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02/01/2012

What I Have Learned From Athletic Events


What I Have Learned From Athletic Events

 

It is not easy to declare the exact meaning of culture because culture can be so many things put together.  Culture is the arts, literature, science, philosophy and a whole lot more.  It is also the spirit, traditions and symbols of a people.   Generally speaking, people are not aware of their culture differences until they have lived with and interacted with the culture.  Being an international student in Hawaii, I have more chances to explore new things that surround me than those who were born here.  In addition, it is easy for me to perceive cultural differences because of my stereotype, which is learned from my culture continually.  Therefore, in Hawaii, everything is new to me except my ability to blend in because of my Asian features.

     Before I came to Hawaii, my friends who had studied in the United States always told me that foreign students have a difficult time integrating into American society because of language and cultural barriers.  They also told me that I would experience “culture shock. ”  Therefore, I never forgot their advices and prepared for the difficulties I might face.  Fortunately, studying in Hawaii has been good because most local residents I have met have a good temper and not only treat me well but also take me to join their cultural activities and sport events.  Because of this, I have had plenty of opportunities to immerse myself in their cultural settings as well as having enough time to observe the cultural differences between the East and the West.

     I have studied in Hawaii for almost one-half years.  During this period, I have had sufficient time to perceive and experience what my country people call “American spirit. ”  Indeed, there are many differences between Taiwan and the United States especially in weather, education systems, public transportation systems, entertainment, ethnic diversities and so on.  However, it is not an easy job to describe so many different topics in this paper assignment.  As a result, I have decided to focus on two prominent activities held in the University of Hawaii that help to exhibit how culture has the power to shape perception.

     The first setting I participated in was held at the Campus Center when there was a NCAA men basketball game between the University of Hawaii and Xavier University.  This game was televised from the mainland and many students skipped their classes because they wanted to cheer their home team.  I too am a basketball fan and used to watch the NBA and NCAA when I was in Taiwan.  The reason I only watch American sports is because my country only has baseball as a professional sport, but it has not been popular for a long time because of an athletic scandal.  As a result, many people who are interested in American sports watch it through cable television. 

     Since studying in the University of Hawaii, I found that I had many opportunities to watch college sports because the university has many types of athletic events.  However, due to my language barrier, I have never watched live games with local people and had never gone to the Stan Sheriff center to cheer for our athletes.  However, in mid-March, I finally found a reasonable excuse for myself to watch a men’s basketball game with local people who I have never talked to or met before.  The excuses were, first, if our players won the game, our team could advance to the second round, second, there were only few places where I could watch this game via the television especially during the class break, third, it was a good chance to do my immersion exercise and the game was provided sufficient time for me to observe how culture encourages a particular communication style within fans.  Consequently, I decided to pick up my courage and join other students, not only to cheer for our team, but also to utilize this opportunity to do my assignment.

     Without a doubt, it was very difficult for me to watch the game with people whose language was different from me.  Furthermore, my listening comprehension was not good enough to catch up with what the broadcasters were saying; therefore, at the beginning of the broadcast, I felt uncomfortable about my surroundings.  I took a seat on the steps with many students still behind me.  I tried to not only enjoy the game but also to observe how audience behavior might be different from my culture during this limited time.  In the beginning, most of the students’ behaviors were the same as usual and only a few people were dressed in strange costumes with “ cheer words” was written on it.  However, the game reached a climax when our team was in the lead at half time and I started to find out the difference in behaviors that I had never seen before.

     First of all, I have to mention that in Taiwan there are no organizations like the NCAA, so students usually have no school spirit for sports events.  Compared to Taiwan, students in America have a great passion for athletic events and have the courage to use their body and verbal language to show their loyalty to their team.  For example, I heard some people say “ Go Bows!” loudly before the game was televised.  In addition, I also saw some disabled people who sat in their wheel chairs to watch this game, which was as shock to me.  The reason why I was shocked is because disabled people in Taiwan usually do not go out because of two reasons.  First, the Taiwan government does not have enough handicapped equipments that provide convenient means for movement and even most sidewalks are impossible for them to use because they are littered with scooters.  Second, disabled people are usually discriminated against even now.  As a result, I admired handicapped all the more for their courage as well as their optimistic attitudes. 

