Time for a coffee break!

It’s a Monday morning, I’ve just arrived at my new place of work where I will spend the next month studying how the enzyme activity of enzymes involved in the ascorbic acid cycle is affected by different growth conditions. I was told by my program advisor to arrive “9/10” – this should have been my first clue – so I arrived in the building at 9:30. I was given a tour of the building, where I was introduced to everyone in the office. We exchanged greetings then headed down to the kitchen for a morning coffee. Everyone chatted, catching up from over the weekend and talking about things, most of which I couldn’t understand because they spoke so fast!! Maybe half an hour later, we headed up to the lab and got to work.

The next day, I once again arrived at work at 9:30. I got situated and expected to start working, but I was told no, it was time for coffee. Like the day before, there was a mass exodus to the kitchen where the moka was already on the stove. Again, we talking about the evenings we had, the food we ate, the people we saw and what we were planning on having for lunch today – that was what I was able to take away, there was definitely more.

Everyday, this morning tradition of coffee and good conversations continues, taking the time to engage with our colleagues, getting to know each other and building relationships. At Notre Dame, when I get my morning trenta iced green tea, light ice, light water, it’s ordered from my phone as I get ready in my dorm room, picked up on the way to class, then drunk in class. I don’t stand around watching it made, I don’t sip it casually as I talk to friends, and I don’t let the conversation run it’s course after the drink is gone. This change of routine with my morning beverage was quite shocking to me at first. I was used to a great sense of urgency where every task is completed in order to move onto the next task, no stopping to take things in. Here, a greater pleasure is taken in everyday tasks and there is a sense of pride in being the one to make the coffee for everyone.

Taking a coffee break as if it were a Saturday morning catching up with an old friend at first made me feel deeply uncomfortable. I was itching to be done and start my work so that I could get even more done so that I wouldn’t be behind. Even though I did not have any work deadlines so there was no way I could be behind. After two weeks, I am now used to the routine, however, I still have to make an effort to suppress my near-jittery energy and have to remind myself that there is nothing else I need to be doing.

I think this reflects the cultural difference of Italians focusing on what they are doing juxtaposed with Americans focusing on how much they are doing which leads to a difference in pace. Perhaps it is because it is normal and therefore comfortable for me, but this experience has taught me that I enjoy a fast-paced work environment and I like challenging myself to see how much I can do.

Getting a coffee in Rome with some friends 🙂

Pura Vida-ing

¡Buenos Dias! I just completed about a week and a half here in Costa Rica! It is such a lovely country and I am so glad with my journey so far. The first week was a little hectic. I had to orient myself in the town and my internship, but had fun getting to know everything. I am living with a host family here in the town of Santo Domingo just outside of San Jose. They are super nice and it is a daily challenge to use my Spanish as much as I can with them.

We started last week by having an orientation at the Praxis Center. Our director– Heidi– gave us a brief overview of the history of Costa Rica. We then did a brief walk around Santo Domingo. The next day we went to downtown San Jose to go to the National Museum of Costa Rica (pictured above). There I was able to see artifacts that dated as far back as before the colonization and the arrival of Columbus. The building itself also is a testament to the story of Costa Rica. It served as a military base for the city of San Jose. But in 1949, President Jose Figueres Ferrer disbanded the military of Costa Rica and in a historic act sledgehammered a hole in the wall of this base. So much history in such a cool place!

I also started my internship. I am working at a clinic with a general physician. It has been so cool to see how medicine and healthcare is different in another country. For example, public health here is really good and there is widespread access to it. So the private healthcare sector is usually seen as an option for second opinions. Nevertheless, there is a lot of overlap and many doctors work on both sides to offer the best care they can.

While working in this clinic, have been able to shadow the doctors. I have learned a lot about medicine and how to interact with patients through them. They have been such great teachers and make sure that I am able to engage and learn from each visit as much as possible. While I was sitting in on one visit I had a “cultural incident.” This term refers to a sort of culture shock where my past experience or my own culture came in conflict with the culture I am experiencing now.

To summarize, I was sitting in on a visit of an elderly lady. Coming from a southern, conservative family, I was raised to treat those older than I am with the utmost respect and to go out of my way to help in any way possible. When it came time for the doctor to examine the patient on the examination table, I imagined that my offering my hand to help her up would be a thoughtful gesture. To my surprise, the patient slapped my hand away. I had never experienced such an outright rejection like that.

