting international students.
It’s a win-win. They’re helping to teach their children - and the visiting students - that the world has no borders and we’re really all the same.
Now that’s a profound contribution to world peace.
Oh, by the way, have you noticed that travel also broadens the waist?
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS