In diverse populations, multicultural adaptation can be achieved at the environmental and humanities level. These efforts may often prove challenging but should remain a priority. Adapting to a new environment is integral in the progression of one’s personal and professional life.
Environmental adaptation is often achieved by improving our awareness for the local surroundings. Geographical information can be found by consulting detailed maps of the local area. To gain a greater contextualization of the areas, community websites and conversation with local residents may prove useful. By becoming intrinsically aware of general areas such as the gym and grocery store, a sense of security can be gained. This can help to provide confidence when navigating local surroundings.
The humanistic element of adaptation intuitively takes more time compared to the environmental element. Progression with humanistic adaptation is achieved through personal experiences that are accumulated through daily life. This process requires an understanding of the differences between one’s own culture and those of the current area. Although many scholars have long supported that factors such as the need for respect and recognition are universal, the manifestation of these elements vary greatly. This is easily recognizable in the differing cultural norms present in each geographical area. Trying to better understand these differences can facilitate humanistic adaptation as one continues to feel more confident about the area.
While communicating through cultural and language barriers, maintaining a mentality focused on effective discussion is essential. It is not always necessary to emphasize that conversation may be difficult as a foreigner. Rather, aiming to communicate clearly to the best of one’s ability is ideal. Continuously reinforcing the idea that the conversation may not be perfect may place one in a negative mindset when aiming to speak with others. Through an attitude of curiosity, one can better understand the local culture and continue gaining experience effectively communicating with others.
Although the importance of learning the local language cannot be overstated, it is also very important to recognize the universal forms of communication. Body language and facial expressions are easily recognizable and do not fall within the same barriers of spoken language. A smile is often referred to as the “language of the world.” In addition, smiling may also provide some intrinsic benefit in the form of self-confidence. Through the many forms of communication, actively producing the effort to socialize can lead to greater interactions and the subsequent opportunity to cooperate with others.
Of course, there is no need to force yourself to be social if it is not something that you enjoy. Feeling obligated to engage in social interactions is not a requisite to improving language skills. Placing additional pressure on yourself to do so is unnecessary. The types of adaptation discussed above can be applied to many situations commonly encountered by students studying abroad. Aiming to be mindful about these social interactions is most important and the skills gained can be applied to both work and personal life.
It is necessary to understand the characteristics of the learning and working environment. In example, German universities prioritize independent thinking with their students. This may mean that the type of guidance they receive from mentors will require more personal creativity and effort towards shaping their professional identity. For international students, this difference in style may require some adaptation to fully maximize the interactions and experiences they face. This may take shape in the form of actively expressing opinions at seminars or providing their own insights at other forums of discussion. By taking the initiative to communicate when the opportunity is present, a sense of direction in work and education may be more quickly found.
Cultural differences and language barriers may occasionally cause social challenges. By aiming to learn from the differences in social norms, one can continue to improve their understanding of social situations. This can be especially challenging in foreign countries where preconceived perceptions may hinder meaningful interactions. Maintaining a positive attitude and attempting to clarify any misunderstanding can go a long way.
Songzi Li/Editing Manager