Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Une Americaine a l'etranger

Many conditions have influenced my life to make me the person I am today. I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and I have never lived in any other state. My family is large, with nine kids in the household, and being the second oldest, I've had to fend for myself many times. Independence and self-reliance is important to me, and my self-audit reflected as much. Because the feminist movement is still underway and not without its to-do list, I have found within myself a passion to advance myself for the sake of finding accomplishment and pride as a woman.  For me, equality has always been important.
Because I will be studying abroad in northern France, I know that the culture, the customs, and the country itself will make for quite an adjustment. France recognizes, like many European countries, that the family is a working unit, in need of respect, privacy, and attention. French family members make decisions with much importance placed on the opinions of the other family members. Because my background and upbringing with my own family is not solid and strong, it is impossible for me to adopt these culturally significant values for myself. It will also be difficult to remember that other students, perhaps native to the country of France and the idea of a tight family unit, were not exposed to my background, and therefore, have no need to be as self-reliant and independent.
Within my self-audit sheet, I scored strongly in openness and weakly in flexibility. My willingness to try new foods, visit new places, and meet new people will combat and hopefully conquer my need to know all the information regarding a situation. I am inflexible with my planning habits and feel the need to live by an agenda. In doing this while overseas, I might miss valuable opportunities to partake in spontaneous adventures. This is something I will have to be aware of and control.
The popular opinion regarding Americans is that the are loud, selfish, polite for the sake of politeness and not respect, and boastful about their busy schedules, seeming to have no time for friends with all their time going to work/school.  I get loud when I become excited or angry. I manage a schedule because I am used to juggling work, school, volunteering, and other obligations that require focus and time of me. The cultural atmosphere I exist in does not allow for much flexibility and so I have grown inflexible along with it, and my independence and ability to work well alone can often be perceived as selfishness. I fit much of the standard expectations regarding Americans, but I want to show that I am more than those things, and I want to learn all I can about the French people and the unique individuals that exist within that group.       

Renee the American

The number one thing about adapting to a new culture is that I have to be aware that I am not in America. Things that may seem like they should be the same, may not be. And that's ok. Great actually. It keeps humans from being really boring. However, this brings a challenge when I'm going to live in Japan for about four months.

I recently found out through the Cultural-Context Inventory that I embody a low contact culture. This makes sense. America is on the medium low scale in term of cultures. This is a little bit of problem however. See, Japan is an extremely high contact culture. Like really high. It's usually the example for a high culture. This means that I'll have to be careful in what I expect from people around me. Japanese people are a collective culture where the group is more important than the individual. America does not do that. Instead, we focus on the individual, how can I succeed and such, instead of how can the group succeed. This will probably come to head when I make Japanese friends. I'll have to make sure to think more about their concerns and feeling than I would here. Not that I don't already, but I must be more proactive in my thinking than usual. This also might appear in school work. I'll mostly be working with internationals, but there's a chance that I might be in an elective or club that's mostly Japanese students. I prefer individual work, while they probably prefer working in a group. And they care about that group. This will probably be a positive. Instead of the usual "one person does the work for the entire group" mentality and tendency, Japanese students might actually work together and make sure everyone is on the same page and have the same share of the workload. This, of course, is only speculation. But I most be prepared for any and all sides of the the spectrum.

The High and Low Culture difference is not the only thing that will pose a challenge. See, Americans and Japanese tend to be different personality wise. I'm a very blunt person. It's very American. If you don't like something, tell me. Don't beat around the bush. That's not Japanese at all. They are the opposite. In fact, saying no is considered pretty rude. They instead prefer to say their equivalent to maybe. They also have a different sense of humor. I'm a very sarcastic person. My friends often joke about the fact that noooooo waaaaaaay am sarcastic. My humor is a part of me. I won't stop being sarcastic simply because I'm aboard. Well, I'll probably decrease it, but not fully take it away. This is something I can showcase and educate people on while I'm there. They may not understand it or get why it's funny, but at least they'll know about it now.