I was embarrassed and thought that I had done something wrong. I believed that what I had done could have been insulting to her. Looking back though, there is an underlying cultural difference in behavior that I continue to explore. I am not sure if it involves the treatment of elders by younger people or if it is a gender construct that came into play. Nevertheless, I learned that my help is not always needed or received as a sign of respect. The patient might have seen my hand as an assumption of an inability and that could have offended her.

I continue to learn many things while I am here. Not only Spanish and Costa Rican history but also new things about myself and my intercultural connection to others. I cannot wait to share more of my journey soon. Nos Vemos!

Getting my feet wet (and pretty much everything… it’s the wet season in Costa Rica)

I’ve already arrived here in Costa Rica and this time it’s different *insert dramatic duhn duhn duhn*. This summer I have had the privilege to be selected to join 2 other students in internships in Costa Rica and I am super excited about this opportunity. Last summer as a part of the SLA grant I was able to come to Costa Rica and continue my growth in Spanish but after a semester of studying in Mexico, I’m ready to return and show off my skills.

My family is originally from Costa Rica so I have always held it close to my heart, returning here almost every year for the past 4 years. This summer I will also be able to live with my aunt and uncle as they live near where I am set to work. This is a super special opportunity for me as it gives me even more time to spend with my family and really get into a routine.

I’ll keep this short but I would like to get some of my goals in writing because I think that’s important in seeing them come to fruition. So without further ado:

  • Improve Spanish within a Business context
  • Immerse myself into “living” in Costa Rica (less tourism more local)
  • Lose the fear/ embarrassment of making a mistake for good
  • Gain real-life work experience that I can use in upcoming interviews

Sara Anne’s Pre-Departure Blog Entry #1: Nice To Meet You!

여러분 안녕하세요? 제 이름은 사라예요. 저는 노트르담 대학교에서 4학년이라고 심리학과 한국어를 공부하고 있어요 — 만나서 반가워요! 

(Hello everyone~ My name is Sara. I am a senior at the University of Notre Dame, and I am studying Psychology and the Korean language — nice to meet you!)

Well, actually, my first name is Sara Anne, but “Sara” makes more sense as a first name in the Korean language, and it is just simpler to write it that way. Having two first names is a common occurrence where my family is from, though: I am the second-generation daughter of Filipino parents – my real-life superheroes in every aspect. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for all of their hard work; without their determination to follow their dreams, I definitely would not have all the opportunities I have today. However, I do have to admit that, similar to many other children of immigrants, when it comes to cultural identity, it can get a little bit confusing for me. I sincerely want to preserve my Filipino heritage while still properly acknowledging that I was born and raised in America. I never feel Filipino enough whenever I am in family settings, especially since I lack the ability to speak Tagalog, but, at the same time, all my life, it has felt like my darker skin and family-oriented attitude set me somewhat apart from my peers, so I do not always feel American enough either. This struggle with my identity has affected many aspects of my life without me fully realizing it. For example, I know that I seem to have subconsciously attempted to make up for my lack of Tagalog language skills by learning other languages, such as increasing my fluency in Spanish. Meanwhile, the first introduction I had to Korean culture occurred because, through Korean entertainment, I was able to see other Asians in mainstream media, which was relatively difficult to see in the US as I was growing up. In these ways, I seem to have been passively trying to fill in the blanks when it comes to my cultural identity. Yet, that cultural identity appears to remain an enigmatic, missing piece that I do not think I have spent sufficient time or effort actively searching for… until now.

As my Foreign Language Internship cohort began to delve into concepts behind the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), I could not help but feel slightly behind when it comes to my intercultural identity, since my personal, cultural identity has been in limbo for such a long time. I mean, how can I properly develop a sense of intercultural awareness when I am not even completely sure of my own identity? The more I discussed this fact with the other members of the cohort, the more I realized that, while it will be challenging, this program is one of the biggest opportunities I have to start forming a firm foundation for my cultural identity, both within my personal contexts and in the context of my interactions with the Korean culture. It might sound cheesy, but I am genuinely hoping that this Foreign Language Internship program will be the beginning of my self-discovery journey, as I begin to establish my own cultural identity. In fact, the way I think of it, it is rather fitting that this quest to figure out exactly how I fit into the world acts as a solid starting point for my senior year at Notre Dame — it feels almost romantic, like the start of a novel or a drama (though, of course, I would like this incredible experience to be well-grounded in reality).

