Living Overseas Is a Life-Long Classroom

By Robyn Kriesel, graduate student in the Advertising and Marketing Communications graduate program.

As a “military brat”, meaning one or both of my parents were in the military, I grew up in Europe. Both of my parents served in the military; my father served in the Air Force and my mother served in the Air Force Reserves. Although my parents divorced when I was four, my mother and I journeyed down a road that is unforgettable. At the age of nine, my mother was given an opportunity to move to Germany. From third grade through the completion of my BA in Film Studies degree, I was immersed in European cultures. If someone asks me for advice about how to adjust to other cultures I would give them these four tips:

  • A wise professor from the Freshmen Seminar course at Regent’s College London, now known as Regent’s University London, told us multiple times that, “the room you’re sitting in now, it is not your classroom. Instead, this city is your classroom.  ” There are so many things to do in a city to learn about cultures, such as getting to know the locals and pay attention to the news. In London, I attended a few film premieres (including Harry Potter 7: Part 2), attended concerts (e.g. Dragonforce and McFly), attended special occasion events (e.g. Christmas Street Lighting), met long-term friends, and did a lot of sightseeing.

Revolutionary Road Film Premiere in Freshmen Year in London, United Kingdom.

  • Blend in with the crowd. Other than the usual saying of “what to and what not to wear”, adjust to the cultures as best you can. Even in an English-speaking country, some words are translated differently. For example, “football” in England means the same thing as soccer in the United States. Do not be afraid to take a foreign language course. Even if you do not speak fluently, the locals can tell you are trying to adjust and appreciate you are willing take their culture seriously.

Big Ben image taken from the Queen’s Walkway, London, United Kingdom

  • Stay active and healthy. You do not need to be a professional athlete to explore the city. Taking a walk through the town and nature on a regular basis will do. When I travel, I always bring the following: cell phone (only use for emergencies), bottled water, protein snacks, camera (not attached to my phone), sunscreen, and a map. Whenever my courses required me to travel from the campus, I had my daypack ready for that day’s course(s) and travel equipment. Every day is an adventure! In simple terms, attend courses for the day, download the directions and map, and then off you go to explore the city! Make sure you keep yourself hydrated, eat well-balanced meals, but do not be afraid to try cultural dishes.

Study Abroad Student exploring London, United Kingdom

  • Do your cultural homework! This ties in with the first piece of advice of paying attention to the news. Before you participate in a political protest, understand why. Before you attend a special dinner, respect the dress code. It all comes down to respect and being aware of your surroundings. Also, use the buddy system, especially when visiting areas you have not been before.