Adaptability and Amsterdam
They were not kidding about this whole “Global Mindset” thing
3 weeks, 24 days, or 576 hours, whatever way you say it, I still cannot believe I am here living in London. Someone ask me if I could ever live outside of the United States after what I’ve experienced so far, and my answer is yes! Everyday I spend here I feel more confident that I could work and live internationally after graduation. It’s especially easy in an international city like London to feel this way, as everyone comes from a different walk of life contributing to an environment that thrives on empathy and diversity for others. I’ve even noticed changes in myself, as a result of living here including better problem-solving skills and a greater Global Mindset.
The buzzword (or more accurately buzzphrase) when study abroad is discussed is “Global Mindset”. The topic is so important it even has it’s own SmithStart session, so you’ve likely heard it at least once if you’re in the Smith School. Roughly defined as the development of skills such as empathy, curiosity, and adaptability through interaction with other cultures, the Global Mindset allows us to appreciate different perspectives.
London takes great pride in being an international city, and most Londoners have a well-developed Global Mindset. Personally, when I left for study abroad I would have considered myself to have a fairly developed Global Mindset. I am a member of Global Communities Living Learning Program, which unites students of different cultural backgrounds to learn about global history and issues together, and a member of the marching band, the most academically diverse student led club at College Park. However, as one of my friends says “We are a result of our environment”, and hailing from a small town in Maryland, everyone knows everyone and everyone looks like everyone. I was frustrated when I arrived in London because everything is so different, whereas home I knew exactly how to navigate my surroundings. There is no Target, Safeway, or any other big name American stores, so I had to figure out where to eat, how to get cash, and how to navigate a new city. I had to adapt, which is not a strong skill of mine after 19 years of routine. Yet, here I am in London learning how to roll with the punches. I’ve learned it’s easy to ask questions if I’m uncertain or to appeal to other people’s sense of compassion as a young adult who is in a foreign environment. Again, it doesn’t hurt that London is an international city, and I’m not alone in being unfamiliar with my surroundings.
Perhaps the most evident example of my newfound adaptability was my trip to Amsterdam last weekend. Planed sporadically, a friend and myself decided to go to Amsterdam less than a week in advance. Normally I would have never gone through a plan like this, I like my trips to have detailed events with significant research done beforehand, however one leap of faith later I was booked for Amsterdam. It did not disappoint. We ended up staying on a houseboat in the middle of Amsterdam, exploring the Van Gogh Museum, and wondering through the cafes and canals while enjoying the local delicacy of stroopwafel. Being in Amsterdam felt like an incredible dream, with leaning buildings due to over 400 years of foundational decay nothing was quite what it seems. Amsterdam also presented me with my first experience of culture shock, as the national language is Dutch and every street sign exhibited it. Most locals spoke English as well, but it was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced to struggle to make out train directions and microwave instructions, things I take for granted. I’ve probably said it over a million times now, but during study abroad there’s just as much to learn outside of the classroom as inside! That even includes on the canals of Amsterdam.