Study Abroad

Study Abroad

Revealing the meaning that a study abroad has for the personal and academic development of students is the main theme of this article. A brief reflection about the stereotypes that are found in an encounter with the stranger, introduces us to the fragments of the interviews made to four students at the end or after their experiences abroad.

Study Abroad

Based on these experiences, we will delve into the processes that occur in the encounter with the other, focused on the question: how is the strange constructed? And what is the relationship between the stranger and prejudices?

By situating the study Study Abroad stay in the university context, aspects related to the internationalization of universities and student mobility are described. The cultural shock as a possible consequence during a stay abroad is approached to lead to the preparation for mobility, and the acquisition of intercultural skills that facilitate the maximum use of an extraordinary experience such as a study abroad.

The encounter with the stranger

Within the framework of international cooperation between Mexican and German universities, study Study Abroad stays have been organized for several years with the aim of promoting intercultural education, which means: education in interaction and exchange and openness to the cultural values ​​of the various human groups

A stay of study abroad confronts each student with their prejudices against strangers. The examples presented in this article include experiences of a Mexican student in Germany, a German student in Mexico, and a Mexican student and a German student in China. The interest to include also the experiences in this last country arises from the possibility of comparing the perceptions of a German student and a Mexican student in the same context totally strange for both. Moving in an unknown content leads to a confrontation at a subjective level with respect to the relationship that is perceived in the usual context.

The starting point for the appreciation of the other is the moment of how one is self-placed against the other. So, as I see myself, it turns out to have fundamental effects on the way I see the other.

The starting point of the interviewed students was reflected in their judgment about the encounter with the others in the mentioned countries. The stereotypes with which the contexts were linked played an important role, and are imaginary with respect to the characteristics and behaviors, which are ascribed to a certain group of people. They are behavior models that reduce and fragment complex realities to simpler schemes. In the concrete encounter one can discover the confirmation of the stereotype or find exactly the opposite

First impressions

German student in Mexico

“The arrival in Mexico City was a real cultural shock, you do not know what you have to do, luckily there was someone who helped me, took me to the taxi and told me what to do. Well, at the beginning there was this insecurity of not knowing where I’m going to arrive, what’s going to wait for me, and then communication problems, not being able to pronounce what you wanted, and on the first day at school, I know how things work, but then everything flowed fast, I was insecure, but they were very kind and helped me, and when I could no longer communicate in Spanish, I could help with English. ”

Mexican student in Germany

“The first impression was the diversity of cultures, I was not used to seeing so many at the same time, and the speed with which life goes by, people move around looking at everything, something that does not happen in Mexico. constructions People in general very closed, even the students in the university were very reserved, especially those who come from Paderborn, because those from larger cities were more open “.

Mexican student in China

“My first impression was very surprising, not being able to communicate with anyone, the signs are different, everything is different, but China is also a friendly country, a Chinese in Mexico does not know what to do either, but in China you can orientate yourself, for example the photos in the menus, which allows you to lead a pleasant life without getting into the culture, as a foreigner you can live without having contact with the Chinese. ”

German student in China

“My first impression was of selfishness, an unexpected individuality, the Chinese have no sense of team, social relations are catastrophic, there is chaos, they spit where they want, they are not respectful, conflicts are not resolved. was to reach an underdeveloped country, you can not trust anyone, everyone does what they want, there is no protection and legality, injustices are endured. ”

In the 4 examples, stereotypes are reflected in relation to the countries that hosted and that are manifested in the first impressions of the students.

For the Germans, Mexico is composed, in general, by kind people; (with chaotic traffic). For Mexicans there is the image of Germany as a country with a very advanced technological development, with a very rigid order, and cold human relations.

With regard to China, information is dominated by economic development, but knowledge about social relations or way of life is very scarce.

In a second moment the experiences of the students in the different universities are presented, and the coexistence with the study companions was expressed in the following way:

Experiences in universities

Mexican student in Germany

“The university is quite different, the classes are structured in such a way that you may or may not coincide with many in the classroom, and when the class is over they leave immediately, which means there is little time to break the ice and talk to someone who it can be taken, perhaps, as an invasion of your privacy, compared to Mexico, everything is very different, people are a little more reserved and selective, but not for that rude, students are in what they have to be depending on the moment When there is a party, they dedicate themselves totally to the party, and when there is a school they dedicate themselves completely to it. ”

German student in Mexico

“In Mexico the university works totally different compared to Germany, the groups are much smaller, everything is well schooled, there is a closer group relationship, the relationship with the teacher is very personalized, as it was in my previous years of study. I was the only foreigner in the course and they all helped me, so I could participate well, I was often asked what Germany is like, there was a very strong interest in knowing more about me, and they were always very kind and constantly helped me. ”

Mexican student in China

“There is a strict separation between foreigners and Chinese, foreigners mainly to study the language and not to pursue a career, teachers never scold, never raise their voices, I would expect teachers to put order, but they have a vision The Chinese are very disciplined and a good part of their free time is used to study.

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