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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Italian stranger spotting

Monday, January 28, 2008  
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By Special to Opinions

William Martin

In the summer of 2006 I went on the Vienna Studies program.  I had the chance to meet people from all over the world. 

When we had the chance for free travel, we’d take trains to visit the different big cities in Europe and I usually ended up sitting with complete strangers.

For three, six, or eight hours, however long the train ride was, I’d chat it up with the people in my car.  I met people from all over Europe and Asia on the trains, and had the opportunity to learn about their culture on a first hand basis.

I remember one train ride from Italy to Austria where I ended up in a couchette (sleeper car) with a family from Dubai.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that they spoke perfect English. 

We were bonded together by our distaste for the Italian train system.  The air-conditioning was broken and it was too hot to sleep, so we spent the night talking about anything and everything. 

Much to our mutual surprise, we had a lot to learn about each other’s countries. As I learned more about them, stereotypes shattered and I was astonished to learn what the Arab world was like. 

Likewise, I had the chance to shatter some of their stereotypes about Americans.  I met many other people from around the world, and with each conversation, stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings were torn down.

I came back to OC with a different perspective.  The student body at OC is actually quite interesting and diverse.  You can meet people from every continent of the world in our own cafeteria. 

People are interesting.  Everyone has his or her own unique experiences and perspective on life.  Sitting down at a table with complete strangers and meeting them might be one of the most profound learning experiences of your life.

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