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The Cultural Experience Abroad:Spotlight, Shadow and Illusion

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Pierluca Birindelli


I believe that, for both students and teachers, the cultural experience abroad brings different learning challenges than those usually brought to the fore. Some common tests are overstated – and to a certain extent, misinterpreted. This is the ‘spotlight’ constructed by the discourse on international education and cultural experience. Conversely, other, often specular, learning abroad difficulties remain in the ‘shadow’. Hence, students can be partially misguided and concentrate their efforts on shadowy educational and cultural paths. Here I will discuss some topics that – at different levels of abstraction and importance – fall within the cone of the educational spotlight abroad in Italy: food, cultural shock and stereotypes. Remaining in the shadows are geography, history (modernity and late modernity), and a thicker idea of stereotype and cultural narratives in general. Sometimes emphasis on cultural specificities leads to hyperbolic statements. Taken together these can construct a deceptive map of social reality. This map does not support and orient students’ explorations but often creates ‘cultural illusions’…

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