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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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.

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.