Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Samantha Prevot. Notting Hill, London, England.

Slimbach says at the beginning of Chapter 5 of Becoming World Wise, “Among the many benefits arising from the global movement of people across national borders is the unprecedented opportunity for face-to-face encounters with different cultures in our own backyard. International students at a local college or university; immigrant shop or restaurant owners; and congregants of local temples, mosques, or churches – each are potential aids, even mentors, for the adventure ahead.” Part of the reason why I wanted so badly to study abroad was to meet new people from not only London or England, but from all over the world. I am very active on social media, and over the years I have gotten to know people from many different countries and cultures. Studying abroad gives me the opportunity to do the same thing, but face-to-face as Slimbach describes. So far I have had the pleasure to meet not only other American students that are participating in my program, but also many British students at my university as well as other international students from places such as France and Italy. I also got to meet a friend of mine that I met on Twitter who is from Poland but is studying here in London at Middlesex University. I have always loved meeting new people and making new friends and so far I have done a lot of that in my short time here.

I think that meeting people from other cultures and getting to know them is beneficial for so many reasons. First, as Slimbach says, meeting people who live in your host culture and have different values can help aid you in integrating yourself into the culture during your study abroad experience. Secondly, and I think most importantly, learning about other people and their culture and values can help you become more open-minded and change your perspective on the world. If you live your whole life only knowing your home country’s culture, then you are limiting yourself in my opinion. Learning about how others live can make you a more understanding person and help you see the world more completely, instead of just looking at everything from an American perspective, an English perspective, etc. Meeting new and different people helps you see every side to every story.

The person I decided to do this week’s interview activity with is someone that I met at my university. His name is Laurie Cope, and he is from London. However, the reason why I thought he was a good choice for the interview was that despite living in London for most of his life he has also briefly lived in New York City and Tokyo, and he has traveled all over the world, which I think makes him able to compare different cultures and their values very well. We met over the weekend at a coffee shop and ended up talking for a few hours.

Culturally, England, especially London, and the United States are very similar. When we were talking, Laurie even jokingly referred to England as “America 2.0”. One of the values that we talked about in which England and the U.S. may differ though, is Change vs. Tradition. Despite their role not being as important in government, England still has a monarch and royal family. England has also recently voted to leave the European Union, which as become known as “Brexit”. Although this is a change for the country, it is based on more traditional and conservative beliefs, held by mostly older people in the country. Also, when talking about the values such as Boasting vs. Modesty, Direct vs. Indirect, and Confrontation vs. Avoidance, there was a similar theme and difference between England and the U.S. In England, people are known to be less confrontational and direct about their feelings. As we talked about this, I shared my personal experiences of often being stared, and possibly glared, at by other passengers on the Tube while riding with friends because of our loud and seemingly obnoxious American accents. However, I did also express my annoyance at the fact that upon learning that I’m American, the British people I’ve met are very curious about my feelings about Donald Trump and his presidency. I learned from Laurie that because British people see Americans as more outgoing and loud, they as a result seem more approachable and easy to talk to. So although British people may seem more closed-off, American people seem to break through those walls and get them to open up.

A specific part of home campus life that I do not participate in, and frankly have no desire to participate in, is Greek life. Fraternities and sororities never appealed to me and although I don’t hold a negative opinion of people who participate in those groups, I could never understand what the appeal of participating is. To me, and this is in no offense to anyone, it just seems like you’re paying to have a group of friends and get invited to more parties and things like that. Especially at a school like Quinnipiac where we are not allowed to have fraternity or sorority houses. I have many friends that are in sororities, and through them I have become very knowledgeable about things like the rushing process and what the main differences between different sororities and fraternities are. However, I do think I should be more open to letting them explain to me what being in their sororities means to them and why they choose to participate in something that has no value to me. Maybe then I would be more understanding and see Greek life in a better light. Especially since a large percentage of Quinnipiac students participate in Greek life and those groups do many activities to benefit the university community and also the communities of Hamden and New Haven.

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Travel Log 5 “Conversations” By Abby Spooner. Dunedin, New Zealand

Travel Log 5 “Conversations” By Abby Spooner. Dunedin, New Zealand

This weeks reading topic of cultural values parallels many of my course lectures and conversations I have had over the past week. For example, my Maori class is currently exploring the Maori worldview. Maori is the native culture of New Zealand and I have found that this class is one of the best ways to learn what New Zealand culture is at its core.

The Maori cultural values we have been discussing in lecture offer tremendous insight into the way Maori culture has influenced the modern culture of New Zealand. It was particularly interesting to hear about how Maori practices have been implemented in a hospital setting. The Maori have tremendous respect for their elders and the dead. As a result there are often rituals that must take place where the person died. Many of the local hospitals and police departments have specific rooms and assist and accommodate the Maori traditions and views on death. When someone dies, the family may remain with the body for up to six days in the hospital. This is done to ensure that their body is not alone as their soul passes on. An American hospital may not accommodate for this ritual due to the structure of the health care system. In the US families are often pushed out of the patient rooms after a final goodbye in order to make room for the next incoming patient. That simply would not happen in New Zealand, especially when the person who died was Maori. This example really shows New Zealand’s ability to not treat health care as a business but rather a service where traditions are recognize and accommodated for. Although this was not the intended conversation Studying Abroad/ Learning Abroad intended for the activity, the lecture did prompt me to relate Maori worldviews to those of my own culture. In addition, many of the values discussed in lecture were also highlighted on the “Ten Cultural Contrasts” list. My one example of the hospital shows many Maori values such as respecting elders (4), tradition (1), and spiritual growth (2). I left the lecture feeling as though I had a fair grasp on the Maori values and worldviews. However, New Zealand is not 100% Maori. As a result I was eager to discover how Kiwis of non-Maori decent viewed and valued to world. To do so I decided to talk to one of my new Kiwi friends Abbie!

