Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cross Cultural Experience Unit

For this blog, I don't have to imagine hosting exchange students who have never visited the US, because I actually did host 2 exchange students this past semester who've never visited the US. In Calhoun Courts (in the Cultural Exchange Community), I lived with Julia from Austria and Sany from Australia (as well as one other American student). At the beginning there were so many cultural differences between us, and it really took some time to work through our differences and learn to understand and appreciate each other for our differences in cultures and beliefs. By the end of the semester, we were all the closest group of friends with a bond that we know will never be broken. We already all have plans to visit each other; Julia is flying to Belgium to stay with me in one month to have a room mate reunion already.

myself, Sany from Australia, Julia from Austria, and Christine

Halloween at Clemson!

There were many particular things about 'my people' and our American culture that I explained to them when they arrived in the states. They didn't understand why everyone was always so friendly, for example the ladies in Schilletter or the fact that everyone always smiles or says 'hi' when you pass them, regardless of if you know them or not. Through ethnos, or my ethnic group, my people truly like to enjoy life and not move too fast. I've noticed already with the European culture that everyone always seems to be in a rush and on the go. With nomos, the internationals seemed to be confused about religion in the US. Since the south is part of the Bible belt, many students here say they are Christians, but their behavior and actions greatly differ from that statement. I try greatly to keep my actions in line with my beliefs.

I brought 4 internationals home with me for Thanksgiving so they could experience a real American Thanksgiving like they've always heard about. They absolutely loved it and loved seeing how 'my people', family, celebrated this day. They really appreciated our culture for what it is and how we are. They absolutely LOVED the southern food also! It was such a great break together, being able to show them my town. I also had an Australian exchange student from Clemson live with me over Christmas break. Although it was hard at times not being with his family for Christmas, he really enjoyed the American ways for Christmas and also New Years Eve (He had NEVER heard of people having a New Years kiss! He said that is not a part of his culture).

their first American Thanksgiving in Lexington, SC :-)

before headed the the USC v Clemson game in Columbia over Thanksgiving break.
Countries in order: USA, Austria, USA, Australia, Australia, Australia, and USA!

In terms of 'Long-Term Orientation', I feel that my culture is way more associated with short term orientation. Short-term orientation is respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting your own image that you've built. I feel that southerns definitely fall under short-term orientation; the south seems to be all about protecting your image and definitely about carrying out traditions.

Masculinity is also definitely a part of our culture. It seems to be the 'correct' way to do things is the man should work and 'bring in the bacon', and the woman should stay home with the children and cook. Of course this is slowly changing, but for the most part this is how southerners seem to like it best.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cultural Literacy

There are many things that have helped me become culturally literate in my own culture in the United States, and the more time I spend in Belgium, the more I realize how culturally literate I was at home. Obviously at home I have a ton of interaction with my own culture. From having a job, to friends and family, to driving my own car around town, those all involve being culturally literate. To be culturally literate you must interact with the culture, which is something at home that I don't even realize I'm doing, but I am doing it all the time in the U.S. Also I feel another way I am culturally literate in the U.S. is by knowing, understanding, and using 'slang' terms, especially my culture in the south. Words such as "y'all", "over yonder", etc. that are only specific to my region and culture.

In Belgium, I feel like there are many gaps to fill until I feel more culturally literate here. First of all, their is a huge language barrier here for me. I grew up taking many years of Spanish in middle and high school, then decided to switch over to German in college. Now I am in a French speaking country!!! So before I can even understand informal content in Belgium, I must first learn more of the language. Every day here can be a struggle when trying to read metro signs to get to specific places, and I find it especially hard in the grocery store. I can't read the labels on ANYTHING so that makes it very difficult, more difficult than I thought it would be. Even when cooking, when have to switch everything over to the metric system but we've survived so far and haven't poisoned ourselves yet :) The good news is though, I am taking a french course while I'm over here; it started a couple of weeks ago. I can already feel some of the cultural boundaries breaking down with issues that I had been struggling with. I am excited to learn more of the language so that I can get around more easily for the remaining time that I am living in Belgium.

