The Key to Adaptability: How I Learned to be More Flexible in a Foreign Country

It’s not easy to adjust to a new culture. It isn’t always easy to get by in the country where you are studying abroad either, but it is important that you try. I was fortunate enough to study abroad for 6 months this past year in Japan and learned many things about myself – who I am, what I want out of life, and how much more open-minded I can be. Living in another country forces you into an unfamiliar situation which can be difficult at first; however, if we learn from these situations rather than running away from them they will make us more adaptable people with greater knowledge about ourselves and our world.”

Learn to embrace the new:

When I first arrived in Japan, everything was so different from what I was used to. The language, culture, and customs were all unfamiliar to me and it was difficult trying to adapt. However, if I had not embraced these differences I would have missed out on so many wonderful experiences and lessons. There are always going to be things that are difficult to learn, but if you try and accept them rather than run away from the situation, it will make your life much more meaningful.”

Learn how to get by:

One of my favorite words in Japanese is “tsukiau,” which means “to use”. When I first arrived in Japan, I felt lost and didn’t know how to get by. However, after a while I learned that if I used the resources around me – the people, the internet, etc. – I would be able to survive in this new country. The same is true for any new situation you may find yourself in; don’t be afraid to ask around or look online for answers. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from your peers, family members, or friends.

Learn to see things differently:

I think that one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to look at life in a different way. For example, when people ask me what my favorite thing about Japan was and I say that it’s the people, they don’t understand. Japanese culture is very different from American culture and their way of thinking can be hard to grasp at first. However, what I mean when I say that my favorite part about living in Japan was the people is that after being with them for so long I learned how to see things differently through their eyes. I think that this is an important lesson for all of us; to be able to see things from another person’s perspective, no matter how different it may be from our own.

Living in a foreign country can be difficult at first, but if you open your mind and embrace the new experiences you will find yourself becoming a more adaptable person. I encourage all of you to take the plunge and study abroad – it will be one of the best decisions you ever make!

I Can’t Find the Screws! Language as a Barrier

The problem

Often times in life we are fearful of situations in which we may not understand some written material or understand what is being said due to comprehension or a language barrier.

Imagine being in a hardware store in Thailand. As you search the aisles in desperation for the screw section. Above you are signs in Thai and not an English word in sight. All around you are curious faces, with some of them that may have never seen a white person but you can’t even entertain the thought of a conversation because of your quest to find a screw. As you stand bewildered in front of the store, looking across a sea of shelves and finally a clerk approaches you a manages to muster the words “hello, I help you?”

With a look of glee, you realize you may have found your savior in a smock. As you proceed to gleefully describe what you are looking for at 100 miles an hour, you realize that the clerk has a blank look and your explanation has been in vain. So with the shopkeep in front of you and the screws, you need hiding in the labyrinth of a store how do you find a way to get what you need.

The Solution

If you were a prepared traveler then you would not have had to face such issues. So if you are in a foreign country and want to buy something as obscure as a screw, here are XS tips to help you combat those sticky and somewhat isolating situations that can be posed by international travel.

1.) Have a hotel employee write you a list in the language of what you need for ease of transaction.

2.) Learn some of the languages before you go on the trip. The internet is full of free courses, all it will cost you is time. Many locals are impressed when travelers take the time to learn the language and might even reward you with an extra shrimp or two at the local market.

3.) Use google translate or hire/buy a translating machine. These machines are cheap and will help you keep your independence on the trip

4.) show the clerk a picture of the screw you need. Pictorial, like math, is a universal language.

5.) Hire a language guide. Language guides are good because not only is the barrier broken, but they can get you the local rates!

In our scenario, you, the weary traveler finally found the screws you needed and left on your merry way because you followed this advice and were victorious in the quest to the hardware store. If you are considering international travel, perhaps you might consider staying at an all-inclusive where you won’t have to go out in search of screws.

Travel to Germany to Learn German

Being in Germany gives someone that is attempting to learn German, the best experience for various different reasons.

You are being fully submerged into the language. In Germany, you are sure to be surrounded around others that know the language. Therefore, when you are using technology or other resources to learn the language, you will also have other resources surrounding you. For example, if you want to learn how to read road signs, you will have live road signs right in front of you in Germany. You can turn off the resources, such as your phone application, and look at the signs yourself. If you are not able to get through the signs fully, you have other resources around you that you can talk to using the language.

There will be a surplus of programs around that are focused on the German language. Just like in the United States where our schools offer a program to students that want to learn our native language, Germany has the same. Instead of being limited to what is being offered in your home country, you will have plenty of programs to pick from. Some of the programs that are offered in Germany include DAAD which is the German Academic Exchange Service and Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX) for Young Professionals. Regardless of your current experience with the German language, there is sure to be a program that will meet your needs and requirements to help you learn the language.

There is plenty of opportunity to practice what you learn. If you remain within your native area, you may be limited to those that you practice using the German language with. There may not be much opportunity to use the langue outside of your learning area. Like the saying says, if you don’t use it, you will lose it. Being in Germany, there will be plenty of individuals walking amongst the streets that will allow you to put your learning to practice. You will have plenty of opportunity to use it. Also, hearing others using the language allows you to hear where you may be making pronunciation errors. It also allows you to hear how those that natively use the language are pronouncing certain words.