Abbie is a bourn and raised Kiwi. She grew up in Auckland and is now doing postgraduate work in environmental studies. Over the past few days I have had several conversations with her about the Kiwi worldview. I began our conversation by bringing up my Maori class discussion. Abbie was able to elaborate on her cultural view of Maori as a non-Maori emphasizing the respect many Kiwis uphold for this native culture. This was interesting to hear, especially when it is compared to an Americans view of a Native American. In the US we hold little respect for Native Americans both currently and historically. However, here in New Zealand almost everyone knows the basics of Maori culture and a bit of their language. The two cultures are able to embrace one another without one over taking the other. The way Maori and non-Maori value each other speaks volumes for their value of tradition (1) and equality (6). This conversation was a great way to connect my Maori class on worldviews to everyday life in New Zealand.

An additional topic during my conversation with Abbie was the issue of mental illness in New Zealand. It was interesting to hear about this issue from another point of view because in my opinion, the US also struggles with the difficulties surrounding mental illnesses. This discussion has a great deal to do with the cultural value of confrontation vs avoidance (10). In the US I believe we are beginning to move towards a state where confronting mental illness is accepted and encouraged my many. As a nation we may not be completely there but I feel as though we are moving the correct direction. However, when Abbie talked about the view of mental illness in New Zealand she talked in hushed tones and referred to it as one of the countries greatest struggles. She explained that cases of depression and suicide are high, particularly within the farming culture. Farming is one of New Zealand’s largest industries and as a result, farmers make up a large portion of the population. Many are under a high degree of pressure to raise live stalk or crops in order to provide for their families. Within the farming community, particularly within the male population, there is a social stigma of avoidance, causing many to act as though they are fine when in reality they need serious help and counseling. Both the US and New Zealand struggle with mental illness for a variety of reasons; However, based on my conversation with Abbie it seems as though New Zealand is struggling to change the cultural and social views on this issue like the US has begun to do. It will be interesting to see how this issue develops within the next few years in both countries and around the world.

While writing this blog I kept thinking of Hess’s question in Studying Abroad/Learning Abroad, “Does cultural relativity lead to a deterioration of values or, indeed, to moral chaos?” I don’t think his question I meant to have the same answer for everyone. Through my Maori lecture and conversation with Abbie I have found that considering other cultural values has not deteriorated my own or caused moral chaos. However, I do feel that by carefully considering these cultural differences in commonalities my worldview has altered. It is often challenging to see the world through the eyes of another. However, by emerging myself in the culture and soaking up everything I can for everyone I meet, I feel I am slowly gaining the knowledge needed to see the world in a different light- from the eyes of a Kiwi.

After taking the time to consider different views of cultures that are not my own, it is interesting to examine the different aspects of American culture back at home of which I am not a part. Upon consideration of this notion I immediately thought of the Humanities department. As a Physical Therapy major I enjoy my challenging science and math schedule. However, this semester I have taken a break from that and am now enrolled in all humanities papers (that’s what the Kiwi’s call courses). It has been a challenging change to get used to but it has prompted me to consider the humanities department back at Quinnipiac. It is an entire section and population of the school I have never been exposed to or apart of. It’s interesting to think that I traveled to the other side of the world to experience a new culture while there are parts of my own culture I have yet to explore. I believe that if I were to sit down with an individual who was an English or history major that I would be surprised to find an entirely different view on the academics at Quinnipiac. The value in this experience would be to experience a part of my own school I have never considered to be there before. It is almost as if we have cultures hidden within cultures. The experience I have had as a health science major is vastly different from an English major, and I am just starting to get a taste of that through my drastic change in course content.

 

Travel Log #5: “Conversations” Kathleen Flynn. Florence, Italy

As a cultural learning experience for my Italian class, we were also asked to interview locals. I learned that there were two types of people: those who were excited to interact and eager to help us learn as study abroad students, and those who couldn’t be bothered with young Americans. Because of this, I decided to interview my art professor who is always ready to teach me more about his culture and taking a little time out of his day to do so. Before coming to Florence I really wanted to take the opportunity of talking to a local who would be comfortable with sharing a piece of their personal life in order for me to understand the Italian culture better; it’s been harder than I imagined just approaching a random person at a café, especially because I know very little Italian. Not only do my professors speak English, but they’ve also lived in Italy their entire lives and teach American students abroad as a living. My art professor, Luciano, was of course happy to participate in this activity.

