Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preparing to be on the “outside” of the Comfort Zone

By: Paige Lindley
St. Catherine University

              During week five there was a lot of preparation for the up and coming rural home stay in Amatlan. Earlier in the program we had visited Amatlan for a day, and thus began our knowledge of this community and town, but truly had not yet had the opportunity to truly expose ourselves to more of the rural lifestyle and form bonds and attachments to those in the community. We met and discussed our hopes and fears for the home stay as well as the different cultural norms which we should try to embrace and follow as a sign of respect while in the rural community of Amatlan. The students shared many commonalities in our hopes and fears but also had differences. Due to the fact that we are all people from different walks of lives, different states and communities and have different relationships with nature and more rural lifestyles, there were varying levels of fears and excitement due to this factor. Many showed excitement to be able to do more in the outdoors, others were afraid to be out of touch with their technological sides and perhaps be “roughing” it a little more and leaving behind the “luxuries” or a more industrialized lifestyle. I put these in quotations because the luxuries in life are very objective and differ from person to person, and what one person may view as a necessity may be someone else’s luxury or even a useless undesired object or item.
            Everyone was hopeful to be involved with the community, to learn more about their lifestyles, and to form some bonds with their families and be using their Spanish. Another fear was the use of Spanish and the difficulty and awkwardness it could potentially create as well as the anticipation of what we would be eating.
This is a child whom I met during my visit. The ways in
which we interact and learn about the lives of others can change our
lives and stepping outside of one's comfort zone is important in order
to be better social workers, human beings, as well as become more
culturally competent.

Throughout our classes, we discussed micro aggressions, and the ways in which racism can occur under the radar, without even being aware ourselves. This topic is particularly interesting because it stresses us to be aware and conscious of our own prejudices which we do not always like to admit that we have, although we all possess them. As social workers it is important to be aware of these prejudices so that we do not conduct ourselves with micro-aggressions or in a prejudiced way. 

We must always be challenging our thought patterns and the ways in which we view the world and analyzing the reasons which we may feel such a way. This will help us be able to see from other people’s perspectives as well. These topics were important to address before our home stay because it helped us to be more aware of our thoughts and perspectives before going to our rural homestay, and allowed us to reflect on how those changed once we returned. It also helped us to be more “culturally competent” and conduct ourselves in a respectful manner while we were in the town, visiting different sites and living with families within the community.
            I personally didn’t have many fears before the rural home stay due to the fact that I am comfortable in this environment. Something that normally helps me feel more comforted when I am feeling stressed or anxious is keep in mind that the experience of being abroad and all of its components, is something that happens once in a lifetime. Rather than thinking about what one doesn’t have, focusing on what it is that one does have is a much healthier way to live. Time passes faster than one can imagine and is ungraspable, take advantage of each moment of breath, and be happy for the air that is borrowed. Give back to the earth appreciation, love, and life; what it gives to you.

So with this experience I began to think what are the necessities in your life? How does one remain respectful and competent in a culture foreign to one’s own as well as embrace their fears in order to experience the richness of learning from other people’s experiences and culture?

Beauty and necessity are objective. This is a plant in which my host mom uses to treat congestion and headaches. The importance of exposure to other cultures and perspectives is so
incredible important and such an enriching experience which can change
your perspectives and outlooks forever. The importance of the
environment and the ways in which people use the resources around them
is very evident , and the way in which they savored and know
about each plant and its potential uses astounded me and was a piece
of their culture I feel needs to be more important to everyone around
the world.


  1. Hi Paige!
    I think that it was great that you were able to get the chance to express your worries and thoughts about the upcoming four day stay in Amatlan. I thought it was a great idea to get a little bit of knowledge about the different cultural norms in which you guys should try to embrace and follow in order to respect the community of Amatlan. It was interesting for me to read about some of the students worries about living in such a rural area. I would most likely have fallen into the category of students who were worried about roughing it and not being able to be in tough with all of my technological devices. It’s kinda sad to think that here in America a lot of the population is so accustom to having all of this technology and that when the idea of going without them for a couple days comes up some people almost panic. I agree with you and your classmates that the thought of speaking a second language with a family could be very intimidating and almost a bit scary!
    I thought you brought up a good point when talking about micro aggressions and racism. This topic can be very tough for some people because like you stated it can be hard for individuals to admit that they have their own prejudice about something. I also thought you had a great point when you said that it is especially important for social workers to be aware of their prejudices so that when we are working with people we do not use micro-aggressions or our prejudiced ways. I loved the point in which you stated that rather than an individual thinking about what a culture or individual doesn’t have, focus on what it is that one does have is a much healthier way to live. In my opinion, your comment reminded me of the strengths perspective, looking at the strength of a community or culture rather than what it is lacking.
    Great blog, thanks for sharing!
    -Katie Lamirande

  2. Hello,
    I was very interested in what you said at the end of your Blog..."So with this experience I began to think what are the necessities in your life? How does one remain respectful and competent in a culture foreign to one’s own as well as embrace their fears in order to experience the richness of learning from other people’s experiences and culture?"
    You raise very good questions. I feel that every where you go the answers to those questions will be different every time. The more and more you embrace other peoples culture, I feel, piece of their cultures starts to shape yours. After awhile your culture starts to look different. So when your visiting and traveling around the world, asking yourself these questions. you may even being to find that you will be able to start answering them yourself, knowledge from your own experiences and culture.

    Amber Weissinger

  3. Great blog! Thanks for sharing your experience with us it was very insightful. I think the things we make a necessity in our lives tend to be the wrong things as in putting material things before people. I think the best way to be respectful in a culture foreign to ones own is to let your fears none instead of trying to hide them or face them on your own.
    Thank you
    Brittney Westgard