I think it’s pretty inevitable to avoid gaining and expanding soft and hard skills through this program and experience. Even simple things like finding a place to go out to eat or taking the wrong train grow your skills. One of my biggest soft skills is adaptability and intercultural communication, which may be apparent skills that most people are gaining but are significant.
I went to Amsterdam this past weekend, and it was interesting to see the difference between the Netherlands and Germany in terms of spending time in both countries most popular cities.
Amsterdam was smaller than Berlin, with different people and cultures. I have adapted and become so used to German culture that it was interesting to experience a new city. I noticed there was much more small talk and less punctuality than I had gotten used to, which was different.
First, I went with five other girls from our program, and we rented a boat canal ride to see the city the afternoon we arrived. We booked our canal time for 5 PM. We got there early to make sure it didn’t leave without us, and we ended up sitting and didn’t leave for another 45 minutes. The tour guides were making jokes and having casual conversations with us. We did another tour, and we were 5 minutes early, and I thought we were running late at that time, but we ended up not starting the tour for a while also, and it was fine to be late. It was interesting to see the easygoing atmosphere. Those working in cafes and when we were out and about were very outgoing, conversing casually and chatting. Everywhere we went, like walking into shops, they wanted to chat and get to know us. I am used to meeting strangers in Berlin, being a little more reserved when first meeting them, but then they open up more. Although Berlin is still laid back, and there are instances in Germany, overall, it is not common to just go up and ask how someone is. Other times this weekend, I continued to notice less punctuality or being late in Amsterdam was fine. I even thought to myself, “This would never happen in Germany.” The efficiency wasn’t as urgent.
However, Berlin is unique because of its vibrant and energetic atmosphere, with its individuality and self-expression different from the rest of Germany, but understanding a city or your host country is important.
Adapting to the rules in the country is a good skill for developing intercultural communication. I found it essential o research places you visit, even if it’s a restaurant or a different area of the country. It can be frustrating not to know where to go or what good places to eat, so educating yourself, changing paces, and not being afraid to ask those who work there and be understanding if they do not speak English is an important skill. With that, I have gained adaptability skills to follow the rules and regulations. Amsterdam was super laid back in regards to rules and regulations of the road and other aspects. Now that I am back in Berlin from the weekend, I have to re-adapt to the German ways again after having a few day breaks. Overall embracing cultural differences and practicing patience is essential.
Some hard skill I have gained is professional blog writing from a company’s perspective. Another hard skill is social media management, specifically content planning, and strategy. I had to use many technical tools that were new to me and familiar. Some of the tools I have had to figure out how to download and use on my computer were confusing at first, but now those specific hard computer skills are important. I have certain tools or apps I am proficient at in my future career or jobs at Pitt.
I have used empathy in cross-cultural situations, like when we must come to a final solution for those who do not speak as much English. Also, to not get offended if something seems rude to me because people from different cultures think differently.
Taking a hour flight to Amsterdam this weekend was a great experience because it is so close. The canals were gorgeous, and the city overall was cool. We tried lots of really good food like the best apple pie ever and other Dutch treats like stroop waffles.
I am learning how there is so much to do everywhere around Berlin and Europe; it is so much fun. There is still so much in Berlin that I will not get to do with the amount of time we have left with this program, but I am trying to do as much as possible!