My Study Abroad Experience Essay Example
Studying abroad may be exiting, a whole new experience that is worth living, but a little less exhilarating when you face all the cultural barriers in a single day.
I was in middle school, it was my first year studying German, and during the school year it was decided to try to make a cultural exchange in Munich, Germany.
The exchange consisted of spending ten days at the home of the assigned family and in the meantime we had to go to school, experience how German kids live, what they do, and tried to observed the similarity and differences of that culture compared to the Italian culture. As soon as we landed, my classmate and I were greeted by the boys and girls who had been assigned to us. I was assigned to Alana: a sweet, tall, blonde and beautiful girl that could be easily described as the typical German girl. After we left the airport we got on a bus and it’s here where we faced a cultural difference. As everyone says: “Italians are noisy, more open and extroverted”, and this is precisely what differentiates us from the Germans, who are much more reserved and closed. A striking example regarding this diversity happened when we were on the bus, and since we had a long way to go, we decided to listen to some music and sang out loud, and these kind of things are done during school trips by Italian kids. As we were having glances from all the German kids, we decide to stop and we realized that our behavior led to an abnormal climate for them.
The day continued with a tour of the school; they showed us the places and classes we would have visited the most during those days. After the tour, we headed to their homes and that’s when my classmates and I parted. That was the moment I feared the most; I had to face another culture all by myself. Once we arrived home, we introduced ourselves and we had know each other a little bit better by telling a little about our hobbies and passions.
After we settled down and unpacked we decided to have lunch in a restaurant in the area. Shortly before entering that restaurant is where I identified another distinction between mine and their culture, and it happened right before entering the restaurant; Alana’s father opened the door first for himself and then he let us in. The first thing I thought was how rude it was and just because I could not think of anything else I asked if it was a normal thing for them, and then I received an unexpected explanation that is: German males go in first to make sure the place is safe, then let the woman in.
Immediately after lunch, we decided to take a tour of the city, and in particular of the third Reich since the city of Munich was named the capital of the Nazi movement. Subsequent to an afternoon full of emotions that included disgust, bitterness and dread for the things that happened in the past, Alana and I decided to take the rest of the afternoon for ourselves and we met with some of hers and mine classmates. Being in a small group of people consolidated both our language skills, and the capacity to interact with them. During this late afternoon, it was almost impossible to not face additional cultural differences and this one happened in the public transportation where there was a lady who didn’t look away from me. In the Italian culture people who act like that are either a troublemaker or a pervert, but since I was dealing with a person relatively old I just asked Alana, but she didn’t have an explanation for why Germans did it; “It’s just something that all people do” she replied.
Once home dinner was ready, even though it was only 6:30 pm, and what I found on the table was very inviting, despite there wasn’t any hot food. The table was full of Abendessen that consisted of a selection of whole grain bread, cheese, deli meats and sausages, mustard and pickles. According to Alana’s family this is a light meat and is usually eaten between 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Afterwards we saw a soccer match between Germans teams, and for the first time throughout the day I realized how soccer is a very popular sport, just like in Italy. After that, and contrarily to the Italian culture, at 10:00 pm we were already in bed.
This exchange made me realized the differences within cultures and how cultural shock, that is only a concept students study at school, works, but especially I learned that what seems normal to me can be something very indecent in another country, even if that country is just a few miles away.