I began the interview by asking his opinion on informality versus formality and was amazed by how many more values surrounded and connected to just this one. The Italians, and more specifically Florentines, are very concerned with appearance in all aspects. Rolling out of bed, throwing on UGG slippers and some sweatpants and walking out to class will get you many disapproving stares. For the Italians, dressing appropriately and being conscious of your personal appearance is key to first impressions. For example, there is serious judgment given to a girl wearing tights with a rip down the side, or shoes that are dirty and muddy. I’ve even noticed this myself walking around the city. Many times I’ve underdressed for the given weather (no coat, wearing a dress, etc.), and felt so uncomfortable by the passing looks that I had to go home and change. This value of appearance and formality also relates to respecting the elders or superiors of Italians. Age is to be respected for the wisdom that can only come with years of living and not from reading a textbook. The respect given to elders even carries through the Italian language and using a “formal” rather than “informal” you, which cannot be found in the English language. For example, when asking an elder or superior how they are doing you say, “Come sta?” instead of, “Come stai?” My professor explained that this is extremely important to use with elders of your family, which incorporates one of the most important cultural values we discussed. “La famiglia” is the center of any Italian’s life. Restaurants and businesses are carried through generation after generation, and time outside of work is devoted to spending with the family. My professor explained that there is no difference between a first cousin or third, family is family and is treated the same.

While the interview may have put into perspective many of the contrasting cultural values that America has with Italy, it did not make me feel ashamed of my own values. It brought them “into sharper focus” and I think it has indeed given me “the opportunity to enhance, elaborate, and strengthen the value system” that I have developed and will continuing developing throughout my life (Guide 9, pg. 54). I realized that like Italians I also value my appearance, not for attention, but for the image I project of myself to others. At college this is not always the case because in America there is a value of not judging a person by their looks. Because of this many kids will go to class in the classic “just rolled out of bed” look without worrying about being criticized by others. By comparing these two opposing culture sets of Americans and Italians it shows that neither one is more right than the other and I see both values in myself. I think it is important not to judge a person based solely on their appearance, but it’s also important to respect yourself and project the appropriate image in any given occasion.

 

 

Travel Log 5 “Conversations” Athena Rine, Seville Spain

Two weeks ago I took a nasty fall while wearing heels and walking on cobblestone. It was not a fun experience at all and I was sure my ankle was broken so I went to the emergency room to get an x-ray. I was ecstatic to learn that my ankle wasn’t broken but just badly sprained. This left me hobbling around for several days with a multicolored, swollen foot in a city where walking is the main mode of transportation… not my best week. However, a few cool things came out of this day. One, I got to visit a hospital in Spain and see firsthand what the medical treatment was like. (For a nursing major that’s pretty exciting.) Also, I got to spend a few hours with my program coordinator, Marta, as she accompanied me during my visit and helped to translate my conversation with the doctor and nurses. We talked for a while about lots of different things, and I noticed she was very knowledgeable about Spain, specifically the differences between here and the United States. So when I read the assignment for this week’s travel log, I knew exactly whom I wanted to speak with.

Marta was born in Sevilla and has lived here all her life. She went to high school and college here and now lives with her husband and 8-month-old daughter. She knows a ton about the Spanish culture and even speaks four languages! During my time with Marta, she told me lots about values in Spain in general as well has her personal thoughts and feelings on each of the ten culture contrasts. There were a few cultural differences in particular that I found interesting. The “materialism versus spirituality” value was a big one. Marta explained that people in Spain don’t have that much money and that brand names and materialistic items aren’t of major importance. This is something I have picked up on during my time here so far. At home or at Quinnipiac I always see people walking around with designer bags, shoes, clothing and brand new, big-name cars to match. Here you rarely see brand names on anything, so much so that I’m not even sure what the big brands are because I haven’t seen anything too frequently. This isn’t to say that people here don’t look nice and put-together because they absolutely do, they just aren’t dripping in Tiffany, Michael Kors, Vineyard Vines, etc. The cars here are all very old looking and banged up. I initially got the feeling that people just don’t care to have them fixed, but I now have a better understanding of the fact that they either can’t afford to or their priorities are elsewhere. Marta also said that there are many families like hers who spend the money they do have on vacations and experiences rather than items, but just like in the United States, how you are raised plays a big role in how you choose to spend your money.

Another difference is the “youth versus age” value. Marta described how family is very high up on the priority list in Spain, especially elders. Parents, grandparents, and great grandparents are to be truly respected. Due to low incomes, grandparents also play a major role in helping to raise their grandchildren while parents are working. It is common to live with your entire family here whether it is in the same apartment or just a few blocks apart. We also spoke about “equality versus hierarchy and rank.” She mentioned that again due to lack of money, the country struggles with equality, specifically that of the disabled. Although this is not really a hierarchical issue, I found it alarming how little opportunity disabled people have living here compared to in the United States. Marta said that there are not laws put in place for disability access to public buildings such as ramps and elevators. Also, mentally disabled students do not receive special help in schools. If they can’t keep up with a mainstream class, then they cannot attend school and college is out of the question. It’s amazing how big of an impact this can have on someone’s life. I can’t even imagine having a major disability and not being able to receive assistance. It’s truly heartbreaking to hear about the struggles of these individuals.

