I spent my entire childhood in a small town in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s not the kind of small town where you know every person that walks by, but the chances of me seeing someone I know at the grocery store are very high. It was not a diverse place to live at all. Predominately white and conservative, the culture was “country”. Personally not my cup of tea, but I lived here and I found the people and places I enjoyed. Most of my city consists of suburban neighborhoods with average looking homes. Skyscrapers, busy traffic, and 4 lane highways were not a part of my everyday life. The poverty rate in my town is roughly 28%, so luxurious standards of living were very rare. The climate in Pennsylvania consists of wide fluctuations in seasonal temperatures. The winters in my hometown were harsh, and the summers at best are 80 degrees. I am grateful though to have grown up in an area where I could truly experience all four seasons.
Winter in Bradford, PA
In contrast, one of my exchange partners grew up in Canada, the other in the UAE. Specifically Montreal, Quebec in Canada is where my exchange partner lived. The climate there is relatively similar to the climate I experienced. All four seasons are present in Quebec and the winters are just as harsh, potentially harsher. My partner described a diverse culture which is something I didn’t experience in my hometown. Another major difference is the Native language. My partners first language was French, while my first and only language (as of right now) is English. A big difference I see in myself and people from other areas of the world is that everyone seems to be bilingual or even multilingual. It’s fascinating to me and also disappointing because I feel left out. I am working on it though.
My second exchange partner grew up in Sharjah/Dubai in the UAE. The weather is drastically different from where I grew up and where my Canadian partner grew up. The climate is high in temperature year round. Being close to Dubai the culture and environment is much different. The landscape of Dubai consists of massive, modern architecture, and I tend to picture luxury cars on every street. One thing that both my exchange partners mentioned was their love for cars. They both had a particular car they either owned or planned to own. The cars that they described were much different than a car I would prefer, and specifically one was for sand terrain. The only sand I have ever experienced is on a beach. But being from the UAE, deserts are a typical environment for the people living here.
Both of my partners are more accustomed to big cities. Large cities typically result in more diversity and this is something I have lacked exposure to. Now living in Carlisle, PA at Dickinson College, I am surrounded by peers from all areas of the globes. Also, particularly this course is inspiring for me, and being able to interact with students from the American University of Sharjah is a great experience that I look forward to.