This is one thing I am nervous about- culture shock. It's going to happen. In fact, I experienced it before. When I was originally going to Japan back in high school, my program made us go through some cultural websites before we went to orientation. The things that they covered were so drastically different that I panicked. It was honestly really scary. This time though, I'm prepared. I know culture shock is coming, I think I know how to keep myself from panicking. I have a journal that I write in from time to time. While I'm abroad, I'm going to write in it as often as I can. Having a space to pour out my feelings in my native language will really help. This method as helped me in other times, so I'm know it will work. I'm also going to be more open minded. Last time, I had an idea on what to expect. When my mind didn't fit reality, I couldn't handle it. This time, I have a general idea on what to expect through research, but I'm keeping my mind very open. This way, I don't have a true firm idea on everything. I'm exploring and learning something new everyday this way. It might be the same from American or it might not. Either way, by keeping an open mind, I can be prepared for almost anything.

In general, as I go aboard, I must keep an open mind and observe. The culture will show itself al lot more if I just observe. The number one thing I will observe is the interactions between people. Being collective and high culture, I imagine that their interactions will be drastically different (they may not be). I can learn a lot by doing this. Doing these things should help me adapt better to Japan. I also must be true to myself. I'm an American, first and forth most. I will never be Japanese. I physically can not be. I will forever be a foreigner to them, even if I become a citizen in the future. But that doesn't mean I can't learn, and they learn from me. Hopefully with all these things, I'll be ready to go abroad!

Volviéndome a Casa: Returning Home

This time will be me third time in Spain and second time in Andalusia and second time in Almería- the city of my placement. I went to study abroad for six weeks in Spain in the summer 2016 and stayed two weeks in Madrid, four weeks in Málaga and traveling to Nerja, Frigiliana, Salobreña, Almería. I  visited the Universidad de Almería while I was there.

I've already lived with another family in Málaga the month I was there. I learned a lot about Gastronomy when my host family cooked and I learned a lot about common restaurant food served by the beach bars. Being with a Spanish host family forced me to have to speak Spanish. The most important skill that the opportunity gave me was a better understanding of Spanish language that I will use at UAL as Spanish is the only language courses are offered in.

Esta vez será la tercera vez en que he estado en España y la secunda vez en que estaré en Andalucía, y la secunda vez en que estoy en Almería-la ciudad en que se encuentra mi universidad. Le fui a España por primera vez en el verano de 2016 para seis semanas. Yo pasé dos semanas en Madrid al lado de Calle de Atocha en el centro de la ciudad. Yo cogía el tren AVE de Puerta de Atocha hasta María Zambrano-las estaciones de trenes de Madrid y de Málaga. Al llegar en Málaga, yo (sin saber cual línea de autobús me llevaría hasta el barrio de el Palo o Málaga de Este) anduve desde la Estación María Zambrano sobre el Rio Guadalmadina por el centro en que se encuentra la mayoría de paradas de autobuses por la entera pasarela al lado de la Malageta y la Caleta, El Balneario,  por los barrios de Málaga de Este hasta los apartamentos en la calle Abogado Victoriano. Aprendí usar los pies en Málaga. Luego me aconsejó mi madre anfitriona que la línea tres corre desde María Zambrano hasta un parada dos minutos afuera de los apartamentos.

A Small Town American Girl in the World of Swiss Cheese

Switzerland is known for their knives, cheese, music boxes, chocolate, lace, and clocks. Switzerland is also one very culturally diverse county. They have three national languages and another that is widely spoken. The Swiss have played a major role in worldly innovations (such as the ones above) such as their contribution to medical care, war efforts, and music. 

I was born and raised in a small town in east Tennessee to a middle class family that values christian morals and believes in opportunity. My parents married young and have grown up my sister and I in such a way that embraces open-mindedness and acceptance. 

I am interested to see how the way I was raised is different than how Swiss parents raise their children. I know that each person is their own person but I do believe that the way in which, and the place, plays a great role in the development of their personality. 

