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An FLTA Road Trip in the US

Four people from four different countries, a round-trip plane ticket from Cleveland to Las Vegas, a car rental in Las Vegas, and a detailed plan with the routes to follow each day is all you need to start a multicultural road trip/adventure in the US. In October 2018, four Foreign Language Teaching Assistants living in Ohio decided to start this amazing adventure for their fall break. Benjamin Fischer from Austria, Vanessa Medina from Mexico, Marie Corlay from France, and Zhengchun Zhang from China—we are the Fulbrighters who decided to discover the US but never imagined that we would end up discovering more about our own cultures.

On our first day of the trip, we arrived at the Las Vegas airport and picked up the car for our adventure. We spent the whole night exploring this iconic place. It wasn’t until the evening of our second day that we started our road trip to discover the amazing US nature and culture. Our plan included seven national parks and reservoirs, places that look wonderful in the pictures, yet we still would never have imagined just how astonished they would leave us. In each one of these parks, we couldn’t believe the beauty and perfection our eyes were looking at. As foreigners, we more commonly thought of the US as the country with amazingly big cities. However, this trip proved to us that the US has more than that to offer to its visitors: it has marvelous natural beauties.

The places we visited included the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Death Valley. One of our favorites was Monument Valley, as it is the largest US reservation of the Navajo, one of the largest Native American groups. The reservation also featured a small exhibition that made us more aware of the importance and traditions of such an interesting culture.

We also had the opportunity to get rid of our stereotypes. Our countries commonly think of the American people as being only superficially friendly; however, everywhere we went we were so happy and surprised that whenever we asked for something, they were willing to help us.  We especially noticed it when we lost one of our passports. The person at the front desk of the hotel in Mexico Hat, Utah, was really kind and allowed us to make calls to the previous hotel to ask about the passport. He also helped us communicate with the police. It was in Moab where we went to the police station, and the chief of police and the city mayor were absolutely kind in helping us personally. Days later, the chief call us to say they had found it.

But the fun parts don’t only happen in the places you visit. Can you imagine being in a car every day for three to five hours? Yes, many crazy things can happen there. During these moments, we got to talk a lot about random topics that would bring up interesting differences among our cultures. From customs about when and how we celebrate birthdays to the way we blow eyelashes to learning how to introduce ourselves in each other’s languages and random words like ‘kite’. This was the perfect opportunity to learn a lot about each other's cultures, and we really enjoyed it.

Those days taught us not only more about our own countries and cultures; they also taught us to be more aware of the way other cultures think.

Zhengchun Zhang (China), Vanessa Medina (Mexico), Marie Corlay (France), Benjamin Fischer (Austria) are currently FLTAs at the College of Wooster.