Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Not much differences!

The surveys help me to know that I am going to the perfect country. Knowing that I am not a Type A person, I had some reservations about adapting to a new culture and environment, but the survey assured me that I am going to a place that is very similar to my attitude and personality. For example, I am never on time when it comes to being in classes, meetings, or any other time-specific things. Although I know that it's not a good thing, it has made me the type of person I am and, believe it or not, it makes me a lot more grateful for the time that I do have. Leaving in the United States and not being a prompt person really doesn't have much backlash considering nothing in America, technically, starts on time. However, I found out that while I am going to the United Kingdom, they are pretty much the same way.

An American Abroad

First Long-Tern Experience Abroad

By taking these surveys, I learned a lot about myself. I learned about the things I value, the ways in which I choose to work, and my reactions to potential events around me.
A strong positive trait I think I have pertaining to adapting to a new culture is my ability to learn through simply observation. I am good at picking up social and interpersonal cues in situations, and I can adequately adapt to those cues. I will use this in many social settings in my country. These things include the common greetings people use for others, the ways to appropriately interact with people with whom you have differing relations with (i.e. professors, family, friends, strangers).
I would say a weakness of mine when it comes to cultural adaption is my unwillingness to "go with the flow" in certain situations. I put emphasis on being punctual, I enjoy working alone on homework assignments and studying, and I can occasionally dislike when things don't go as planned. For these things, I will need to constantly remind myself to be patient, take a deep breath, and react in a logical way. I will remind myself of my situation, that things may change quickly or drastically, and that I am completely immersed in a whole new culture.

An American Abroad

Luckily, going back to Germany for me will not be a total "culture shock". For one, I have been before, but two, America and Germany are not the most different in terms of culture. For instance, Germany is a pretty low context culture. This is what I am used to in America, and also what I operate well with naturally in my own life. I have also heard that timeliness and structure is fond among Germans. This is something that is also one of my strength. I think that there is always a time and place for everything, as long as I have planned it before hand. So, I recognize while I may find this a common thread in Germany, I may have to attempt to more leisure and unplanned festivities when I travel elsewhere while abroad.

So, in terms of strategies to better understand the host culture, I think it is all about the people you decide to participate with. I come with my understanding, and the people I meet come with theirs, but ultimately to break down walls we must listen and try to understand each other. I understand that this will be a combination of getting to know some people in great depth, but also to make sure I talk to a large variety of Germans from different areas. While, some generalizations are good and useful, I am excited to build real friendships that help me learn about culture. Because culture is built into the lives of people.

On that note, I understand that culture is also built in to me, because of where I was raised. So, I have a couple of "American" characteristics that I think are important to accept and bring to the table. (Not saying, as of now, that they are good or bad, but just patterns I know about myself) Americans are very individually oriented. Each individual's perspective and way of living are unique. Americans are also always over consuming. And this lies in many aspects of life. We over consume food, objects and maybe most importantly (especially for me) time. I think that my time always has to be filled with a "something next". And this keeps Americans perpetually busy with now down time. This is probably the biggest thing of all I wish to work on while abroad. To quote myself, "There is a time and place for everything." So, there must also be a time for relaxation, friendship, and sabbatical.

So, along with that, other skills I want to learn are being a good communicator. Have positive and deep friendships that are not your typical, American, surface level interaction. In terms of social and political beliefs I do not think I will have any trouble because I probably align more with young Germans than young Americans in the south. But, still being able to openly engage and learn about not just American issue, but global issues is high among my priorities because it will lend itself to helping understand culture.

I have my cultural norms and so do you, but to know people we have to try to understand their norms.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Nate Long Blog 2

Preparing to study abroad and then actually studying abroad can be very difficult to prepare for and then do and it helps if you possess certain skills to help you transition into another culture.  Personally, I feel that my strengths are some of the characteristics I have, two of the most important being my calmness and my self-confidence.  First, how calm and collected I am usually helps me a lot because it helps me to not get as stressed out in many situations.  When it comes to schoolwork, for example, if I have a week coming up with lots of work I tend to not stress and just look at what needs to be done and just get it done as it is due.  As far as self-confidence, I feel that this will go a long way to helping me in Spain.  I think it will be most useful when I find myself in situations where I am not completely sure what is going on for whatever reason I will be able to look past it and know that I will know what is going on next time.  I think that the self-confidence will give me the ability to learn from all situations, even when they aren’t the best for me and apply it in similar situations in the future.  I feel that some of the biggest challenges for me will be forming new friends.  I feel this is something I am not always the best at because I am generally quiet around people who I do not know well and I feel this may be even more true when talking in another language.  This is where I feel that I should learn more about the media around me upon arrival so as to see what is popular in that location.  For example, as suggested on the “Culture Learning Strategies Inventory” I could read local newspapers to find out about current political and social issues in the country.  I think expanding this idea further to other media outlets would be useful to learn more about the way of communication and what people talk about most.  Lastly, as an American I think I want to prove to the people that I meet in Spain that many of the negative stereotypes are untrue.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

