Monday, April 07, 2008

Foreign Exchange Experience

Here is a picture of my recently bought hyacinths, they smell heavenly and just ad a much needed dash of color (that is my family photo adjacent).

Had a lovely weekend in Copenhagen; went to the art museum, had dinner at a family friend's home and on Sunday a bunch of us ladies from my residence hall went out for lunch. This brought up an interesting question for me because of a situation that arose.

My next door neighbor here in Copenhagen is a sweet but VERY quiet German girl. She is very shy and I think because her English is not so good, she does not come out much. I often hear her in the room, watching her German television, but she rarely hangs out with us in the hall or to be honest goes out. It led me to think, is she getting the most out of her exchange experience? Is part of your experience meeting others or perhaps its just living in a new place, on your own, in which case she is excelling at?

I've noticed that most of us exchange students are highly extroverted, but she is not. Yet I can't imagine that would hinder you from interacting with others - for example yesterdays lunch was a big group affair, she could have certainly come and blended in, no conversation really necessary. Instead she opted to stay in her room and watch her German television. Also, she barely uses the common kitchen, opting to cook in her room (don't know how??), again isolating herself. And than when I do speak with her (we take Danish class together), she often comments on how she dislikes Copenhagen and wants to go home to Germany. I can't help thinking this has something to do with her not meeting with others.

But perhaps I'm not seeing all sides of the story, is there more than one way to have a foreign exchange experience?

12 Comments:

Blogger Molly Malone said...

you never know the full story. sounds like she's just shy and homesick. ... actually, she sounds like the american stereotype in a foreign country!
maybe she took the class because she knows it will look good to someone later on, but she has no desire to fully immerse herself in another culture. which is kind of sad. why live somewhere for a while if you're not going to make an attempt to enjoy it?

6:57 AM  
Blogger Lost said...

Poor girl. I think she sounds incredibly shy and awfully homesick but until she decides to actually make an attempt at enjoying herself there isn't much you can do.

2:47 PM  
Blogger mommanator said...

After hosting 9 exchange students she is good and homesick-be persistant- I know you can be friendly!
Do a mommanator on her if you must! lol
Why spend time money etc on the exchange and not get the most of it. She can watch the tele in Germany! I had 2 from Germany neither were my favorites!
But wouldn't want her just sitting in there crying for home. Invite her out and use the excuse of studying Danish-might work, and maybe you could get a grip of wheter it is homesickness or just being A SNOOTTY German TEEHEE

3:56 PM  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

We had a Japanese exchange student that dreamed of coming to American, then hated her whole stay because she didn't speak English (after six years in school!) and did not want to get involved.
I hope you are continually knocking on her door, perhaps you and a few friends can make her your term project, to each invite her out and rotate days.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I found that when I was in Japan as an exchange student, it was sooooo different that it took the entire 3 months to get used to it. I was desperately homesick and hardly said a word in Japanese the whole time (partly through shyness and partly through self-consciousness and worry that I would make a mistake - stupid, I know).

It was only a couple of weeks before I left that I found the country had completely won me over. As you know, I ended up going back after I graduated and I loved it.

One thing that I found helpful was having my more extroverted friends drag me out and do stuff. Otherwise I might have been frighteningly like the German girl. It's hard enough being an introvert, but being one in an unfamiliar country can be overwhelmingly lonely. I agree with all the comments above. Force her out and make her hang out with the group if you can. It might be just the gesture she needs. If she really resists, then just let her do what she wants to do. There may be a story there that you don't know about and she can't tell because of the language barrier.

4:25 AM  
Blogger Pax Romano said...

Well now, take the initiative and invite her out ... or better yet, not to overwhelm her, invite her over for a home made meal one night (or get some Danish take-out). Believe it or not, I usually keep to myself, but when someone goes out of their way to make me feel welcome, the facade melts away and you can't shut me up.

If all else fails, put on some loud music and start dancing, that's sure to bring her out of her apartment.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Molly Malone said...

just don't dance naked, as is your wont. ... that'll just drive her back IN to her apartment!

8:15 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Maybe she heard what a wild and crazy partier you were and was afraid of your bad influence.

We've all heard the stories, dear.

lampshades on the head and what not.


:-)

8:23 PM  
Blogger Virginia Gal said...

Molly - yes there could be more sides to the story, but we do wonder why she came here?

Lost - Hello!!! Welcome back! No, I agree with you, until she decides to have fun, how much can we push her?

Mommantor - good idea, I'll try to keep inviting her.

Joe - I'll keep trying, best I can do, no?

Kate - thanks, I'll try to involve her more in group activities and perhaps there is a story we don't know??

Pax - ha ha, I think she already thinks I'm loud, she goes to bed early and I'm always up late, with music playing, uh-oh maybe she doesn't come out cause she is annoyed with me?? Naa....

Molly - sheesh, you were not suppose to tell anyone that!

Tony - You promised not to say anything about the lampshade! LOL.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous JoeInVegas said...

What - you dance naked with lampshades on your head? First I heard of this - please be sure to come over when you get back, I'll keep the music going.
or get you a job at one of those clubs here.

12:17 PM  
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