Study Abroad

Course Work

Discussion Post 1

What did you think of the video? Were you able to “ step outside of your thoughts and behavioral patterns” and reserve a part of your mental capacity to “listen” to and monitor your internal reactions as a means of gaining a deeper insight into the nature of yourself? What’s your perspective on this notion of “self awareness” in the present moment as a tool to learn more about yourself? Was this “radical experiment” an effective one in terms of helping you understand the concept of empathy? Also, what connections to the concept of cultural humility come to mind? (Write at least several well-developed paragraphs – very short answers are NOT sufficient!)

I thought that the ted talk by Sam Richards displayed a good example of empathetic thinking resulting from understanding the background of an individual or group of people. The thought process he displayed reminded me of the Native American history class taught by Professor Fixico because of the way Fixico talked about empathy and being able to recognize how another person’s perception of the world can relate to yours. This experiment was effective at helping understand the concept of empathy, but for a person to have a deeper understanding, they need to take the time to learn about the background of a person on their own.

Cultural humility is about being open to another culture and learning more about the people without assuming things, which I think directly links to the concept of empathy. I think that an empathetic mindset is needed for cultural humility to really be genuine.

Whenever we travel abroad, we experience differences in perspective and ways of thinking. Sometimes we may feel that others are judging us inappropriately based on our appearance, our ability to communicate with locals, and our nationality (there’s no shortage of stereotypes regarding the “typical” American – and, as an easily identifiable American, you will hear a lot about Donald Trump and American politics during your stay in Europe). So, take a moment to consider how other cultures / countries may view Americans. Do some informal research (on the internet or perhaps talking with people who you know who have spent a significant amount of time in foreign countries), and answer the following questions: 1) What are some perspectives or attitudes, positive and negative, that you believe Europeans (or, more specifically, central / eastern Europeans) may have about Americans? (cite your sources); and 2) What are some things you can do to integrate more effectively into the local culture – and avoid being labeled with some of the negative stereotypes that Europeans may have about Americans? (Write at least several well-developed paragraphs for EACH question above – very short answers are NOT sufficient!)

The most common perspectives that Europeans have about Americans is that we are Ignorant to things happening in the world, we are obnoxious and we are overly sensitive about everything which I agree with. A friend of mine has travelled through much of Europe and has told me nothing but good things about the Czech people, saying they are very friendly and interested in foreigners. I have also heard a lot about Czech humor and how it can be dark, sarcastic and more offensive than the usual humor in the U.S. which is something I’m looking forward to experiencing. I am also very interested in what the Czech people think about the government of the United States and how the actions of its leaders impact their view of America as a whole.
To effectively integrate into the Czech culture, I think that learning the language will play the biggest role. Trying to speak to locals with their own language will show interest in their culture and show them that I want to learn more about them. Overall, I think that just conversing with the people respectfully in English or in Czech to learn more about them and their country’s history will be the most effective way to develop an understanding of the Czech that will help with integration.
How can practicing the concepts of empathy and cultural humility (and understanding something about the history, culture, and traditions of a people / place) allow us to see a clearer view of reality? Along these lines, to what extent do you believe empathy and cultural humility are practiced by the world’s political leaders, and what suggestions might you have for them? Be specific, use examples. (Write at least several well-developed paragraphs – very short answers are NOT sufficient!)

Practicing the concepts of empathy and cultural humility gives us a clearer view of reality because our scope of the world would be widened and many of the problems that we think are important may become less significant when you have a multi-perspective view of the world. I believe that if all Americans began to realize the importance of understanding other cultures we would be in a much better position to help our own country and solve our problems or help us realize what the real problems are.

I think the political leaders of the world can be overly empathetic as well as not empathetic enough. The empathy of a world leader should be balanced in the sense that a world leader shouldn’t be overly empathetic to the point that they focus on helping other nations and neglecting their own, but should be empathetic enough to form good relationships with their neighboring countries and other countries.

Finally, I want your ideas for steps you will take (prior to leaving for Europe, and while you are there on program) to enhance your own worldview; to become a more global citizen. Assignment 1 asks you to set some goals for your time on the program, and you can just summarize here (for support and future conversations with me and your fellow classmates) your goals and plans related to improving your intercultural competencies.