What has helped me become somewhat culturally literate are the Belgian friends that I made while living at Clemson. I lived in the Cultural Exchange Community (CEC) in Calhoun Courts and there are MANY Belgians that come to Clemson to study abroad. I became great friends with several of them and have already seen some of them while here. My next door neighbor at Clemson, Renau, came and picked me up one of my first nights in Belgium and took me out for a night on the town which I could not have appreciated more. He got me my first Belgian beer, taught me a lot about the culture, we got REAL French fries (they actually orginiated in Belgium!! Who knew??), and took me to a town here called Ghent, about an hour away from where I live. We explored the city while he explained many things to me. Then we went to downtown Brussels and had a great time.

My Belgian friend Renau and me

First taste of real french fries...incredible!!

I look forward to become more and more culturally literate while I'm in Belgium!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Skype to the rescue...I need to see my friends from home!

Wow, what an experience Belgium has been in just the past week! It is such an adjustment to a new culture, but I am learning to embrace everything the best possible way I can. I am definitely missing my friends from home terribly though.

With that said, I am having to keep in touch with my family and friends through many different types of online communities. I want to stay involved in my friends lives as best as possible while I'm away, and vice versa. Especially at this time in my life, I have never been so thankful for new technology and media! There are times when we feel technology is the worst communication ever; why can't we just talk face to face? While being abroad though, new social communities are my only lifeline to my relationships back home.

My knowledge of these new media is pretty large, I would like to think. I am not very familiar though with Twitter or video publishing. Twitter has always sounds quite stupid to me and it's not something worth getting myself addicted to. I am very involved with Skype, Facebook, and email though.

Through Facebook, I am thankfully able to keep in touch with my friends all around the world! I lived in the Cultural Exchange Community at Clemson, so when we all went our separate ways and back to our respective countries this December, we all vowed to keep in touch through Facebook. Also, we can share with each other pictures from our homes and upload pictures that we have together. Also with instant chat on Facebook, it definitely makes your friends feel not so far away from you. I am a huge Facebook supporter!

As for Skype, I could not love it anymore. I use Skype currently ALL THE TIME. It's the online community I use to keep in touch with my closest friends. Through Skype, I am able to talk to my parents whenever I want (you can make Skype phonecalls right to their cell phones--so cool!). Also, I have two very good friends in Australia that I can so easily keep up with through Skype video chat. What a genius invention by the Swedes!! Without Skype, I would be slightly depressed while studying abroad. My friends and family from all over the world are so important to me, and I can see their faces everyday because of Skype. Facebook can be slow and quite annoying at times, but Skype has never failed me! I am so thankful. It eases the pain of distance and separation.

Email is also a lifesaver. I am able to manage online bills, and keep in touch with Clemson. I am currently applying to be an RA in the Cultural Exchange Community for next year, but originally I thought I couldn't apply since I won't be there for the interview. But no fear, through email we will be able to communicate, and then set up a Skype date to talk! How incredible. I am keeping my connections at Clemson through email.

How did anyone ever survive without online communities?? :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010 I come!

BLOG 1: Reflections upon entering the CLAM course and/or response to the introductory materials.

Wow...what a whirlwind past 48 hours it has been! I've gone from Columbia, SC to DC to NYC and then finally arrived in Brussels, Belgium where I will spend the next almost 5 months of my life! What a culture shock it is already over here, but I am loving it none the less.

Leaving Columbia, SC

Driving to find out apartment!

Our beautiful apartment....not bad!

I am so excited to be in the CLAM class, I feel like it will help me truly express my thoughts and experiences while I'm studying abroad, as well as help me evaluate communication practices of different cultures and different media. I clicked the link to watch the 'Welcome to CLAM' video and it would not work on my computer; I also tried it on my roommates computer and it would not work there either. Is there something wrong with the video?

I have read over the syllabus and course outline and I know I will stay busy in this class, but it will be worth it. After reading over all of the class goals, I am excited to know I will have accomplished all of those by the end of the semester. I've always loved taking pictures and traveling, so hopefully this class will be great for me.

I'm looking forward to a great semester abroad and to keeping everyone posted!