In order to tackle my new, hefty life goal of figuring myself out, it makes the most sense to come up with more tangible, smaller goals, and that is exactly what this summer internship program is helping me do. Firstly, I will work on setting up a solid basis for my cultural identity throughout the course of the program. I plan to do this by exploring activities that I enjoy while I am abroad in a mindful manner, keeping track of the habits that I develop that make me feel healthy. I will also continue to stay in touch with my family consistently, since I believe that an important part of building my identity is remembering my roots, no matter where I go, and sharing my experiences with the people who are important to me. Secondly, while it may be rather difficult without a fully-established personal identity, I would like to learn more about how my own cultures interact and relate with the Korean culture by finding more opportunities to fully connect with the community in South Korea. I have spent some time in Korea in the past, but I am hoping this will be a different sort of adventure. My first experience with Korea was technically just a stop-over at the Incheon airport in 2019, but I was unbelievably excited to be there regardless, since I already had a deep interest in Korean pop culture at the time. Then, I spent several months abroad in Seoul during the fall semester of 2022. While I learned and experienced so much during that time, I am thankful that I have another chance to return, because I truly would like to further immerse myself in the lifestyle and rich culture of Korea. To put it simply, I may have been infatuated with the Republic of Korea in 2019, but 2022 was the moment when I fell in love with the country, and I look forward to learning more about the true nature and culture of Korea in 2023.

Admittedly, my self-discovery goals will not be easy for me, especially since I am naturally introverted and am not really fluent in the language yet. Honestly speaking, the closer the date of my departure comes, the more nervous I get, since I know I have let my insecurity be a barrier to growth before. In a sense, the memories and regrets of the many missed opportunities to make and maintain connections in Korea during my previous visits weigh heavily on me, and I worry that I will get in my own way again. Additionally, the road getting to this point was really rough, with a lot of challenges that I may return to later on, and the path to the specific internship program that I am participating in is not the typical one for summer internships in Korea. As excited as I am, I am genuinely unsure of where I am headed and scared that I have already made too many mistakes in the past when it comes to my cultural identity. However, these worries and regrets are exactly why I am grateful for this blog, since it can keep me accountable and serve as proof to myself that I am always making progress and growing. I truly do not know where this journey will take me, but I am looking forward to figuring it out, and I am so excited to share the story with you all!!!


Sara Anne

Incheon Airport, 2019
Seoul, 2022
Minnesota, 2023

Blog Post #1: Pre-Departure

Bonjour mes amis! My name is Sean and I am going back to Paris for a fourth time! At this point, I should be a pro, but there is so much to learn and only 6 weeks to do it. I have highlighted in my discussion groups for the CSLC Internship that communication is one of the most important values in my family. Going from America where it is easy to communicate because of my English background to France where, even as a French major, I need to focus on communication. The last time I was there, because of being able to speak the language, I was able to reach the IDC Mindset of acceptance, but this time around, I would love to reach adaptation. I know that Paris has an effect on me but if I can reach the level where I affect Paris, that would be amazing. To reach that comfort level and acceptance in a city that listens to me would be amazing. There are of course goals and barriers to pass. I would love to become more competent in my language comprehension. My steps to reach that is to be more comfortable being uncomfortable. Being able to ask people to repeat themselves so that I can grow in comprehension is not always my favorite thing to do, but I know it will improve my French. Secondly, I want to become more comfortable with the uncontrollable. That is a big statement, but cities are a perfect place to practice. I can often find one negative interaction that I could not control can ruin my day, so by being able to take a deep breath and allowing for the uncontrollable to be ok, I can improve my city living!

As a sendoff for this internship, I would like to remind myself of why I am doing this. Yes, I studied abroad in Paris last summer and grew to understand the city, but this year, I will go beyond the postcard Paris. I am going back to a place with such beloved memories and asking the city for more. That’s a tall task. I have gone to the Eiffel Tower, seen the pretty Paintings, and traversed the catacombs, but yet I am returning to find more of Paris. This is much more of a challenge, but I know to reach the pulp which is beyond just the tourist books will truly invite me into a Paris that is mine. As I help with the study abroad program I did last year, I can reflect on my Paris of then and my Paris of now. I will be attempting to read great American Novels (The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and Tender is the Night). I am excited to learn of American peripheries in Paris and vice versa. This summer will not be the same as last, and that is something to be so excited about. This internship has allowed me to go above and beyond, and through these blog posts, I am thrilled to have a written reminder of all of my Parisian growth.