One last cultural difference I thought was of significance was “direct versus indirect questioning.” Thiedemen claims that the United States is direct, however I think that the U.S. is either indirect, or Spain is a whole new level of direct. Marta wasn’t the first person to bring this to my attention. In Spain you are very free to speak your mind without a filter. People don’t take offense to much here. For example it is common to tell someone they don’t look nice today or that they should wear more makeup. It is even okay to refer to someone as fat or ugly because these are simply words of description and not meant to be hurtful or mean. This is quite an adjustment. I find it funny to listen to conversations like this because it is definitely not socially acceptable in the United States. It’s cultural differences like these that make day-to-day life in a new country so interesting. I think it was important to take the time to have this discussion with Marta because it’s definitely useful to know what people’s values are in order to better understand why they do the things they do. From country to country, values are going to differ, and while spending a large amount of time in a new country it is beneficial to understand other’s priorities in order to blend with the culture and take different points of view into consideration. This idea is explained in the quote “In a sense, a culture’s values provide the basic set of standards and assumptions that guide thought and action.” (Hess, 47) I truly believe this conversation helped me to become a more engaged and educated citizen of the global community.

IMG_2421If I had to choose a part of home campus life to learn more about it would probably be Greek life. I don’t know all that much about sororities or what they do but I never really wanted to be a part of one because of all the negative stereotypes that I have heard. I think if I were to sit down with a representative and have a similar conversation as the one I had with Marta I would be able to better understand the values and goals of the group, see things from a new perspective, and maybe even reverse some of the negative ideas I have about them. This would benefit me because I would leave more open-minded and understanding and also benefit my university community because a social barrier could be broken down, potentially leading to new friendships and fewer prejudgments.

Study Abroad/ Learning Abroad- J. Daniel Hess

 

Travel Log 5: “Conversations,” By: Erin Foley, Paris, France

As my semester in Paris progresses, I cannot help but notice the many cultural differences that exist between France and the United States. For this particular discussion, I chose to deliberate with a fellow American, D.A., (who wishes to remain anonymous). She is originally a native Californian, although she has lived in Paris for over eleven years. Although not necessarily a part of the communitas of students that are currently transitioning from American to French life, she has experienced many of the same circumstances that we must encounter everyday. Daniel Hess offered a unique insight into why individuals immersed in different cultures act in a way that may differ from our own. “An individual lives by a conscience that is shaped by the imprint of genetic make up, the idiosyncrasies of personality, the reinforcement of personal experience, and the consequence of personal choice.” However, even my informant admitted to reading the prompts and realizing that she had changed quite a bit since moving to France. Is Hess’ perception applicable to a single culture, or can we adjust our conscience to accommodate many at a time? The image I have included depicts the American and French flags interlocked, symbolically meshing cultures. This is a balance I hope to find by semester’s end, just like my informant has.

http://images.google.fr/imgres?imgurl=http://www.straighterline.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/image-archive/FRENCH_AND_AMERICAN_FLAGS.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.straighterline.com/blog/why-americans-do-higher-education-much-better-than-the-french/&h=320&w=400&tbnid=d0eFJp2-LVhDhM:&tbnh=100&tbnw=125&docid=1IZvm9leVwk0SM&usg=__dqrqF7rzNVgSaZ_1_1Jy4ZgT-kM=&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjByqWMj4HLAhUFORoKHaC9AGsQ9QEIIDAB

Upon discussion, the three most shocking contrasts were:

  • Youth vs. Age
  • Equality vs. Hierarchy and Rank
  • Independence vs. Dependence

The French language is renowned for having two forms of “you:” tu and vous. The latter lends itself to a more formal situation in which you wish to show respect to someone, elderly or otherwise. Unfortunately, there does not exist such a linguistic device in English that denotes the respect a superior or elder deserves. Relating to the appropriate use of language for people of un certain âge, D.A. also described an urgency to appear young in the States, while the French accept that aging is a natural process. In an attempt to avoid the inevitable, Americans have idealized youth so much that we tend to disregard age as a negative aspect of life. Americans are much more disrespectful to elders and people of stature than are the French. We concluded, then, that France is more aligned with the contrast culture than with the U.S., in that age is to be respected.

Since the Middle Ages, France was organized under a hierarchy with class ranks. After the king, of course, there was the bourgeoisie class that can even be seen today. Neuilly and Versailles are examples of some of the more upscale suburbs that surround Paris where there is an outpouring of “old money.” Examples of modern rank may include the rapport between professor and student. If you receive a poor grade with which you do not agree, it is taboo to contest it. This action is seen as a slight to your highly educated professor and indicates that you believe your opinion matters just as equally. Being American, grade challenging is inherently a right that students possess. I cannot imagine receiving an unfair grade and not being able to at least express your disdain.

Lastly, the most prevalent contrast, for me, is independence vs. dependence. American college students are constantly pressured to graduate and move out of their parent’s house as fast as possible. They are also encouraged to pursue higher education as soon as the minimum amount of experience is reached in the workplace. French students, on the other hand, are urged to choose a concentration that suits them, even if that means changing it a couple of times or moving back home afterwards to save money. I will most likely need to move back home after undergraduate school, unfortunately with the stigma that I am either a failure or that I have not lived up to my potential.

