What I Learned While Abroad

Well what can I say other than this past semester in London has been an incredible experience.  I got to live in a new place, in one of the biggest and most known cities in the world, and grew a whole lot as a person.  After living on my own with no parents, and just roommates in our flat just around the corner from Oxford Circus, I have learned how to do many more things around the house.  DIY work especially.  I can not cook more things for myself, and feel that I am completely capable of living on my own without my parents being around.

While here in London I also encountered many different people from many different cultural backgrounds from myself.  I have made many new friends from many different places scattered around Europe, and some of these places include Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and of course England.  After meeting all of these people, I learned a lot about their cultures, where they come from, and how to be more culturally accepting of people.  Even if what I think they do is a little bit weird or completely different from what I, or most Americans (or Italians) would do, I just learned how to accept it and move on.  Take more of a laid back approach, and learn how to accept people for who they are and where they come from.  An example is when I went to Sweden and played the personal space dance with a Swede who was clearly uncomfortable.  I took what I learned in class, saw that he was uncomfortable, apologized, and was being more mindful of it after that.  The old me would have just carried on what I was doing.

This semester has been very eye opening for me, but this is not it.  I get to go home for the holidays and in mid-January I will find myself back in this lovely city!  I can’t wait!

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My top 10 tips for American Study Abroad Students

OK guys, this week I won’t have a post, but I got a video for you.  These are my top 10 tips for students for students from the United States who are going to be studying abroad.  Let me know your thoughts, and feel free to include your own tips down below!  I apologize for the terrible quality…the lights don’t work in my room (fuse blew) and my flatmates were doing work in our common area so I did not want to disturb them.  So I was forced to my room, and did video in the pitch black.  Enjoy!

Being a little mindful

As I go on in this class, I have learned many things.  However, one thing that I recently learned was how to be more mindful. Learning how to be more mindful, specifically especially during when I meet someone from another culture.  I might not understand everything that they do, and there might be something that I disagree with, but now, I will always try to be mindful of the other persons culture, and the other persons feelings about my own.

After doing the video project, I learned how to be more mindful of other cultures.  It opened my eyes on how I should look at another persons culture, and how to look within at myself to see how these people can view my own culture as “weird” or not out of the ordinary.  However, over the course of my twenty years here on the Earth, I have always liked to think that I have always been at least somewhat mindful of other people, and other cultures.  One of the things that I do, especially if I am going to a place where I have never been before is do a little bit of research about that new place.  I look to see what the people there are like, and general do’s and dont’s in the country.  For example, earlier this semester I travelled to Sweden for the first time, and I did not know much about the people and the culture there besides the normal stereotypes about Sweden and Swedish people.  So, I wanted to learn more before I went there.  I spent about 1-2 hours learning more about Stockholm, some of the history, and even tried to learn a few words in Swedish before I went there.  So while I have learned more ways to try and be more mindful of new people that I encounter, I would like to think that I have always been pretty mindful when it comes to learning a new culture.

The Value of Family and Community

One of the values that I was brought up with was the value of family, and friends come first over everything.  I love my family very much, and would do anything for them, no matter where I am.  To me without family and friends, you don’t have anything to live for.  Coming from a society that is highly individualistic (USA) I do not often understand how people live for their work, or can easily go through life without contact with family or friends.  While to a degree I am individualistic, I always keep in contact with family, and my close friends.  I might be across an ocean, but I always take some time out of my day to talk to someone back home and tell them about London and how much I love it. I am a family oriented young man, and will do anything for my best friends at home.  Those guys are like my 5 brothers from other mothers.  While this value is considered good by many people in many cultures, this value can also have some flaws or negative aspects.

A negative to this value can be the fact that as far as a career goes, maybe I will not be a CEO, or not be at the top of the totem pole where people make millions of dollars a year.  However, I am perfectly fine with this.  I do not mind sacrificing a little bit of money for the one’s that I love the most.  People can also think that I only do things through my family, or through family connections.  This is not a fair judgement, but it can be one of the negative aspects about being close and loving your family very much.  As for living in a place where family is not very important, I do not think I could be able to do it.  However, another aspect about my personality is I always like a new challenge.  So I would want to put this to the test at some point.  In the end, I will always love my family, and my best friends since childhood no matter what people say or think about me.

