Cultural diversity is a phrase that could be used to describe an increasing swath of our world. Here in the U.S., the melting pot is constantly growing, as immigrants move here and have children, establishing communities across the country. Despite the immigration reformers in government, America has always been a place where people of all sorts can live side by side. This is one of the things I love the most about this country. But, while living surrounded by people of many different cultures is wonderful, it is no substitute for traveling to foreign countries, to experience other cultures in the places where they originated. We all become Americanized living here—we adapt, learn to cater to our environments, and, of necessity, leave a little bit of ourselves behind. We have an incredibly high standard of living in America. Even the poorest among us have access to goods and services that would be completely unavailable in much of the rest of the world. To truly learn about other cultures—to embrace the uniqueness, the authenticity—requires travel. It requires time spent in far off places meeting new people. It requires immersion without access to the comforts of home.
Cultural Embrace is an organization dedicated to fostering these types of cultural immersion experiences. They are a large and robust organization with a wide variety of opportunities—from studying abroad to group travel to individual volunteering. They even offer some paid positions for experienced teachers, au pairs, or other responsible professionals. They are a for-profit enterprise committed to expanding the horizons of their customers while they provide low-cost, high-quality experiences to as many people as possible. They believe that “the more you seek, the more you learn.” I couldn’t agree more.
As a business, I think Cultural Embrace has managed to do what many other organizations have not. They use online marketing and word of mouth to build their client base rather than opting for more traditional marketing. In such a competitive marketplace, it’s encouraging to see such a well-intentioned organization finding success without having to invest a fortune in advertising (though clearly they are very well organized and have a solid and consistent online presence). I think this means they can put more energy into what they do best: creating meaningful and memorable cultural experiences. This is a great model for up-and-comers to emulate.
In addition to their traditional volunteering and work-abroad programs, Cultural Embrace also offers cultural and language classes to help create knowledgeable and capable global citizens. They also have programs for high school students.