Blog Post #1: Pre-Departure

こんにちは みんなさん!Hello everyone! My name is Grayson Gabet, an accounting and Japanese double major of the Class of 2025. This summer I will be interning with a Notre Dame alumni, Daniel Kerrigan, at Interactive Brokers, a finance company with an office in Tokyo, Japan. I have studied Japanese independently for around three years, but I have only recently started taking classes, and since then, I have seen my progress greatly increase under the instruction of professors at Notre Dame. Foreign language, global relations, culture, history, and geography are some of the topics that have always interested me most, so the opportunity to travel and intern abroad is a dream for me. I have studied foreign language abroad before with learning Spanish in Madrid, but now I have the chance to see another part of the world and get hands on experience with business and meeting new people.

During this internship, I will be learning more about the international business world as well as more about the Japanese culture and language. At my internship, I will be learning business Japanese as well as conversational skills, and we will also be utilizing the city itself as our textbook. We will have guest speakers coming in to highlight key concepts in the world of international business, finance, or Japanese culture. In addition, we will be exploring various sites across the largest metropolitan area in the world such as famous neighborhoods like Roppongi or Shibuya, going to historic locations, and maybe even catch a baseball game in the city, the most spectated sport in the country. This summer, I am hoping to immerse myself into Japanese culture, experiencing all that I can and see as much as I am able to. After the end of my internship, I will be spending a few extra days to see more natural and historic sites across the country, which I hope will also expose me to regional differences, subcultures, and great new experiences. And to be entirely honest, I also hope to try PLENTY of new foods from all over the country!

I will also be conducting research abroad examining the differences of Japanese and American workplace culture in international business, while also taking a examining the influences from cultural norms and historical developments. I understand that I have only seen a fraction of the world and interacted with a miniscule population, but I want to broaden my horizons and be challenged with leaving my comfort zone as much as possible. I want to be exposed to lifestyles, ideologies, and perspectives that I have never had the chance to before. I hope that by the end of the summer, I can come back as a person with greater understanding, cultural competency, and broadened perspectives.

I add this last bit in the few remaining days before my departure. I have been keeping up with studying every day and have been talking to myself in Japanese as I carry out other tasks, probably looking a bit crazy, to practice pronunciation and speaking as a whole. I must admit that as the clock counts down, I have been getting more and more excited but also nervous. I look forward to meeting so many new people and being thoroughly shocked by new experiences and most likely a culture shock or two . . . or twenty. I will update my blog with my new experiences and plenty of pictures soon after I arrive.

Until then, またねー

Blog Post # 1- Pre Departure

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago but for some reason it’s not showing up on the site, so hopefully second time’s a charm.

My 10 weeks of Portuguese glory are beginning today and I couldn’t be more excited. Besides from the simple fact that I’ve just never been to Portugal, actually working in a foreign country for two months is something few get the opportunity to do. Growing up in an American-Brasilian, bilingual household, I do feel like I’ve been exposed to a variety of cultures and my identity is sort of a hodge-podge of them all. I try to take the best parts from each culture and background I’m exposed to and leave the parts that don’t quite fit in with my values or goals.

I think it goes without saying that my most serious goal is to perfect my Portuguese. Though I grew up speaking Brazilian Portuguese, it was tainted by the 4 years of advanced/AP Spanish I took in high school. Spanish too is a wonderful language but I’m excited to be spending the summer in one of the two major countries of the world that speak Portuguese as their primary language. From what I’ve heard, Lisbon is full of tourists, so employees here will often just begin speaking English with whoever looks like they’re from out of the country. If this is the case, it would be easy for me to default to the language I’m most comfortable with and speak little of the language I came to Portugal to improve. To combat this, I’m going to try to respond to their English greeting with a Portuguese one, to show them that I’m fairly comfortable speaking the language and I want to try to get my point across using that. I also want to make a point of trying to make small talk with employees at cafes or stores, asking them just a question or two that’s not related to what I need (how’s your day going? what’s your favorite part of Lisbon?)

When I come back from this 10-week period, I hope to have shown myself that I can make it on my own in a foreign country. I can buy groceries, travel on the metro, cook, work, and explore using my wits and smarts. I think that would be empowering for me.

Blog #2: Critical Incidents

Within my first weeks in Milan, I became quickly acclimated to the city atmosphere and used as much of my time as possible to learn about the city—and country—I am living in for the summer. I expected to encounter cultural differences going about my day-to-day, engaging with members of my lab or strangers in public spaces, but I don’t think I could have anticipated the process one must undergo in order to comfortably adjust to a foreign environment. Italy is for the most part very similar to the United States in many practices, however I initially got tripped up on many of the small nuances present in Italian culture that a textbook could never prepare me for. The largest cultural changes for me came in the form of basic communication which flowed into personal interactions. Communication is the foundation for so much cultural growth, so overcoming the barrier of my limited language knowledge is something I still need to continue working on, but over the short time I’ve been present in Italy, I can already see the improvements beginning to take shape. 