As an involved member of Greek life in the Quinnipiac community, I am not familiar with many of the clubs and sports teams that we have on campus. After being a dancer for fifteen years, I considered auditioning for one of the dance teams. However, I have heard some comments about how they choose new members that have lent themselves to an overall negative opinion of this organization. Perhaps sitting down with a representative would allow me to understand their selection process and required experience levels. Maybe their intentions are misunderstood so that the university has a distorted perception. Interviewing the president would allow certain individuals to air their grievances and for the organization to explain their actions and perhaps why they may have been taken the wrong way in the first place.

Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Brandon Lyons – Florence, Italy

For my travel log this week I decided that the best person to have a conversation with would be my Italian professor, Emanuela. Emanuela was born and raised in the city of Florence and is now living in Florence herself with her husband and young daughter. Speaking with my Italian professor on the topic of cultural comparisons was very interesting because we were able to apply the things we have been learning in class about the Italian language and culture to our discussion.

The first topic noted in the review guide for “Studying and Learning Abroad” is something that we discussed extensively: the idea of change. In America change is usually a good thing, a process that involves innovation and improvement for the advancement of our community. Here in Italy, however, people have quite the opposite view of change. In Italy change is, for the most part, resisted unless there is an obvious need for it. This is something that I have noticed very much in my every day life here in Florence. There are many aspects of the Italian lifestyle that seem outdated or old fashioned. For example, things such as fast food and ordering a coffee to-go are frowned upon and many technologies that we take for granted in America such as drying machines are almost non existent. We talked about some possible reasons for this, and what we concluded is that this has to do with the both the extensive history of Italy as well as the traditional lifestyle of the Italian people. The Italian people are a part of a culture that has been sustained for nearly thousands of years and therefore live by the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” so to speak. The emphasis on living a traditional lifestyle deters the Italian people from change.

Another topic that we spent a lot of time talking about is the idea of independence versus dependence and how those concepts are viewed by our respective cultures. In America, independence at a young age is a sign of success and demonstrates good character. College-age students like myself and people in their early twenties tend to move out of their homes and become independent at a very early age. The Italian people, however, tend to depend on their parents until much later in life. The idea of moving out of the house to attend college at age 18 is very foreign and strange to the Italian people. Instead, people here usually live at home during their time at university and, in many cases, young men do not move out and live on their own until well into their thirties. This is actually a contemporary issue that we had previously discussed in my Italian class, and there is even a word for this type of person. “Un mammone” which basically means “mama’s boy” is a word created by the Italian people to refer to men who depend on their mother’s until much later in life. In America this would be viewed as a sign of weakness while in Italy this is the norm.

The topic of informality versus formality was interesting to talk about because it relates directly to our Italian language class. There is an entire part of the Italian language devoted solely to formal conversations, which reflects the emphasis on and positive view of formality. Whether you are in a classroom, entering a local business or shop, or writing a formal email there is such an emphasis formality. Speaking in formal language shows that you are a respectful and well-educated person. In America, on the other hand, there is more of an appeal to speaking and acting informally around others. This allows us as individuals to establish more of a connection with other individuals and to show equality. There is also a growing concept in the business world that “informal is formal” causing people to use less formal language even when in a formal setting. This is something that my Italian professor found very interesting.

Studying abroad is more than just a vacation. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to both live and immerse oneself in another culture. That is why it is important to take the times to speak with individuals who were born in raised in another culture. I was born and raised in America and Emanuela was born and raised in Italy, so we are both “experts” on our own cultures with unbiased, firsthand experience on the topic. As a result of our different backgrounds, our conversation quickly became an equal exchange of ideas and information from which we both benefitted greatly.

Travel Log 5: “Conversations.” by Chelsea Campbell. Barcelona, Spain

Today I met with Mireia Pujol Reverter, the API Cultural Director for my study abroad program here in Barcelona, Spain for our scheduled interview. She is a local here in Spain and plans all cultural events for my program so I figured her to be the perfect person to speak with. Before our interview I knew that discussing cultural view points and mind sets with a person from your host culture was important but it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized how truly beneficial and fascinating it was. What I learned from Mireia was more than what I would’ve learned off of a simple google search or out of a travel guide book. She was able to give me insight knowing the context of the questions I was asking her and was able to give me an answer based off of herself and what she believed the overall culture was like. She studies and compares cultures for her job, she could not have been more perfect.

