Today, I am reflecting on how I have grown/how my perspective has changed over the course of the internship.
The experience of living in a foreign city with a language and culture different from your own is quite a humbling experience. This is something that I was expecting going into this internship, but I was caught off-guard by just how big of a role this played in everyday life. I come from a pretty diverse town in the US where multiple languages are spoken/people come from all different cultural backgrounds, so the concept of linguistic and cultural privelege were ideas that were very much discussed growing up. And now that I have spent the past two months navigating a foreign language and culture, I feel that I have more of a personal understanding as to how challenging it can be to be a minority in this way.
Another thing that really struck me was that I had totally underestimated how challenging it can be to adjust to even very small differences in cultural customs and expectations of daily life. I had been to Germany before, so I had a little experience with some of the differences between German and American culture, but there were still definitely things that threw me off. For example, by American standards, I am considered an extremely clean person. I knew that German culture emphasized cleanliness, and I thought that I would fit right in and not have to adjust too many habits because this is how I am accustomed to living. But when I first moved into my apartment, I realized after a week or so, that, compared to my roommates, I was considered a bit of a slob because I wasn’t sweeping, mopping and vaccuuming my room every week, washing the inside and outside of my window with windex if it hadn’t rained for a while, or using soap and water to wash and wipe down my shelf in the refrigerator when buying new groceries. It was a strange experience being the odd one out, and it was an especially strange experience realizing that even if my behaviors remain the same, depending on where I am, my perceived personality (in this case, neat and orderly vs. unkempt and dirty) can change even if I don’t.