Info Log: While I am There

Hello, and welcome to the second course of my Global Scholar Info Log! In this section you will find posts and exercises done while studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria as a member of the AIFS Global Scholar Certificate Program.

Festung HohenSalzburg

Click here for more information about the Global Scholar Program.

While I am Abroad

What I Wish to Accomplish

Choosing to study abroad in Austria came after careful consideration. While I could have chosen either Germany or Switzerland to study German, it was my Austrian ancestry which lured me to Salzburg. While my family left many generations ago, I knew this was my opportunity to see and live in the land they once loved. When it came to experiencing life outside the United States, I realized I wanted absolute change with a tie to my ancestral roots. Sometimes the best way to figure out where you are going is to first know where you came from… so here I am.

In Austria, I hope to gain alternate perspective of the world and shed some of my “Americanized” ideology. I want to experience life in a smaller nation with a diverse set of neighbors in close range – in a socialist environment which favors common equality over capitalist opportunity. I cannot yet declare which approach to government I feel is best, but hope to have clearer ideas when I return to the States in several months.

There are many perks and benefits to studying abroad, from traveling and making new friends to volunteering and gaining professional experience, but truly, the biggest benefit I can imagine at this time is the potential to diversify myself, to step outside and away from old mindsets and tired viewpoints. Already, I find previous opinions towards transportation and consumerism changing (bigger is not always better!) and look forward to each new discovery in the days to come.

Ten Actions to Achieve my Goals Abroad:

  1. Take a course on Austrian culture, to better understand the history and mindset of my ancestry.
  2. Take a course on European Socialism, to gain perspective on why it works and how it doesn’t.
  3. Open dialogue between myself and locals to discuss and exchange ideas.
  4. Follow Austrian news outlets to understand national concerns and issues.
  5. Simply be out and about, living as Austrians do.
  6. Appreciate and attempt to practice Austrian customs, mannerisms, and practices.
  7. Volunteer to see the Austrian approach to social, educational, and professional needs.
  8. Talk to my teachers, advisors, and neighbors, ask for Austrian opinions of America.
  9. Do not get discouraged, disgusted, or hurt when situations are not as expected.
  10. Journal, blog, and share my experiences so they are not forgotten.

Analysis and Understanding

Learning Goals and Expectations – Part I:

  • Program or University Name: University of Rhode Island
  • Direct enrollment in University or U.S. program provider: American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS)
  • Country/City/Topic/Theme: Salzburg, Austria: Cultural Program
  • Program or International Office Director: Ingrid Stengl
  1. What were your three primary goals for study abroad? Were you able to accomplish these?
    • Experience life outside of US customs and culture
    • Gain different and new perspectives of the world
    • Improve my German language skills
  2. Which experiences, cultural attitudes or behaviors were most challenging for you, and why?
    • The lack of technology as I know it in the United States was the first and most prominent challenge in living abroad. Austrian internet and cell service is easily five years behind what is available in the States. It was not as easy as I thought it would be to remain connected to family, friends, and American culture, which is frustrating when you want to communicate or gather information online. It highlighted the dependency I (and most Americans) have developed towards the internet and technology.
  3. Did you receive a Pre-Departure Orientation on cross-cultural adaptation? If so, did it help you adjust to the host society? If you were to be a mentor for prospective study abroad students, how would you explain the importance of a Pre-Departure orientation?  If not, what information would have helped you adjust to cross-cultural differences abroad?
    • Before leaving, my home university hosted a general overview orientation for all AIFS students as to what could be expected abroad. In hindsight, I wish more country specific information was provided to individuals, since all study abroad locations vary so widely. Most of what I knew of cultural difference and expectation was researched on my own time before my departure. While I am confident my research was thorough, there are a few areas I remained unprepared for (like the quality of WiFi and internet technology).
  4. Did you receive an On-Site Orientation on cross-cultural adaptation? If so, did it help you adjust to the host society? If not, what information would have helped you adjust in-country? If you were to be a mentor for prospective study abroad students, how would you explain the importance of an On-Site Orientation? 
    • On location in Salzburg, AIFS did host several orientation meetings to get us situated and prepared for living in Austria. However, much of the valuable information given (like WiFi and internet technology and housing accommodations) came a little too late to best prepare the students. As a mentor, I would make it a point to emphasize the finer, technical points of living abroad, and warn the students that expectations may not always be met or resolved immediately. However, I would add the human mind and body is quick to seek solution and adaptation, and will find ways to work through even the most seemingly insurmountable tasks.
  5. Did you do an independent study project or internship on your study away, and if so, did you face difficulties in fitting it to your original learning goals?  Were you satisfied with the results of it?
    1. Deciding to become a global scholar and blogger was an immediate challenge while abroad because of the many issues I face gaining and maintaining a steady and reliable internet connection. It has been a slow process, but am becoming more comfortable with the difficulties of internet projects, and am becoming resourceful in preparations to work offline when I am unable to connect (like completing tasks in a word document and then uploading them when service is available).