The first cultural value set that we discussed was change versus tradition and it was perfect to start our informative, fascinating conversation. She told me almost what I was expecting to hear, the elderly (around 60 years+) do not welcome change while the younger generations almost embrace it and are the ones who create it. It was the examples she gave me that were fascinating. Halloween is not a holiday celebrated here in Spain, they have their own version which is a day of the dead where at night they enter grave yards to mourn their dead. However, Mireia told me that the younger generations actually want to celebrate Halloween, she said that the youth here in Barcelona admire the American culture and want to mimic it. She said if you ask her parents though Halloween does not exist and never will, they prefer to keep their day of the dead. Another example she gave was of Valentines day. Barcelona is apart of Catalonia, a region in Spain that is pushing to secede from Spain and become its own country, they even have their own language. All of Spain celebrates Valentines day, besides Catalonia. They have their own holiday on April 23rd called St Jordi day. This holiday celebrates their patron saint where a man will buy the person he loves a rose and a woman will buy the person she loves a book. Only in recent years has Valentine’s day become a thing in Barcelona, Mireia herself has never celebrated Valentine’s day before, and claims she never will because she celebrates St. Jordi day. Catalonia really is a country of its own separate from Spain; traditions and all that they don’t want to break or lose.

The next cultural set we discussed was on materialism. I was surprised by what she told me. I always thought that Europeans disliked Americans, however, she told me that Spain has actually grown to acquire certain characteristics of the states because they’re admired; a lot having to do with materialism. She said that Spain has always viewed that owning more means you “are a better person” but it was never a thing to show it off until the past decade. Mireia explained how before Spain was a working class country but now that it has grown people here will buy large cars seen in the states in order to show off their wealth because it is (incredibly) rare to see a large car here in Barcelona. Americanization almost symbolizes wealth here (I was amazed). She said materialism is typically found in the youth here, basically showing off to other kids the money their parents have (which I said is pretty much how it is in the states in my personal opinion).

Another interesting concept we discussed that is very different compared to the States is independence versus dependence. Mireia explained to me how here it is incredibly normal to move out of your parent’s house between the ages of 25-30 and any time before that is almost impressive or unheard of. She said how it is because when attending college people usually live at home since they attend close by universities and their parents will house them and take care of them until they are well off to be on their own. This is an idea that in the states is the complete opposite I felt. By the age of 18 we typically move off to college and then have jobs in new areas away from our parents showing a sense of independence, something we are proud to have at such a young age. Here in Spain the unemployment rate is also 25% so fining a job is hard for the youth which leads to many of them remaining with their parents until they know their career is actually steady. Mireia explained how many of these factors in their culture play off of this cultural idea.

The last idea I will share that I found interesting was about formal versus informal. Mireia said how Spain is very formal in attire and the outfits they wear for certain events, i.e. weddings, work, school, etc., are very specific and different than the states. She was shocked when she her study abroad students would show up to events wearing work out clothes as their outfit of the day or show up to class wearing work out attire. She explained how here in Spain that is unheard of, you only wear workout clothes if you are going to workout. To go to class most Spaniards will be presentable and to go to work if a man works in an office they’re expected to be dressed up nicely in a button down. A total difference from the states where we will show up to class in practically what we wore to bed and when you’re actually dressed nice a friend will ask “why are you dressed nicely?”. Mireia is right too because when walking around the city I will never see a local wearing workout clothes.

Mireia and I discussed cultural differences for a lot longer than either of us expected which led to me needing to run out of the office to class, arriving 10 minutes late, and forgetting to take our picture together. However, I improvised and included a photo of St. Jordi day I found online that depicts the sale of roses and books here in Barcelona (I found it at http://www.dmc-rtaspain.com/dmc-barcelona-sant-jordi-day/).dmc-barcelona-sant-jordi

A specific part of home campus life in which I do not participate is the sports life. I do not have a negative view point or uncomfortable feelings towards it I just have not given it much thought because I am not a part of it. However, just as Slimbach stated, “most are keen to help cultural outsiders appreciate their unique history, language, musical forms, religious practices and political concerns” (Slimbach 129). Now while the sports teams are not an entire country with centuries of history or a special language, they are unique in their own way with their own culture within. I would be beneficial and valuable to sit down and discuss with a representative of that group all about their own culture that they value so much. I feel they would greatly appreciate the willingness and open mindedness to asking if I could hear all about their culture they value so much. I could learn from them details I wouldn’t have imagined like how I did sitting down and speaking with Mireia. It helped me learn and understand that everyone has a story, every culture comes from somewhere, and everywhere in different. It only takes curiosity and an open mind to learn all about it. This assignment is my favorite, I cannot believe what I learned from Mireia today. It is something I feel all students should do whether for a class or not.

 

Travel Log 5 “Conversations” By Zelia Pantani, Antibes France

Sometimes it’s not always as easy to have a conversation with someone as we might think. Whether it’s because of the content of the conversation causes opposing viewpoints, there is awkward subject matter or for the pure linguistic barriers, the last happening more often than not since my travels to Europe a month ago. Almost everyday I face a conversation where I’m unable to reciprocate properly whether it’s at school, on the bus or just walking around town. While I’m adapting to these challenges and improving my language skills, there are also times that it’s important I take the time to adapt to the cultural content conversations that aren’t always easiest to have. However, it’s often true that the more rewarding conversations are the harder ones to have.