First Blog Post: Studying Abroad in Spain
I want to go abroad to learn more of other countries cultures. I believe this leads to better communication between people and therefor it leads to better understanding between whole cultures. I think the best agenda to have while going abroad is to be open to any and everything the culture has to offer. This could be slang in a language to a certain type of food that looks gross, but the main thing to me is to try everything once. I want this experience to get me out of my comfort zone. I have never had a problem speaking to new people, but this will be a new experience completely.
When I first applied for study abroad I was nervous, and I did not know what to think about the future at that point, and up until my placement I had mixed feelings. Then I got my placement, and at that point I was so excited it seemed meant to be. I could not be happier to be able to have this opportunity to go study in another country. Even more specifically Spain. I have had an affinity for Europe ever since I was able to go with the Maryville College Men’s Soccer Team to Germany and Italy. That was an experience of a lifetime, and to be able to go back to Europe will be an amazing experience since I will have a whole semester opposed to just two weeks.

The three things I would like to do are going to be generic, but at the same time the will be key to getting the full experience in Spain while I am there. First off, I would like to speak 80% Spanish every week while I am there. My Spanish is advanced at the moment, but I would like to turn that into fluent by the end of the trip. Secondly, I would love to go to a La Liga game while there, and this is due to my affinity for soccer, but also for the love the culture of Spain has built around soccer. What better way to learn about Spain then through how they play soccer in person. I have been told you can learn a lot about a country from the way a country’s people play a sport. Hopefully this can give me some experience I have not had before. Along with that goal, I would love to play soccer for a club team, or just pick up while I am there. Lastly, I need to travel the country. Like in America, even in different countries there are different sub-cultures within the country. I would like to try and experience most of the sub-cultures of Spain while I am there, so I can make the most out of my trip. 

Goals for Germany!

I was 16 years old the first time I went to Germany. Immediately, I felt like I was in my element, I felt like this was a place where I wanted to stay. So, needless to say, I knew I would find a way back. So, I traveled abroad again when I was 18. This time I had a better understanding of the language and I could embrace, in better detail, the difference in culture between America and Germany. Whether it was riding bikes, going to beer gardens or visiting historical sites, I was mesmerized for a second time. Ever since then, I have been yearrning to return.

Boom! So, what happens? I get accepted and placed at the Katholische Universtat in Eichstätt, Germany! I was, and am, elated beyond description. Finally, a chance not only to return to Germany, but a chance to study, learn, and grow in my passions, goals and dreams.

The goals I have for myself are best manifested, but not limited to, two different categories: social/spiritual goals and academic goals. Academically, I am interested in two things. I want to become as proficient as I can in the German language while earning a German language minor. I also want to deepen my knowledge and understanding of early church history/Catholicism in Europe. The Protestant Reformation was not only a turning point in religious persons history, but the non-religious as well. So, to be near the very origins of the movement, and studying at a Catholic University seems to be the perfect placement for me. Having a better sense and knowledge for the German language and early church history will benefit my overall preparation for seminary. Whether it is understanding more deeply the nuance of a word in German to assist in an ontological argument, or explaining the importance of becoming a free-thinking citizen, I want to learn it all.

While I expect the social, spiritual, and academic to all overlap, they all will happen on their own time. What I am hoping for socially is to secure strong relationships and bonds with native Germans. My German won't get any better if I only hang out with Americans. I hope to truly speak, engage, and sympathize with people of a different culture. This ties in with my spiritual hopes and aspirations too. When you open up, sympathize, and are even not afraid to engage in difficult conversation with people different from yourself, you broaden the lens of your prospective. So, while these things will undoubtably prepare me for seminary, I hope this is the next step towards living my most fulfilling life.

Blog Post #1

Next spring I will be studying abroad in Spain. My primary goal for studying in Spain is to become fluent in Spanish and to live among locals to become better acquainted with their culture. I would also like to travel around Spain as well as other countries in Europe. Another goal of mine is to be able to have tapas and wine every week! 

Before heading to Spain, I am worried about the language barrier. I am excited to meet new people and experience their culture; however, I am nervous that my Spanish will not be up to the level of understanding all of my professors. 

The first thing I would like to do to maximize my experience is to make friends who are locals of Madrid so that I can experience the city as a local. I also want to push myself to only speaking Spanish so that I can try to avoid the language barrier as much as possible. Lastly, I want to try as much Spanish things as possible (food) and avoid American chains.