Growing up, we’re taught to think of our own families, communities, and traditions as “normal” and everyone else’s as “different.” Volunteering at WorldChicago has helped change my views on that.
As a volunteer and host family, I was able to interact with teenagers my age who’ve come from afar, while also having the opportunity to ask them about their ways of life: what they eat, how they enjoy school, what their parents do for a living. All followed by my favorite question, “What is the weirdest thing you have seen an American do?” I like this question because it flips the script, normalizing their world and making mine the weird one. It’s all relative — it’s good to see how your view isn’t the only “normal” one.
WorldChicago gave me the opportunity of experiencing a culture exchange on a deeper level. During the summer, my family and I hosted a young girl from Iraq named Fatima. Although her stay with us was only a couple of weeks, my family and I learned a lot from her. Because I am studying Arabic, I tried to practice the language with her, but learned that her version of the language and mine were different. I learned that dialects of the Arabic language differ from country to country.
Fatima also was able to see how my family and I live on a daily basis. Because I live in a Mexican household, my family always has tortillas in the fridge. Fatima believed that tortillas were similar to pita bread, but discovered that they are not when she took a bite out of a cold, uncooked tortilla.
Being exposed to different cultures and people always helps me practice having an open mind. It is an important quality to have, especially in today’s society where meeting people with other cultures and beliefs happens often. Volunteering at World Chicago and having the opportunity to host someone from across the world is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
— Karina Reyes, 18, Host Sister