Spanish Language Acquisition
Throughout my time at the University of Florida, I worked to earn a minor in Spanish. This experience has been one of my proudest accomplishments, and it sparked in me a desire to learn at least two more languages in my lifetime. To see my Spanish in writing, head over to my blog page where I have translated each entry into Spanish after the English versions. To hear more about my language learning, watch the video below.
My coursework has given me ample opportunity to research how intercultural considerations impact businesses and the practice of public relations, which is different in every country and is heavily dependent upon cultural context.
One example of intercultural research I have done actually came from my position as an undergraduate research assistant in my last semester at UF. Dr. DiStaso and her team of PhD students were working on a chapter addressing purpose in public relations in the book, “Intercultural Public Relations: Realities and Reflections in Practical Contexts.” As a part of my research assistant duties, I was tasked with finding relevant scholarly articles that would help our team substantiate how companies can follow through on communicating their purpose across cultures, which involves harmonizing differences.
My main takeaway from this research was that companies that want to communicate the same theme across cultures need to get comfortable with using different messages and strategies to communicate the same idea. For example, while country A may have a lateral management structure, which heavily emphasizes subordinate members of a company having decision-making power, country B may have hierarchical management structures, which has very strict interpretations of who gets to make the decisions. This means that when country A tries to expand operations into country B, it needs to be cognizant of the different way in which people in country B are comfortable working. What is respectful in country A, i.e. increased subordinate involvement in decision making, might come across as dismissive or disrespectful of tradition in country B. Therefore, communicating the idea of “openness” in the work environment will need to look different in each country in which a company has its offices.
Another example of an intercultural research project that I completed for my International Public Relations course can be viewed below. The purpose of this assignment was to find a corporation that is headquartered in one country and operating in another, and then to basically analyze one of its public relations campaigns in the host country. For my presentation, I chose Bodega Aurrera, a Walmart brand, and its 2019 “Ponte a las Vivas” public relations campaign.
As I reflect on my intercultural research experiences, I am struck by how relative communications across cultures needs to be. There are, of course, universal emotions and situations, but the sense through which people all over the world experience these emotions, and how they express them, vary greatly. We all have our own little corner of the world where we live, and it is tempting to begin to think one of two things. One, that the way we experience life must be the same way that people in other countries experience it, or two, our way of life is the best. Both of these thoughts, though seemingly very different, come back to the idea of ethnocentrism, is which we think that our country, our context, is the only one or the best one. Through my research opportunities, I have discovered ways to identify this kind of thinking in myself, in others and in content I consume, and I am more prepared to be able to refute these ideas in favor of a more global perspective.
English Language Institute: Conversation Partner
Over the course of the Summer 2019, Fall 2020 and Spring 2020 semesters, I volunteered as a conversation partner with the English Language Institute, which is a department at UF that enrolls international students in its intensive English acquisition program. The ELI works to immerse its students in the language and culture of the United States so they are able to communicate in a comfortable and casual way, and my job as a conversation partner was to provide a casual space to practice English for my partner.
From July 2019 to February 2020, I met with a student from Saudi Arabia once a week for an hour to get lunch, get coffee or just to chat. We talked about everything ranging from our academic backgrounds, what our families are like, our experiences with travel and even my wedding, which I was planning at the time.
One of my favorite memories from our many conversations is when my partner told me about how precious and important rain is in her home country. The conversation came up because it was a particularly gloomy and wet day in Gainesville – the kind during which the sun is completely disguised by enormous, dark clouds, and there is a constant drizzle of cold water that makes it just slightly uncomfortable to walk anywhere on campus because you are cold and sweating simultaneously.
Well, I was not happy with the weather, and this was the first topic of conversation I brought up – a classic, “how about that weather?” topic to begin small talk. Instead of concurrence, she went on to tell a beautiful story about her family all running out into the rain when it comes because rain is considered a special thing in Saudi Arabia, and people don’t run from it – they welcome it. Perspective.
This, and countless conversations about the importance of family and what it is like being homesick, allowed us to form a friendship, and it gave me a better understanding of a culture in a country on the other side of the world to which I have never been.
Along with our weekly meetings, I also got to assist in a few English classes, too. Here, I got to meet other students from all over the world, and I helped facilitate hypothetical scenarios for the students to practice language and cultural competency skills. Sometimes it was faux phone calls, and sometimes it was party small talk. Through it all, I learned two things:
· I talk way too fast.
· There is nothing quite as eye-opening as seeing your culture and country through someone else’s lens.
UF International Center: Social Media Internship
Going into the Fall 2020 semester, I wanted to stay connected to the Gainesville area – to UF campus – even when I moved abroad to Italy. Of course, this didn’t happen nearly as quick as I thought it would because of COVID-19, but I knew that the perfect way to fuse my international experience with my continued experience at UF would be to work at the International Center to encourage other students to pursue international coursework and extracurriculars.
I began working as the social media intern with the UF International Center in July 2020 with the intention to schedule social media content remotely from Italy. Well, when my move ended up taking longer than expected, I worked from the office once a week and from my home the other two days. While still in Florida, I created an Instagram reels campaign to promote the Global Culture Photography Competition, began creating YouTube videos featuring previous years’ winning photos, scheduled three posts a day on five platforms each week through Hootsuite, and I implemented the use of LinkTree for UFIC’s social media channels to consolidate event and information links.
It was through this work that I learned about the International Scholars Program, and that I heard about various internationally focused events that were happening virtually. So, not only did I get work experience in my field, but I was also able to get even more plugged into the international community at UF. I became even more aware of the intricacies of student visas, student acquisition and student retention amid a global pandemic.
Finally, in January 2021, I did get to move to Italy. Since, then, I have continued scheduling social media posts at the same rate, but I have also taken on another project. By the end of the Spring 2021 semester, I hope to have the first season of an original UFIC podcast ready for publication. The podcast will focus on faculty experiences with the Global Learning Institute and internationalizing their courses. Through this project, I have gotten the chance to improve my audio editing and content creation skills, and I have learned so much about how college classes can be reworked to have an international focus.
The UF International Center internship experience, to me, feels like a capstone project that has allowed me to use every skill and every interest I have picked up in my degree program, and I am forever grateful for the experience.