I understand that each culture is vastly different (culture being the why and how people think, believe, and act the way they do) and I know that language is a vast and obvious distinction of culture. Because I do not have any background in German (the language that is spoke in Bern), I believe that language will be the most difficult adjustment that I will have to make. Luckily enough, I will have the opportunity to partake in a language course to aide me in learning the language. 

Another thing that will be a culture change is the fact that I will not have a car in Switzerland. In the rural areas that I live in I depend so greatly on my own personal vehicle. It gets me to work, to classes, to the store, and sometimes it's a major hassle. In Switzerland, cars are a luxury. Trains and buses are the casual way of life and I absolutely love trains. Riding on them gives the bystander a look into the culture and the lifestyle of a specific person. 

An American Abroad

The most popular response I've gotten after telling Americans I am studying abroad in Germany is, "Oh Germans are mean," along with other negative adjectives like "scary" or "harsh." This terrifies me because I am a really friendly person and I am very sensitive to people's opinions about me. I usually gage how much a person likes me and if I will like that person by how nice they are in that first interaction. I think it is very important for me to keep learning about the German culture and keep that in mind when I meet German people. If I don't, I can see myself being easily offended or believing people do not like me. On the self audit, I scored pretty high on both openness and flexibility, so hopefully these traits will help me get used to the way Germans interact. 

I learned from a cultural context inventory that my communication style is high context, but Germany is  a country with a very low context culture. This will be interesting for me in an elementary classroom. One characteristic of a low context culture that I do not identify with is efficiency. Speed is valued and how efficiently you learn something is very important. My teaching philosophy focuses more about the process of coming to a conclusion, so I think taking time to fully learn a skill or material is important. I am nervous, but I know I can and will learn a lot!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Goals, feelings, and maximizing my experience

Sarah Husi, TU Dortmund, Germany

One of my goals as a future educator is to experience as many different classrooms as I possibly can. I feel that I learn best by observing other teachers and settings. By different classrooms I mean a rural Title I school, an inner city school in a populated area, classrooms in many different countries, etc. I hope to take what I learn from experiencing other types of elementary school classes and implement them in my classroom. While I am in Germany I would love to see some classes in other European countries as well. I want to learn as much as I can about other countries' school systems, especially the successful ones, and eventually return to the States and share what I have found with other American teachers.
So my main goal in going abroad to complete my student teaching is to become the best teacher I can be. In addition, I hope to push myself to do things that would not normally be in my comfort zone. I know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I do not want to waste it.

I am so excited about this experience, but I am also very nervous. I know that the German classroom will be very different from what I am used to. I am also concerned about who my cooperating teacher will be and what he/she will be like. I will be spending a lot of time with the teacher who's classroom I will be in, so I really hope we get along. I am also nervous about how the parents of the children will respond to an American teaching their kids.

3 things to do to maximize my experience:
1. I really want to learn as much German as I can. I believe that will make a huge difference in my experience.
2. Travel as much as possible!
3. Write about my experiences everyday. Take really good notes in the classroom.

Switzerland Bound

I'm Switzerland bound and just slightly terrified. I am so excited that I have been given an opportunity to study theatre in Switzerland and I know that it will be one of the most memorable times of my life. I am excited to live in the capital city, to explore the Swiss Alps, and eat all the European food and try my hand at German. But I'm terrified of the possible language barrier. I'm afraid of being away from everyone and everything I have ever known. I'm afraid I will run out of time and money to do all of the amazing things I want to do and see. But I also know that I am no dumb girl. I can carry on a conversation (maybe not in German, but French is spoke in Switzerland, too) with anyone, I can navigate the bus and train routes with ease, and I am comfortable and confident enough in my own skin that I will make this an experience worth every ounce of fear I have. People are magnificent. I love the way different cultures interact and communicate with each other and how different one lifestyle is from the next. You will never run out of things to learn about a person. I am excited to make new friends and possibly reunite with old ones. The conversations I enjoy the most are the simple and innocent ones that turn in to something deep and meaningful. They are the ones that last all night and move in to the morning. Those conversations will be had.