Friday, September 17: Today our virtual program “Trainees to the USA”, which we were all waiting for, has finally started.
The goal of the program is to learn about the culture, working environment and educational system of the USA within six weeks, to improve our English skills as well as to meet new people. In addition to the 19 trainees from Germany, our team consists of 10 American students from Kennesaw State University, who are our “peer buddies”. The cool thing about the virtual program is that anyone, who has the internet connection, can participate, even if they are on vacation!
The first thing we did was get to know each other and express our expectations for the program, then we discussed our schedule and got some instructions on what the program expectations and outcomes should be. Our virtual trip takes place every week on Friday. We have six sessions where we are going to discuss highly interesting topics with incredible speakers from the U.S. What makes the concept even better is that we will learn more about each topic during the informal conversations with our peer buddies to get a broader perspective about how it is perceived thru the U.S. point of view. Cool, isn’t it?
After a fun energizer and a short break, we met our first speaker, Michael Theisen- Jones, Director Global Business Development of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Michael gave an astonishing talk about Atlanta and told us great facts about the city, no one of us knew before. Personally, I found it fascinating that the company ICE, located in Atlanta, owns the NYC Stock Exchange. Did you know that a lot of your favorite movies and series, such as Avengers: Infinity War and Stranger Things were filmed in Atlanta? After the presentation we peppered Michael with questions and he was so nice that he answered all of them. Michael was definitely able to make Atlanta and Georgia even more attractive for me!
After the lecture we distributed the upcoming Todo’s and said goodbye for today. The first day was full of new experiences and adventures, but tomorrow brings us even more of them! 🙂
Saturday, September 18: Dancing to “Raisin Toast” on a Saturday afternoon, with strangers, in a Zoom-call? We can tick that off our list as of today!
The second session of the “Trainees to the USA” program took place today. After the impressive presentation by Michael Theisen-Jones, during the kick-off session, we were very excited about what we could expect today.
We started with a short review of the first day. Afterwards, Dr. Sabine Smith, a German Professor at Kennesaw State University, gave a presentation on the demographic situation of Atlanta in the USA. I was amazed at how diverse the state of Georgia is and how big the differences are in the cities and in the surrounding communities. From mountains to swamps. From Latino communities to Asian neighborhoods. The diversity within the state of Georgia, among other things, highlights the focus of today’s session:
>Conversations Have Culture<
During the session, we compared the American and German ways of having a conversation. Among other things, we learned that Americans form bonds more like peaches, whereas Germans are more like coconuts☺ What does that mean? Let me explain:
Americans first like to make small talk and are very open and rather talkative. A deep friendship is often difficult to build. This is very similar to the structure of a peach, which is soft on the outside and has a hard core on the inside. Germans are more like a coconut. Ever heard of the phrase “hard shell, soft middle “? In German culture, it is common for us to be more superficial with our new acquaintances at first. As soon as we get to know a person better, we show our soft side and, in many cases, then count friends as family.
The Story Circles introduced by UNESCO in 2020 are intended to simplify the peaceful coexistence of people. The idea is to listen to the other person and let them speak without reacting or judging. In German culture, it is often the case to interrupt one’s counterpart (even if unintentionally) to indicate agreement with the topic of conversation. Americans on the other hand, act similarly to Story Circles, for the most part.
Also, Germans tend to be described as direct, honest and sometimes perceived as “rude”, while Americans are seen as indirect, pragmatic, and individualistic.
Overall, it was a very successful session. Knowing the differences between the American and German conversation culture, I now feel prepared to talk to the peer buddies next week☺