I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t absolutely horrified the first time I caught the German phrase for “excuse me” — hearing “Entshuldigung!” in the middle of a crowded grocery store had me perplexed for hours. How is that word even spelled? Am I sure I caught it correctly? How can anyone actually be expected to pronounce that word perfectly in the middle of a chaotic situation?
Navigating cross-cultural situations has taken an abundance of patience, learning, and trial / error. Viennese individuals may come across as more stern, serious, unfriendly, etc. — this has been an adjustment as well since I’m used to encountering much more welcoming people on the street. These interactions are impacting my own identity by forcing a heightened self-awareness for customs, norms, and cultures that are different than my own.
In terms of transferrable skills that I’ve developed…
- Flexibility: Since things tend to work a lot differently in other cultures, I’ve learned that an increased sense of adaptability has been immensely helpful in order to deal with unexpected challenges and obstacles.
- Problem-Solving: Having the newfound experience of problem-solving (especially in a foreign place with many different languages) has taught me the value of thinking outside of the box. An added sense of creativity is integral when problems appear complex and span cultural-boundaries
- Communication: Despite 95% of people speaking fluent English, this trip has forced me to slow down while talking with others whose first language is not my own. I’ve learned to re-consider how I phrase certain words / concepts in order to prevent confusion and keep communication clear.
- Personal Confidence: Living in Vienna has given me a surprising amount of confidence to continue exploring unfamiliar locations — studying abroad and discovering new places all on your own takes a lot of courage and I’m happy to witness myself growing over the course of this trip.
In terms of technical skills that I’ve developed…
- Language Skills: My 2-week German language course taught me a fair share of quick, easy phrases that are helpful for day-to-day life. Having class with a majority of German-speaking classmates has also trained my ear to pick up certain words that I hear on a daily basis.
- Presentation Skills: Presentations are a massive chunk of a course’s grading scale at my exchange university; therefore, I’ve had plenty of chances to master my public-speaking skills and become more comfortable in front of an audience. So far, I’ve spoken about non-profits, banks / crises, and the development of money overtime.
- Project Management Skills: In addition to presentations, each of my classes has involved a large group project component. This semester has sharpened my project management skills in order to be a timely, productive team member that contributes in a meaningful way. Working with individuals from all over the world has shown me how important clear communication is as well.