Is Londoners favorite phrase “I’m sorry”

I have been living in London for nearly three months now, there is something weird that goes on that I am going to talk about.  There seems to be a certain phenomenon in London, or in the UK in general, and that is the British tend to apologize for things that are out of their control, or when it wasn’t their fault.  To me as an American student studying here, that is a little bit odd.

An example of this was when I was trying to get into a jam packed rush hour tube in order to get to class on time.  The tube is crowded, it is difficult to move, and it was a very uncomfortable feeling as you can imagine.  Since I was pinned up against the wall in a awkward position, I was trying to move a little bit in order to try and get some breathing space.  However, as soon as I moved, I stepped on a man’s foot, and his face looked a little bit in pain.  However, before I could get any words out to see if he was ok, or to apologize he said “I’m sorry”.  When I heard that I was thinking “what is wrong with this guy?”  I just stepped on his foot, causing him discomfort yet he is apologizing to me?  It was such a strange moment that I have never felt before. However, now thinking back on it I realized that in general, manners are considered more in Britain as a whole. He felt like he got in my, but that wasn’t the case at all.  We were all crammed and in the same position.  So in essence I believe that Brits in general are taught to be nicer, and to always apologize even if the incident was not their fault or their own doing.  It is all about manners!

Interesting time Abroad

Over my two week holiday in the middle of my semester abroad I spent time in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague with some friends.  All of these places are very different from the two places I have lived my whole life.  Those two places are New York City and London. However, one of these places in my opinion was very different to what I was used to culturally and that was Budapest.  One of the things that was viewed differently and had a big impact on daily life was the baths.

To me, these did not look like giant baths, these  looked like swimming pools.  However, I did not understand the cultural significance these baths have for the local people in Budapest.  The baths have been around for thousands of years.  The one that we went to was apparently there for just over 500 years.  I did not understand the cultural significance and the history behind most of these baths until I was actually in one, and experienced it first hand.  The architecture around it must have been at least a couple hundred years old.  However, the bath itself felt like a giant hot tub.  It was very warm, and I felt very relaxed once I stepped in.  That was when I realized, this is a place where people go to relax, and take some stress away from their daily lives. As we were leaving, people with business suits started stripping into their bathing suits.  It was weird to see, but then it hit me that the baths were not meant for certain people, they were meant for everyone. Then to find out that people have been in this bath for hundreds of years made me think that this was no ordinary swimming pool like at home.  These baths were of big cultural significance, and I felt honored to be in one of them with tourists and locals alike.

Here is a video about thermal baths, and the exact one that we went to..

Until next time…cheers everyone!

CQ Test Results and findings

Going into this weeks assignment, and after living in London for about a month and a half now, I am starting to feel like I am becoming a Londoner more and more everyday.  I feel like I am slowly starting to adapt to life here fully (even though my transition is not as big because some of my family lived in London for about 5 years).  I have also travelled a little bit with a weekend trip to Stockholm, Sweden not to long ago so I had the opportunity to get stuck in with another culture.  However, after taking this CQ test which analyses your cultural intelligence, I find that I still have some work to do in order to achieve full cultural competence.

My main problem is not a lack of confidence.  I have a bundle of confidence when I am meeting someone for the first time from another cultural background, which is proven by having friends on five different continents (not to be brash, or arrogant).  My problem is adapting to how I can manage my emotions, and the ways I express myself in a culture that is different from my own.  I tend to be very animated, use my hands a lot to talk, and stand close to people so they can get what I am saying.  It is just what I do, and it is how I was brought up really.  So something that I need to work on is the way I express myself and the concept of personal space.  I also have a habit of slowing down my speech pattern when I speak to someone from another culture or language.  I do this to insure that they understand or at least somewhat understand what I am saying.

However, I am very confident in my abilities to befriend someone from another culture.  In my mind, I do not view them as “strangers”, I view them as a potential friend.  I also say “hey, they are in the same situation as me, we both don’t know each other, so we might as well try to get to know each other a little bit.” It comes from the outgoing mentality I was born with and the fact that in my cultural background that I was brought up in.  So that being said, we all can aspire to be perfect when it comes to understanding others, and their cultural norms, but nobody can or will be perfect.  We all have our faults and we must work on them to become completely competent.