For this reason, I sat down with one of two women in charge of my program, Siljvia, who is there to help us with a wide array of topics. Siljvia and Kristin are my two program directors who are there to help me and all other CEA students through our journey’s in these four months from ensuring we have a communitas by hosting group events/trips, to making sure I’m going through the Rites of Passage (unknowingly of course). Among the first few days in orientation we spoke about our peak and making sure that we don’t plateau and get stuck in what we QU301 students refer to as the liminailty stage. Before departure home, the two will also host a session ensuring we know how to adjust back into our native culture—the reincorporation Phase. Kristin, originally from Germany and Siljvia a Croatian native, both have many experiences of different cultures and viewpoints. This held true throughout our conversation evaluating the French culture, American culture and even some Croatian culture in topics ranging from work to personal life. This was even more than I had originally gone look for—automatically a successful conversation. We spoke about the French culture being less likely to believe in the concept of personal space, especially in terms of greeting. It was interesting to get her perspective because she isn’t a native of the country either, meaning she went through these rites of passage at a certain point as well, having to adjust to new changes such as a double-kissing on the cheek instead of a wave or hug. Also how many French Rivieria natives are more concerned with enjoying life and taking a stroll along the Cap (coastline), than rushing to work. This concept applies to social settings as well, she explained to me that it is customary to expect the French to be late, in professional and social settings. Already in those two facts, I could tell the differences from the Northeastern culture I’m used to in the States to the laid back relaxed persona that many here embody.

However, while comparing the cultural contrasts, the list was shorter than I anticipated. The list of acts considered impolite in the France are similar to what we expect back in the US—for example spitting on the street, cursing in public places, wearing only a bathing suit into a high-class restaurant and so forth. The one change that was largest and most shocking to me is the religious restriction specifically on the Muslim heritage. Women are able to wear their hijabs however are forbidden from wearing niqab in public schools and are rarely seen throughout the town. I can only speak for myself when I say I hadn’t noticed this until Siljvia pointed it out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Since America is so unique and vast in terms of it’s religious beliefs and who practices which religious, I don’t often consider the idea of suppressing religious beliefs for the community. However, I typically do see a wider range of people on the street. Whereas here, it’s easier to notice that everyone dresses (in all black), walks (leisurely) and talk similarly. As we get further into the 21st century I think it’s calls greater attention to this issue though. My five-year-old brother is currently in Elementary school and I know that if they get Christian holiday’s off, the school is also being required to provide Jewish and other religious holidays off in efforts for equality. For that reason, this religious part of our conversation struck me.

After having time to reflect, I considered my communitas at home and all the different people who comprise it. Even though I went to catholic high school I have found myself friends with Jews, Atheists, Buddhists and various other religions throughout the years. But the difference was we rarely discuss our religious views with one another and what we see is fair or not. Specifically, I thought back to a class in QU201 this past fall semester where we talked about whether our society has become too sensitive or insensitive to religious issues. Drawing this thought back to my original conversation with Siljvia, I wondered if my new home is too sensitive or insensitive to similar religious issues as well.

Out of my conversation, I intended to gain new insight on all the differences between my host and home culture but I couldn’t help but think of all the general similarities between the two. Even further than that, while all societies are different in their own dynamics and natures, there are general similarities no matter where we go. In a strange way this gave me some piece of mind to know that no matter how far I am from home I know that I can always find similarities. Contrarily, it also means I am given the opportunity to push myself to grow by going out of my way to learn new things, such as having a difficult conversation on the topic of religious beliefs. This applies to my time here in Europe, but also once I return home.  Often it’s been heard that travel, studying abroad in particular, can change a person’s perceptions. I agree with this statement, but I think it’s subtle changes such as noticing a parallel to my home culture that evokes a greater appreciation for different perspectives which affects both our cognitive and behavioral side. Another benefit to developing a lens for the differences is their value. In terms of learning experience, I find I always retain relevant information better when I notice a change rather than am told it. Slimbach perfectly sums up my views in the quote, “Today we can all be grateful for the opportunity to travel more widely than ever before. But our real frontier lies elsewhere, in traveling more wisely—transforming fragments of information into real knowledge that can then be applied to forming cross-cultural friendships, cultivating understanding, and addressing the most pressing problems that confront humankind” (150 Slimbach).

 

 

Travel Log 5 “Conversations” by Chris Wilner – London, England

In order to be fully oriented with a new area and to be fully integrated, it is important to develop a group that you can rely on. As Slimbach said in chapter seven of his book, “Getting orientated to an unknown community and regional culture requires considerable motivation and initiative, matched only by its potential reward.” (Slimbach, 200) By doing this exercise, I was able to demonstrate some of the values that are prominent in the United States as well as learning what I am to expect to see or understand while being a resident of the United Kingdom. Since I have been here in London for just about a month, I believe that I have started to build that group that I can rely on and for that reason I decided to ask my flat mate Johnny to help me in being my cultural informant as he is a local student hailing from Southamption, England. I thought it would be a proper lunch conversation to have so we had a nice discussion while enjoying a meal. Johnny has duel citizenship in the United Kingdom as well as the United States so it was actually an informative experience for the two of us as he has been to the United States, but only to spend time with family so there was not much cultural absorption.

I thought it was important to take the time to share cultures with each other because it allowed us to better understand each other as well as the cultures that we come from. By better understanding one another, it will allow for less problems to ever happen because we have taken the time to know what is and is not appropriate in a given situation. It will also help me if I were to go out on my own and act in the appropriate manner.

