I am sad to say that my academic experience here at Syracuse University in London is coming to an end! I literally only have one week left of exams and then I will be in a plane on my way back to the United States of America. This last week will be extremely hectic as I have five final exams in the space of three days, due to the fact that our program ends on Thursday the 18th of December. One of my final exams is based on a creative research paper for my Intercultural Communication and Social Media class. For my specific research paper, I chose to explore the relationship between social media and an individual’s intercultural adaptation process. Intercultural adaptation is defined as, “the process of promoting understanding through interaction to increase the level of fitness so that the demands of a new cultural environment can be met” (Cia & Rodriguez). To be more specific, my research is directed towards the adaptation of international students when going abroad for study programs. The methodology used for this project was a survey consisting of ten questions directed towards international students. Below is a presentation that contains information of some of the procedures that I went to in order to explore the relationship between social media and the intercultural adaptation process of international students.
I have now been in London for about 3 months and I am reaching the end of my amazing study abroad experience here! It is quite shocking how time flies! Over the past few months I have been blessed with the opportunity of being able to travel to a variety of places with different groups of people. During my time abroad, I have learned so much about the British culture as well as ways to get around the beautiful city of London. Because of the great experiences that I have had here, I have chosen to include a video which provides tips for individuals who are looking to apply for a study abroad program. I cannot stress the importance of strongly considering these tips as they help prepare you for an amazing experience at your chosen study abroad program. Trying new things and having an open mind when going to a new country is important as you are able to deeply immerse yourself in the culture!
As an individual who has been fortunate enough to travel to a variety of places around the world, I believe that I have the ability to detect cultural differences. While I have associated with individuals from different cultures, it is still important to note that there are always new things to learn about other cultures. However, I do believe that I am able to communicate effectively with people who come from different backgrounds than I do. In my Intercultural Communication and Social Media class, we discussed the concept of “cultural sensory perception,” defined as “the ability to recognize when cultural differences are in play, utilizing a range of senses to spot verbal and non-verbal cues which may differ greatly from those of one’s own culture” (Gibson 2014). Understanding the differences in cultural interactions is critical to maintaining healthy relationships in the long run. As an International Business major, I understand the importance of knowing the differences between my culture and that of others especially when attending networking events.
Recently, I was involved in a group project which required research on the movie, “Real Women Have Curves”. The main goal of the research project was to look for signs of intercultural communication, while applying it to some of the intercultural theories that we have discussed in class thus far. During my project, I realized that I was able to pick up a variety of cultural differences between the United States of America and Mexico. In our analysis of the movie, we see that Ana’s family tends to use a lot of non-verbal communication when interacting with other individuals. Based on this, one will see that individuals of Spanish decent or culture typically place an emphasis on non-verbal communication. Americans on the other hand, use more verbal communication than that of non-verbal. Interestingly enough, I found that I was able to find a number of differences in cultural communication from the ways in which Ana’s family responded in a number of situations. While my group and I were attentive to find the cultural differences depicted in the movie, we felt that our undivided attention during the movie was attributed to the fact that we were looking for specific things based on our assignment.
Watching the movie for the second time with subtitles made a huge difference. While we were able to understand the majority of things that took place, there were some scenes that were spoken in Spanish which seemed quite important. In other words, we were forced to interpret and guess what was taking place in certain parts of the movie. However, the inclusion of subtitles allowed us to fully comprehend the vital messages that were being sent amongst the family members. Both experiences allowed me to analyze my cultural competency of other cultures such as that of Mexico. While I am able to understand and communicate with different people, there is always more to learn about other cultures!
Studying abroad at the Syracuse University in London over the past two months has provided me with a great opportunity of being able to learn about a new culture, while finding ways to adapt to a new cultural environment. Many individuals believe that there are no cultural differences between England and the United States of America simply because both countries speak the english language. This train of thought is completely wrong as both countries have their own set of distinguished cultural practices! I myself made the mistake of thinking that a transition to London was going to be very easy during my internship last summer. Interestingly enough, I found that I was constantly making comparisons between the United States of America and England. Looking back, I would say that I was in the ethnocentric realm dealing with the first three stages of Denial, Defense, and Minimization. I realized that my first few weeks in the country were my hardest as I complained about the many differences that I saw. For Instance, the idea that drivers drove on the left completely destroyed my sense of direction as I had to look at the opposite side of the road when crossing the street! Differences like these drove me crazy simply because I had to find a way to let go of the things that I was accustomed to doing, while figuring out a way to adapt to my new environment. Evidently, my familiarity with the American culture lead me to make the conclusion that life in America is superior and less complicated than that of England.
As explained above, my internship in London last summer exposed me to the many differences between the American and British cultural differences. Therefore, I had already developed an appreciation for the differences between the two countries. This appreciation of cultural differences lead to my introduction into the ethnorelative realm. My association and constant interactions with British colleagues at the office further contributed to my cultural integration and acceptance. Coming back to London for a study abroad program further increased my integration into the culture as I was able to reconnect with old contacts, who then introduced me to more British people. All in all, my experience in London has lead me to realize that a transition from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism is necessary for individuals looking to adapt to a new cultural environment. This process is critical to improving intercultural communication between individuals from different backgrounds!
Culture bias as defined by Wikipedia is “the phenomenon of interpreting and judging phenomena by standards inherent to one’s own culture”. While some people might disagree, I believe that all individuals regardless of where they are from in the world have some degree of cultural bias in them. It is quite frankly a human trait that every individual possesses. We would not be human if we did not have certain reactions to things that we see on a daily basis. After all, the interactions that we have with other people is what allows us to either change or confirm our initial judgements. While culture bias is normal, it can be dangerous if we as individuals are not aware of the judgements that we make about other cultures.