     After watching this game, I felt that the first contact to this event was fun because I could be a member within a specific group without using their native language and I didn’t have to be from the same cultural background.  Therefore, I made up my mind to go to the Stan Sheriff Center at least once in order to immerse myself in American culture and experience my first official sport meeting.  Fortunately, another opportunity came after one month later and this time was a men volleyball game between Hawaii and Brigham Young University.  As a result, I bought the ticket and went there where I found many different things like the settings and behaviors that I had never experienced before.

     The first prominent thing that attracted my eyes was the Stan Sheriff Center itself because in my whole country there is no dome-like building, not to mention that it is part of a university.  Once I got into the Center, I lost my way because it was a really big stadium for me and I had to ask people to help me find my seat.  In addition, I saw some stores that sell food to audiences so they could eat food while they watch the game.  This scene was strange to me because I thought people couldn’t bring food into the stadium.  When everything was settled down, I started to focus my attention on my surroundings in order to find out the difference of behaviors during my immersion. 

     The first scene that surprised me was that the audience stood up when someone sang the national anthem.  Of course, it doesn’t mean that I had never seen it before, but I cannot see it in my country anymore because our government, in the name of freedom, has abolished this kind of ceremony.  Therefore, I wonder why America still keeps it and nobody complains.  In addition, during the time out period, I saw some people who put make-up on themselves as ancient Hawaiian warriors and revved up the crowd, which made me think about why Taiwan’s indigenous people have to live in their precarious conditions.  Compared with Hawaii, the indigenous people in Taiwan always receive the least financial aid from the government because their population is not big enough to attract the official’s attention, so they have to find other economic resources rather than rely on the government’s help.  In fact, I don’t know how well the United States government treats indigenous people or what kind of welfare they can receive, but at all events they have opportunity to express their unique culture in the public.

     Aside from the examples described above, there was still an interesting setting that attracted me.  I remembered that during the time out and half time, I saw two to three people who danced in front of the crowd with their funny posture and the crowd all smiled and clapped the dancers heartily.  I didn’t know if they were voluntary dancers or assigned, but this was my first time to see this scene and I felt kind of encouraged to immerse myself in this environment.  Besides, the cheer squad also performed some activities that led the crowd to the climax and the fans waved flags and chanted cheers to root for our home team.  After going through the whole game personally, I felt that I had joined a party, full of energy, power, and excitement.  As a result, it appears that I got into the habit of watching the game live rather than staying in front of a television.

     Since watching the live game in the Stan Sheriff Center, I got a deeper impression of American sports no matter which college level or professional level.  In Taiwan, I have never had the experience of watching a live game before and I used to watch it through cable television because it was not worth to watch it in a stadium where people have to be exposed to the inclemency of the elements.  Besides, as I mentioned before, there is no domed stadium in my country, so sometimes baseball games are held in the rain and everyone, including fans and players get soaked.  Therefore, Taiwan citizens are looking forward to a weatherproof stadium where they can eventually enjoy professional sports just like American people.

Unfortunately, Taiwan’s government doesn’t want to provide any expense for sports because nobody has won any prize in any international competition for many years.  In addition, an athletic scandal has caused people to lose their passion and faith in professional sports only because they don’t want to watch a fake game anymore.  As a result, I finally know why American sports are always at the top level in the world because they are willing to provide enough funds for sporting events and maintain stadium conditions well enough that allow people to enjoy true competition in a healthy environment.

     In conclusion, the experience of intercultural communication is not easy for people who observe other cultures based on their pre-conceived notions.  That is the main reason why conflicts between countries, cultures and people always occur.  Since taking this class, I have found how challenging and difficult it is for people to communicate with others whose education, beliefs, religious belief, or even habits are different from ours.  Fortunately, what I learned from the textbook and lecture about these problems of intercultural communication has not all happen to me.  It seems I have experienced the “ contact, “ “ reintegration,” and all the way to “ autonomy” phase without too much problems.  In my opinion, there are some explanations that have helped me cope with this new environment.  First, compared with mainland America, Hawaii has a greater Asian population and its weather conditions are almost the same as Taiwan; therefore, I feel comfortable studying here.  Secondly, I enjoy the NCAA and other professional sports because I used to be an American sports fan in my country.  As a result, I have got more opportunities to join these activities than before.  Thirdly, I have had adjusted psychologically and mentally to the difficulties I might face in Hawaii before I came to here; therefore, it is not very difficult for me to integrate into this new environment.  Now, I really enjoy studying here and hope to explore new cultures that surround me.  Therefore, I will put to what I have learned from this class to cope with the future difficulty of intercultural communications I may face.                                           

              

      

                                  

                    

                                                               

   

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