Tips for Language Learning

Language Fatigue

My strongest experiences of language fatigue always occur when I am out shopping and I find myself needing to ask about products. So much of the finer details in making purchases, like reading labels, can become frustrating when language on the packaging is unfamiliar. I usually choke back a bit of anxiety when approaching these situations and salesclerks. It is not that there is any true reason to be afraid; it is honestly mostly out of fear of embarrassing myself.

Next time I am in this situation (which must at least happen once a week), I will remind myself Europeans appreciate an honest effort from Americans to learn their language, so I will stay positive when engaging in a conversation with others. A good attitude goes a long way, and remembering to use body language to my advantage helps too. Pointing, smiling, making eye-contact, whatever it takes to make my points known and understood are beneficial to use. Even if I only know half of the vocabulary to get my message across, I usually find I am not in a difficult spot because many Europeans speak English and are aware of our terminology. Next time I approach such a situation, I will swallow any anxiety I have, remain confident, be polite, and act genuinely with salesclerks, who I know from experience will be grateful and patient for my efforts.

Evaluating My Strategies

  • What Listening Strategies do I use?

Most of my favorite listening strategies are in the survey. I truly enjoy riding on public transportation and eavesdropping on locals as they converse about their daily business. I should add I usually do not feel very guilty about this because I generally do not understand all the private details of what they are saying! Otherwise, I may be less likely to use this technique, or at least, more careful not to let others notice I am listening, which could be offensive.

Watching body language is sometimes what I find to be the most effective way of communicating, and I think I enjoy it because it is in fact listening with the eyes. By paying close attention to those speaking to me I not only show them deep respect, but also pick up on subtle clues which may be unspoken depending on the conversation, or implied by gesture alone.

One strategy I may use more in the future is what I call the “Ramona strategy” where I ask my German roommate for help with the intricacies of her language. Throughout the day, I may hear or see things I do not completely understand and making a mental note until I get back to the dorm where I can ask her to explain them has proven very helpful.  It is definitely an advantage to live with native speakers!

  • What Vocabulary Strategies do I use?

The best way for me to learn new vocabulary has always been through word associations and puns, and the funnier they are, the better. Laughter releases positive energy and good vibes, feelings we are quicker to recall because the experiences are pleasant to reflect on. I always try to find a familiar word similar too or relative to the new word with silly or even sometimes inappropriate connections.

For example, the German word for knife is “Das Messer” I remember this by thinking how messy cutting someone with a knife would be. Perhaps the association is a little scandalous, but scandals always tend to stick on our minds longer. The technique may not work for everyone, but it definitely works for me!

  • What Speaking Strategies do I use?

When I know I will have to approach somebody and speak to them in German, I definitely like to practice what I want to say beforehand, as the survey mentions. There is no better boost for confidence than good preparation! Brainstorming terms and phrases possibly needed during the conversation is great not only for vocabulary, but also for grammar, as there is time to recognize and correct any mistakes. Going beyond mental preparation, I also suggest practicing aloud in the mirror, this way pronunciation and any tricky sounds are fine-tuned.

Once again, having a native German speaker as a roommate is incredibly helpful in preparing for discourse. Consulting her always results in her finding tiny nuances of language that perhaps dictionaries and online translators cannot and do not identify, especially with regional peculiarities of speech.

  • What Reading Strategies do I use?

When reading, I prefer to go through the text reading as much as I can, highlighting words along the way if I do not understand them. Sometimes, continuing with the sentence or story helps determine the meaning of the highlighted words, but depending on the difficulty level of the text this may not be possible. If this is the case, I always refer to my dictionary or translator to find the answer and write the information down in the margins nearby. If I am reading up on a subject I need to be familiar with and I know memorization of the word is essential, I will make a flash card for it and add it to my stack of “must knows.” Writing and repetition help me remember, so taking the time to jot down notes or make flashcards is always worthwhile.

I also find starting small and working your way up is the best way to read a new language. Children’s books are great way to begin, sentence structure is simple and messages not overly complex. It is a great way to practice reading skills without getting too frustrated!

  • What Writing Strategies do I use?

As mentioned in the above reading strategies response, I like writing out the language as a way to help me practice and remember vocabulary and grammar. Whenever I am communicating with one of my classmates online or through text messaging, I use as much German as I can. In this scenario, it is not always feasible to stop and look up words or edit frequently, so mistakes happen, but we sometimes learn best through our mistakes!

I have not yet needed to write an academic paper in entirely German, so I cannot truly account for my preferred methods of such formal writing, but I can only imagine it doing it the way I write English papers. Usually, I am an edit-as-I-go writer, and I reread often.  A dictionary and thesaurus are must have tools, and once again, my German roommate would definitely be asked for a peer-edit!

  • What Translation Strategies do I use?

