Find the beauty elsewhere: Traveling helps you appreciate other cultures

By Julianne Fullerton | Copy Editor

I’ve had the opportunity to travel abroad a few times, but a highlight was this past summer for the Baylor in Oxford study abroad program. After a month exploring Oxford, England, I began to pick up on the different cultural norms of the United Kingdom and appreciate the way they complemented the lifestyle of the people who lived there. Here are a few of my favorites.

Public Transportation

From walkable cities to trains stretching from east to west, the Tube in London and double-decker buses, the public transportation scene in the United Kingdom is hard to beat. There’s truly nothing like experiencing train travel for the first time — watching the world fly past you as you sit and enjoy the ride. Of course, there are still people driving cars as we do, but the cars are significantly smaller due to smaller street sizes.

Especially for people who live in smaller cities, walking is the norm. Someone I talked to was appalled at the idea of driving to school every day because that just wasn’t a part of their lifestyle. With cities that were built to accommodate these modes of transportation, it’s exciting to enjoy the benefits of them when visiting. I often wish that Waco was a walkable city, but sadly, that is not the case.

When traveling to another country and using new modes of transportation that may be foreign to you, take time to do your research. Train, bus and subway routes often vary and will have multiple stops along the way, so make sure you know where you’re going and what stop you’re getting off at; otherwise, you might end up somewhere completely different.

Dining Culture

From pubs to traditional sit-down meals, the dining culture in the United Kingdom is more laid-back compared to that of America. The concept of a rushed meal is not the norm there. You can expect most meals to last a long time, as people enjoy being in one another’s presence and not rushing to get the check and leave. In fact, in some cases, they won’t even bring the check to you until you ask. I experienced multiple instances where the waitstaff left my group alone until we grabbed their attention and said we were ready to leave. Also, be forewarned that the waitstaff will not be checking in on you every five minutes to see how you’re doing.

I think this shows the interesting comparison of how quick we are to rush our meals or to grab fast food instead of slowing down and enjoying the company of the people we’re eating with. Maybe we have a thing or two to learn from the European dining culture.

Exploring Cities

One of my favorite things to do abroad is simply to explore cities by walking the streets, popping inside different stores here and there and appreciating all the different kinds of things to see.

One distinct thing I noted was that the majority of the thrift stores in the United Kingdom benefit different charities, such as Cancer Research UK, Oxfam or the British Heart Foundation. British cities also boast a variety of both new and used bookstores, filled with beautiful antique books. Once, I purchased a book that had a note inside about being gifted to someone in 1884. Never once have I found something that old in a Goodwill.

Historical Significance

Obviously, the United States is a much newer country compared to the United Kingdom, but one thing that surprised me was the sheer amount of history wherever I went. Not only that, but the reverence and respect toward history they have there is admirable. I know we have historical markers along our roads and plenty of historical monuments scattered throughout our country, but history is seeping out of the walls, buildings and cities in places like England. I once visited a pub in Dartmoor, England, that has had a fire allegedly burning longer than the entirety of Baylor’s existence. I also visited a beach where D-Day occurred and another from which the D-Day troops left. Once, I even saw the remains of a Roman wall, which is pretty eye-opening compared to the cement I’m used to seeing here.

While we have plenty of history in Waco, including the Branch Davidian siege and the Jesse Washington lynching, there is something distinct about walking along a cobblestone street that has probably been there longer than the majority of people and places I know.

All in all, exploring new places such as the United Kingdom has opened my eyes to the beauty of cultural norms and lifestyle choices other than our own and has left me with a newfound appreciation for them. There is truly something so special about watching firsthand the ins and outs of a different culture. I wish that everyone could have this same opportunity, so that they too might learn to find beauty in a culture and lifestyle other than their own.