Thursday, March 24, 2011

Translating Patience

CHICKS ROCK! wants you to welcome Bridget back as a guest blogger this week:

Bridget is a graduate of Vassar College, where she studied Political Science and Women's Studies, and former TWM intern. She loves watching movies with her younger brother and playing rugby.

"Could you please talk slower?" It’s a phrase I’ve said countless times now, trying to integrate into a foreign country.

It was at TWM’s Visioning Workshop two years ago that I realized how important my passion for German culture is. Covered in images of travel, my poster board inspired me to study abroad in Berlin that summer. I then applied for (and was awarded) a scholarship to study and work in northern Germany for a year.

So here I am, immersed in German society, living with German roommates, fulfilling my dream of working at the Ministry of Justice, Equality, and Integration. Every day, I join my neighbors on bike paths, pass bakeries and sausage stands, and head to work. In the Equal Opportunities in Work Life department, I’m learning the German perspectives on issues like equal pay and the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. Seeing firsthand how federal policy develops has been the most valuable experience. It involves a lot of debate, which means I always have my dictionary! Though it’s frustrating to only grasp general notions of sentences, it’s an achievement when the hazy fog lifts, leaving clarity and comprehension.

The biggest lessons have been humility and patience. I've had to accept that many times I don't know what’s going on, but the only way to get better is to not give up. Sure, sometimes I need a break and ache for something familiar, so I go to McDonald's for my fill of Americana. But I’m inspired by the compassion of my new friends and coworkers. Without a doubt, my experience has been largely shaped by their kindness, patience, and generosity. There’s a stereotype of Germans as cold, unfriendly, and negative; I’ve found that simply trying to communicate in German goes a long way in earning their respect. It doesn’t matter that I make mistakes, as long as my meaning comes across. Using goofy hand gestures and theatrical body language to express myself is just a part of my life now. And it’s totally worth it for the opportunity to be exposed to people of different cultures, to challenge my own beliefs, and to constantly change and adapt to a new place.

I like the juxtaposition I have here: feeling at home and foreign at the same time. It makes me feel awake and alive, but maybe that's just the cold northern wind!

Have you ever had difficulty expressing yourself? How did you overcome this?

1 comment:

Jerry said...

You rock Bridget! Thanks for an insight into German culture and travelling experience.

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