When translating, I always keep my own language in my mind so any word associations or opposites stand out to me immediately. As stated earlier in my vocabulary strategies post, I use puns and associations to help me remember definitions and meanings. This is something I would not be capable of doing if I pushed my native language out of my head entirely.

Sometimes I find it best to seek out the larger words in a text and identify them for hints at context and meaning before delving into the smaller words for specifics. I find this technique works best on shorter messages and signage, however. For longer messages, I tend to focus on the details of individual sentences. With German, the second word is the “fuel” for the sentence, or the verb powering it, and I try to identify it first. Afterwards, and depending on the sentence, I next look to the final word in the sentences, which may clarify tense. Awareness of what action is happening in each sentence makes it easier to structure and outline the details of the text.

Improve Your Vocabulary & Speech Acts

Using Mnemonics

The Code-Word System

As I stated in an earlier post, I do best learning new vocabulary by identifying word associations and puns between English and German, so the Code-Word System is a natural choice for memorization of new terminology. Naturally, this technique is – at least for me – very effective, especially if the code-word enables a particularly outrageous image, whether it be funny or disgusting, because it stands out in the memory. When I approach a new German term usually the first English sounding word I recognize becomes the code-word, which allows for sometimes silly results. Examples of my of the Code-Word System use are listed below.

  • Der Roman: the novel – Sounds like “Roman” – Imagining a Roman soldier is reading a novel.
  • Der Käufer: the customer – Sounds like “coffer” – Imagining customers pulling money out of coffers.
  • Wandern: to hike – Sounds like “wandering” – Imagining hikers wandering up a mountain.
  • Stricken: to knit – Sounds like “strike” – Imagining a knitter striking something with her needle.
  • Wohnen: to live somewhere – Sounds like “phone in” – Imagining ET phoning home.

Understanding the World

Opinions on Globalization

Globalization is the conjunction of worldwide communities and countries through the development of travel, communication, and computing technology. The linking of diverse and separate cultures does have its appeal, but there are drawbacks and criticisms to the concept of the world being connected as one compressed unit, making globalization a complicated and complex issue, not clearly falling into a specific category of “good or bad.”

While on the surface the idea of an interconnected world of shared commerce and communication sounds ideal, there are aspects which put some more well-developed and technology rich nations over others. According to the International Journal of Peace Studies, there are concerns Globalization favors the western civilized world, mainly the United States, as it is their technology and platforms which are being utilized to connect society. While industrialized and developed nations reap the benefits of a global marketplace, underdeveloped or technology lacking countries are left in the dark, as they are not equally represented or present in communications or commerce. A one-sided advantage, simply put, is unfair to countries struggling to compete or keep up with telecommunication and computer advances, leaving them cut off from the positive potential of globalization and global economy. In truth, you cannot call the world “globalized” if only half of it is represented in the modern markets. This inequality leads to exploitation, with the countries and regions in power implement their ability to influence and control smaller, undeveloped economies and labor forces. As history repeatedly has shown us, those in power have the unfortunate tendency to exploit or destroy their weaker counterparts, and increased globalization will be no exception.

The developed world could make efforts to close the gap between the globalized and un-globalized, but it would be a complicated endeavor, as well as a costly one. Underdeveloped nations with no, very little, or unreliable electricity would need help building the infrastructure to support the technology needed for telecommunications. Education and training to understand and work with the equipment would then be needed, which holds its own difficulties in regions with high illiteracy rates and poor elementary schooling. Essentially, globalizing the planet would require a complete bottom-up rebuild of the third world.

There are also concerns globalization robs the world of the unique cultural character held by distinct nations and regions. It is a massive assumption that underdeveloped nations even want to become globalized. Many secluded and traditional regions shy away from western influence and culture, eager to preserve their way of life in lieu of becoming what their dominating neighbors consider best for them.

Furthermore, In a global marketplace, individual governments lose control over their own production and commerce, and instead of working to suit their own populations, work to appease a planetary standard of cost and value determined by more powerful entities, exposing them to disadvantage and economic turmoil. The fact is, the globalized world cannot force anyone to participate and become a part of their ideals and policies, and doing so has potential to cause and fuel international conflict and animosity. There will always be pockets of resistance and an unwillingness to sacrifice history and lifestyle, and western culture would do well to respect this.

While all-inclusive globalization may eventually become a worldwide benefit and a reality, the transformation will not be a quick or smooth process. Total integration make take decades or centuries and will cost trillions of dollars. A realistic expectation of global technology is a patient one. Currently, there are conflicts and catastrophes such as war, disease, and hunger ravaging underdeveloped countries. Finding peaceful and humanitarian solutions to these problems now would be a more immediate and prudent use of time and resources. Western outreach must focus first on humanitarian efforts before economic ones, and attention given for need and not wants. Perhaps when all enjoy equal basic human rights everywhere, the conversation can then be turned to ideas of technology and globalization.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s