Today is my last day abroad of the summer, and I'm writing this post from Berlin, Germany! I've spent this summer interning abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and also had the chance to visit the south of France, the Netherlands, and Germany. This summer, along with the summer I spent 2 years ago in London, Paris, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, has shown me how important it is for aspiring PR professionals, like myself, to experience the world beyond the United States. This summer has gone by far too fast for me, but before I (gratefully) return home, I wanted to share why going abroad is so important.
1. Living, studying, or interning abroad will undoubtedly teach you things about a culture you could never understand just by looking at it. Learning about the rest of the world through class and study is well and good, but cultural immersion is the only real way to experience it.
2. Our world is becoming ever more connected, which means that at some point, you'll probably be dealing with a foreign company or public. When you do deal with this foreign entity, knowing the culture can be vital to accurately forging a connection with them. For example, spend a week in Spain and you'll realize that between 2-4 pm is never a good time to do business, because everyone is on siesta, either getting lunch or napping. But, if you'd never been to Spain, you wouldn't know this, and your business efforts could go to waste.
3. An often-overlooked component of inter-cultural relations is food; and who doesn't love food? Well, if your're from Spain, you probably before some sort of Iberian ham, or some seafood. If you're German, on the other hand, you're likely to go for some sort of curry sausage dish, or some delicious brattwurst. And if you're from France, then a crepe or some crackers and cheese might be your preference. When interacting with people from a different country, serving the wrong food or going to the wrong restaurant can ruin the relationship from the start.
If you ever get a chance, even a glimmer of a chance to go somewhere abroad, then take it! Even if you're just going on vacation, go somewhere different, and take the time to feel out the culture. My professor once said that as soon as you arrive in a new city or country, take a minute to think about what your smelling. What you smell when you arrive will be the unique smell to that place, and if you don't acknowledge it immediately, you'll stop noticing it after a little while. So, all I'm saying is to get out of your bubble, your comfort zone, and go somewhere new. First time I stayed in a cheap European hostel, I hated it, but give it a chance, and it'll grow on you, just like whatever foreign destination you choose will grow on you.