Just as a reminder, my name is Dominique Jeanpierre, and I’m a rising senior PR major who is currently interning in Berlin, Germany for the summer.
I’m not sure if I’m still wrapped in a state of bliss from the many adventures that I have embarked on since the summer, but I struggled when thinking about what to write for this post. For every post, I want my content to be as applicable or relevant to students who are interested in interning abroad because prior to interning abroad, I felt there was a lack of information from a student perspective.
However, now as I write, I wonder, what do students really want to know? The culture of Berlin? How to navigate in a foreign country without knowing the language? How to manage your money while abroad? Did you get relevant experience at your internship? But as important as these questions are, I realized that I was maybe asking the wrong questions. Each question above, relies on the principle that every student will experience the same experiences on a similar spectrum, but these questions do not factor in my individual experiences that shape the perspective and lens on how I view the world.
Questions before going abroad that I should have considered: How will I learn more about my culture from German culture and the subculture of Berlin? How am I going to make sure that my ideas and thoughts are heard at my internship if I experience Imposter Syndrome? How will I maintain my self-care routine in a different country? If unforeseen challenges arise, how will I adapt and use my capabilities to adequately handle the situation? Who are you in Germany? As an African-American female, how will you adjust to a lack of representation of black women?
I am half-way through my program, and yet, I am still asking myself these questions on a daily basis. But, from a holistic approach, a more general answer to the questions above is – become comfortable with the unfamiliar. Yes, I am sure many of you have heard of the saying, “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” or unashamedly a quote from Will Smith, “On the other side of your maximum fear are all the best things in life.”
I have found that by accepting being uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, I have been able to slowly let go of my anxiety and uneasiness that matters will go wrong. By accepting this, I have learned to become more comfortable in tense situations and to ask questions, rather than face what I had been given. For example, the definition of “Diversity” here in Germany focuses more on “inclusion among genders and those with disabilities” rather than a question of “racial and ethnic diversity”. Which, I must admit, baffled me that ethnicity was not more a part of the diversity conversation. However, contrary to lingering on the thought of feeling excluded, I allowed myself to become more open to the conversation and history of Germany that construes the diversity conversation in this way.
Another reason to “become more comfortable with the unfamiliar” is because this will allow you to become more open to making new friends that you would not normally come in contact with, new conversations and new perspectives to expand your view and lens of the world. When applying for this program, I believed that I would learn more hard skills than soft skills pertaining to the program and internship. Honestly, I almost disregarded the talk about “how much growth you will encounter abroad” because I felt that I knew myself enough to know what I will experience abroad, mentally, but I should not have not invalidated the power of learning to adapt and completely immerse yourself in a new culture, even if you think it’s similar to your own and how much effort it takes to make small risks/challenges slowly rather than to take big risks.
Since, I have been in Berlin, I have been challenged in ways that I would have never imagined but they were all internal. External factors such as figuring out what to pack or how to navigate in a foreign country, are important nevertheless, but do not change how I impact my community and the information I bring home. I challenge you to immerse yourself in a new culture and see that once you fully embrace and accept the culture, how much positivity and joy you will find in absorbing a culture that is different from your own.
This post was contributed by Dominique Jeanpierre, a 2019 Global Ambassador majoring in public relations. Dominique is interning in Berlin, Germany, through UT’s International Internship Program.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Dominique’s experience abroad>>