Studying abroad in London for the past two months has provided me with the opportunity of learning so much about the British culture. However, there have been times where I have made judgements on some of the things that I have observed. I recently went to a football game in Central London between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. As a huge football fan myself, I know the amount of passion that supporters have for their clubs! After watching Newcastle bounce back to win the game, I successfully navigated around the crowded staircase and made my way to the exit. After exiting the stadium, I saw two Newcastle United fans drinking and singing in joy. As the two fans continued celebrating their win, a couple of Tottenham Hotspur fans were telling them to shut up and get out of the area. Shortly after that, a brawl ensued between the fans of both teams. As I stood there watching all of this commotion, I thought that it was ridiculous to see forty year old men fighting over a sports team. Therefore, I made a mental judgement towards fans of English football clubs. Later on that day, I came to the conclusion that there are huge differences in the way sports are interpreted in other countries. England is known as a place where fans are passionate about their teams especially because these teams represent a particular area of England, where these fans are from. I then realized that it was more than just supporting a football team. It was about defending the honor and integrity of one’s home town or area.
Another judgement that I made while being in London is in regards to the pub culture. I have always wondered how British people are able to leave work so early and then go straight to drinking at pubs. For the longest time, I have thought of this as something sort of reserved for a younger age group. In America and other places that I have been to, I am used to seeing a younger audience at bars. I guess my train of thought is different as adults are expected to work hard and go home after work in my culture. After being in London for two months, I now have a different attitude towards pub culture as the lifestyle is more relaxed here. I have noticed that many jobs here close early, which allows individuals to have a great balance between work and having a social life. This is drastically different to America, where people work for long hours.
As seen from my examples above, I have had some judgements during my semester in London. However, the important thing is that I recognize that I do make these judgements from time to time. My ability to recognize this is critical as it allows me to further learn more about the new environment that I am in.
Being exposed to a variety of different religious and cultural practices is advantageous to an individual’s personal development over time. Fortunately for me, I was blessed with the opportunity of socializing with individuals from different religious backgrounds at a very young age. During my time at the American International School, I met students from Brazil, India, Korea, Ghana, Vietnam, America and a host of other countries. Some of the religions that these students represented were Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. The fact that I had the privilege of learning about so many religions and cultures provided me with the ability to associate with people from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, me growing up in Nigeria taught me a lot about the religion of Islam and Christianity. Nigeria itself is made up of about 50% of Muslims in the North, and 50% of Christians in the South. My childhood experiences have familiarized me with other religions, thus allowing me to be respectful and appreciative of other people’s cultures!
As an individual who grew up in a religious Muslim household, I am privy to the religious, traditional, and cultural practices of Islam. Our class trip to the London Central Mosque was interesting as the tour guide provided the class with a holistic perspective about the Islamic religion. The fact that the tour guide recently converted to Islam was a bonus as she was able to speak from a multitude of perspectives. For me, religion is more than just a system of worship. I see religion as a way of life since it functions as a guide for individuals around the world. The interesting thing about religion is that it can be represented in different ways depending on a specific culture. While the overlap between religion and culture is good, it can lead to false stereotypes. For example, the fact that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia has created the stereotype that women have no rights in Islam. Stereotypes like these are faulty due to the fact that Islam promotes women’s rights. The misunderstanding and lack of religious and cultural awareness can be attributed to the stereotypes that exist in today’s society.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” –Marcus Garvey
As seen from the quote above, cultural awareness is extremely important as it provides individuals with the necessary knowledge and intellect to have prosperous relationships with a variety of different people. Cultural knowledge and interaction was a key factor in getting responses for the questionnaire that I created for my social media and communications class. The goal of the assignment was to create a brief questionnaire designed to learn how others perceive Americans. Below are a few examples of the types of questions that my research partner, Grant McGovern, and I included in our questionnaire:
- What is the first thing that comes to mind when conversing with an American?
- What are the three main stereotypes you associate with Americans and would you consider them to be true?
- Are there any qualities of the American lifestyle that you value or cherish?
- In your opinion is America a land of opportunity for individuals all over the world?
- What do you think Americans value the most in life?
We were extremely lucky to be able to have such a diverse group of participants for this project. This abundance in diversity was attributed to the fact that Grant took a trip to Ireland last weekend, thus increasing the number of individuals from other countries besides England. Some of the countries represented in the questionnaire were: Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Northern Ireland, and Netherlands. A diverse group of individuals decreases the level of bias in a questionnaire, since you are able to get different responses.
After gathering the responses that we received from a diverse group of people, we found that quite a few of the participants “sugar coated” their answers. That is, the individuals would provide a positive and negative aspect of the American people. This lack of straightforward honest answers can be attributed to the face to face manner or methodology of the interview. The fact that Grant, an American citizen, conducted the interviews may have caused the participants to also take a nicer approach to answering the questions. Individuals are less likely to give negative feedback when being interviewed by an American born citizen.
Another observation that we made while conducting the interviews was that people were not willing to answer all of our questions. In other words, people were more likely to answer one or two questions rather than ten. Physical questionnaires are best when kept to one to three questions per person. By keeping the questionnaires short, people are less likely to feel like they are being interrogated. Therefore, long questionnaires are more suitable for anonymous online forums, where people actually have time to respond to questions in confidentiality and great detail.
Interestingly enough, I found a youtube video that relates to the topic of intercultural communication as well as how the world views the United States of America. while it is easy to sit and point fingers at individuals who might not know much about things happening outside of America, one has to also acknowledge the fact that there are ignorant individuals around the world. Just like in many countries around the world, not every individuals has access to educational resources. There are a number of things to take into perspective when judging the people within a country as a whole.