When my foreign language internship cohort was sent to our selected locations, one thing we were taught to identify during our time abroad was “critical incidents” where our cultural expectations and the actual cultural structure of our new country did not line up. These critical incidents are an extremely valuable opportunity to improve our intercultural skills and continue to grow as global citizens. Communication in general continued to be a challenge, especially in the context of customary greetings. In the US, I’m used to greeting people in passing with a brief smile and continuing to wherever I’m going. In Italy, my experience has been a lot more cordial. In my first week, I would walk past the members of my lab that I knew who appeared to be going somewhere, flash a quick smile, and keep walking past. I only learned after watching other interactions between graduate students that it was unusual to exchange an unspoken greeting, and instead a verbal acknowledgment is much more common and is a respectful way to acknowledge anyone you might know. It also isn’t atypical to stop and have a brief conversation. For me, after several years of college, I’m much more used to nodding to my peers on the quad and continuing to walk to my destination, and it took me a while to realize that my peers here in Milan were wanting me to verbally engage in order to exchange hellos whenever we encountered each other. Small components of the relationships I’m cultivating here help me fit better with the change in culture that I have the privilege of observing this summer. 

Overall, these small changes in my life throughout my experience in Milan are helping me to become a member of a greater global community, and learning from these critical incidents through the guidance of my Italian peers provides a priceless experience for any language learner.

Pre-Departure: Do I really know what to expect?

As I get ready to leave the comfort of home in the United States for the next seven months, I can’t help but feel a rush of excitement. My upcoming trip to Italy has been my light at the end of a challenging semester, and now, it’s finally here. But, the closer it gets, the more I realize there’s so much I don’t know.
I’m headed to a city I’ve never seen before, surrounded by people I’ve never met. It’s a big step, and it feels like a leap into the unknown. But I know that soon, these strangers will become friends and colleagues, guiding me through this new experience.
One of my main goals for this internship is to learn more about the worldwide refugee crisis. I want to better understand the mental and emotional toll it takes on people who are forced to leave their homes, journey through unfamiliar places, and adjust to new cultures and lifestyles.
I admit that I’m a bit naive and carry my own biases, as I haven’t experienced these struggles first-hand. But I’m ready to learn, grow, and challenge my perspectives. My biggest hope for this summer is that it will be a real opportunity for growth, shaping my understanding of the world and its complexities.

Post #1: Pre-Departure

Saludos! My name is Gabriella Doe and I am a rising sophomore studying Architecture and Latino Studies. This summer, I will be venturing to Costa Rica and interning with the Praxis Center as an art teacher as well as an administrative assistant for the performing and fine arts program. I am beyond ecstatic (a little nervous too) and grateful for this opportunity to gain professional experience, serve my Latino community, immerse myself into Costa Rican culture, and improve my Spanish! 

Growing up as an Afro-Panamanian American and traveling to Panama on various occasions, I have been greatly exposed to the common culture and lifestyle in Central America. Moreover, with Panama and Costa Rica sharing many similarities, from climate to food to the speed of daily speech, I don’t think I will have an extreme level of culture shock. Nonetheless, as seen with the IDI results, because there are still differences between Panamanian and Costa Rican culture, I will definitely encounter moments where I am left unaware, confused, or shocked. Moreover, I am most nervous about my speaking skills. Although I can speak Spanish proficiently now, I still think back to the time in my life where I could not speak Spanish at all.

Reflecting upon my Intercultural Goals, I hope that throughout my time in Costa Rica I am able to build my confidence with speaking in Spanish in front of multiple people, as well as gain a new perspective on Latin America and my “Latinidad.” Though my Panamanian background has provided a basic understanding of certain customs, environmental practices, and accents throughout Latin America, each country is so unique and I hope that being in Costa Rica will expose me to some of the significant differences. Furthermore, while interning, I aim to discover how I can serve my Latino community through architecture. I have a passion for architecture, especially residential/community architecture in the U.S. and Latin America, so during my time in Costa Rica I hope that I gain insight to different types of effective architectural practices utilized in Costa Rica or Central America in general. 

Following my six weeks in Costa Rica, I hope to return to my home in Fort Worth, Texas with greater independence and increased confidence in my Spanish abilities. With this new and exciting journey I am about to embark on, I am interested to see all I will encounter, looking back at my special memories, professional development, and personal growth!