Goals

Learn some of the Czech language and history before leaving and find some locations that I would like to visit.
Be able to properly navigate through the city and to other parts of Europe.
Learn more about European nations and how they interact with each other.
Enhance my skills conversing with others as well as working in a new environment.
Find inspiration for a project.

Discussion Post 2

Prompt 1: Describing your internship site. Tell us a little about the organization where you are interning, and a little about business / industry you’re in.

Discuss how various “academic disciplines” are defined and represented at your organization. What I’m looking for here is how knowledge and skills are distributed across the organization – By project? By department? By position? What are some of the most important / valued knowledge and skills in this organization / career field? What transferable skills are in the highest demand (i.e., communication, team skills, computer skills, etc.). How is the organization structured? How are departments, groups, teams structured / organized (as applicable)?

My organization is a startup that is focused on making wool clothing. Currently the company is creating a sub company that will be focused on golf clothes and other small items like golf balls. The disciplines that exist within the company I work for would mostly be marketing and design, with the heads of the company taking care of the more entrepreneurial and social aspects. Every intern is taking care of a different project or task which was surprising because I was told by my boss that I would be working with the other interns on certain tasks. There are no real departments where I work, but the office space is split between various different companies/startups that sometimes collaborate on certain projects or give presentations to each other to help promote growth in other companies, which can occasionally make it feel like it’s a one big company. This collaboration means that communication skills are very important in the workplace and I can tell that the interns who do not try to communicate and get to know the coworkers are favored less and seem to have more boring work.

Prompt 2: Describing roles and responsibilities. Tell me about your primary job responsibilities AND the primary job responsibilities of your supervisor. Also, now that you have gotten started at your internship, what kinds of opportunities exist for you – with respect to gaining experience, enhancing your intercultural communication and competence, and integrating well into your internship environment? What can you be doing better to help you achieve these goals? (Be specific!)

My primary job responsibilities would mostly include marketing and design work, which includes creating a company website, making wireframes, link building, survey creation, data analysis and other forms of marketing. I still am not completely sure what my supervisor does, but I think it is mostly made up of setting up meetings and trying to get investments from other countries in Europe and Asia. I feel that he covers at least a small percentage of every other form of work in the company, as he is making the decisions and delegating tasks to others as well as coming up with new ideas. Giving me the web design and data analysis focused tasks has given me great experience and has me wanting to gain more knowledge in my fields of study so that I can do something I like and get paid well for it. I think something I could do to better achieve my goals would be to learn more back end coding, which is something I plan on doing when I get back to the states through projects.

Prompt 3: Identifying your cultural perceptions. If you have yet to do so, please read the cultural sojourner article under the Learning Module 2 / Readings tab. No doubt that you, as a cultural sojourner, are experiencing the daily recognition that there are many differences between USA and the Czech Republic. Tell me something about your perceptions regarding Czech customs and behaviors that you have noticed. What makes you feel comfortable and at ease? Which aspects of the culture and/or Czech behaviors make you feel anxious and uncomfortable? Make a few explicit connections to the article (so that I can see you have read it) – in particular, some aspects of the cultural transition cycle, and the preparation and sojourn stages as related to your own experience.

The biggest thing that I have noticed about the Czech culture is how they mostly mind their own business and don’t really try to bother others. This part of Czech culture makes it easy for me to stay comfortable here because I don’t really care about getting into another person’s business either, so it works out pretty well for me. The only times I have really seen confrontation between people is when two drivers might get into an argument due to road rage or when someone accidentally hits someone’s side mirror, those are the only times I have heard Czech people yelling at each other. I feel that the only uncomfortable part of being here is not being able to converse with some people effectively, but as time went on I learned not really worry about it. I thought that it was interesting how the article made the point that we are all cultural beings but are not born as such and that we become comfortable with the way we were encultured. To me I also thought of this as proof that with time and effort you could become more culturally diverse as long as you are able to recognize your culture and how it differs from others.