We had fun with this experience because we were given the opportunity to laugh and joke about the things that people might consider to be a little ridiculous or to demonstrate what might “set someone off” in the right context. When talking about the culture of the United Kingdom and England specifically, Johnny was able to enlighten my on the fact that tradition is valued over culture and that was somewhat of a surprise to me as I would have thought that in such a metropolitan area culture would be more important. He reminded me that there are a lot of old traditions that people adhere to and being from southern England, Johnny was speaking from somewhat of a different standpoint, but with the same understanding. Sticking with the idea of tradition, age is to be respected instead of set to the side like they are in the United States. Also family is a very important aspect of life here in England, which is something that I really admire. Independence is okay to have, but dependence on the family is completely natural. Another aspect that we talked about was boasting because although people may go out with their friends and have a good time, it is not a good idea to talk yourself up because people will just think that you’re an arrogant person and then the respect that you might have been looking for from boasting your achievements was instantly lost.

In thinking about a culture at home that I would not participate and I can honestly say that I find the club as an annoyance is the anime club. They have good intentions, but I feel that they go about it in the wrong was and I am just put off by how weird they present themselves to be. That being said, in order to have a successful conversation with this group, I think the most important aspect to have would be knowledge of the topic and culture that they are attempting to uphold. The value that would be given from sitting down and having a conversation with a representative of the group would be that of sheer understanding. This might allow for me to understand the intentions that they have toward the Quinnipiac community as well as me being able to help them to understand how people see them. From the sense of the community, I believe they hold fundraisers in order to keep their club afloat as well as making donations to a foundation that they identify with. They have never done anything wrong, but it seems as if people avoid the group as if it were a plague and by sitting down with a representative I might find that I enjoy being in their company, but one cannot say for sure until they actually acted on the endeavor set forth.

 

My flat mate didn’t want to take a picture so unfortunately I don’t have anything to show in that respect.

Travel Log 5: “Conversations” By Jim Webb in Perugia Italy

As a foreign student studying abroad I’ve tried to notice any cultural contrasts between life here and at home.  However, this can be increasingly difficult when it comes down to subtle and personal cultural contrasts.  For this I decided to interview a local of Perugia, Alex Strettle.  Alex has lived in Perugia for a while but is originally from England, he is the chef at one of the bars that we frequent, and he is an avid chess player.  So over our last game of chess I decided to pick his brain about any cultural contrasts between traditional US life and life here in Perugia.

The first question I proposed was is change usually a good or a bad thing here in Perugia.  He said all I had to do was look around to figure that one out, “Change is not something really welcomed here, just look at all the stone buildings that have been here forever.”  That was a good point, the majority of the buildings in Perugia are made of old stone and look like they have been here for hundreds if not thousands of years.  He also said Italian people from this region are still very rooted in their traditions, especially when it comes to food.  As a cook Alex told me that the style of cooking has changed and a more minimalistic cooking style became popular a few years ago.  People were really against the change at first.  Social class used to be somewhat enforced by what you ate and a high class citizen would never eat specific foods.  But, as food production became more stable, the poor people’s food became more popular and is what Italian food is today.  Next I asked his opinion of youth versus age, which group of people are more valued in Italian society.  He said this was fairly complicated to answer.  On one hand Perugia has one of the largest populations of students because of the three Universities.  But traditionally Italian people value their elders in society so Perugia is a strange mix where the town and a lot of the jobs are dependent on the students and younger people.  Something interesting he mentioned is that most people in Italy do not change professions, so often times the oldest person at a store has been their the longest.  Alex said if you ever go to a barber shop you want to go to the oldest guy because he probably has the most experience.  The third topic we spoke about was boasting versus modesty where in the US “It is appropriate to speak of one’s own achievements.”  He said a better way to think of the Italian view of this is broadcasting.  Italian people broadcast their achievements to a degree and I had heard this before.  At the center of Perugia there is a large fountain and one of my teachers said, if you ever see someone running, or dressed less than their best around the fountain they are defiantly not from around here.  From what I understood from Alex and my Italian teacher people go to the fountain in their best clothes to show off to everyone else.  Italians would never walk around the fountain in gym clothes or their second best shoes, it’s a way to show off their social status.  This one was kind of the biggest cultural shock, not just a contrast from American life but an entirely different mind set all together.  I understand even in the US people try to show off their social class in the clothing they wear but it is to a whole different degree here.

To conclude this travelogue, I was asked to talk about an aspect of home campus life that I do not participate in and the only thing that comes to mind is fraternities.  I am not a member of a fraternity, nor do I think I will ever join one.  I think the most negative view that I associate frats with is the way you are kind of “paying” for friendship.  This is because there is a rather large fee associated with being in a frat and I dislike how once someone pays their fee they suddenly become a brother.  Maybe I am just looking at the situation from a very blunt perspective but that is the way I see it and have always seen it.  I’m also not taking a dig at people that are in fraternities or sororities because I have plenty of friends that are, I just don’t quite understand it.  Finally, I just want to wrap up and mention that I did beat Alex in chess which was a big win for me, but the game after he really crushed me.

 

 

(Picture of Alex and I will come later)