Prompt 4: Cultural Engagement. Please reflect on your perception of how effectively you are “engaging the culture of the Czech Republic.” Be sure to respond to ALL of the questions!

Do you seek out unusual cultural experiences?

I think that I could probably seek out more unusual cultural experiences in the Czech Republic, but the most unusual thing to me so far has been the work environment. I was not expecting people to be so laid back at work and willing to drink at lunch with coworkers.

Do you strive to talk to as many native Czech people as possible?

In the workplace is where I talk to most of the native people and I usually try to figure out what they like to do and what their jobs are. Outside of the workplace I find it harder to talk to people because they seem to either not speak English well or not want to speak it with me.

Are you forming healthy friendships with some of the locals? Or do you spend most of your free time with your ASU / USA compatriots or other internationals living in Prague?

I am forming healthy relationships with some of my coworkers which includes a mixture of locals and other interns from the United States and the United Kingdom. I was able to go to a traditional Czech pub that was three stories and had over 30 draft beers with my CEO and the other interns which was a cool experience. I would say that most of my time is still spent with people I have met on the program, but I am starting to spend more and more time with coworkers as time goes on.

Based on your time here in Prague thus far, what specific cultural adjustments and changes in your thinking and behavior have you noticed?

During my stay here and my time exploring other countries within Europe, I can say that I am more aware of how much Americans stand out in a foreign country, especially Prague. So far, I feel that out of the countries I have travelled to while on the program, Germany is the most similar to the United States socially.

Finally, what goals can you set for yourself for the remainder of the program to become even more culturally engaged?

I think that I would still like to visit other countries to expand my world view and have more respect for other parts of the world. Every country in Europe has its own feel to it and I think that it would be a privilege to be able to experience more of the unique European cultures.

Prompt 5: Focus Group 1 Reflection. Now that you have completed the first focus group meeting, reflect on your key learnings and “aha” moments that resulted from that meeting (and your preparation for the meeting). What were the most powerful insights you achieved? What do you wish we had covered more thoroughly in the meeting? What ideas or suggestions do you have for making the first focus group meeting an even more powerful experience? What might be some learning goals you would be willing to set for yourself based on our focus group discussions? Again, please be specific and use examples.

The focus group was interesting to me because I feel that many of the same thoughts were shared among the group, though there were some minor differences in opinions. Comparing the pay scales in the United States and the Czech Republic interested me because I was surprised to find out that most of the group had looked up the scales. It was very cool to see how different the work environment was for each person in the group and how that was affecting their work experience. Some members of the group had a more American environment, while others had a very European working environment. I wish we were able to cover the quiz that we took in the focus meeting because I was interested in diving deeper into how my scores reflect me so possibly more time could be delegated to that aspect of the meeting and less on some of the other prompts.

Prompt 6: Decontextualizing and thinking analogically. Offer up something that represents your experience thus far in Prague. It can be a photograph, a poem, song lyrics, a piece of artwork. If you’re using a photograph here, you’re not actually showing a picture of yourself. Instead, you are finding some other object, image and/or words to characterize your experience thus far here in Prague. If necessary, you can attach a file with your post. Explain the connection and why you chose it.

For my image I chose a skyline of the city of Prague because of how beautiful the city is at dusk. My thoughts on design and architecture has been changed drastically after seeing the buildings and I think that my creativity will become stronger after this entire trip.

Prompt 7: (Prague 2018) Terezen feedback. Please provide some brief feedback about the Terezen excursion. Since this is the first time I have ever taken a group there, I’d like to know what you found most valuable about the experience, and whether of not you would recommend that I take next year’s group on this excursion. Thank you for your feedback, and for helping to make the program stronger!

The Terezen excursion was a very interesting experience to me because of how much history was behind the town and the holding camp. I am glad to have witnessed a monument of past wrongs and my mentality on the horrors of war have been expanded greatly. I think that after experiencing the area where others had to suffer was a very important event in my life and I will never forget the camp. The group next year should definitely have the option to go on this trip because of the massive impact that the war has had on the world and it is a huge privilege to be able to witness a place that was a part of some of the biggest historical events in the world.